How to Support Baby Boomers, Know-it-Alls, and Impatient Customers

How to Support Baby Boomers,
Know-it-Alls, and Impatient Customers
What Changing Age Demographics Mean for Your Support Organization
A White Paper
Sponsored by:
How to Support Baby Boomers, Know-it-Alls, and Impatient Customers
What Changing Age Demographics Mean for Your Support Organization
Setting the Stage
A couple in their 80s slowly shuffled into a music store arm-in-arm. They haltingly made their way over to the
keyboards. They discussed getting a new organ to accompany the hymns at their religious services. Then the
salesperson came over and this couple proceeded to ask him questions about MIDI interfaces, USB ports, and
software compatibility.
Some of your customers served in World War II. Others travel by skateboard and will find their next job on Twitter.
None of them are a stereotype. But all of them have different social and cultural expectations about your service.
They communicate differently, use different channels, and have different skill sets. And if you treat them all exactly
the same, your customer contact center will pay a price in lost productivity and market share.
For the first time in history, customer support teams are now supporting five distinct generations of customers. This
white paper will look at the implications of supporting such a broad demographic, and show you how to leverage
your support channels and communications skills to best support every generation. It will look in detail at each of
these customer segments, and teach you the tools you will need to work best with each generation.
How – and Why – Generational Competency Became So Important
Most firms who support customers have become the victims of their own success –because their products and
services are now used by one of the widest ranges of generations in history.
Not that many years ago the Internet was a novelty, personal computers were the domain of geeks who knew how
to install memory boards and upgrade their BIOS, and you would never find a web address on a can of tomato soup.
Today, complex sophisticated products and digital connectivity link nearly all of us. This has become a watershed
period in history for the customer contact profession, for three reasons:
Productivity. Your 73-year-old mother just purchased an Internet router, on the advice of a department store
clerk, so she can use other WiFi devices in her house. She plugs in the cables and it doesn't work. She calls the 800
number on her screen – and if you start asking her to set IP addresses and security settings, be prepared for a l-o-ng transaction. And perhaps a returned device.
Perhaps the single biggest reason for generationally-competent technical support is that for most companies, the
breadth of your customer base has outpaced your support model. Support models that expect customers to match
the technical skills of your agents have become obsolete – as are ones that expect technically-savvy Generation Y
customers to go through endless scripted troubleshooting steps. Either extreme can lead to low productivity,
frustrated customers, and lost business. White Paper: How to Support Baby Boomers, Know-it-Alls, and Impatient Customers
Customer satisfaction. Today's competitive landscape no longer allows most of us to write off entire generations
of customers. If your support isn't clear enough to older consumers – or fast enough for the technologically savvy –
you will often lose those customers. This is why your support must now be seen through the eyes of several
generations of consumers, and not just your traditional processes.
Branding and market share. Companies have long branded themselves – and often built dominant market
positions – around their accessibility to customers of every generation. Firms ranging from Apple to Disney have
built their reputations around products that "just work" and customer experiences that are seamless for everyone.
In much the same way, creating a good support experience for customers at every level of age and expertise can
become a powerful competitive differentiator.
How do you make generationally competent support happen – start asking your customers how old they are? Not
exactly. Rather, you should be prepared to use multiple support channels, good communications skills, and flexible
procedures. With the right planning, you can support customers from every generation in a way that is both
effective for them, and productive for you.
(Sources:, White Paper: How to Support Baby Boomers, Know-it-Alls, and Impatient Customers
Future Trend: The Age Wave Comes Crashing Ashore
If you have never thought about fine-tuning your support to address multiple generations of customers, here is a
good reason to get started: your customer base is aging more rapidly than ever, at exactly the same time that your
support is getting more complicated.
According to figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of Americans over age 65 is poised to explode over
the next twenty years. Between 2010 and 2030, the growth rate of older Americans will more than double versus
the rate of the previous 20 years, as the baby boom generation transitions into retirement. Meanwhile, the "oldest
old" over 85 years of age have grown even more rapidly, with their numbers almost tripling between 1960 and
1994, versus a 45% increase in the general population.
