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Clash of the generations: Both brands and employers face challenges understanding the preferences and needs of each of 4 powerful cohorts

by | Jun 28, 2024 | Public Relations

With four powerful but very different generations having an equal hand in driving the consumer marketplace and the workplace today, and with experience now such a major force in their purchasing decisions and increasingly in their job satisfaction, it’s imperative that brands and employers understand the evolving preferences and needs of each group, affirms new research from AI-powered experience orchestration firm Genesys

The firm’s new report, Generational Dynamics and the Experience Economy, based on a survey conducted by Savanta, delves into the intricate dynamics of these four distinct generations—Generation Z, millennials, Generation X and boomers—to help businesses understand the complexity of orchestrating experiences that meet diverse sets of needs effectively, from varying attitudes toward AI adoption in the workplace, to differing expectations for customer service personalization, to preferences for communication channels and brand values.

How important are the following factors when considering purchasing a product/service from a brand:

Percentage point (pp) difference is between Gen Z/millennials and Gen X/boomers

generational targeting

While the research reveals distinctions among generations spanning North America, South America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific, it also revealed a striking number of similarities. Despite cultural and age differences, customers and employees share many of the same expectations for brands.

For example, quality and price are the most important factors in consumers’ buying decisions across all regions and among every generation. As employees, Gen Z and millennials worldwide value a supportive work environment and culture, flexibility and work-life balance over good compensation, recognition, and benefits.

Each generation brings its own unique perspectives, preferences and expectations to their brand interactions. To drive loyalty today, brands and businesses need to deeply understand their customers and employees to ensure their experiences resonate.

Indicate your preference for each of the following types of customer service interaction channels:

generational targeting

Key findings:

Millennials set the bar for customer satisfaction

Both as employees and as customers, millennials have the highest standards for customer service of any generation, globally. Their expectations surpass those of other generations, for example, when ranking importance of personalized interactions (65 percent vs. 49 percent of boomers), a seamless transition between different communication channels (71 percent vs. 54 percent of boomers), convenient self-service options (63 percent vs. 31 percent of boomers) or proactive status updates (71 percent vs. 62 percent of boomers).

Younger generations influenced by technology

On a global scale, 55 percent of millennial consumers reported that a brand’s use of emerging technologies in customer service was a critical consideration, with less than half of boomers reporting the same (22 percent). This desire manifests in their perspectives as employees as well. Sixty-seven percent of Gen Z and millennials expect their employers to provide the latest technologies, with Gen X and boomers close behind at 60 percent.

Peer opinions move the needle

Younger cohorts, notably Gen Z and millennials, place a high value on the opinions of others, with 68 percent of Gen Z and 76 percent of millennials saying that they rely on customer reviews and ratings in their purchase decision-making. Gen Z followed closely behind at 62 percent, while only 39 percent of boomers said the same.

Personalization should be a priority

Across all generations, personalization across channels emerges as a critical expectation, with younger cohorts being notably more willing to share data for personalized service. More than two in five (43 percent) of Gen Z and millennials reported their willingness to provide additional information in exchange for a personalized experience.

Expectations for AI

Though regional and generational variances exist, most employees do not have a fear that AI will replace their jobs. Only 10 percent of GenZ/millennials and 7 percent of GenX/boomers worry about this in the long run. While nearly a quarter (23 percent) of GenZ/millennials and 19 percent of GenX/boomers already see AI’s potential to improve their job efficiency, organizations should see this as an opportunity to educate and train their employees on the benefits of AI.

Employees united on flexibility

While many businesses struggle to strike the right return-to-work balance, employees of all ages agree on the need for flexibility. Seventy-one percent of Gen Z/millennials said they would prefer to work for a company that offered options for hybrid or remote work. Gen X/ boomers were closely aligned at 70 percent.

Top expectations for creating a supportive work environment:

generational targeting

Not only is flexibility a preference, it’s also an expectation. Of the Gen X and boomers surveyed, 71 percent stated that flexibility and work-life balance is a top expectation of their employer. Sixty-six percent of Gen Z and millennials agreed.

In a time where remarkable experiences are expected—whether a large global enterprise or small, local business—the report underscores the transformative power of delivering on the unique expectations of each generation to foster long-term loyalty and business growth.

Download the full report here.

Genesys commissioned Savanta to conduct a global survey of nearly 13,000 adults across five global regions and 21 countries, which was fielded during February and March 2024. The survey explored their expectations, perceptions and experiences as both consumers and employees.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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