Generation Gap Forces Businesses to Rethink Customer Service Approach

Jan. 1, 2020
LAS VEGAS ? At some point, most people have been involved in a customer service situation in which they were unable to get past a generational difference ...
MASTERING MANAGEMENTGeneration Gap Forces Businesses to Rethink Customer Service Approach

LAS VEGAS — At some point, most people have been involved in a customer service situation in which they were unable to get past a generational difference.

Bob Wendover says that's normal.

"Everybody at one point or another has had a disconnect because of age in a customer service situation. It's a fact of life," says Wendover, managing director of The Center for Generational Studies in Aurora, Colo., and presenter of "From the Lone Ranger to the Pierced Stranger: The Changing Faces of Customer Service" at Fusion '07.

People sometimes cannot connect with others in a sales setting because of an age difference and factors that go along with it: appearance, attitude, communication skills and now technological aptitude.

Bob Wendover notes that keeping generational differences in mind will help with customer service.(Photo: Aftermarket Business)

"You run into problems sometimes when you have a 50-something service provider talking to a 20-something customer and vice versa," Wendover notes, adding that a younger person has a different set of attitudes about customer service and a different comfort level with technology — key in today's society.

This is a concern in all industries, including the automotive aftermarket, and emerging generations are changing the strategies for customer support, Wendover notes.

He adds that this is not a new trend in the marketplace, and his center, which researches, produces seminars and publishes resources on how generations relate to one another, has heard clients complain about these issues for many years.

For example, the younger generation expects to contact companies online and is comfortable buying items without human interaction. In fact, Wendover thinks shops will do almost all of their ordering online in the next five years.

He says the aftermarket is dealing with these generational differences both over the Internet and across the counter, forcing the industry to examine who they hire, as well as the type of customer with whom they are dealing.

"As you bring young people into the workplace to provide service, you have to consider what kind of problem-solvers they are," he states.

These issues, while common, hit business owners on the bottom line.

"It's one thing to sit down and say, 'This is how I can do my books better,' and there are a gazillion other situations like that," he explains. "This is one that affects them daily, because this affects their service. Service is very hard to nail down, especially because of the diversity of customers."

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