The Generational Divide: How Who You Are Impacts Customer Support Expectations

Courtney Dragoon.

Courtney Dragoon

November 10, 2018


Companies across industries are facing the same challenge.  How to efficiently and effectively support a variety of different customers in a way that creates loyalty and competitive differentiation. Some customers are technical, some not. Some traditional, some digital-first. Like most things, a one-size fits all customer support strategy rarely works. So how can companies cater to the needs of each of their customers without blowing up budgets or hiring persona-specific support staff?

We recently worked with analyst firm IDC to understand how different types of people view customer support. We identified three main user types: tech laggards -- which generally don't like adopting new technologies, tech compliant folks -- which while they don't love learning new technologies can do so easily, and tech leaders – who are eager to adopt new technologies. Not surprisingly, many of these user types also fell into three main generational groups – Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Gen Y/Millennial.  And their expectations of a "good" customer support experience greatly differed.

Tech laggards (which mostly identified with the Baby Boomer generation), for example were nearly 4X more likely to report nearly all bad experiences when contacting customer support teams citing that agents didn't understand their problem. Meanwhile Tech Leaders (which most closely identified with Millennials) felt that a majority of the time their experiences with customer support were good.

So where's the disconnect? It's likely in how different generations like to engage and whether the companies they do business with are able to accommodate them. For example, today 30% of companies still only provide phone support.  And while that might be good for the Baby Boomers -- of which 40% said they preferred to talk to a support person over the phone, Millennials would rather engage any other way. This is the inherent problem. Those considered laggards might find digital-first support too technical while those that are leaders often struggle to connect with companies using traditional support methods.  Companies are struggling to map their support strategies to these differing audiences.

Bridging the Generational Divide

Figuring out the balance of how to support various generational and user types can be tricky as it means knowing who your audience is and providing them the right engagement channels for the right situation at the right time. Not exactly an easy task.

Emerging technologies like artificial intelligence are helping overworked support teams do just that. Augmenting physical help desk support with automated options like dynamic search and intelligent knowledge-bases are helping Millenials get the self-service they want, while leaving support reps open and available to dedicate time to the Baby Boomers who are often more comfortable with human support. Remote support tools are also helping bridge the gap with an equal number of respondents and support pros (74%) saying they help overcome communication barriers and increase customer satisfaction respectively.

At the end of the day, providing speedy effective support is always the goal for support teams and, as the research shows, there is still a lot of room for improvement. The good news is that technology no longer has to be the dividing factor, but can in fact help create better experiences for everyone.

Check out the full IDC study here.

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