Gray is the new green, part 13: Boomer entitlement

As today marks the premiere of Star Wars Episode 7 – possibly the most influential film series ever and one of the only franchises that pervades all living generations – it seems only appropriate that we discuss an issue related to both the young (millennials) and the old (boomers).

As a start, consider how bad a rap millennials have gotten from employers these days. They are often described as selfish, narcissistic, needy, lazy, tardy, prone to complaining, hedonistic and a slew of other negative attributors. The fashionable umbrella term for all this is “entitlement.” Many of us in senior positions hold the perspective that millennial workers feel as if they are entitled to bypass the perfunctory, stripe-earning phase of their careers and that certain liberties apply to them because they ostensibly are fluent with modern technology.

The entitlement of the millennial workforce is a hot topic, but does it also work the other way around? That is to say, just because you are older, does that automatically bestow upon you certain privileges?

Many boomers would like to think so! But alas, age does not directly correlate with wisdom. When it comes to running a hotel, managing operations and adeptly marketing your inventory to the world, no one cares how old you are; they only care about how hard you work and whether you can get the job done.

Where I’ve seen this crop its ugly head the most is when discussions turn to modern customer behavior, specifically that of the younger demographics. To sum it up: The Internet has changed the way everyone thinks about travel and many of us, especially those of us not born into this digital era, are struggling to grasp the full extent of this transformation, let alone keep up with it.

And therein lies an opportunity! Yes, the millennials will soon surpass the boomers in terms of total spending power, but if you’ve learned anything from this “Gray is the New Green” series, it’s that the boomers will not go silently into the night. We will be a monetary force to be reckoned with for the next three decades, by my estimate. This means that there will continue to be a lucrative market composed of those people who have failed to get with the tech savvy program and those who feel entitled to receive “old school” hospitality service.

What exactly do I mean by “old school”? People who don’t give two shakes about being able to open their guest room doors with their smartphones. Guests who want to actually converse with another human being upon arrival in the form of a smiling front desk clerk or bellhop. Customers whose first source of local knowledge, events and directions is the concierge and not an app or a social review website. Travelers who aren’t concerned with the latest shiny toy but are more interested in being catered to by attentive staff members. Hotel visitors who want to read a printed newspaper and respect when it is delivered to their doorstep in the morning, instead of getting their news off a website on their tablets. And those of us who haven’t bought in to the “grab-and-go” foodservice culture, shunning it in favor of the traditional waitstaff approach to dining.

This is also an important consideration when it comes to website design through what is commonly referred to as UX (user experience). In terms of navigation and information access, what is intuitive to a millennial may not be for boomers. Having members of both tribes run quality assurance on your website is definitely a worthwhile venture. Even more pronounced in this aspect is the mobile experience; many of us boomers aren’t immediately copacetic to swiping left on a page to access the main navigation or that clicking the “hamburger button” also performs this task. You may want to hire a sixty-something UX tester to audit your site to ensure that it’s “safe” for the mature crowd.

If you know that some boomers may feel entitled to having service their way, then this should inform what operational changes you make. You’ll need one eye on the future to appease the millennials, but you cannot neglect the past or you will alienate the elderly. Of course, this all depends on your core market and whether you foresee that appealing to boomers will bear or not. If you are in fact targeting those of us born between 1946 and 1964, do yourself a favor and appease their specific form of entitlement.