The good news? This will be the most technologically literate older generation in history. Meanwhile, the bad news
is that support is getting more complex as time goes on. According to the 2011 Service and Support Metrics Survey
conducted by and Citrix, 45.7% of support centers rated the average complexity of their
support work as "high" – the highest level yet. In all likelihood, technology will continue to grow more complex at
the same time your customer base is graying.
The silver lining to these trends is that the growth rate of elderly American is eventually predicted to drop back
down again, and eventually reach historically low levels – sometime after 2030.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau,
Your Generations of Customers – and How to Support Them
Support customers, as a group, span the greatest era of social change in history. Your oldest customers may
remember growing up with slide rules and manual typewriters, while your youngest ones live in a world of virtual
reality and social networks. As a result, you now support several distinct generations, each with very different
technical skills, expectations, and ways of communicating. Here is a look at some of the bigger categories: White Paper: How to Support Baby Boomers, Know-it-Alls, and Impatient Customers
Veterans: This is a population group that was born before 1946, which places the majority of them well into their
retirement years. Some customers over the age of 65 are highly fluent in online and computer skills. Older
customers, for example, represent one of the key growth areas for social networks such as Facebook. Other
Veterans are embracing technology for the first time, often out of necessity. This group tends to see the world in
very concrete terms, prefer answers to choices, and respects your expertise even as they sometimes question your
There is a mistaken perception that Veterans tend to be technologically illiterate. This is not always true: many
Veterans are very technically savvy, as evidenced by the couple we mentioned in the opening paragraph. What is
true, however, is that Veterans are generally late adopters to technology. As a group, they tend to use technology
on a "need-to-know" basis rather than developing strong expertise. A portion of this group will feel overwhelmed
and confused by your products, services, and support procedures.
Support agents and their managers tend to get frustrated when Veteran customers don't "get" their standard
troubleshooting process, and start taking up too much of their time. Instead of getting frustrated, you need a
generationally-sensitive process for handling these customers that involves more remote support and diagnostics,
simpler steps, and communications skills that emphasize patience and respect. Veterans also come from a
generation that expects more personal attention than other generations, so consider teaching your agents how to
show interest and "individualize" support transactions for older customers.
A Tool for Supporting Veterans: Two-way Screen Sharing and Remote Control
Remote support tools have become ubiquitous in customer contact environments: according to metrics surveys
from and Citrix, over two thirds of respondents now use remote control or screen sharing
tools, and nearly a third of these felt that these tools prevent the need for an on-site or deskside visit between 75
and 100 percent of the time.
Remote control and screen sharing are important productivity tools for use with customers of any generation. For
older customers, however, they are particularly important – they can provide one-click access to a client's
computer, allowing agents to drive the support and problem resolution process. In particular, for clients who are
technologically challenged, forcing them to verbally "filter" your instructions via telephone and execute them can
make for a long transaction, and their ignorance of appropriate computer usage can often mask the real problem.
("It stopped working, and I didn't change anything!") Given their relatively low cost-of-entry and easy scalability,
these tools now make sense for any support environment. White Paper: How to Support Baby Boomers, Know-it-Alls, and Impatient Customers
Baby Boomers: This group, born between 1946 and 1964, were the early adopters – and often the creators – of
modern computing. They grew up with the space program, the Beatles, and rapid social change. Boomers often
need to know why things work – or don't work – and will bristle at scripted answers. Their technological skills, while
generally much better than those of the Veteran generation, often vary widely. And their work-life boundaries may
mean that they need you 24 hours a day, and want first-call resolution even worse than your vice-president does.
At a broader level, the Baby Boomer generation represents a very large customer demographic. For example,
twenty-five percent of the U.S. population are of the baby boom generation. In the United Kingdom, boomers
currently hold nearly 80 percent of that country's wealth1. Culturally, Boomers are optimistic, straightforward, and
hard working.
To support Baby Boomers effectively, you need to span a wide range of technical competence levels, from people
who can be active participants in problem resolution to those who need a lot of guidance via remote support.
Boomers have many things they would rather be doing than getting support, so self-help knowledgebases and
online support communities can be a good option for organizations big enough to maintain their critical mass. From
a communications standpoint, focus on their needs rather than your procedures – for every customer, but
especially boomers, support transactions are an interruption to busy and meaningful work.
