You’ve just finished up an appointment with your doctor and stop by the receptionist’s desk to make a follow-up appointment in two months. They’re busy but you don’t mind the wait.

You ask the receptionist to put you down for a text reminder to schedule the appointment and go about your day.

Time passes and then you get a phone call from the office: “We noticed you missed your appointment. Would you like to reschedule?”

How could you have missed it? You never received a reminder. But you did. After about 3 minutes of searching through a sea of unopened subscription emails, you notice they sent an email the day after your appointment.

The next opening is two months from now. How are you feeling? Perhaps perturbed and even unheard? This is the very reason why it’s important to honor your customer’s communication preferences.

What Are Communication Preferences?

When it comes to connecting with your customers, communication is far from one size fits all. 

Your customers should have a say in how you connect with them and communication preferences allow them to control how and where they receive messages from your business.

While some may prefer interacting with your business on social media, others may prefer emails. Communication methods are as diverse as your customers themselves. Be sure to heed your customers’ communication preferences to improve their experience with your business.

Generational Communication Preferences

During Thryv’s 2022 Consumer Payments Survey, we discovered quite a bit about how digital payments are making an impact on small businesses. The unexpected gem was what we learned about how various generations preferred to receive communication regarding invoices, payments and appointment reminders.

Baby Boomers (Born 1946 -1964)

Don’t be misled by ageist stereotypes — although they’re not digital natives, baby boomers are up to snuff when it comes to tech.

When surveyed, we found that email came out on top. In this group, 74% mentioned they favored receiving payment reminders by email, and 70% responded positively to receiving appointment reminders by email. In fact, results showed this generation had the highest email open rate.

Perhaps this is because email is more familiar, seeing as email was invented in 1965 and became popular in the 1980s. It should be noted that this group showed the highest disdain for in-app and third-party reminders for payments.

Millennials have surpassed Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living adult generation.

Generation X (Born 1965 -1979)

Gen X is another group that fancies email. 73% said they’re in favor of getting the heads up on an invoice reminder sent to them online. If your company is still in the business of alerting customers of a balance via snail mail, your efforts are not in vain. A shocking 69% admit they don’t mind getting paper mail for payment reminders.

Like the generation before them, Gen Xers are not typically a fan of in-app and third-party alerts.

Millennials (Born 1980 – 1996)

Now enter the digital native. Survey says: Millennials favor texts for appointment alerts and emails for payment reminders. Interestingly, Millennials also have the second-lowest open rate when it comes to email. Of course, that No. 1 spot is held by the folks of Gen Z.

Because Millennials were raised on the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle), they’ve got little interest in receiving paper mail. In fact, 37% have unfavorable feelings about it, and they’re not the only ones.

Gen Z (Born 1997 – the 2010s)

Hold your paper when it comes to Gen Z, too. Unlike their Millennial brethren, Gen Z favored receiving payment reminders on their phone, but by text message — not by email.

And don’t bother calling because 40% of Gen Z surveyed said phone calls were a no for them.

Do Your Due Diligence

Generational breakdowns of communication preferences are just a start. As we mentioned, not everyone wants the same thing, so it’s up to you to do some digging. Each customer deserves a personalized experience when dealing with your business.

You can uncover what works for your customers by:
  • Ask Customers Outright. This is the easiest way to know how they prefer to communicate with your business. By offering options when they sign up for messaging or asking them after their service, you can skip all the guesswork.
  • Use Analytics. Analytics can provide a clearer view of how certain customers prefer to communicate. While some customers may think email is their preferred method, they may miss every email but open text messages from your business without fail. You can also take a look at market surveys to uncover statistically what works best for your target customers.
  • Trust Data. If you notice your emails are being unsubscribed to at a high rate, that’s a sign. That form of communication, or the content within it, isn’t working for your customers. Take it for what it is — a chance to tidy up your email list and take a hard look at what you’re sending.
  • Segment Often. When customers find the information you send them helpful, they’re more likely to engage in your communication efforts. Rather than sending general emails and texts, segment your lists and tighten up on targeting. By automating these messages, you’ll save a world of time for your marketing team.
  • Analyze Content. When you take a look at your communication channels, what gets the highest engagement? Are you in awe at the comments or reactions to your social posts? Are you amazed by the open rate of text messages? The content your customers interact with should shine a light on who they are and how you can better reach them in the future.
  • Stay Flexible. Allow multiple ways for your customers to engage with your business, and then offer the ability for them to switch up communication if they please. It sounds crazy but through the use of a centralized inbox, your customers can start with an email, switch to text and both conversations exist in one place.

With so many ways to reach out to consumers, it’s important for your business to bear in mind customers’ communications preferences. Especially before you hit send.