Tech Chats August 2017 - Martyn Whistler

Tech Chats: EY’s Martyn Whistler on the attitudes of different age groups towards tech

In this Tech Chats video interview, we spoke with Martyn Whistler from EY about generational differences in attitude to technology, media and telecommunications.

ES: Martyn, thank you for joining us today. So EY recently conducted some research into the attitudes of different age groups towards technology companies. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

MW: So we know that increasingly the way that companies serve their customers and their customer experience is important to media companies, to technology companies and also to telecoms companies. So we really wanted to get under the skin of that. We conducted a survey of 2,500 UK consumers, asking them essentially how they use products and services with those different providers, so looking at things like mobile phones, through to television subscription services and music services.

OK, and what would you say were the key findings to come out of that research?

Well crucially we broke it down and looked at it across the continuum of their journey, so right from understanding what products they wanted to buy, to things like how they interacted with those service providers and then across to loyalty. Some of the interesting things that came out, for example, would be levels of satisfaction – so we realised that baby boomers are highly dissatisfied with long wait times on their call centres and also very dissatisfied if they talk to people in call centres overseas. And yet, they’re not the least loyal. There are people within generations who will switch service providers much more frequently. We know that younger generations, like Generation Z, like to change once they seen new upgrades to their services – new cameras, new equipment, better screens. And yet older generations will tend to hold onto their devices until they run out of useful lifetime.

It’s kind of that attitude that ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, if it’s working well enough for them then why would they bother upgrading?

I think it’s very much that, and I think it’s also there’s an element of being the cool younger generation, having the latest piece of kit, showing off – that doesn’t seem to resonate so much with older generations. I think also they tend to be stickier as well – once they’ve got their service, if it’s working for them and they understand how it works, then they tend to stick with that, they tend to like what they have.

OK, and was there anything particularly surprising that came out of the research?

Yeah, I think the single most surprising thing was how strong the high street remains amongst UK consumers, so we saw, for example, with Generation Z that 25% of them still like to go in store. A quarter of Generation Z will go in store to touch the devices, to check out the mobile phone before they make the purchase. That surprised us a little bit. And it’s across all generations a similar story. So overall, about 43% of people like to go in store, whether it’s to get advice or information or whether it’s just to handle the device.

OK, so there’s loads of information online, but people still want that one-on-one interaction with a real person?

It’s a real split, I think what you see is there’s people going in to store, sometimes they have an interaction with a real person, sometimes it’s just about actually seeing the technology in their hand and being able to play with it. And for the other half of the demographic, they’re happy to do things online, whether it’s buying a device, doing their research or just interacting with customer services.

So bearing in mind the findings of the report, what can companies that operate within the TMT space do to make sure they appeal to all of these different age groups?

I think the important word here is nuance. Different generations want a different experience. There are so many channels out there now that the touch points for each generation are very different. We’ve already talked a little bit about how the in-store remains very important for different reasons for different generations, but we see the same thing, for example, with social media. We know social media is a place where a lot of customers will go to talk about their experiences with their service providers and it’s also a place that a lot of people will go to learn about their service offerings and different products. It’s where people go to get information, increasingly. So having those different nuances and different touch points is a really important thing for a lot of service providers.