Customer service has become critical to a successful business and brand. Companies without good customer service aren’t giving customers what they want, which is usually a personalized experience.

Because there are now so many ways a person could interact with a customer service team, CivicScience asked 3,700 Americans about their preferred communication methods.

While there is certainly an advantage to using AI and automation, the leading preference among Americans is still picking up the phone: 39% said they want to make a phone call to customer service after a purchase.

Some of the generational differences are to be expected. Those over 55 prefer the phone by a wide margin while leaving chatbots and email to the youngin’s. CivicScience data found an interesting point among those in the youngest age group. Nineteen percent of Gen Z said they don’t interact with customer service after a purchase at all.

It is tempting to think that Gen Z doesn’t have the same spending power as other age groups, therefore they just don’t purchase goods on the same scale as their higher-earning elders. Yet sources indicate that Gen Z is nearly overtaking the consumer population in 2020, so whether they have a lot or a little in their wallets, they are going to be the ones spending money.

What’s more is that Gen Z and Millennials actually share a lot of the same preferences for communication with a customer service representative. We see additional similarities between the two when looking at brand loyalty. The two younger generations were less loyal to their favorite brands than other age groups, indicating there is more to making a purchase than a particular logo. And Gen Z specifically was the least likely to purchase again from an online retailer if they had to make a return with that retailer.

It’s clear that Gen Z – and Millennials to a degree – have some different expectations when it comes to the various aspects of retail. Younger generations, as mentioned earlier, are set on experiences. One bad experience could mean no repeat sales from a customer. 

Lastly, given the highest rated preference for customer service communication was a phone call, CivicScience took a slightly deeper look. Surprisingly, Gen Z – if they actually do seek out customer service and happen to do so by phone – shows the greatest amount of patience when it comes to wait time.

Half or more than each age group, other than Gen Z, said they wouldn’t wait more than 5 minutes. But Gen Z was the most likely to wait 15 minutes or more to speak to a human being – they were even the most likely to wait more than 25 minutes. It likely comes back to the desire for a personal experience.