Customer Experience Tips: Serving Different Generations in the Branch

In 2011, customer satisfaction with branch transactions improved significantly from 2010 (based on the Prime Performance Bank and Credit Union Satisfaction Survey).  The industry-wide increase of five points in the net satisfaction score (the percent of satisfied customers minus the percent of dissatisfied customers) was driven by an eleven point increase among Gen Y customers (born after 1980), followed by a six point increase among Gen X customers (born between 1965 and 1980), and a one point increase among Boomer and older customers (born before 1965).

In spite of the increase in satisfaction among younger customers, older customers continue to have higher levels of satisfaction.  Older customers tend to have higher levels of satisfaction in most areas of their lives and take a longer view, so their satisfaction scores are less volatile.  Younger customers tend to have stronger reactions to the quality of service they receive and to other factors, such as what is said about their bank by friends, family and in the media (particularly social media).

While the general rules of customer service hold true for customers of all ages, banks must be keenly aware that customer service is not “one size fits all.”  Bankers need to understand that some older customers may value having a long conversation at the teller window, but younger customers may find it a waste of time or a sign of an inefficient operation (and the next customer in line might find it incredibly irritating).  Certainly within a generation, customers have different expectations and needs, but it is helpful to understand what is important to each generation.

To help better understand how to serve customers of different generations, here are some tips from Delivering Knock Your Socks Off Service by Performance Research Associates, Inc.


Tips for Serving Millennials (Gen Y):

  • Be respectful. No one likes to be talked down to just because they’re young. Beware of condescending tones or of passing off common sense as “insider wisdom.” Millennials like to feel like equals.
  • Use a quick pace. Millennials are used to having needs met “yesterday” and often find overly deliberate people or processes taxing.
  • Take pains not to confuse them with Generation Xers. While most generations don’t like to be mistaken for others, Millennials in particular chafe at being lumped together with Generation Xers, finding them too edgy or cynical for their tastes.


Tips for Serving Generation X:

  • Be efficient and to the point. Competence is far more important to most Xers than having an upbeat or cheerful attitude. To them, a grumpy refund beats a smiling “we’re so sorry we can’t take that back” almost every time.
  • Be prepared to field questions. Gen Xers are curious types who like to nail down the details, so make sure you know your stuff and can provide correct facts or figures about products or services when asked.
  • Don’t oversell products or solutions. Xers have finely tuned “crap detectors” and are sensitive to anything that reeks of the hard-sell or pure marketing spin. If possible, cite specific examples of how your products or services have helped customers solve problems or quote independent research that compares your organization favorably against competitors.


Tips for Serving Boomers:

  • Be personable, especially in your greeting. While your Boomer customers may not feel like taking the time to “visit”, they will appreciate the warmth of a hearty greeting.
  • If you know the customer’s name, use it. Many Boomers like to be “known” and enjoy the personalization. But don’t go overboard; using names too frequently will come across as smarmy or artificial.
  • If customers are regulars, give them something extra from time to time to recognize their loyalty. In deciding who to do business with, Boomers often look for organizations that have employees who aren’t just competent or efficient, but who seem to care about customers and see customer service work as their calling. Small acts that show them you care can go a long way.