This article appears in the Spring 2017 digital issue of DOCUMENT Strategy. Subscribe.

Image by: siraanamwong, ©2017 Getty Images

Marketing is becoming more complex with an increasing number of channels, varied experiences, and immense volumes of data. In response, a strategy that organizations have adopted is to develop customer personas.

Often, these personas are segmented into age groups, parsing out the interests of each: “Millennials love X, but Boomers hate X.” However, the trouble with age-based personas is that we, as marketers, end up generalizing about age groups based more on our assumptions than actual consumer behaviors. This not only risks jeopardizing the ability to provide good customer experiences (CX), but it also creates tunnel vision within the organization when it comes to evolving CX strategies.

For these reasons, care should be taken when assessing generational differences to improve CX for multiple demographics. Moreover, it is equally important to look at commonalities across age groups. The human element of CX is not going away anytime soon—customer service still matters, regardless of age. According to eMarketer, 45% of consumers across all generations will no longer shop at a general retail environment due to a poor customer service experience. Additionally, one might assume that it is “Boomers” (55+) who will contact customer service multiple times, but it is actually younger generations (35 and younger) that are more likely to repeatedly contact customer service.

Looking to improve CX across generations will require open discussions with those in charge of the human element in customer service. It will also require actively monitoring sentiment throughout the customer journey. Customer journey mapping is a great way for CX professionals to connect live and offline experiences to the consumer’s overall journey and to more effectively develop the next stage or CX-based action.

The human element of CX is not going away anytime soon—customer service still matters, regardless of age.

As the bar for CX standards is raised, the number of channels to manage increases as well. One channel that continues to dominate across generations is mobile. According to Pew Research, 77% of US adults will have a smartphone in 2017—a jump in ownership that is greater than 35% from six years ago. When it comes to mobility, I often hear organizations emphasize mobile communications that are geared toward the millennial generation (18 to 35) and younger. For this group, the customer journey often begins, is maintained, and ends on a mobile device. While boomers have been slower to adopt mobile, this fact does not mean that the technology is completely foreign to them. Just like their younger counterparts, older consumers have started to expect optimized mobile communications, even if the entire journey is not on a mobile device. For organizations, this means investing in technology that can easily take a one-to-many channel approach. Dynamic communications that automatically format to the right device upon delivery are key to providing the best mobile experience possible, while also avoiding the need to recreate each communication for the specific channel.

Over time, the intolerance for incomplete or inconsistent CX will rise—this is especially true for those who skew younger. “Generation Z” (those born around 1995 to the early 2000s) has grown up surrounded by social media and tech culture, so they expect faster, personalized communication delivery. However, this expectation is growing for all generations. Many marketers are likely to invest in tools that will help them deploy communications faster and to more channels in 2017. Why? Because the intergenerational marketplace demands it.

With rapid changes in customer acquisition to reach a more diverse audience than ever before, it is easy to forget about customer communications management (CCM) activities. However, when it comes to customer retention, CCM plays such an important role in the overall experience throughout the customer life cycle. This is especially true in regulated industries where digital competition is increasing and customer statements might be the only touchpoint a consumer will have with an organization.

Consumers of all ages want to feel that organizations are listening to them, their channel preferences, and paying attention to their behaviors. It is up to those organizations to create initiatives for a cross-departmental strategy, which ensures that customers receive the best CX possible—no matter their age.

Arianna Valentini is a Product Marketing Manager at GMC Software, specializing in product messaging. Don’t miss her session on expanding an organization’s internal skillset for the digital age on Tuesday, May 2 at the DOCUMENT Strategy Forum in Chicago.
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