Examining Today’s Customer (and Going Beyond the Call Center)
Because customers’ interactions with businesses have changed and evolved with the introduction of digital devices, traditional customer service measures—like simple call centers—are no longer adequate. As a result of these rapidly evolving trends, an outstanding customer experience is (or should be) top of mind for C‐level executives.
Although you’ve always needed to know who your customers are to succeed in business, today knowing your customers and how they want to interact is more important than ever. In addition to knowing how long a customer has been purchasing your products, you need to take a look at the myriad buying methods and patterns used by today’s consumers. That is, you must understand who is out there buying your goods and services and the means they tend to use to make purchases.
Let’s face it; today’s digital economy has redefined customer service.
Your customer’s expectations of customer service are higher than they’ve ever been before. Knowing who your customers are will help you determine the best ways to communicate with them and offer outstanding service along with goods.
Who is today’s customer?
Today’s consumer spans a variety of generations, ranging from the post‐war era to today’s teens (and even younger, because digital capabilities provide the means to buy without going into a local store). And each of these consumers prefers a different way to communicate. Because all of them are your customers, you’re now facing new challenges in the ways you interact with them.
Demographically, the various generations of people have been given generally accepted names:
- Post‐World War II generation
- Baby Boomers
- Generation X
- Generation Y (also called the millennials)
- Generation Z
Big buying power
A major segment of the buying population comes from the post‐war era, the Baby Boomer era, and Generation X. Although where a person fits in these generations is a matter of opinion, most people accept that these folks were born between 1928 and 1976 and came of age between 1946 and 1994. Today, they range in age from 49 to 70.
Generation on the rise
The rest of the buying population comes from Generation Y and Generation Z, and they also comprise a significant number of consumers with significant spending power. Again, most people generally accept that Generation Y and Z people were born after 1977 and came of age between 1998 and now. Today, they range in age from 10 to 32.
Breaking up the Boomers
Some demographers divide the Baby Boomer era into two groups: those born between 1946 and 1954, and those born between 1955 and 1965. These demographers label the two groups as Boomers I or the Baby Boomers, and Boomers II or Generation Jones. For this discussion, I view these folks as one group and refer to them as the Baby Boomers.
Know who calls the shots for B2B purchases
Don’t forget about business‐to‐business transactions. To provide an outstanding customer experience to the people with whom you do business, determine which generations are typically the decision makers in the businesses to which you sell goods and services, and identify the means with which they’re most comfortable making purchases.
The cohort for call centers and face-to-face contact
Those from the post‐war era, the Baby Boomer era, and even many Generation Xers are often, though not exclusively, most comfortable frequenting brick and mortar stores and communicating with sellers via telephone or in person. Although they’re declining in numbers, they’re a large enough population buying your goods and services that you need to be able to cater to their needs.
Digital natives that prefer mobile and social
Generation Y and Generation Z have grown up with technology. They’re increasingly mobile and tech‐savvy. They’re connected digitally to the world more than any of the previous generations. They prefer to use smartphones to communicate electronically to shop, text, tweet, check email and surf the Internet. They rarely use their smartphones to actually make phone calls (a fact that often baffles the older generations) and tend to reserve phone calls for keeping in touch with parents and grandparents. Most Generation Y and Z folks would rather text, tweet, or use a browser to order a pizza than call to place the order.
Generations Y and Z tend to be mobile in their use of technology. Although the other generations may not be as mobile in their use of technology, many of these folks are just as gadget‐happy as the folks from Generation Y and Z. The postwar and Baby Boomer generation might not comfortably shop from their phones, but many of them have migrated more and more to shopping online using some flavor of computer—a desktop or a tablet, for example—and a Web browser.
The online buying population is huge.
Many of the very elderly rely on younger family members to help them buy the things they need—and, of course, the younger family members are, most often, fans of shopping digitally.
Moving beyond simple call centers
It’s safe to say that today’s consumers, regardless of generation, are self‐reliant and happy to manage their relationships with a business without any human interaction.
Today’s consumers expect the flexibility and convenience of interacting with your business using the methods that make the most sense to them at any given time, using mobile apps, the Internet, email, SMS text messaging, and social media. Respected market research organizations are pointing to the fact that, over the coming years, companies will no longer be able to rely on traditional call centers and voice communications to handle inquiries and process new business.
For a seamless, truly digital customer experience, your business should be equipped to provide the same prompt, informed customer service across all channels.
While different generations exhibit different interaction preferences, today’s digital devices mean traditional call centers alone are no longer adequate.