Threading the Needle

Elizabeth NewsletterHere’s an experiment for you. Put on a pair of thin rubber tech gloves and reading glasses (lenses coated with a very thin layer of silicone lube) then try to thread a needle. It’s much more difficult than one may think. Losing tactile recognition and visual clarity are both natural parts of the aging process and can be difficult to relate to on a consistent basis. This is an exercise meant to improve generational awareness; the ability to empathize and relate to a generation other than one’s own. In order to provide exceptional customer service, it is imperative that employees have the capacity to empathize and relate to customers’ needs and expectations.


Retiring “Baby Boomers” (people born between 1946-1964) make up 26% of the population but constitute 40% of the economy, making this demographic the single largest economic group, according to financial experts. This group has a larger discretionary income than any other economic group and is a driving force in the global  economy. Cultivating and retaining these customers requires specific understanding and willingness to respond to their needs and expectations.

 As this demographic continues to grow, it is increasingly important to recognize and respond to the specific needs of this clientele. Being aware of these needs is the first step to providing a memorable experience.

The environment should be comfortable and friendly. I can’t count the number of times that a customer has asked me, typically in a meek and somewhat embarrassed manner, how to use to coffee machine in a customer waiting area. If there is a newer style coffee machine in the waiting room, make sure that there are clearly posted instructions regarding how to use it. Make sure the restrooms are clearly identified and well maintained. On the service drive, maintain a spill free environment to avoid slip hazards. These simple features let customers know that you care about their needs and wellbeing.

While manners are important with all customer interactions, Boomers tend to appreciate the authentic display of manners and more readily equate manners as a sign of respect. Be sure to offer a firm, but not overpowering handshake. Maintain eye contact when listening to the customer speak. Always address the customer as “ma’am” or “sir” or Mr./Mrs./Miss. Never address the customer by their first name unless invited to do so by the customer. This can be interpreted as presumptuous or even rude. Open and hold doors when showing the customer to the waiting room or when entering/exiting their vehicle. Avoid using slang terms, example: when a customer says “thank you”, respond with “you’re welcome”, not “no problem”. Be sure to relay your appreciation for their choice to do business with you.

 Finally, keep in mind that it is important for these customers to feel in control, acknowledged and validated. Technology moves so quickly that it can easily overwhelm even the most tech savvy among us. Take time to provide understandable explanations in a professional manner, being careful to avoid sounding condescending. Remember that the customer’s vehicle can represent independence and is therefore an integral part of their daily life. As their service provider, you are a key component in maintaining that independence. Earn and retain the trusting, reciprocal relationship and you will reap the rewards of their loyalty.

There is tremendous opportunity in nurturing relationships with Boomers. They are the most likely demographic to do business based upon loyalty and previous positive experiences. As the generation that popularized mass networking as a means of growing their careers, Boomers continue to network and will likely base decisions on where and with whom to do business through continued networking. Word of mouth is a powerful motivator. By making few adjustments in how you interact with the Boomer clientele, it demonstrates a willingness to adapt to ever evolving changes in your customer needs and a sincere appreciation for their business.

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