The top reason Americans of all ages would speak poorly about a brand is a negative customer experience, not a poor experience with a product, according to new research from digital customer experience (CX) innovator TELUS International.
The survey, which polled 2,000 U.S. consumers about their expectations before, during and after a purchase, revealed what each generation finds most important to have a successful customer experience.
Social media leads the way for brand awareness and product research
The survey indicated that older generations (55 percent of Baby Boomers and 67 percent of Gen X) are almost as likely as younger ones (78 percent of Millennials and 77 percent of Gen Z) to be influenced by social media ads when contemplating a purchase.
The survey also found that all generations consult online reviews before making a purchase, especially Millennials with 91 percent of respondents saying they consult them at least some of the time and more than half (56 percent) saying they consult them all the time. Additionally, positive reviews are most influential to Millennials’ (91 percent) and Baby Boomers’ (92 percent) purchasing decisions as compared to 77 percent of Gen Z’s and 86 percent of Gen X’s.
In the past year, 79 percent of Gen Z respondents have made at least one purchase stemming from a social media ad, with 18 percent making at least six. Even though Baby Boomers were least likely to have made a purchase from a social media ad in the past year, nearly half (48 percent) still did.
“Because of the meteoric rise of online shopping and time spent on social media, brands must think digital when it comes to designing their overall approach to the customer experience,” said Maria Pardee, chief commercial officer at TELUS International, in a news release. “Social media has become a critical space for brands to positively influence buying decisions across all generations. These survey results demonstrate the value that brands can derive from dedicating resources to moderating user-generated content on their sites such as product reviews, questions, complaints and comments, to make a great first impression. They also show the tremendous upside to optimizing online ads to ensure consumers are seeing products and content most relevant to them.”
Automation and annotation drive purchases
The majority of survey respondents (65 percent) across all age groups, expect at least part of their customer journey to be automated versus having to interact with a human. Gen Z (46 percent), Gen X (53 percent) and Baby Boomer (60 percent) respondents indicated that real-time help powered by AI has the most positive impact on how they view a brand and is most likely to grow their loyalty. Millennials are also serious about automation as 72 percent are likely to make repeat purchases and 71 percent are likely to recommend a brand if it uses AI to improve their customer experience.
There are varying comfort levels amongst the generations regarding brands retaining some of their customers’ data as long as it is disclosed what data is being held and how it will be used. Specifically, Baby Boomers are the wariest with only 48 percent saying they are comfortable with this practice vs. 65 percent of Millennials. Gen Z’s and Gen X’s sentiments fell between.
“Gathering and analyzing customer data is critical nowadays for brands to be able to provide customized and personalized experiences, as well as to build chatbots and other automated solutions that can better predict what a customer wants and more accurately answer their questions,” added Pardee. “To get and maintain access to this ‘gold dust’, brands must earn consumers’ trust. This begins with brands being transparent in disclosing how its customer data will be used and stored, but with cyber-attacks on the rise, it extends to having robust trust and safety protocols in place, including how to help their customers in the event they do have a data breach.”
Brand loyalty and advocacy after the sale
Once consumers make that all-important first purchase, brands still have critical work to do in order to ensure they will buy from them again and become brand advocates. Good customer service following a purchase (such as short wait times and easy exchange/return processes), is most likely to lead to future purchases, according to 93 percent of Baby Boomers, 91 percent of Millennials, 89 percent of Gen X and 81 percent of Gen Z.
The top way that all generations, with the exception of Millennials, show their loyalty to a brand is by making additional purchases. Millennials, however, prefer to show loyalty by recommending the brand or product to friends and family. Further, 75 percent of all consumers surveyed are likely to leave a review, post on social media, or create some other form of UGC if they have a positive customer experience.
Beyond providing a great customer experience, brands can generate further loyalty by supporting community causes, offering environmentally friendly products, and having strong environmental, social and governance (ESG) policies. Having these types of programs in place are most likely to influence Millennials’ brand loyalty (65 percent); conversely, Baby Boomers (49 percent) are the least likely to be influenced by these factors.
“By knowing what each generation expects from a positive customer experience, brands can more accurately tailor their strategy and approach, incorporating the right balance of social media, automated solutions, AI-powered services and human agents to meet their particular demographic’s expectations,” added Pardee. “Rather than making assumptions, such as only younger buyers are influenced by and prefer to use digital channels, savvy brands will be better equipped to serve consumers of all generations. There was one universal truth; however, that our survey revealed: brands will have a much easier time winning back customers due to a lackluster product than if they have a bad customer experience. To create loyal customers and brand advocates, they have to get the customer experience right the first time around.”