Why You Need a Customer Service Strategy Tailored to Baby BoomersMay 3, 2013 by Nicolas DAlleva
According to the National Institute on Aging, the U.S. population aged 65 and over will double in size within the next 25 years. By 2030, almost one in five Americans—about 72 million people—will be over age 65. This demographic will control 70 percent of the country's disposable income, making them an increasingly important segment for any consumer business.
For customer service strategists, this trend is crucial for another reason. A recent Nielsen report called Baby Boomers “the most valuable generation,” stating that “their business is winnable and losable. They are a much more sensitive and dynamic cohort than most realize.” Most customer service providers don’t devote extra time or attention to training agents how to effectively help older clients. In doing so, they’re making a critical mistake that can impact revenue.
In order to effectively serve this generation, you have to find out what your older client already knows, what they need from you and how you can help them get what they need. No one likes to be judged based on outward appearances, and older clients are no different. Some know a lot, some don’t know much at all, but every one of them is looking for a friendly, helpful customer service experience.
Here, we provide five simple, yet effective ways to provide great customer service to an older audience.
1. Ditch the Assumptions About Older Clients.
You know what they say about assumptions, right? They make you lose money. Find out what your customer knows and what they need help with. When a client calls in to ask about a product, the first step is to determine what knowledge they already possess. If a retired computer scientist calls in and your first question is, “Did you remember to turn on the computer?” it’s likely they’ll come away from the experience dissatisfied.
Instead, try asking something like, “How familiar are you with our product or products similar to ours?” Give the client a chance to show you what they know. Not only will this allow the client to demonstrate their knowledge, it will help you find a solution to their problem more quickly.
Avoiding assumptions in customer service interactions with older clients is particularly important because many of them are just flat-out wrong—especially when it comes to their relationship with technology.
According to Forrester’s 2012 benchmark study, Baby Boomers currently spend more on technology than any other demographic, and one in five use social media daily. Approximately 53 percent now use Facebook, and adults aged 50 and over spend more time on the Internet per month than those between the ages of 14 and 24. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg…
- Are 44 percent of the adult population in the U.S.
- Have at least one person working in 63 percent of households
- Make up 49 percent of consumer packaged goods (CPG) sales
- Are 40 percent of wireless Internet customers
- Make up one third of all online and social media users
- Are 41 percent of Apple computer customers
Starting to see why you should rethink your stance on the older generation?
2. Customize the Experience to Meet Baby Boomers’ Individual Needs.
Based upon your findings, make the customer feel comfortable: comfortable with the language you use, the support you’re providing and the product they’re using. If your client is that retired computer scientist, don’t dumb down the conversation and coddle them through every step of the solution.
If your client has no experience whatsoever with your product (or with one like it), give them easy-to-follow steps that don’t require a PhD in quantum physics to understand. Break things down into actionable directions that can be followed one at time, e.g. Step One: Boot up your computer.
In some cases, this may require a separate customer service team that’s trained in best practices for this demographic. “We created a special team that is trained specifically to help our consumers and perspective consumers who are 75 or older,” says Gary Bhojwani, Chairman of Allianz, a multinational financial services company, in an interview with Forbes.
“We walk them through a host of analyses and illustrations to make sure they really understand what it is they’re buying. That type of dedicated team [...] is something that to my knowledge nobody else does in our industry.”
It all comes down to tailoring your customer service to the individual client. Give them the help that they need, when and how they need it.
3. Appeal to Where Baby Boomers Are in Their Life Stage.
Quite simply, Baby Boomers are at a much different point in their lives than adults from Generation X (ages 30-49) or Generation Y (ages 18-29). They’ve grown up with an incredibly defined sense of self-empowerment as a result of the tumultuous historical events that occurred during their youth, i.e. the 1960’s and the Vietnam war. Baby Boomers thus have a very well-formed generational identity, says Brent Green, founder of marketing firm Brent Green & Associates, and author of two books that focus on marketing strategies for Baby Boomers.
“Self-empowerment then implies all kinds of business realities, such as late life education,” Brent says, citing the popularity of community college education for older adults.
Boomers aren’t just educating themselves later in life—they’re also opening businesses. A study by the Kauffman Foundation found that adults aged 45-54 and 55-64 accounted for the two largest groups of entrepreneurs in 2011. “Boomers are best positioned to start companies because they have the experience, connection and wealth,” says Dan Schwabel, founder of Millennial Branding, a research management and consulting firm.
The quest for reinvention and activeness can also extend beyond Boomers’ professional lives into their personal ones. “If you’re talking to Boomer grandparents, they want to be cool,” Brent explains. “They don’t want to just be the weathered old people sitting on the front porch passively watching their grandchildren play on the front yard. They want to be there with them. “
So what does all this mean from a customer service perspective? Companies must be aware that Boomers’ renewed vitality at this point in their lives means they want the products and services they’ve purchased to reflect and contribute to this. A good customer service strategy for this demographic should include specific training to help agents connect with Boomers who may be in this reinvention stage. If a customer feels empowered, the service they receive should uphold and promote this in order to foster optimum loyalty.
4. Streamline the Customer Service Experience.
Regardless of how technologically savvy or independent Boomers may be, certain modifications must be acknowledged when creating a customer service strategy for this demographic. Older clients were not born with an iPod in their diapers like the 20-somethings you’ll find perusing your local Apple store on a given day. While Boomers might be using technology more frequently than you think, they still may require guidance along the way.
Mike Baard explains this concept in his 2003 Wired article. “Seniors will accept newfangled gadgets, as long as they come in familiar packages,” he writes. “The key, researchers say, is to make assistive technologies easy to use and familiar. The devices must also increase seniors' independence.”
So rather than telling your client that the flux capacitor is fluxing, and the transversal receiver needs to be regenerated in the optimal power position, why not explain that a flashing green light indicates that their product is working?
In the same Wired article, Beth Brady, global head of marketing for Nielsen, points to Apple as a good example of a company that does simplicity well. She explains, "46 percent of its sales are to people 55-plus. That's because the company makes it easy for Boomers and created its Genius Bar."
5. Remember: Good Customer Service Is Good Customer Service.
Finally, be polite, courteous, and helpful—no matter what. Everyone, regardless of age, will like your product and company more and demonstrate increased loyalty if you’re able to provide a pleasant and hassle-free experience. It’s essential to make a customer feel like you genuinely care about them and are ready and willing to assist them with whatever they need.
So What Can We Take Away From This?
We have to remember that at the end of the day, Baby Boomers are one of the biggest and most influential demographics. Companies whose customer service isn’t able to adapt to their needs will see their sales take a hit.
In order for businesses to continue to grow and thrive, they must fully understand their market. As the population grows older, consumer needs and desires change, which means companies need to respond by developing their customer service strategy accordingly to avoid feeling a tug on their purse strings.
Thumbnail image provided by bravenewworld.