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Sunday Edition: From Generation To Generation, Excellent Customer Service Remains Steadfast

Featured / News / Virgin Islands / March 29, 2015

The same way that people from the Caribbean and other cultures have been conditioned and acculturated to saying “Good Morning, Good Afternoon, and Good Evening,” when we greet people and answer the telephone, is the same way that excellent customer service must be the cornerstone and acculturated in the workplace. We are all more likely to shop and do business in a place that makes us feel welcomed, is pleasant to be in, and delivers high-quality products in a time-sensitive manner.

Developmental psychologists tell us that as early as 18 months, babies are enthusiastic about helping others. At that age, it’s almost second nature to be useful. As we grow and mature, the instinct to serve others strengthens, yet excellent customer service is still uncommon.

Why is that?

In business and life, it is a two-way street. Once people, processes, and technology are in sync with quality standards, employees are empowered to be high performers because they are armed with the right tools and resources, and expectations are managed on the front end. When employee behaviors are strengthened through opportunities for enhancement and positive feedback, employees are driven and encouraged to deliver excellent customer service and improve employees around them. In sum, when employers value and appreciate their employees, this domino effects and translates to employees who also value and appreciate their customers.

A Plaza Extra East cashier awaits customers.

A Plaza Extra East cashier awaits customers, March 29

Customer Service Excellence = Quality Standards X Culture. These values manifest across all industries and generations, and just when we thought we had these values under control we need to bear in mind that businesses are no longer one-size-fits-all. In order to navigate successfully and deliver excellent customer service, we need to also understand each other across the generations and value the principle that each one of us has an age. The table below highlights five generations and the approximate years of birth that define each.

Generational Name – Approximate Years of Birth
Traditional Generation – Born before 1946
Baby Boomers – Born 1946 to 1964
Generation X – Born 1965 to 1981
Generation Y – Born 1982 to 2004
Generation Z and Millennials – 2005 to the present

The Traditional Generation born before 1946 was shaped by the Great Depression, World War II, and the Korean War. When negotiating and communicating with this group, it is important to understand traditional values of God, country, neighbor, community, friend, and loyalty. The Traditional Generation believes and lives the value that ‘your word is your bond.’

This generation has also experienced the most cultural change over their lifetime. Keep top of mind that technology and computers did not become part of the business equation until the Traditional Generation was well advanced in their adult lives and careers, and in the case of women, many were stay-at-home moms until they entered the workforce in the 1970s. This generation has seen the desegregation of schools in the 1950s and 1960s, civil rights laws enacted, and people being openly gay in their communities. This means that establishing personal connections, face-to-face- interactions, and sharing personal stories to explain monumental change is the preferred experience.

Baby Boomers, born 1946 to 1964, are the self-aware and self-sufficient generation shaped by the Vietnam War, Civil Rights, and Women’s Liberation. The Baby Boomer generation is conversant, educated, well off, and better informed than any generation before them. Baby Boomers believe they can take on and change the world, and they did just that. They question rules and authority, and fully embrace and engage in the process of change.

When providing great customer service to Baby Boomers keep these principles top of mind:
Show Baby Boomers how your service or product fits into their daily life. Baby Boomers prefer individual attention and will pay top dollar for experts, even if they can only afford to do so for an hour. Whether you are a teacher, lawyer, doctor, engineer, or scientist, highlight your expertise.
Give this generation all of the information they need to make an informed decision and come to their own conclusion.

Really understand that Baby Boomers live and breathe their kids and pets, and fully grasp that Baby Boomer “rights” as a consumer, are second only to their kids and pets.

Author Angela Megasko wrote in Creating the Ultimate Customer Experience, “This generation wrote the book on protesting. The Vietnam War was an important event that shaped their values and ideals. Be ready to listen to this group because they are going to demand it.”

Generation X born 1965 to 1981 is the diversity and computer generation, and the group faced with the highest divorce rates and both parents in the workplace. Also dubbed “latchkey kids,” this generation spent the most time home alone after school doing their homework and watching MTV, BET, and VH1. Their working parents made keys for them and they learned to let themselves in the house after school and make themselves dinner.

These characteristics make this group self-sufficient and resourceful. As opposed to respect for authority, seniority, and the chain of command found in the Traditional Generation, Generation X is empowered by their autonomous nature, leadership, data, and savvy consumerism. This generation utilizes do-it-yourself projects more than any other group.

