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Gen Z Consumers are Most Difficult Generation to Please

Last updated:  January 27, 2022

Youngest consumers are most likely to be upset by customer service, and most likely to make purchasing decisions based on values and COVID safety measures


PROVO, Utah and SEATTLE, Jan. 27, 2022 — Members of Gen Z, the youngest generation of consumers, are the most likely to be upset by a recent interaction with a company or organization, and are the least likely to recommend a brand, according to new research from Qualtrics (Nasdaq: XM) XM Institute.


Qualtrics asked 9,000 consumers to rate how they felt after a recent interaction with a brand or organization (on a scale of upset to delighted). Across all age groups, Gen Z adults (ages 18-24) gave the lowest scores to every industry in the analysis. Gen Z was the most upset by their interactions with federal agencies (only 13% gave a positive rating), followed by investment firms and airlines. Gen Z gave the highest ratings to social media and retail stores.


Meanwhile, Gen Z’s grandparents (Baby Boomers ages 65+) were the most likely – of all generations – to feel delighted by their interactions with companies. Baby Boomers were also the most likely to say they would promote or recommend a brand to friends and family.


Gen Z, a larger generation than the Millennials that precede them, is an emerging force of trendsetting consumers who influence the purchasing behaviors of older generations. Gen Z adults are twice as likely as Baby Boomers to stop purchasing from a brand because of insufficient COVID safety measures (30% vs. 14%), but they are three times (42% vs. 14%) as likely as their grandparents to start purchasing from a brand with COVID safety measures, like mask requirements or curbside pick-up.

Gen Z is also more likely to be familiar with the brand values of the products they buy and are more likely to say the brands they purchase from are doing enough to address societal and environmental issues (31% vs. 17%).


“Gen Z has a high bar for speed and gratification, and right now it’s clear that most companies aren’t reaching it,” said Bruce Temkin, head of Qualtrics XM Institute. “These savvy consumers are accustomed to instant service, and they will hold companies accountable for their values and service quality, even amid a global pandemic. To win in 2022, organizations need to better understand and cater to the needs of these younger consumers, even as those needs shift during different stages of the pandemic.”


Industries that Make Gen Z Feel the Most Upset


Ranking  Industry % of Gen Z Consumers Who Gave Positive Emotion Ratings* (ages 18-24)  % of Baby Boomers Who Gave Positive Emotion Ratings (ages 65+) % of Consumers Who Gave Positive Emotion Ratings (all age groups)
#1 Federal Agencies 13% 36% 33%
#2 Investment Firms 14% 72% 54%
#3 Airlines 16% 61% 40%
#4 Car Rentals 19% 51% 39%
#5 Utilities 20% 63% 47%


Industries that Make Gen Z Feel the Most Delighted


Ranking  Industry % of Gen Z Consumers Who Gave Positive Emotion Ratings* (ages 18-24) % of Baby Boomers Who Gave Positive Emotion Ratings (ages 65+) % of Consumers Who Gave Positive Emotion Ratings (all age groups)
#1 Social Media  55% 58% 56%
#2 Retail 47% 69% 60%
#3 Fast Food 45% 64% 59%
#4 Grocery 44% 72% 61%
#5 Streaming Media 44% 69% 59%

*Emotion ratings are determined by the percent of people who give a positive score of a “6” or “7,” minus the percent of people who give a negative score of “1” or “2” or “3” on a 7 point scale from upset to delighted.




The findings in this release come from two studies. One was conducted by Qualtrics XM Institute and asked more than 9,000 U.S. consumers about their experiences with 367 companies across 23 different industries. Each company had a minimum of 100 responses from consumers who had interacted with that company in the past 3 months. Participants were selected via a randomized panel and the study ran in Q3 of 2021.


Another Qualtrics study asked more than 2,000 U.S. consumers what they thought about customer and brand experience. Participants were selected from a randomized panel and considered eligible if they live in the United States and are at least 18 years of age. This study was fielded in Q4 of 2021. For more results see:


About Qualtrics


Qualtrics, the leader and creator of the experience management (XM) category, is changing the way organizations manage and improve the four core experiences of business — customer, employee, product and brand. Over 16,750 organizations around the world use Qualtrics to listen, understand and take action on experience data (X-data™)—the beliefs, emotions and intentions that tell you why things are happening, and what to do about it. The Qualtrics XM Platform™ is a system of action that helps businesses attract customers who stay longer and buy more, engage employees who build a positive culture, develop breakthrough products people love and build a brand people are passionate about. To learn more, please visit


About XM Institute 

Qualtrics XM Institute is the world’s premier resource for experience management (XM) professionals. Led by industry visionary Bruce Temkin, XM Institute’s faculty researches trends and emerging practices in how organizations interact with their key stakeholders, including suppliers, employees, customers and partners. XM Institute also leads the XM Pros, a thriving global community of more than 4,500 XM leaders who participate in an ongoing calendar of monthly events. The Institute maintains the XM Professionals Certification, the gold standard credential in the field. To access the latest XM content or for more information about XM Institute, please visit