- By Keith Kirkpatrick
- May 9, 2022
Much of the discussion on CX has been focused on so-called “digital natives,” or younger consumers that have grown up with the internet, mobile devices, and social media as primary components of the way they interact with others, for both personal and business activities. But organizations often overlook the need to ensure that they are providing excellent CX to other demographics, specifically older customers who are less technologically savvy, or simply prefer to interact with organizations the way they have done so all their lives, either in person, via the telephone, or even via postal mail.
Ignoring this group of consumers is foolhardy, for several reasons. For one, older consumers often have accumulated significant financial resources, and are unafraid to spend their money on what they perceive to be quality products and services. They are also likely to be loyal to brands and companies that show them respect, and are similarly likely to shun the ones that do not treat them properly. Moreover, the children and grandchildren (and other relatives) of these customers are likely to make their own choices of companies with which to do business based on the experiences of their parents, aunts and uncles, and grandparents.
Managing engagements with older customers
Dealing with an elderly customer can present several unique challenges, both due to the customers’ age and lack of familiarity or comfort with new technology. While not every elderly person is a technophobe or is in the stage of cognitive decline, CX agents and supporting technology should be trained or set up to account for a lack of tech savviness, physical impairments (such as declining hearing, eyesight, and fine motor skills), and cognitive decline (such as memory loss, slower information processing, and clarity issues during communications.)
Elderly people often find it hard to understand the basics of modern technology like fixing the simplest computer issue or resolving a billing problem. Therefore, a customer service agent needs to give extra attention while attending their calls, without adopting a patronizing tone or giving other signals, such as raising their voice, or sighing if instructions need to be repeated.
Following are several suggestions for reducing friction during interactions and engendering greater loyalty with your organization.
Maintain a positive and helpful attitude
Many seniors are more traditional when it comes to customer support; they eschew self-service tools and prefer speaking with a live agent over the phone or in person to resolve their issues. Agents need to respect that choice, and should maintain a positive and helpful attitude to provide the senior customers with a good customer service experience. It is important to understand that traditional contact center metrics such as average handle time (AHT) should not govern these interactions, because rushing older customers off the phone quickly likely will lead to overall higher levels of dissatisfaction, as well as additional support calls if the customer did not fully understand the solution and needs more support.
Maintain respect throughout the interaction
Many elderly people feel like they are being patronized or spoken down to by younger contact center workers, even if the agent is being respectful. That’s why it is important to train agents to be particularly cautious about the way they are speaking to these customers, paying close attention to the way step-by-step instructions are provided so that the intent is clear, but the tone and language does not come off as condescending.
Many of these interactions will take longer than average to reach a resolution, and may require taking the customer through a process several times. Agents cannot let frustration show, as it may also impact the ability of the senior-age customer to accomplish the tasks required. Some customer support tasks can also be made easier by deploying screen-sharing tools, which allow the agent to walk the customer through specific scenarios directly with the customer in a more visual manner.
Put it in print
Elderly customers sometimes also struggle with physical challenges, such as hearing loss or cognitive decline, which can impact their ability to process information and instructions. It is often helpful to have agents politely suggest to them that they write down key instructions, passwords, or other information from the call. In some cases, using another channel to provide written instructions can be useful (such as sending information via text or email).
Another way to build loyalty with elderly customers is recognizing their economic situation. Many elderly customers are on a fixed income, and may benefit from special discounts and coupons. Providing these during customer service engagements can help create a more positive relationship between the company and your elderly customers, and ensure they keep coming back to your company instead of a competitor.
Seniors sometimes require a longer period to understand a request, make a decision, and respond to information. Training agents (and automated systems) to understand when they are speaking or engaging with older customers that require more time and patience is paramount, particularly when dealing with more complex issues, systems, or services.
Go the extra mile
Many elderly customers are lonely and are cut off from regular interactions with family or friends. They may relish the opportunity to connect with a human agent, and may veer off from the topic at hand, and as a result, may throw off an agent who has not been trained to listen and empathize with the customer. Sharing stories or talking excessively can make seniors feel more engaged with the representative, and cutting them off likely will make the agent appear as they are rude. Training agents to listen to stories, and then gently guide the conversation back on track can help engender more trust and a better relationship that will help resolve problems faster, and provide senior customers with outstanding customer satisfaction.
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