Australian strategic research and consulting agency, Fifth Dimension, has released new research that shows ‘Karen’ customers deserve an apology.
“Our latest research shows that while ‘Karen’ customers earned a reputation for being uptight and demanding, they in fact have proved to be one of the more loyal customer groups – less likely to switch brands as long as they received the service and support they expected,” Fifth Dimension CEO, Lyndall Spooner said.
The research undertaken by Fifth Dimension during the first quarter of 2022 profiled consumer psychology and how that impacts brand choice and expectations of customer service. The results have identified the emergence of a new type of consumer called the ‘Influenced’ – or in 2022 name terms, ‘Olivia and Oliver’ customers.
Founded by Lyndall Spooner, a highly acclaimed expert in the field of strategy, research and customer experience (CX) with over 25 years of experience, Fifth Dimension Consulting is a respected and globally focused industry-leading strategic research and consulting agency that has amassed a distinguished portfolio of well-known clients including: Westpac, Coles, HCF, Telstra, Foxtel, Colgate and the Commonwealth Bank.
“The O twins have grown up with a mobile device in their hand, communicate more by text than voice, rarely touch cash and have the broadest social networks that often include people they have never met and live overseas,” Spooner said.
“Olivia and Oliver don’t take the time or make the effort to fully research brands or products. They make decisions based on what comes up in their feed or what their favourite influencers are sprouting, and which ever brand can provide the easiest and fastest online buying process possible.
“Olivia and Oliver are also more likely to churn because they buy without a lot of commitment to brands. Often, when the product or service arrives, they find it isn’t what they really needed or wanted or they experience more problems as they don’t understand what they have bought. They will often switch or don’t come back because something else has grabbed their attention or been recommended to them. This happens because there is no strong brand relationship to break. It takes more time and money to get and maintain their attention, potentially making them less profitable as a consumer type.”
According to Spooner, Karen customers have been very misunderstood and it is time to apologise to everyone with the name Karen.
“I think you deserve a huge apology. Your name has been irrevocably tarnished with a social stigma that won’t wash off,” Spooner said.
“The reality is we need Karen customers more than ever before. What we know about Karen customers is that aside from wearing white pants and having a penchant for pineapple mojitos, they make the effort to research their needs, look at brand options and understand their offerings.
“Once Karen customers make a purchase decision, they are usually happy with the purchase provided the brand delivers on its promise to provide the service or product as offered. Karen customers are less likely to churn through products and brands, which means they are usually loyal customers.”
Strategic consultancy Fifth Dimension developed an algorithm to identify Karens. It turns out just over one in four adults (27 percent), are a ‘Karen’. And while Karens do skew to women (60 percent) there are plenty of male Karens (40 percent).
“Should we call them Kevin? Ken? Kieran? Keith? What name do we want to ruin?” Spooner added.
“How do you identify a Karen or a Kevin? Psychologically they are a combination of having a pessimistic mindset and demonstrate strong conscientious behaviours. They are driven by anxiety and a need for control. It’s hard work and no fun to be a Karen or a Kevin.
“Society has been breeding Karens and Kevins for decades. Increasing levels of pessimism, best symbolised by increased anxiety and depression, have seen each new generation less hopeful of their future than the previous.
“The number of Karens and Kevins significantly increased over the past three generations. From 20 percent amongst the Silent Generation/ Baby Boomers to 30 percent amongst Gen Z /Millennials. The greatest growth was from Baby boomers (20 percent) to Generation X (28 percent).
“But as our research shows, the age of the Karen and Kevin is coming to an end and we are now seeing the rise of the Influenced or the twins, Olivia and Oliver, as we are calling them. In stark contrast, Olivia and Oliver lack the confidence of a Karen to demand they get their own way, and instead are more open to influence and manipulation.
“There are now as many Olivia and Olivers as there were Karens two generations ago. Olivia and Oliver represent one in four GenZ/ Millennials (25 percent) and continues to rise. Still pessimistic but willing to give up the need for control, the O twins outsource their decision-making, prefer to be guided by recommendations, and limit the amount of time and effort they put into their decisions. A fast and easy decision is highly valued. Online sites with the least amount of friction are ideal breeding grounds for the O twins.
“While Karen and Kevin were highly likely to make a complaint and to have less empathy for people serving them, they are more brand loyal than Olivia and Oliver.
“Put simply, Oliva and Oliver are Teflon customers, they have the highest churn rates as they move from one brand to the next, all driven by increased ease and convenience of digital interactions and intermediary services that do the work for them. Unwilling to put their own time and effort into their decisions they fail to engage with brands on the same level as past generations.
“You may not think it now, but one day you might miss not hearing the names Karen or Kevin anymore. Not just because of the often entertaining or shocking video that emerges of their behaviour, but the fact that as consumers they at least took the time to listen to what you had to say as a brand and to commit to the brands they chose.
“In comparison, the Influenced are more likely to experience buyer regret or service problems, try to return products and seek refunds – because they didn’t take the time or make the effort to get the purchase right in the first place. Or simply move on to another brand that just happens to grab their attention with a bit of bling. Greater service problems and higher churn simply means lower profitability, the O twins cost more to win and are worth less.
“So, who are they? Unlike Karens they don’t skew to women, they are more reflective of younger generations who have been building stronger relationships with technology and social networks than brands. They are exposed to more brands than any generation before but are also more likely to have their brand choices manipulated. They are harder to catch and harder to keep. They are no longer just your customers. Olivia and Oliver are a new breed.”
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