The older we are the worse customer service is

It would appear that age is a strong determinate of how satisfied we are with the customer service we receive. In our survey people were asked to indicate from a list of thirty-six different service industries in the UK which they felt provided below average customer service. When we looked at attitudes to customer service by age it was found that the older we are the less satisfied we are with customer service.

In the Customer Champions Grumpy League Table below  we can see the impact of age on complaints. It shows that, with the single exception of women aged 45 – 54, there is a clear trend. Sixteen to twenty-four year olds are the most satisfied, followed by 25 – 34 year olds, etc., with older women (55 ) bucking the trend slightly. The cliché of grumpy old customers would appear to be true!

Customer Champions Grumpy League Table
Grumpy Rating Sex Age
1 Female 45 – 54
2 Male 55
3 Male 45 – 54
4 Male 35 – 44
5 Female 55
6 Female 35 – 44
7 Male 25 – 34
8 Female 25 – 34
9 Female 16 – 24
10 Male 16 – 24

Colin Bates, Managing Director of Customer Champions, believes that this age factor is down to a combination of pure experience and expectations based upon customer service they may have received in their earlier years. There may be a hint of rose-tinted lenses here but the days of personal service received from a local supplier may be exactly what is required today when providing customer service for older people. This view is further supported by looking at which categories came top of the list overall for customer service:

  • high street chemists
  • your local corner shop
  • private healthcare providers

Each of these is heavily dependent upon them knowing and showing a great deal of knowledge and care towards their individual customers. The impact of age-related health is possibly also reflected here with both the provision of and advice on health being important. Also, access to a service such as a local corner shop is possibly more important as age restricts mobility. With an increasingly ageing population profile in the UK this could become more and more of an issue over the coming years.

We can also look at customer service by age for the younger generations. Younger people are relatively more satisfied about the levels of customer service that they receive, and this too is possibly a combination of factors. Again, there is the impact of experience (“what they haven’t had they can’t miss”), but probably even more important is lifestyle.

Younger people are perhaps more focused on the speed of receiving something rather than the softer customer service issues. Heavier use of mobile communications and internet access places greater focus on receiving goods and services faster, and maybe cheaper. The impact of customer service is much less in this non-personal contact environment. This is illustrated by the fact that online banking was placed fourth most satisfied with in the league table.

Interestingly, banks, who have come under a lot of pressure over recent years to reduce their bank branch closure programmes so that people could receive “better” customer service, may have a counter argument. Online banking appeared in the top 4 in terms of satisfaction, yet retail banking appears in the bottom 4! Maybe, after all, future generations will see remote customer service as much more valuable than face-to-face service.

Grumpy old men!

As well as age being a factor in people’s perception of customer service levels, gender is also relevant, with 30 out of the 36 categories showing that men are less satisfied with customer service than women. Women are only less satisfied than men with:

  • colleges / schools / training providers
  • airlines
  • high street clothes stores
  • supermarkets
  • DIY stores
  • high street chemists

Is this an opportunity to gain more female customers? Certainly within DIY, a male dominated world, B&Q have seen the opportunity by running women-only practical sessions in their superstores.

North / South divide

When looking at any regional variation in the data, it would appear that there is a North / South divide for customer service perceptions. People living in the South and West of England are more satisfied with customer service levels than people living in the North and East of England, and Scotland. The most content customers are however living in Wales.

So what do customer service professionals do now?

Customer Champions see the findings from this survey as further evidence as to why it is vital to carry out detailed customer segmentation to help understand how customers’ needs develop during their lifetime. Also it is important to understand customers’ past experience and its impact today, as well as trying to develop a currently memorable customer experience.

This customer experience also needs to be relevant to the channel that the customer has chosen to receive their customer service through. How many companies today have a Customer Service Channel Strategy that reflects all of these variations? Anyone who can successfully deploy such a strategy will undoubtedly be recognised for high levels of customer service, which in most industries will provide that illusive market differentiater.

The impact of customer service within a retailing market was the focus of the research that we did for Skillsmart Retail.

Take the next step

Customer segmentation is one thing. Understanding what to do with it is another. To find out how to implement strategies based on customer segmentation research, please get in touch.

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