Serving an ageing population

25th Nov 2015

Physiological ageing affects more than 80% of the touch points in the average customer journey, so it is vital that businesses understand how to adapt their services to meet customers’ changing needs. 

At least 20 effects of ageing have been found to have an impact on the customer experience, affecting the body, senses and mind. By the age of 60, for example, most people will experience some degradation in their eyesight, hearing, dexterity, physical strength, cognitive powers and flexibility – each of which will affect how they communicate with companies. 

An ongoing journey

“To satisfy the requirements of older consumers, companies need to evaluate all facets of the customer journey,” says Dick Stroud, founder of 20plus30, a consultancy that helps companies to improve the customer experience for older consumers. According to Stroud, there is little point in a company employing universal design principles to create its products if the online, communications and physical retail experience is left unchanged.
"Companies need to evaluate all facets of the customer journey"
In fact, a full evaluation of the customer journey can involve studying as many as 200 touch points, he adds. The experience of shopping in a supermarket, for example, involves at least 40 touch points that are affected by age. These include levels of ambient lighting, quality of flooring, shelf height, legibility of signage and labeling, and background noise levels.
Digital channels are equally affected. The design of websites, apps and mobile interfaces need to take account of the difficulties caused by declining cognitive powers and problems with font size and levels of colour contrast. 

In addition, while some digital platforms may prove popular with customers in one age bracket, they could be equally unpopular with older (or younger) consumers. Significant contrasts emerge when we analyse social media usage by age group, for example. While younger customers tend to use a more diverse set of social platforms than their older peers, according to the Institute’s Service goes social report, those aged 45–54 are the most likely to share their customer experience through social media. With Facebook deemed the most frequently used platform by all ages, companies targeting older customers should focus their efforts there. An age-friendly customer experience therefore relies on attention to detail and knowledge of age-related trends.  

Cross-departmental action 

Because the monthly rate of population ageing is slow, there is always a temptation to postpone taking action. But an ongoing relationship with customers requires constant reflection and reaction to change, says Stroud. Start tweaking your service strategies today and you’ll find it far easier to adjust to changing customer needs. 

There is also a danger that organisations
perceive population ageing as a concern
for corporate social responsibility departments, or something that can be ‘solved’ by their existing disability and accessibility processes. In reality, adapting customer service involves all of the operational functions within a company, and requires especially strong executive leadership to ensure it succeeds.

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