There have often been generation gaps in terms of taste in popular music and outlook on social issues, but the 2021 ACA Study produced by Shep Hyken suggests it is particularly pronounced from a customer experience perspective as well.
A customer service consultant and popular CX keynote speaker based in St. Louis, Miss., Hyken and his team surveyed more than 1,000 people between the ages of 18 and 65 for the research, whose full title is the Achieving Customer Amazement Study.
Among the findings, the youngest cohort of Generation Z consumers were the top segment to agree with the statement, “Yes, I would pay more if I knew I would receive great customer service.” This compared with 57 per cent of Millennials, 53 per cent of Gen X and only 35 per cent of Baby Boomers.
The research went on to look at spending more for better service across a variety of sectors, but overall one in four said they are willing to spend up to 10 per cent more in almost every industry if they know a company has excellent customer service.
There were also significant differences in what different age groups prioritized from an overall CX standpoint. Older generations said they are influenced if a brand’s employees are helpful and knowledgeable. Younger generations said they put more value around friendly customer service experience and an easy way to process returns.
The ACA study also provided a reality check on assumptions that channels like chatbots, social media or texting where rising to the top of customer preferences.
“Last year’s ACA study found that email was the preferred communication channel, by an almost statistically insignificant difference,” the report said. “This year, it flipped. Telephone barely nudged out email. Boomers and GenX prefer the phone, with email second. No surprise there. Millennials and Gen Z prefer email.”
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Compared with the dry, almost academic tone of most CX research, the ACA study is down-to-Earth, folksy and even funny in parts. In other words, it sounds a lot like a good Shep Hyken keynote. That’s a good thing if you’re looking for data that will be more accessible and compelling to share with senior leadership teams.
Beyond the generational differences, the ACA Study (which is ungated and less than 25 pages) also looked at areas such as the tradeoff between bad service and customer loyalty, the impact of automation and expectations around rewards programs. Most of this has been well-covered by other research but the findings seem consistent with conventional wisdom.
The only thing the report doesn’t tackle head-on is the long-term implications of a CX generation gap. For example, does this mean brands should primarily focus personalization efforts based on age segments? Are some of these generational attitudes likely to shift over time? Is it reasonable to please all generations (ie, can a brand be both friendly and helpful)?
These are all questions that might have to be answered by a specific brand based on whatever data it has collected (or can collect) from its customers. Whatever else they would uncover, Hyken’s report suggests they’ll soon realize age is not just a number.
Shane Schick tells stories that help people innovate, and to manage the change innovation brings. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and Yahoo Canada and is the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.