By Dave Fatula, Events Coordinator Franciscan University; Principle Centered Customer Service Trainer and Presenter 

In a scene from the 1947 holiday classic “Miracle On 34th Street”, R.C. Macy, former president of Macy’s Department store, institutes his “controversial” goodwill policy.  

“We’ll be known as the helpful store, the friendly store, the store with a heart … the store that places public service ahead of profits … and, consequently, we’ll be more profitable and successful than ever.”


Clarence the Angel, George Bailey’s “appointed” guardian angel in “It’s A Wonderful Life” wrote to (a now appreciative and grateful but previously despairing) George Bailey. “No man is a failure who has friends,” Clarence said.


Different success stories — different levels of success — in a different era. However, Macy’s success and George Bailey’s success are both closely related to doing the right thing. 

Most of us, most likely all of us, are doing the right thing and exercising integrity in our business dealings, acting with compassion toward all our customers, internal and external employees, and paying customers all while having the unique opportunity to do what no one else in history has done … work with and serve seven generations of customers.

It’s a stretch, but it is possible when you consider those generations:

■ The Greatest Generation — those born between 1901 and 1924, known for “doing the right thing.”

■ The Silent Generation — born between 1925 and 1945 were “stable and loyal.”

■ Boomers — born between 1946 and 1964 were ” change and progress.”

■ Gen X — born between 1965 and 1980 are “independent and tech-savvy.”

■ Millennials — born between 1981 and 1996 are “smart and flexible.”

■ Gen Z, the I Gen, born between 1997 and 2012, the “I phone and internet generation.”

My personal favorite, Gen Alpha, born between 2013 and 2025, could be known as the “Al Generation.”

This is an impressive list of generations of customers. But they come with a lot of different needs and lots of different expectations. How is it possible to serve them all?

None of us play generational favorites, but if we did, we’d be wise to favor the I Gen. Why? The I Gen makes up 25% of America’s population. That’s the most of any generation in America. In addition, the untapped potential and the possibilities of this generation are unfathomable.

How do we care for and serve this group in our changing technological world?

Jean Twenge, an authority on generational differences says the I General is super connected, less rebellious, more tolerant, less happy, and completely unprepared for dealing with adults.

The best way to deal with this new cohort of clients is simply to do the right thing.

■ Listen, first to understand, with empathy and compassion.

■ Seek their advice and input.

■ Ask for and accept their opportunities for improvement.

■ Have the courage to admit to them that we don’t have all the answers.

■ Expect more from them than anyone else.

■ Keep our promises to them.

■ Make sure they know our clear expectations and that we know theirs.

Some of the things I believe that will help you build your clientele and business:

■ Always exercise integrity.

■ Never forget the enormous potential and promise of this generation.

■ Always apologize sincerely when needed; the power in this is immeasurable.

■ Attend to the little things … the little kindnesses and courtesies.

■ Keep the promises.

■ Listen to understand.

Knowing the minds of our customers, especially this I Gen, is the key to our success. Doing the right thing will just about guarantee this success. you’ll attract clients who appreciate your expertise and are more likely to become long-term customers.