The Stats speak for themselves (cont’d)

A Look at Some Critical Customer Service Statistics

 

Age is more than just a number

Mark Twain says it “is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” He was referring to “Age”. Aside the famous 19th century American author and publisher, many others have attempted to convince us that age is just in our heads. One of the greatest female athletes of all-time, American Jackie Joyner-Kersee says “Age is no barrier. It’s a limitation you put on your mind.”

The late acclaimed actress Billie Burke rather put it more humorously when she said, “Age is of no importance unless you are a cheese.” English actress, Dame Joan Collins added her own bit of humour to the issue by saying, “Age is just a number. It’s totally irrelevant unless, of course, you happen to be a bottle of wine.” How many times have we not heard that age is nothing but a number?

Contrary to what they expect us to believe, age is more than just a number. Age really has an effect on us in more ways than one, especially for those of us whose job it is to deal with customers. A 2013 study published in the European Journal of Business and Management revealed that whereas there is no significant difference between a customer’s gender and marital status, there is significant difference when it comes to the customer’s age, income and education level on service quality. The study titled “Personal Demographical Factors and their Influence on Customer Satisfaction from Customer Perspective,” was carried out by a team from the University of Jaffna in Sri Lanka.

There is enough research to back the assertion that the age difference of customers has an effect on their expectations and thereby, their experiences. In short, the age of the customer has an effect on how the one perceives the quality of service he or she is given. Their different outlooks to life in general means that the older and younger generations react totally differently to experiences.

For instance, when it comes to where they would voice out their dissatisfaction at a poor experience, the younger generation would prefer to do so online, rather than in-person. This is captured in a 2015 study by England-based NewVoiceMedia titled “Serial switchers strike again: How the billion dollar customer service problem prevails” stated that as high as 59% of 25-34 year-olds share poor experiences with customer service online. The study was undertaken by independent research company Opinion Matters in October 2015, with a sample size of more than 2000 adults from the United States.

This particular finding is not too far-fetched when one thinks of it. I really cannot see my mum going online to share her last customer experience. The most she would do would be to call us to complain. She might even threaten to call a radio station to complain but the likelihood of even that happening would be next to zero. Older people are more cautious when it comes to speaking their mind in public.

One thing old age does to a person is that it helps one manage their emotions better. As a matter of fact, when a youth displays raw emotions in the heat of the moment, the one is normally told to “grow up”. It is therefore not surprising that according to the 2015 NewVoiceMedia study, 34% of 25-34 year-olds get revenge by posting a bad review online. One cannot blame these younger customers for going online to “speak their minds.” They spend a greater portion of their waking hours online so where else can they go to vent their frustrations?

Another area where age is more than just a number is in the attitude of the different generations when it comes to tolerance to issues. It has always been said that the young are always impatient and this is also evidenced in the 2015 NewVoiceMedia study. It is a known fact that when customers are dissatisfied they are more likely to move to the competition.

However, the study indicated that customers who were 55 years and older were the least likely to switch. Less than 40% of the over 55-year olds indicated that they would change businesses if they experience poor customer service. Contrast this with customers between the ages of 25 to 34 years. As high as 62% of these younger customers indicated that they would switch service providers as a result of poor customer service.

The impatience is also evident in the results of a totally different study commissioned by Desk.com in April-May 2015 titled, “Crossing the Generational Divide: Providing Customer Service for Today’s Consumers.” According to this study which involved more than 2,000 Americans ages 18-65, using an e-mail invitation and an online survey, millennials are a very impatient bunch. 36% of respondents expected a response on social media to take at least 48 hours, 22% of Millennials expected a response within just 10 minutes.

Another survey by Chicago-based management consulting company specialising in the food service industry, Techmonic showed that younger customers, especially those of the group termed Generation Z, i.e. those born from the year 2001 till now, are more interested in the “speed of service, technology and immediate gratification” as opposed to the older generations.

Although speed is of importance to all customers, 54% of Generation Z saw speed as high priority in their experience as opposed to 40% of Millennials, 41% of Generation X and 43 % of Baby Boomers. Generation Y otherwise known as the Millennials are more likely to try new and unique foods and flavours than older generations. This is expected. The youth tend to be more adventurous than the older folks.

It is interesting to note that two generations, i.e. Generation X (born between circa 1961 and 1981) and Baby Boomers (born between approximately 1943 and 1960), actually shared a lot in common when it comes to the expectations with food service. These two generations were more conservative in their choices.

Also, the fact that the younger generation grew up with advanced technology means that they do things differently from the older generation. Millennials are actually referred to as the truly digital generation. It is therefore not a surprise that for 39% of millennials, that is normally those born between 1981 and the early 2000s,  their first port of call when they want some information from a company is not to place a call to that company but to first visit the FAQ page on that company’s website. This is according to a study by US-based CRM software provider, Salesforce Research.  The percentage for customers who would first use the FAQs page on a company’s website is 41% according to the April-May 2015 study by Desk.com.

Older customers prefer to use their phones as a preferred channel for customer service with 35% of Boomers and Gen Xers. However, Millennials and younger customers prefer to use online chats to access customer service.

The 2016 UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) published by the Institute of Customer Service, based on the views of 10,000 UK consumers indicate that average customer satisfaction was higher for customers aged 65 years and above than for customers aged 18-24 years. In a sense, this particular findings could be due to the fact that youth of today are much more exposed to what constitutes good customer service through cable TV and most especially through social media. This makes them much more difficult to satisfy than the older generation.

As evident from the ongoing discussion, there are a lot of study materials on the effects of age difference on a customer’s experience. There is a lot to learn from these studies. In an era where businesses are increasingly having to serve customers whose ages span different generations, it is important that every business leader, owner, manager and supervisor understand the effects of age within their customer base. Every age group or generation comes into the customer experience with different expectations.

Since expectations play a very important role in the customer’s perception of service quality, a good appreciation of the effects of age ensures that the different age groups are treated differently, even if slightly. For instance, since baby boomers did not grow with all the technology we have around us, it is important that a business brings them along a little more patiently when it comes to technological changes. Generation Z customers as more tech-savvy and thus would be the early adopters of any technology the business introduces.

Also since the more youthful customers have been shown to be more impatient than their older counterparts, it helps if the organisation makes a special preparation to ensure that they are served much more rapidly without necessarily sacrificing the speed with which the older generation is served.

We all know that when it comes to customer service, one size does not fit all. One generation’s great experience could actually be another generation’s disappointment. Age makes a big difference and the stats back this one as well.