Different generations have different expectations for their customer experience

What do you do if one half of your customers still uses the fax machine and the other prefers doing business only via their smartphone? More and more studies prove that old and young generations have different demands for a perfect customer journey – but how should companies accommodate both?  

A recent study shows that “millennials” (people that were born in the 80s and later) use their smartphones more often for financial transactions than any other previous generation (source: FIS). In direct contrast, the “baby boomers” (50+ years old) avoid paying via app.

Companies have to juggle different expectations and demands not to alienate neither group.

Stuck in the middle: generational shifts cause opposite expectations

According to the FIS-study, a third of millennials uses an app to pay something at least once a month. Baby boomers who pay with an app make up only 2%. A report by SAP Hybris and the CMO Council meanwhile shows that older generations prefer personal contact while millennials like a digital experience.

Surprisingly, younger customers are happier with their customer experience (at least on the digital channels) than the older generations. One third of the baby boomers thinks that companies are far from creating satisfying customer journeys and don’t feel that the experience is personalized enough.

Do companies have to pick a generation to cater to?

These different views and expectations might not be unsolvable but have implications. For one, companies need to implement and use digital technology without neglecting classical communication channels and services. If they do, they lose valuable and especially loyal customers. At least in Germany, baby boomers still make the biggest buying group. But millennials are literally the future of customers and grow more influential each day. To ignore digital communication in favor of baby boomers puts companies at risk to be too late when millennials tip the scale against baby boomers.

But if you want to make both customer groups happy, you need to have resources.

It’s not necessarily the product companies are offering that needs to be changed. It’s rather the customer experience and journey tied to the product. Marketing, sales and customer service need to be available for both customer groups with no gaps in the experience.

Let’s take chatbots as an example. The digital assistants are supposed to help customers 24/7 and also help reduce cost for support. But studies confirm that so far, millennials are the only customers who would like to interact with a chatbot whilst all other generations prefer the human contact.

What’s a company to do?

  1. If it introduces chatbots but reduces the availability of service personnel, it risks losing loyal older customers.
  2. If it saves the investment for chatbots and invests into better and “old school” customer service, it might not be able to reach the millennial clientele.
  3. If it tries to combine both chatbots and classic customer service, it has to invest more money and be able to combine both options seamlessly.

The good news: Baby boomers are not allergic to digitalization

V12Data writes in their blog entry “Insurance for the Generations” that the number of online users amongst older customers is growing faster than for all younger generations. Of course, one explanation might be that baby boomers have a lot of catching up to do. But to look on the bright side, it also means that they are eager to learn and adapt as long as the step into the digital/online world is made easier by providing an intuitive user experience and the right guidance.

If companies manage to provide a digital experience that is easy to grasp, fits with the experience of classical methods but at the same time feels modern, they might be able to bridge the gap and convert even the most prickly customer to the world of online business and shopping.

Get to know your customers to know what they expect from a customer journey. We asked German companies how they manage customer journeys and analyzed their answers. Find out more about the status quo, best practices and how to align lead management, customer service and marketing, so they can create a customer-centric experience.

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