A Tool for Supporting Baby Boomers: Distributed, Anytime Support
It may be an exaggeration to talk about Baby Boomers working around the clock; however, the reality is that
today's senior employees are working longer hours than ever, and taking more work home. Moreover, they live and
work in a global environment where colleagues and co-workers may be halfway around the globe. As a result,
support centers increasingly need strategies to support users where they are, and when they work.
One smart solution is to use technology to distribute your support "center" across multiple time zones or even
continents. Cloud support applications accessed via the web can put intake and escalation in the hands of someone
in the next state, instead of the next cubicle. Visible and invisible collaboration tools allow agents to pull in
resources where needed, from around the globe. Moreover, training and continuing education for your team no
longer need live within the confines of a building. Distributing some or all of your support team represents a change
in your workplace culture that has now been made possible by technology.
Generation X: The generation with earrings, tattoos, and their baseball caps on backwards are now the
establishment. People born between 1965 and 1980 are largely computer literate but not workaholics. They gave
birth to trends ranging from telecommuting to turning Google into a verb. Their preferred form of communication
is direct, and their lives are much more than just their jobs.
Walker, Duncan, "Live Fast, Die Old," BBC News, Sep. 16, 2004. White Paper: How to Support Baby Boomers, Know-it-Alls, and Impatient Customers
At just under 50 million people in the United States, Generation X is dwarfed by the much larger numbers of both
Baby Boomers and Generation Y. But this generation has always prided itself on being know-it-alls – they do not like
being patronized, and many of them have now reached a point in their careers where they are the managers,
leaders, and decision-makers you will be dealing with on complex support issues.
Compared with older generations, Gen X is much more likely to be right there with you in troubleshooting technical
and customer issues. They are also more likely to be using a wider range of technology in their careers, ranging
from mobile devices to web applications. They prefer informal communication, so scripted "Sir" and "Ma'am"
dialogues will be interpreted as a sign of cultural incompetence (or incompetence, period). Conversely, Gen X
clients will generally be right at home with a wide range of support channels, and will use whatever creates the
least friction for them.
A Tool to Support Generation X: Web Chat
A generation ago, analysts practically predicted the death of the live support agent. Back then, an environment of
expensive software and early adopter users was rapidly transitioning to a broad consumer market and rapidly
declining margins. As a result, people were talking about live support giving way to knowledgebases, CD-ROMs, and
automated response systems.
A funny thing happened in the meantime, however. Product
complexity kept increasing, revenues and market shares grew,
and today survey research from shows live
support trending up, not down. Today, many savvy companies
are looking for ways to provide more live support while keeping
costs down.
Web chat is a unique enabling technology for live support. It is
one of few channels that allows a live agent to manage multiple,
simultaneous sessions; for example, Citrix GoToAssist's web
chat capability allows an agent to connect with up to eight users
at once. While waiting for people to type or software to load,
these tools help turn multitasking into productivity. Moreover,
it is easily linked to customers via the web sites or support
portals they normally visit. Use of this technology appears
poised to keep growing steadily in the future.
Generation Y: The people who skyrocketed the use of social media, texting and YouTube are today's new adults.
They multitask well, expect information on demand, and don't like being told what to do – and they will represent
40% of the workforce by 2014. More important, their youth, energy, and education are a driving force in today's
technology workplaces, so they will be disproportionately represented among the customer bases of high-tech
support operations. White Paper: How to Support Baby Boomers, Know-it-Alls, and Impatient Customers
Generation Y consumers are technically savvy, as they grew up with personal computing and were early adopters
for social media. They are at a point in their careers where achievement matters a great deal, both professionally
and culturally. From a communications standpoint, they tend to value honesty, authenticity, and informality.
To support Gen Y consumers, it is important to be as technically savvy as they are. Today's cross-functional support
teams are a better fit for this generation than rigid "Level I" and "Level II." The trend toward such teams is
increasing according to recent survey research. In terms of support channels, recognize that
this generation is more distributed and more mobile than any in history.
A Tool to Support Generation Y: Mobile Device Support
Computing has evolved considerably over the generations. Once upon a
time, computers were the domains of mainframes with raised floors and
disk drives the size of washing machines. Today, much of that same
computing power now fits in your smartphones. Mobile devices have often
become the home for your calendar, camera, GPS, web browser, and much
Survey research from and Citrix have shown mobile
device support to be one the hottest trends in customer contact. Over half
of respondents either had a support strategy in place for mobile
environments, or planned to implement one over the next 12 months, with
the number supporting mobile devices projected to double between late
2010 and late 2011. Particularly among your younger clients and early
adopters, the ability to have native or web-compatible mobile support is
increasingly becoming a requirement.
