You will often see the word RESPECT proudly presented in a boardroom as one of the carefully chosen values of a company. What does this word really mean? Have you ever considered that it could mean completely different things to different generations?
I've been reading a book called The New Rules of Engagement by Michael McQueen about the differences in the generations, and how to get on with people of different generations in the work. One thing that really stuck me was that different viewpoints about respect. The baby boomers were born from mid 1940s to mid 1960s, and their perspective is “respecting elders is automatic”. Gen X, who were born mid 1960s to early 1980s, think “respecting elders is polite”. Gen Y on the other hand (early 1980s to later 1990s) think “respecting elders is earned not assumed”
When we translate this to a customer interaction, it means that the Gen Y may not automatically show respect to a customer who is a Baby Boomer or a Gen X, they have to earn it. Yet the customer will expect immediate respect. But how can their respect be earned when the interaction can often be momentary with no real depth – for example answering a phone call, dealing with a brief inquiry and transferring it on? This is where it can all go horribly wrong with the customer becoming dissatisfied by what is their perception of disrespect and the Gen Y wondering why the customer is being so rude. Before you know it there is a customer complaint or you have simply lost a customer and may not even know about it.
To be a good communicator and provide an exceptional customer experience, it's so important for your people to understand not only their own values but what's important to others. The old Golden Rule as we know it is “treat others as you like to be treated”. The premise of this rule is that your likes and dislikes are the same as everyone else's, which we know to be untrue. Instead of Platinum Rule is more appropriate when we're talking about interaction between generations – “treat others as they would like to be treated”.
Are many of your customers Gen X or Baby Boomers? If so your people need to have an understanding of how to treat them. Creating a meaning for each of your values that everyone agreements on and abides by is the key. For example, as each individual may have a different meaning for the word Respect, it's vital that they have a shared definition that aligns with the company values. Because if your customers feel disrespected, they will find someone else who does respect them, and that will most likely be your competitor.