Which Three Retailers Bridge The Generation Gap For Customer Service Excellence?

While L.L.Bean ranked supreme among this year’s Customer Service Champions overall, younger shoppers certainly express a difference of opinion. New analysis of Prosper Insights & Analytics’ 2015 Customer Service Champions reveals that both the Millennial (born 1983 – 1997) and Gen X (1965 – 1982) generations nominated as their top choice for customer service excellence, while Boomers (1946 – 1964) were firmly entrenched in the L.L.Bean camp. However, a review of the three generations’ top picks for customer service providers highlights interesting similarities between these divergent age groups.

It probably doesn’t come as too much of a surprise that the two younger generations elevated to the top of the Champions leaderboard again in 2015 (see the 2014 results here). Amazon’s history as a top service provider as well as its popularity with Millennials is well-documented. However, that’s not to say that Boomers don’t appreciate Amazon as well; the online giant placed second among this generation.

What might be more surprising is that Champion commonalities between Millennials, Gen X, and Boomers don’t begin and end with Amazon. Upscale Nordstrom and value-oriented Kohl’s can also be found among each generation’s top five. Among the younger generations, Nordstrom occupies the second position while among Boomers, it places fourth. While the more than century-old retailer maintains a storied history of customer service, the rise of digital shopping has extended Nordstrom’s reach beyond its relatively small physical footprint, providing a “new-to-me” retail experience for many shoppers. And like Amazon, Nordstrom seems to have effectively tackled the dilemma of a personalized shopping experience in a digital world, winning over shoppers with free, no-risk shipping and returns on all orders, a generous price matching policy, and designer offerings carrying a bit more cachet than those typically found at larger-scale Macy’s.

The appearance of Kohl’s in each generation’s top five proves that a department store experience can be a bit more modest while still delighting shoppers. The Wisconsin-based retailer sings to budget-conscious shoppers with deep discounts and frequent promotions on recognizable brand names. However, having recently written about the struggles Kohl’s has faced with attracting Millennial shoppers, it should be noted that the retailer placed #5 – just ahead of Macy’s – among these younger consumers.


Reviewing the other retailers that made each generation’s top five Champions brings the differences of perspectives between the age groups to life. Millennials gravitated toward Victoria’s Secret (#3), which provides shoppers with a best-in-class omnichannel experience, as well as Best Buy (#4), highlighting this generation’s focus on the latest-and-greatest technology. Boomers chose retailers one might place on the other end of the spectrum with catalog giant L.L.Bean (#1) and home shopping staple QVC (#5). Gen X-ers landed somewhere in-between, lauding traditional department stores JC Penney (#4) and Macy’s (#5) for their service excellence.

The takeaway here is that customer service comes in many shapes, styles, and forms, according to who your customers may be – the key, of course, is knowing your shoppers in the first place. While Amazon, Nordstrom, and Kohl’s manage to bridge the generation gap, it’s apparent that we can learn something from each of the 2015 Customer Service Champions looking forward into 2016.

About the Author: Pam Goodfellow is Principal Analyst/Consumer Insights Director for Prosper Insights & Analytics™ and editor of the monthly Consumer Snapshot.

Originally published on Forbes

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