Generation Z: The generation born and/or raised into the 21st century now extends into their teenage years. Their
parents' small circle of friends are no match for their 500+ friends on Facebook. Their dreams are huge, and they
think in tweets of 140 characters or less. Their high intelligence, short attention span, and impatience with
procedure will change the way we use technology and deliver support in the years to come.
While other generations may know technology, for Generation Z it is the air they breathe. The web was born before
they were, and they live in a social network that is always "on." Compared with their predecessors, they often have
more homework, more expectations, and more distractions than ever before - as well as a surprising and growing
level of purchasing power. And at the same time, the story and culture of this generation is a story that is still in
So how do you support Generation Z? First and foremost, remember that this is the generation that has no
patience. They often know as much or more about the products you are supporting than your agents do, and more
than anything, they hate being led by the nose through endless troubleshooting steps. They are as likely to be
contacting you on their smartphones as on their personal computers, so the more integrated and compatible your White Paper: How to Support Baby Boomers, Know-it-Alls, and Impatient Customers
support channels are, the better. And since they will generally be much younger than your support agents, you will
need to be careful not to "talk down" to these customers or treat them like children (even if they are children!).
A Complete Solution to Support Every Generation of Customers
The key to supporting multiple generations is having technology that gives more channels to your customers, and
more troubleshooting power and collaboration capabilities to your agents. We recommend using a support solution
that encompasses these four features:
1. Intuitive – easy-to-use for agents, and even easier to use for customers
2. Ample communication channels – including web chat, remote support, screen sharing, and the ability to chat
within a session
3. Streamlined escalation process – tools that allow visible and invisible collaboration with experts, and integrate
tools such as web chat and screen sharing with one-click escalation
4. Quick recall and data storage – integration with CRM systems such as Saleforce, allowing agents to store and
quickly access customer data leading to quicker resolutions and more satisfied customers
Citrix GoToAssist has become an industry standard for today's multichannel support environment, combining the
leading screen sharing and remote control capabilities with web chat, mobile device support, remote diagnostics
and file transfer, seamless PC-to-Mac capabilities, and CRM integration. Its low entry cost and scalability make it an
easy tool to deploy and grow with. Compare features, and see how GoToAssist is designed as a support tool for
generations to come.
Not that many years ago, the term "computer user" defined a clear demographic. Today, the growth and breadth of
technology in our lives makes everyone a computer user – and a support client. This means that if you haven't
already considered the impact of multiple generations on your support services, you will soon.
At the same time, this issue represents an opportunity – to build your market share, brand your company, and
make your products and services available to a broader potential customer base. Getting there involves issues
ranging from support channels to communications skills. Above all, it requires a thoughtfully composed strategy
across your entire support team. With the right technology, and the right approach, your support capabilities can
truly become ageless.
Written by Rich Gallagher, contributing editor, White Paper: How to Support Baby Boomers, Know-it-Alls, and Impatient Customers
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About Citrix Online
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Whether using GoToAssist® to support customers, GoToManage™ to monitor IT assets, GoToMeeting® to hold
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Santa Barbara, California. For more information, visit or call +1 805 690 6400.
Brownell, Eileen. Customer Care for All Generations,, 2000,
Hammill, Greg. Mixing and Managing Four Generations of Employees. Farleigh Dickinson University, FDU Magazine
Online, Winter/Spring 2005.
Anderson, J. Motivating, Managing, Retaining Generation X and Generation Y Employees. Hub Pages, 2010., 2010 Report: Generation Analysis, 2010. 2011 Survey Results: How Support Behaviors are Changing for Mobile and Social Media
Environments., 2011 Service and Support Metrics Survey, The Demographics of Aging, 2011.
U.S. Census Bureau, Sixty Five Plus in the United States, May 1995,
Walker, Duncan, "Live Fast, Die Old," BBC News, Sep. 16, 2004. White Paper: How to Support Baby Boomers, Know-it-Alls, and Impatient Customers