When providing great customer service to Generation X, it is imperative to craft and deliver the following: Highlight diversity and technology in every customer experience. Service must be cheerful, fast, and efficient, with feedback in real time. Use first names and keep it casual, otherwise you may be thought to be a prude. Provide information and do-it-yourself guides in a way that this generation can teach themselves and manage themselves.

Numbers do not lie and we cannot manage what we cannot measure. A one-liner used by former Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings targeted Generation X specifically, saying, “In God we trust. All others bring data.”

Growing up with desktop computers, laptops, the Internet, smart phones, and social media, to name a few, Generation Y, Z, and Millennials are the most diverse and connected generation in history. This group is technology savvy and technology dependent. This generation prefers to deal with machines over people. They are in their comfort zones when communicating and interacting with their friends using technology, and become sick if their tech gadgets are taken away. Why deal with people face-to-face when you can just deal with them over text or email? Why have cash on hand, when you can swipe your iPhone app? Why go to the mall when you can shop online? Generation Y, Z, and Millennials prefer automation in their eat, sleep, and breathe tech lives, and see no value in involving others, especially those who are not tech savvy.

To craft a strong and positive customer experience for these individuals, you must deliver the following things:

Customize everything. Coke’s Freestyle machine permits users to customize their soft drinks by mixing flavors and Pepsi incorporates social media using their Social Vending Machine, which lets consumers buy a free Pepsi for their friend, customize a video message, and entering a text message. The Pepsi machine sends the receiving friend a code to receive their message and free drink.

Socialize 24X7. The hotel and hospitality industry has changed their business model to accommodate Generation Y, Z, and Millennials who have no desire to enjoy a drink in the lobby and then retire to the hotel room to watch a movie. This generation is more sociable than others and when traveling prefers to use their laptops, smart phones, and tech gadgets in an open lounge where they can hang out for hours and enjoy a cocktail, until it’s time to shower, sleep, and do it all over again.

Each generation has its unique priorities and values. Irrespective of what generation we are a part of, there are characteristics of excellent customer service that remains steadfast.

Consistently deliver great performance:

  • Leave the drama at home and utilize your company’s Employee Assistance program (EAP) to resolve personal matters
  • Answer the telephone with a smile and ask if there is anything else you can help with
  • If you place a customer on hold, do so for only a very short period, thank them for holding, and apologize sincerely for placing them on hold when you return to their call
  • If you know the customer will be on hold for more than two minutes, take their name and contact information and return their call before close of business
  • Have a positive outlook and channel your energy into finding opportunities, even in times of uncertainty and ambiguity
  • Work with a sense of urgency
  • If a customer asks a question, and you don’t know the answer, don’t lie. Say you don’t know, but will get the correct answer to them in a time-sensitive manner.
  • Demonstrate drive to make a positive difference to business and personal performance.
    Be clear about your own performance commitments and ensure they are linked to business goals
  • Identify clear priorities and focus on them at all times
  • Demonstrate brilliant execution, be thorough and apply quality standards in everything you do
  • Show commitment to outstanding teamwork

Find solutions:

  • Think in the future, anticipate trends and opportunities
  • Generate ideas and move them to action
  • Be imaginative in finding solutions to issues and pursuing opportunities for the business
  • If you tailor the customer experience to consistently deliver great performance and find solutions, your business and brand will grow, so will your employees, and customer service will thrive

Teri Helenese
In April 1994, Ebony magazine dubbed Teri Helenese a Rising Star. In 1997, the same magazine included her on its list of the Top 25 Accomplished Women. And in 1998, she was recognized by another well-known magazine, Cosmopolitan, as a Leader to Watch. In less than two decades, Teri Helenese has met and even surpassed these expectations. Her career has spanned executive functions across the private and public sectors. In every setting—from St. Croix to Washington, D.C. and from local to global enterprise—she has made lasting, impactful change and she continues to be a rain-maker and a changer-maker today. For Helenese's full bio, go here.

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Online Magazine Features Extended Series On USVI Culture, Music & Lifestyle

If you haven't already heard of, we're happy to introduce it to you today. The online magazine, which officially...

March 29, 2015