The Grey Area – How to Provide Great Contact Centre Service to Your Older Customer Base

customer service older consumers

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While brands vie for the attention of the so-called digital native generation, they largely ignore the lucrative over 50s market. It’s a sizable and relatively affluent group that enjoys personalised attention, places high value on good service and is set to grow by 81% between 2005 and 2030, while the 18-59 market will swell a paltry 7%.

According to the Office of National Statistics Family Spending 2012 study this consumer group has a spending power of £300bn per year. And of course they are not always buying for themselves. In 2010, Yours Magazine reported that grandparents spend £50,000 on their first grandchild!

So why are businesses so neglectful of the older generation? It could be that our obsession with youth and reductive attitudes about what it means to “get old”, encourage the perception that older people have reduced buying power and have a limited engagement with consumer marketing. Perhaps we simply fail to listen to their needs.

Concerning contact centre provision, the customer service you offer to this discerning consumer group is a great barometer of how well you understand your markets and the changing consumer landscape – and how well you have chosen the agents representing your brand!

How to make it work in a contact centre environment

To engage successfully with the over 50s market, the key is to be inclusive and prepared to listen and adapt. Here are some steps to take:

  • Among people over the age of 60, 54% are deaf or hard of hearing and 8% are blind or partially sighted. Telephone remains the channel of choice for older consumers, though businesses must appreciate that this may become a daunting prospect to older people. Comprehension, making themselves understood and navigating technology can all prove challenging.
  • Ensure staff are trained on disability awareness and are sensitive to customer’s needs. They must moderate or slow down their speech when appropriate, consider phrasing and use of terminology, enunciate clearly and be patient and respectful to the caller’s needs.
  • Agents should also be aware that customers may have an eyesight impediment that makes actions like navigating websites, reading product codes or finding reference numbers tricky.
  • Call handlers must give the customer time to explain fully – don’t interrupt and be patient if they are having difficulty making themselves understood.
  • Ensure your headsets cut out background noise and that microphones are the best quality possible for audibility and clarity.
  • Offer customers the choice of contacting your business by post or email as well as phone.
  • Consider any barriers to payment such as unease about giving credit card details over the phone. If customers have to confirm complex details over the phone, offer them the chance to have information posted or emailed for confirmation.
  • Use hold music to indicate that the caller has not been cut off and let the caller know you are putting them on hold.
  • Where possible keep call routing menus short and give the option of speaking to an operator in the initial menu. Lengthy IVRs are not well received. Always allow the caller the opportunity to listen to the menu again.
  • If no option is chosen or if the caller cannot do what is being asked, e.g. enter an account number, the system should transfer the caller to an operator.

Remember, there is no such thing as the singular “older customer”. Businesses must refocus their attentions on the needs of this overlooked audience and adapt and revitalise their service offering. Talk to your customers and find out what makes them tick.

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