One of my green industry clients recently made the move to invoicing their customers electronically. One thing he and his staff learned immediately was that some of their Baby Boomer customers did not want to receive their invoices via email. They wanted to receive them in hard copy form through the United States Post Office mail.

When it comes down to the basics, most people want to be treated with respect. They want to feel important. Abraham Maslow, author of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, taught us that. So, the question becomes, “How do you and your employees treat your customers in a way that builds lifetime clients?” A good idea might be to have them stop using the Golden Rule, which states you should, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

A better approach would be to do what Dr. Tony Alessandra suggests. That is, to substitute the Platinum Rule for the Golden Rule. The Platinum Rule simply states, “Treat others the way they want to be treated.” While this rule works for every generation, when it comes to serving the Baby Boomers, truer words were never spoken. In the case of my green industry client, he and his team learned an important lesson, and that was to use the Platinum Rule with each and every one of their customers.

When you stop to think about your green business and the boomer-aged customers you serve, it is important to be aware of their different preferences when you communicate with them. This varies from customer to customer, but it seems boomer-type customers prefer voice-to-voice or face-to-face communication versus email or texting.

I recommend to all of my clients, right from the start, that they ask a new boomer customer what his or her first and second preference is about how your company should communicate with them.

For example, when asking this question of one of your new customers, you might discover that they prefer that you call them on their cell phone first, and if you get no response, you should then try emailing them.

Another boomer customer might prefer, when requesting your services, that what they want is to have a face-to-face discussion with you or one of your company’s representatives, so they can explain what their expectations are. This type of customer may want to show you what their particular concerns are and to ask you specific questions about how your company will address them. By the way, as most of you know, this is a great way to build add-on sales, by educating the customer on the additional services you can offer them.

When it comes to communication, another area of concern is to address their expectations when they call your office. If they get your voicemail instead of a live person, they want to know how soon they can expect a return call from you or one of your staff. Should it be within four hours, or is twenty-four hours okay? When you are clear on how promptly they can expect a return communication, you will prevent future problems from occurring.

When it comes to complaints, it is extremely important to have a plan in place on how to handle them in a professional and effective manner. Most people, including boomers, don’t want to call your office with a compliant and get voicemail. They don’t want to call your office and get the excuse that you or the person who can resolve their concern is not available.

They don’t want to be told someone will get back to them, and then have to call your office back several times to resolve their concerns. If your company is guilty of this practice, it is headed for big trouble.

If your boomer customers feel they are not getting the kind of service or value they want, they can literally destroy your business. They will do this by firing you and telling their family, friends and business acquaintances why they won’t call or use your company ever again.

A research study conducted by TARP research back in 1999 discovered that, on average, an unhappy customer will tell ten people about their bad experience. In turn, these ten people will each tell five more people, meaning that a total of 50 people will have heard about their bad experience. I often remind my clients that this is a form of reverse marketing. In other words, the complaints that you do not handle properly will serve to spread the word and magnify the perception of how bad your company is.

Boomer customers can afford to be picky, because they hold purchasing power for your company’s products or services. Make no mistake about it; if they are disappointed with your customer service, they will vote with their feet, cross the street, and go straight to your competitors.

It stands to reason that having a solid and effective strategy to swiftly deal with complaints will be a key factor in retaining your boomer customers.

Ultimately, the success of the interaction between your company and the Baby Boomer generation customers is the responsibility of you and your management team. It would be wise to make serving them properly a top priority, or risk losing them to your competitors who can.

Editor’s Note: Tom Borg works with small and mid-size greenindustry companies to effectively and profitably improve customer acquisition and retention. To ask him a question, contact him at 734-404-5909 or email him at: tom@tomborg.com or visit his website at www.tomborgconsulting.com.