Millennials make up more than 20% of the US population, but they are one-half of the workforce. As younger millennials graduate and join the workforce, they will comprise more than 75% of the labor force by 2025.
Any group that comprises 75% of the workforce also holds the majority of spending power. This makes them the largest consumer base. This gives millennials a powerful voice in the marketplace, which businesses would be wise to hear.
Unlike Baby Boomers and Gen X before them, millennials are looking for something different from businesses. This is particularly true with regard to customer service. Here are 5 ways that customer service is changing to meet the specific needs and demands of millennials.
1. Multi-channel options
Millennials grew up with technology and are therefore far more comfortable interacting with technology than their predecessors. A baby boomer or Gen Xer might look for a customer service number first. Most millennials will only resort to calling someone if they have exhausted all other options available to them first. In short, millennials prefer the internet to the phone. However, they do want the option of speaking to a live person if the answers they are looking for online. Millennials have had to wait less time for almost everything than generations before them. It has made them highly impatient.
However, businesses also cannot simply ignore the needs and preferences of baby boomers or Gen X. While younger Gen X’ers will often prefer online or self-help options, older Gen X’ers may still prefer to speak with a live person on the phone. However, on-demand technology has also significantly decreased the amount of time people are willing to wait for assistance.
2. Social media as customer service
The growing importance of social media cannot be stressed enough. Businesses love the low-cost, high-impact marketing opportunities that social media affords them. However, they need to be aware the millennials also view social media as another customer service outlet as well.
Therefore, it is vital for businesses with any social media presence to also monitor their social media for customer concerns. Keep in mind, unlike other customer service outlets, social media is public. When a customer calls and it takes 20 minutes or more to reach a representative, only they know about it. When a customer makes a complaint on social media and it goes days without a response, everybody sees that. Ironically, this is in part why millennials will often turn to social media outlets to post their complaints or issues.
It is vital that businesses understand that social media platforms are powerful tools. They put a great deal of power in the hands of the consumer – which millennials are very aware of.
3. Don’t change the channel
If millennials address an issue on social media, they expect a response via that same channel. One thing to keep in mind is that transparency is a major selling point with millennials. They demand much more from businesses than just a great product. While there are certainly ways to continue the conversation privately, you want to always respond publicly to any public issues or complaints. In addition, you don’t want to respond by simply providing a customer service number.
Keep in mind, millennials aren’t stupid. They aren’t making their complaint on social media because they can’t find a customer service number or don’t know any other way to contact the company. In addition, social media is not necessarily the first stop for millennials. As a generation used to having their every move broadcast across social media, they are not unaware of the power of social platforms. In many cases, they may have actually tried a self-service outlet or customer line but turn to social media when they don’t feel they have gotten either the response or responsiveness they feel entitled to.
When responding to complaints or issues on social media, it is important to communicate that their issue is being taken seriously and you are ready to give them the personalized attention they are looking for. Always remember, when it comes to social media, the whole world is watching – and millennials are well aware of it.
4. Engage minimally
While engagement is critical on social media, it is also important for businesses to not engage in long, drawn-out debates.
This is particularly problematic when many customer service agents tasked with responding to customer issues via social media may be millennials themselves. While transparency is important, so is taking the higher ground.
Again, it is important to keep in mind that millennials have grown up on social media. They are used to the immediacy of digital communication. This means they may be less prone to considering carefully before posting or thinking carefully about how their response may be perceived by others. Of course, it is important to respond to complaints, negative comments or criticisms. However, there does come a point where continuing to respond can be counterproductive and actually do more harm than good. Studies have shown that two responses are the optimal number of engagements before letting a matter drop. It shows that you take the complaint seriously and you are willing to work with the customer. It also shows that you will not be drawn into a long back-and-forth on social media.
5. Growing range of self-service options
In prior generations, being waited on or served was a symbol of privilege, wealth and luxury. Conversely, life also moved at a much slower pace. In the war between speed and personal service, speed wins out hands down with millennials. Millennials also want to be able to do things at 2:30 in the morning or whenever the urge strikes them.
Having grown up in a world of increasingly 24/7 service, they now demand it. This doesn’t mean that you need to keep a full staff of customer service agents around the clock. Millennials are just as comfortable chatting with AI-powered bots and digital assistants as with humans. In many cases even more so.
While attempting to provide round-the-clock service while keeping costs low, many businesses resort to farming out customer service overseas where labor is cheaper, but accents are thicker. Millennials don’t just want to speak to someone, they want to speak to someone they understand and that understands them. Unlike their predecessors, they are not happy about having to resort to talking on the phone in the first place. Compound that frustration with confusing phone trees, long wait times and a person they can’t understand at the end of it all. You end up with very unhappy customers. Customers that are then likely to take their complaints to social media where they can air them publicly.
While it may seem that millennials are more demanding than previous generations, that isn’t actually the case. It’s simply that their priorities are very different.
It’s also very important to understand that in many cases, the people making decisions about the types or avenues of customer service to provide are Gen Xers or baby boomers. You cannot provide customer service to millennials based on the priorities or preferences of prior generations.
While millennials want faster service, they are also more than willing to do things for themselves. In fact, they prefer it. When considering how to meet the customer service needs of 3 generations of consumers, grocery stores are a great model. Most modern grocery stores offer several options. Self-checkout for busy millennials, and cashier lanes for baby boomers and Gen Xers that prefer personal interaction and service.
While millennials are becoming an increasingly large segment of consumers, you can’t simply discount the needs, wants and desires of their predecessors. You also can’t keep millennials happy by giving them what baby boomers and Gen Xers want.