Great Expectations: CX For Generations to Come

By Greg Weber

Last summer, while driving to the mountains in Colorado, my then ten-year old daughter announced, “I want to watch episode three, season two of Mako Mermaids.”  This proclamation was not to me or my wife, but rather to her tablet – which delivered exactly what she requested in a matter of seconds.  When I was a kid, I felt fortunate to play the license plate game (and I still haven’t seen one from North Dakota even today)!

On the other side of the spectrum, my mother-in-law’s expectations are quite different.  Video on-demand means searching for the DVD, checking there are no scratches on it, loading it into the DVD player, figuring out how to select the right TV input and pressing play on the remote control.  

My mother-in-law is used to queues (both virtual, waiting on hold, and physical, standing in a line) and still asks for information and confirmations to be mailed (not emailed) to her so she can review and save it for reference.   “Anywhere, on any device, at any time” translates to “from her house, on her cordless phone during regular business hours.”  For my daughter, it meant “on a mountain pass with spotty coverage, on whichever device she is holding whenever she is bored.”

My mother-in-law’s remote control and “pressing the play button” are foreign concepts to my daughter as are other things that we take for granted.  Just recently, my daughter was talking to her mother on her iPhone as I drove her up to the Hug & Go drop-off lane at her school.  I told her to hang up the phone and get to class before the bell rang, but rather than giving me a hug, my daughter asked me curiously why it was called “hang up.”    She has never actually seen a phone that hangs up!  This pace of changing foundations is neck breaking – the biggest irony for me is that my father invented the toll-free 1-800 number when he was at AT&T (another post for another time) and my daughter has never heard dial tone.    



Businesses need to completely rethink – again – CX in the context of generational shifts. 

Creating interfaces that are “intuitive, intelligible and instinctive” is not a one-size fits all exercise.  If my daughter ever heard from an IVR “press one for…,” she would question why it was “press one” and not “touch one” (or even that she had to do anything).  If my mother-in-law ever heard an IVR ask “please tell me how can I help you?” she would just wait for the menu options (and if the IVR repeated itself assuring her that she could just speak her question, my mother-in-law would undoubtedly speak so slowly and over annunciate every syllable that the NLU/NLI engine would not have a chance at success).



What people value has significantly shifted as well.  

One of the compelling attributes of the 1-800 number was to absolve the caller from incurring any long-distance charges.  That value has dissipated. Who pays for long distance anymore? I imagine my daughter would be fascinated that anyone ever did.  Additionally, value is not only about money or savings.  I was traveling abroad with my mother-in-law a few years ago and she got upset when an agent from her credit card company she was talking to knew, without her explicitly telling her, that she was in Europe.   My mother-in-law values privacy, even at the cost of personalized service, way beyond the dollar.



Here are a few more reasons why businesses need to completely rethink – again – CX in the context of generational shifts. 

The entire notion of “currency” is being turned upside down.   I recently did a little (non-scientific) experiment to explore how my daughter and four of her friends equate money and value.  I offered each of them, independently as possible, if they would like to have $5 or 100 “gems”.  Without explaining what the gems were even for, they unanimously choose the virtual gems over the money! My guess is that even if I changed the equation to $100 or 5 gems they would have still chosen gems (but I didn’t have the courage to try it).

The value calculus of my daughter is completely opposite from my mother-in-law’s – my mother-in-law would have definitely gone for the cash (especially since she has no concept of what virtual gems are anyway).   It is also flipped whereby my daughter would gladly give up privacy for personalized services (or at least be more accepting that complete anonymity is a fairy tale, thus maximize the convenience of losing it).



As businesses strive for “productive, predictive and personalized” experiences on top of “anywhere, on any device, at any time”, the context of generational shifts also needs to be accounted for.

 It’s not enough to banter terms like “digital transformation,” “omni-channel engagement” and “cloud services.” We need to understand the whys – why digitally transform, why deliver omni-channel engagement and why transition to cloud services. The most critical pillar in these conversations is defining the customer service to be delivered – one that meets customers’ expectations, their perceptions and what they value. 

My daughter and my mother-in-law have vastly different expectations, perceptions and value paradigms (in some cases completely orthogonal) and averaging these expectations, perceptions and value paradigms across generational personas into a customer service offering is not a path for success.  An orchestrated framework of various technologies and services (focus of my next posts) is required to deliver truly productive, predictive and personalized customer experiences.



CX today (even more so in the future) is as much of an artform as a science, blending everchanging advanced technologies with a deep appreciation of customers’ great, and consistently evolving expectations.

In only three years, my daughter has gone from crafting precious hand-written letters to Santa to sending him an email containing only a list of URLs.  In this new year, I will be sharing a vision for the Contact Center of the Future and an orchestrated framework that delivers customer engagement for everyone (from my daughter to my mother-in-law).

Until next time …

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