CUSTOMER LOYALTY: What Do You Know About Generation X?


The road to Customer Loyalty can take many twists and turns. In a recent blog,  I wrote about the importance of resident complaints. One of the key points I tried to convey was the importance of listening to the customer. Hearing and listening are two very different things—hearing just happens, listening leads to learning.

I do consider myself an above average listener, but early on in my property management career I found myself surrounded by people I listened to but did not understand. It was as if we were speaking a different language! It turns out that we were—I was speaking Generation X, while they were speaking Traditionalist and Baby Boomer. How did I respond? I became a generational researcher.  If you want to understand French, you purchase a French language book, if you want to understand the different generations, you purchase the book GENERATIONS, written by William Strauss and Neil Howe.

Current research shows that the oldest of each generation is now entering a major new life-stage. The Baby Boomers are entering retirement; Generation X is entering midlife with established families and becoming influential leaders, Gen Y is entering the workplace, and Gen Z is still in school or in diapers! As each generation enters a new season in life, their wants, needs and habits will change, too.

Are you serious about building Customer Loyalty? Understanding generational differences can help you uncover valuable information and build stronger long-term relationships with customers—inside and out.

1. THE “SLACKER” GENERATION—GENERATION X (Born between 1965-1977)

DISCLAIMER:  Every person does not fit perfectly into their generational box. However, birth years can indicate the beliefs, values, preferences, and priorities of a population when segmented by age. They are predictive. These are my opinions based on my research and experience.

In GENERATIONS, Strauss and Howe portray Generation X as “Free Agents” who came of age in a society strong in choices and judgments but weak in structure, guidance, and any sense of collective mission for young adults. “They are lacking a generation core and are defined by their social and cultural divergence.” If you ask most people what they know about Generation X, you’ll hear one word over and over again: slackers. The “slacker” label has stuck with us since the early 90s, when films like Slacker (1991) depicted American youth as cynical and directionless. I’ll admit that I have X-er friends who would fall into that category—but they are the minority.  It might be time to take another look at this savvy, competent, resilient, non-slacker, overshadowed generation that is leading you, working with you, working for you, and living in your apartments.   


In our early teen years there was a 30 percent increase in women leaving the home and entering the workforce. Whether it was by choice or as a necessity, the absence of these mothers, role models, siblings or even neighbors had an impact on our generation. We became known as the latch-key kids—home alone or hanging out at the mall with friends showing off our big hair and Jordache Jeans—like totally rad

But our accelerated contact with the real world gave us strong survival skills, too.  We also experienced a stagnant economy, high unemployment, large-scale layoffs, boycott of Olympics, Gulf War, Watergate hearings, Tylenol tampering, MTV (Video Killed the Radio Star), AIDS, Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Walkman, and Madonna. What can we say? While every generation faces its own set of challenges based on the specific events it encounters, I think Gen X drew the short straw. Given such a harsh initiation, we should have been disastrously messed up. Now in our 30’s and 40’s we are independent, self-reliant, skeptical, cynical, dedicated, resilient, adaptable, innovative, and very savvy consumers.  

  • We are moving into positions of leadership and influence

When it comes to leadership, it appears that we are well-suited for it. Studies show that X-ers place a high value on the importance of participative decision-making and job autonomy. They prefer a relationship-oriented leadership style. This is a good thing when you consider that Gen Y thrives in this type of environment—a generation even bigger than the Baby Boomers.  For many of us, the most difficult elements of our past may well be those that provide us with the strongest capabilities for today and tomorrow. That’s good news!

  • We are entering our peak earning potential years
  • We are entering our peak years of product and service consumption

During a 2011 interview with eMarketer, Linda Gingeri, Manager of National Advertising for Volvo Cars, spoke about Generation X being one of their largest target markets, and how the automaker uses transparency and value-oriented campaigns to reach these consumers.

“This consumer group tends to have a relatively high household income so they can afford Volvo cars. However, they examine the products that they buy more from a value and quality standpoint, as opposed to merely following the latest trend. They’re not driven by hype or flashiness, and they are skeptical of advertising tactics that are used to manipulate buyer behavior. These consumers can be both cynical and sensible in their purchase behavior, and they are willing to pay a premium for the products that they do perceive as having value.”

WOW – Volvo gets me!


It’s not that easy! We present a massive challenge to marketers because we use fragmented media and embrace a wider range of lifestyles than previous generations. Let’s not forget—we are the MTV and cable television generation and are largely immune to traditional advertising.

  • We are skeptical, cynical, and well educated—a dangerous combination. We know what your marketing and sales goal is, so give up the “pitch” and give it to us straight!
  • You need to work hard to earn our trust. Once you do we will reward you with our loyalty (sometimes).
  • We want to give you feedback, so make it easy for us. We will search for the truth in product reviews and we can tell if you edit what is being said. If you sound too good to be true—you probably are.

Don’t let this discourage you—we are worth the effort and can be a strong advocate for your company, product, and service.

Reaching each generation will take a bit of understanding. Once you begin to understand their differences and learn how to tap into each generation, the opportunities will grow right along with your relationships. Good luck on your journey!

What are your thoughts on generational differences and customer loyalty? If you are a member of Generation X, I would love to hear from you!   

-Maria Lawson

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