Millennial Customers: A Little Less Conversation, A Little More Action

In a recent TIME Magazine cover story, Joel Stein gave his take on Millennials as the “Me, Me, Me Generation,” hyper-connected, with a strong sense of entitlement, known for constantly lifting their smartphones into the air to take pictures of themselves to post online. Whether or not that’s the case for an entire generation, at more than 80 million strong, Millennials are the biggest age grouping in American history, and by growing up in parallel with rapid innovations in technology, they are by far the most connected generation on a global, social and real-time scale.

According to Forbes, Millennials “take technology for granted. They live through social media. They want the world their way, and they want it now.”

Yet for being so social and connected online, many Millennials seek to avoid face-to-face or telephone conversations at all costs, creating an evolutionary game-changer for customer service. Texting, social media and other online communication have all given this talk-without-really-talking generation the ability to communicate on their own terms: at their convenience, without having to make eye contact, without judgment, and with some degree of anonymity. They are also able to control the conversation, determining the length, the direction, and if and when they will respond (and via what channel).

Says psychologist Sherry Turkle, author of Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less From Each Other, of this collective behavioral change, “we are together, but each of us in in our own bubble, furiously connected to keyboards and tiny touch screens.”  And if you’ve watched not just Millennials, but other younger generations together at dinner, at an event or in a meeting, any face-to-face conversation is usually held in competition with another happening on a mobile device (or several).

According to Forbes, Millennials switch their attention between media platforms ( laptops, smartphones, tablets, etc.) 27 times per hour on average. And as for customer service, multi-channel, multi-tasking, need-for-speed service is the norm:

  • On average, 18 to 30-year-olds use 6.3 customer service channels (NICE Survey).
  • 42% of 18 to 34-year-olds expect customer support on social media within 12 hours of a complaint or comment (Nielsen).
  • When looking for product service or support, 71% of 16 to 24-year- olds and 65% of 25 to 34-year-olds search for a solution online first (2012 Sitel Study).
  • A quarter to a third (25% to 32%) of Millennials report using the following alternative channels frequently: live chat or virtual assistant on websites, text messaging (SMS), smartphone applications, service kiosks, social networks and online communities (NICE Systems Survey).

Customer Service: The Next Generation

While Millennials may never dial your organization’s customer service number during their lifetime, they will surely Google, tweet, post and text your organization for service, and if you don’t answer, they’ll call you out on a public scale.  While your organization may offer multi-channel customer service, is it multi enough for Millennials? In addition to phone, email and online support portal, consider expanded coverage including:

These channels allow Millennials to get service while multi-tasking on their multi-devices, communicate at their convenience, and control their comfort level when it comes to the increasingly lost art of conversation. Says Turkle in a New York Times article of the way technology is shaping us, and in turn, the way we are shaping our interactions with friends, family, followers and brands: “I’ve learned that the little devices most of us carry around are so powerful that they change not only what we do, but also who we are.

“Technology-enabled, we are able to be with one another, and also elsewhere, connected to wherever we want to be. We want to customize our lives. We want to move in and out of where we are because the thing we value most is control over where we focus our attention. We have gotten used to the idea of being in a tribe of one, loyal to our own party,” talking but yet not talking.

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