Are You Ready For “Age Friendly” Customer Service? by Elaine Allison

Most companies have always focused on capturing the “next generation.” However, you need to keep your eye on serving the ever evolving market in an “age friendly” way. The market is not actually growing, but how this customer is served needs to be adapted.

The “Silver Tsunami” is Upon Us

10 things you need to know:


1. In the US, statistics show that 10,000 people per day are turning 65 years old.

 
2. Canada is following suit at a similar rate: 1/3 of the population is charging towards this demographic change, and Europe is already well into this.

 
3. In Japan, the sale of adult diapers for the first time will surpass baby diapers.

 
4. This age demographic is not going to grow old invisibly: they have saved well, and many will have paid of all or most of their mortgages. They are spending on travel, their kids, and grandchildren and even going back to school.

 
5. They also don’t see retirement the same way their parents did, and most likely will be bored with the patio life. No longer does retirement mean long days to relax, convalesce or just play golf.

 
6. They may not want to retire completely but offer their skills in a part-time or philanthropic way either through cash or time.

 
7. Workplaces may have to not only adapt to the aging customer, but also their older “internal customers” (think employees) and adapt to accommodate their workplaces. For example, BMW set up education and work groups to brainstorm new ways to help their aging workforce keep up with productivity. They eventually found that their older workforce started outpacing their younger counterparts. They also make great “intergenerational mentors” in the workplace.

 
8. This demographic does not want to be known or seen as “old”. Any terms about being “Grey”, “Senior”, or even the term “Senior Discount” causes a shiver down their spine.

 
9. Age 60 is the new 40, and this demographic state they don’t feel their age. Due to advances in health sciences, they are living longer, healthier lives than ever in our history. Some studies have even shown that when someone turns 50 today, they state they actually feel 10 to 15 years younger than that.

 
10. Many will seek out an “encore” career, exploring new areas to build experience and continue learning.

How will your organization keep your customer service eye on this pie? Which of the following responses will be on your radar?

 

Any Customer Service Manager, to fully understand the breadth of this shift, should be grabbing the book The Upside of Aging: How Long Life is Changing the World of Health, Work, Innovation, Policy and Purpose, by Paul H. Irving, President of the Milken Institute.

 
Continue to learn as much as you can about this group.

 
Analyze your current locations or spaces, website, marketing collateral, even your business cards for fonts and lighting for wherever your customers go or meet.

 
Understand the aging issues that typically arrive, which are:

 
Vision loss (think lighting, fonts and colors).

 
Hearing loss (think minimizing excessive noise or offering signage or visual aids). Have you noticed how a bus or public transportation does this multi-sensory approach to aid those with disabilities? Both audible and visual signals are used for “the next stop”.

 
Mobility loss (think location, location, location or offering transportation or easy to use websites, larger aisles, places to sit, lower counters to accommodate mobility devices such as walkers or scooters). Even a bad hip or ankles can stop someone from booking an airplane trip if they think it’s too much work. Think shorter trips: tour groups could reduce 20-mile bike rides to 5 miles to accommodate families who vacation together. Ask yourself: Where can our offerings adapt?

 
Taste buds also change (go from 288 to 88 taste buds by the time someone is 80+). The aging tend to want more spice, sugar or salt to recapture some of the memories of their youth. If you are in the food industry, you’ve already seen the rise in diagnosis of diabetes, Celiac and Gluten allergies or other intolerances. Don’t forget loss of teeth and softer foods as the denture market will grow too.

 
Cognitive loss (memory, confusion). As we age, memory is affected by not only the big risks of Alzheimer’s or dementia, but even more simple life changes such as menopause. More patience and empathy will be needed.
Plan how to adapt every aspect of your business to ensure you are assisting this demographic whether they have aging issues or not. More training may be required.
Review your demographics for both internal and external customers.
Review all your marketing materials and strategies to ensure you can and will keep pace.

Customer Service has not just evolved online, and hopefully companies have caught on to the value of social media and keeping Customer Service top of mind (especially because of instant reviews).  HOWEVER….

Adapting to the “silver tsunami” IS the next big challenge or opportunity.

“You get to choose. You will either have to staff for it, or build for it.
This wave is here”.

If you are not ready, others will be. The need for “age friendly” customer service is here to stay, and taking advantage of it is a matter of simple math and adapting to the demographic.

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