Establishing relationships with clients from every generation is the new reality for all businesses. Companies have an opportunity to forge stronger and deeper relationships with their clients by addressing intergenerational communication, engagement and service issues in a proactive manner.
Organizations must work to understand how differing intergenerational values can be leveraged to create new and innovative ways to differentiate their firm, products, services and brand in the mind of their clients rather than simply assign labels (Boomer, X, Y…). Having such labels create an “us and them” mindset that can create rifts rather than build bridges. Companies who are willing to use a variety of communication and engagement strategies while acknowledging timeless truths that unite people from all generations and backgrounds, will be the most successful.
Looking inside for a moment – anything your organization does to communicate externally should also be applied internally. This will demonstrate to your employees that your firm is committed to taking a proactive leadership role on this important issue. I see too many organizations, or more specifically levels of entrenched managers, who are masquerading as “leaders” not modeling the practices of inclusion, conversation, interaction and dialogue with their own generation let alone younger staff and then wondering why they are not connecting or getting support for their ideas.
Communication dynamics between Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y, can be a potential source of conflict and confusion; or if understood, can lead to cooperation, collaboration, and innovative ways of dealing with, and serving clients. Engaging clients who are decades older or younger can be daunting at first glance. If seen as an opportunity, intergenerational differences in communication styles and values can be transformed from a barrier into an opportunity to exchange ideas, create deeper and more personal engagement that leads to the creation of value in the form of innovation and new services.
The New Reality:
- The way companies and organizations communicate with clients is changing
- Messaging must evolve to be understood by prospective and existing clients to build or maintain relationships and increase trust
- Most people have similar core values that are expressed differently
- Our clients are facing the same challenges we are
- Create a range of solutions that benefit and appeal to various groups and markets
- Branding must be consistent and reinforce your values, principles and core purpose
- View differences as strengths and advantages rather than barriers
- Create trust and foster transparency in spite of differing ages and perspectives
- Study Social Identity Theory to understand how to move beyond generational differences to build relationships with existing and prospective clients based on similarities
Proactively addressing intergenerational communication issues will provide valuable context to enable your firm to build stronger relationships with clients. Providing employees with the appropriate resources, tools and strategies to tap into common generational values and develop new solutions and services that resonate with all groups will maximize trust within the organization and also increase employee engagement.