Shep Hyken\'s Customer Service Blog

Guest Blog: How Millennial’s are Changing the Customer Service Landscape

This week we feature an article by Pradeep Rathinam who writes about how we must understand what the large population of millennials expect when it comes to customer service. – Shep Hyken

Millennials (those youngsters born between 1981 and 1996) represent more than 25% of the nation’s population, which is why it makes perfect sense that if they have a preference for how to communicate with businesses today (from fast food to fashion), those businesses are going to sit up and take notice!

Notably, millennials like to do things a little differently from the generations of yore. For instance, there’s more takeout food and alcohol consumption, and instead of attending live events or lectures, millennials turn to the internet. So, it stands to reason that this group is in search of ease of use when it comes to all things “online.” They are wholly averse to hold music (a phone call is out of the question), they prefer to search for answers online, and whenever possible will “go it alone” over asking for help. But, believe it or not, this can actually serve companies well. There are insights to be gained from those who prefer to do it themselves. And, AI will deliver those insights, along with instant gratification, so it’s a win/win.

Business Insider recently reported on a survey in which 69% of millennials said they learn more from technology than from people. Okay, yes. That said, millennials will absolutely turn to social media and peer-to-peer sharing to both document and absorb learnings. They are literally changing the rules of customer service on the fly. Born with a device in hand, millennials are incredibly proactive when it comes to solving their own support issues. Far more inclined to tap a forum or FAQ page for answers, they have downright driven the decision for companies to beef up their self-service portals. And again, any time a member of this group can “chat” with a peer about a situation, they will. Why? They trust each other more than a faceless support agent or company “agenda.”

Then there’s the whole Veruca Salt syndrome. These “kids” want answers and they want them now! 25% of millennials expect a response within 10 minutes of reaching out to support. That is one tall order when you consider that many companies staff up during holidays but roll them off during “slower times.” Some customer support teams are almost 100% dedicated to triage and answers can take days to materialize. This is totally unacceptable for this group and is driving automation more aggressively than the Industrial Age!

This group is also flipping the script when it comes to the preferred communication channel. It’s not going to be phone (as mentioned earlier in this post), it’s going to be text. Yes, really. Live messaging is where it’s at. Even forward-thinking politicians like Gavin Newsom have employed text messaging as a campaign strategy because it’s understood that that is where the millennials are at, and ultimately where they’ll connect with you.

But where things get interesting are in the lesser-known details of this crew. Specifically these fun facts:

Obsolete Green & Red buttons: Not only is the crowd phone-averse, but their weekly talk time is fewer than 30 minutes a week. Compare that with 10-15 hours of screen time! What this means if you’re in customer support: Don’t waste time setting up call centers when you can focus on self-service and electronic messaging channels like social and straight SMS.

Snap & Share-Centric: Join this posse where they are – on Insta, Snap, and Twitter – NOT Facebook or email. What this means if you’re in CS: Get hip, quick. If you don’t, you’ll be talked about ON these channels with no way to weigh in.

Get to Gaming – They Are: These days gaming is a profession and not a waste of time. Millennials even like to watch others play and top gamers can make six figures, easy. What this means if you’re in CS: Gamify everything and make the experience rich and engaging (cuz it’s a known fact these guys have low attention spans – #truth). Even if you want a customer service survey deployed, think about how you’re going to get them to fill it in! Get creative!

Build for Millennials: These guys don’t have disposable income today and may never considering how expensive the cost of living has become relative to lifestyle needs. This Gen loves deals! We’re talking Mealpal and Moviepass, people. What this means if you’re in CS: If you can get on this cost-saving train and support it with top-notch service, you’ll have a winner. Be sure you support apps and not just web, however. That part is critical.

In summary, it has become downright essential for businesses to explore every avenue, think through every scenario, and most importantly, customize the experience. If you don’t know your millennial customer by name, their prior purchase history, or their personal data, you’re going to lose them to the company that does. Don’t ask questions that you should know the answers to (unnecessary friction is so….unnecessary). Millennials expect to be seen, heard, and helped quickly. And guess what, every generation benefits from this new bar being set! So, buckle up and ride the wave of responsiveness that millennials are demanding. Smart companies are tackling this in one way, and one way only. They are employing AI to augment their customer support staff because from self-service to triage to automation, it’s the only way to pave the path for zero contact resolution which is every millennial’s expectation and every other generation’s dream. Let’s go!

Pradeep Rathinam (Paddy) is the Founder & CEO of AnswerIQ, a Seattle-based artificial intelligence company in the customer support space. Paddy currently serves as the President of Tie Seattle, sits on the board of Washington Technology Association and several Seattle startups.

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