Every generation is known for something. It may be a label the previous generation put on it. It may be a trend or world event or something else that defines the generation. Baby Boomers were the largest generation in, well, generations, and experienced a higher standard of living than previous generations. Generation X is perceived to be a rebellious group and “grungy,” after the music prevalent during their formative years. And Generation Y, otherwise known as Millennials, is the first generation to have grown up with pervasive technology that has shaped their world view.
Millennials are growing up—the youngest are now 15 while the oldest are in their 30s—and their experiences with technology are influencing everything in their lives. How they interact with each other (a preference for texting over talking)…how they work (more desire for remote work than coming into an office)…even how and where they raise their families (desire for more urban, less suburban). So it’s only natural that technology is a large part of their interactions with brands—and changing how brands provide customer service.
In an Accenture study on Millennial buying patterns, a seamless customer experience was noted as a top priority. Millennials expect the same discounts to be valid in-store as online. They expect the same experience in store and online, and will take their business elsewhere if they become frustrated. Millennials want to be treated as valued and important customers, and they value personalized interactions. Many Millennials participate in loyalty programs and expect those programs to pay off for them with more personalization and respect.
Millennials use technology to their advantage. From “liking” brands on social media to score discounts to purchasing online for the best pricing, from relying on user reviews to make purchasing decisions to expecting a seamless experience no matter the channel—it’s clear that online interaction is important. LiveOps Research has shown that 71 percent of Millennials have used social and mobile channels to communicate with a brand, and 89 percent of consumers believe it’s important to be able to communicate with a brand on any channel and receive the same quality and efficiency of response. With such a large population of Millennials (around 80 million in the U.S.) with increasing buying power (estimated to spend $1.4 trillion annually by 2020), smart brands must adapt their customer service to meet the needs of Millennials.
So what can smart brands do to provide top-notch customer service to Millennials? Let’s start with offering a variety of ways to contact a brand.
Because Millennials are so technology-savvy, they value using social tools for customer-brand interactions. And they expect options beyond phone calls and email—everything from live chat, videoconferencing, SMS and interaction on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and other social platforms. Live chat in particular is an option Millennials embrace. A survey from the help desk research and analyst business Software Advice showed that 56 percent of respondents aged 18 to 34 prefer live chat to phone. That’s partially because live chat offers an immediate response and partially because it doesn’t detract from their shopping experience—the window pops up and they stay on the same page to continue when the chat is done.
Millennials tend to have less patience for waiting, since they grew up with smartphones. A quick response is expected. While they still value phone interactions for sensitive matters or to resolve a tough issue, an immediate response—via live chat, SMS or Twitter engagement—with minimal effort on their part is important.
Other social engagement is important as well. Millennials highly value the opinions of other users, making social interaction a top factor in purchasing decisions. And because they search out information on social platforms and other online forums, they also feel it is important to contribute. Millennials are more likely to post a user review or brand feedback—positive or negative—than other generations. And that feedback is likely to spread further, faster, due to large social networks and that desire to tap into first-person feedback. That makes it increasingly important for brands to meet the needs of Millennials or risk negative feedback spreading like wildfire online.
While there are some differences between Millennials and other generations in their customer service expectations, there are similarities as well. Personal opinions and experiences are important to all customer groups and can have a large influence on brand decisions. Online and self-service customer service are important as people have less time to deal with issues and want fast resolution the first time. Online information and options for customer-brand interactions are rising in importance for all customer groups. That means that smart brands must be aware of these trends and work quickly to implement additional customer engagement options.
If your brand isn’t offering live chat or SMS now, think about adding it soon. There are many considerations, of course, from the cost of the technology and support to staffing to manage the new contact channel. And brands must be ready to commit to customer interactions on new channels if they are implemented. It does a brand no good to say it offers live chat but never actually have people available to chat with customers. There are many options to get started with new channels, from all-inclusive technology and training programs to staffing solutions.
Bottom line: smart brands incorporate multiple contact methods and provide responsive customer service on all channels. My recommendation is to get started today—to keep your customers happy today and tomorrow.