Steve Rosen is the MoneyWise Editor at The Kansas City Star in Kansas City, MO.  In his article today, Bad service too often is part of being young, he notes that "when it comes to customer service, young consumers often get no respect."

"Despite the millions of dollars being spent by electronics chains, cell phone companies and other retailers to attract the youth market, I have a pretty strong sense from personal observation that kids often are treated as second-class shoppers."

He then goes on to look at two recent, negative customer service experiences that involved his children, experiences that many of us have had at one time or another: problems with a delayed flight and issues with a mobile phone.

"Clearly, this topic hits close to home, so for perspective, I turned to Terry Vavra, a veteran customer service consultant based in Allendale, N.J. Vavra's blue-chip clients include AT&T, Merrill Lynch, Toys R Us, and Allstate.

"Vavra wasn't surprised by my examples of customer-service disconnect. Indeed, he said, the "state of customer service is poor for most of us," regardless of age."

American Demographics noted that "a lifetime customer may be worth $100,000 to a retailer." When you consider the incredible spending power of children and teenagers in the States alone, retailers and service industries would be wise to provide customer service to a group that controls or influences nearly $200 billion in annual sales. 

In 2003, Harris Interactive noted that:

  • Pre-teens (ages 8-12) spend at a rate of $19.1 billion annually, or $946 per capita;
  • Teens (ages 13-19) spend at a rate of $94.7 billion annually, or $3,309 per capita;
  • Young adults (ages 20-21) spend at a rate of $61.3 billion annually, or $7,389 per capita.

As noted I noted previously, it's important to jump through hoops for your customer: Remember that the customer on the line is a future repeat customer and your best advertising. It takes a lot less to keep a good customer than acquire a new one.

As our own children become consumers (even at a small scale), they relate their own negative and positive experiences, ones that sometimes influences their parents. ;)

At Microsoft, through the MSDN Academic Alliance, we offer a way for students and faculty in the technology and design fields to get the latest Microsoft software they need.  We also provide developer and design tools directly to students worldwide at no charge through Microsoft DreamSpark: here, students get access to professional developer and design tools.  Also see the efforts we make through the Imagine Cup, Shared Source Initiative and educational grants

Tags: microsoft, customer satisfaction, customer service.