80 million Millennial generation customers (also known as Gen Y) are about to hit service providers with a wallet force larger than that of the baby boom.
This is a disaster hurrying to happen.
Businesses need to know how to provide the kind of customer service that Millennials are looking for, and that builds Millennial-generation customer engagement and loyalty.
Here’s why.Â Millennial customers (born after 1980) bring to the market an entirely new set of expectations. They think differently about customer service, about how they want to be treated in business interactions.Â It’s a generation of consumers defined by the digital world that they’ve known since infancy. A group of people, larger than the baby boom, who have lived their entire conscious lives immersed in an internet – wifi – smartphone enabled world and have little understanding of the more earthbound systems and expectations that dominated the consumer landscape only a few years ago.
In business, we tend to think of customer service and hospitality as following age-old principles, and there’s certainly truth to the idea that hospitality dates back to ancient biblical and Greek models. But the particulars of how customer service has been delivered for the last several decades are extremely baby boom specific. it’s time for businesses to change, and change fast.
Here’s how to make Millennials love your customer service — and your business — in seven steps
1 Offload the Transactional – Don’t fritter away employee hours on activities that customers can do better themselves. You’re not going to catch a millennial in the AAA office asking for directions in Trip Tik format. She’ll much more likely be conferring with the Google Maps app on her tablet.
Millennials have different ideas of where humans should fit into customer service delivery. If an app or algorithm can deliver what they need, so much the better. Which is one reason most millennials consult their smartphones first–even when they’re in your store and a human – a human paid to assist them – is standing at the ready.
In particular, don’t wear them down by requiring them to contact you for the transactional details I generically refer to as Stupid Stuffâ„¢.Â Don’t force customers to contact you due to your own bad design and lazy implementation. A millennial customer isn’t willing to call you to find out whether and when her order has shipped; she wants to proactively receive an automated, instant confirmation in her in box or on her phone. A millennial will be peeved if he has to call your company’s receptionist to track down your physical (read: GPS-friendly) address because only your PO Box is on your website.
This isn’t to say there’s no role for a human-to-human service interaction or contact.Â (Far from it.) But the interaction should be at the choice of the customer, not because your systems are sloppy or incomplete.
2Â Focus on the Experiential.
New service models need to focus on helping customers discover and enjoy experiences, not just on getting them, figuratively or literally, from point A to point B. Take, as an example, business travel. According to Jay Coldren, Marriott VP of Lifestyle Brands (“Lifestyle Brands” are hospitality giant Marriott’s most cutting-edge and experiental hotels around the world):Â “Generation Y views business travel not as a necessary evil but as a perk and an opportunity to view the world.” Embrace and support this worldview and you win their business.
3 Customer self-determination is key.
Allowing customers to control their own destiny needs to be a component of your new, millennial-friendly service model. Give up old notions of control and replace them with a transparent model that allows, wherever possible, your customer to be in the driver’s seat. Embrace crowdsourcing: You can’t control product ratings, product discussions, or much else, except by providing the most extraordinary customer experience possible and letting your customers, and your critics, hash out their discussions of it in public.
4 Become a speed freak…
Millennials are superb multi-taskers who put a premium value on convenience. Millennials’ internal time clocks and customer expectations are shaped by the instant gratification they’ve grown accustomed to from the online/smartphone experience. Speed and efficiency are of the utmost importance: in how quickly you respond to a customer, ship to a customer, and offer up choices of product or service to a customer.
Emulate amazon.com here: You’d better have a real-time indication of what is and isn’t in stock; ship immediately, and, perhaps most of all, have a no-hassle return policy.
5 ”¦ but leave your customers time and space for breathing.
Nobody gets this one more right than Starbucks.Â The millennial generation wants their custom-brewed coffee fast (in less than 7 minutes according to Starbucks’ “Cliff of Dissatisfaction” metric) but they also want the world to linger with them over coffee.Â In spite of their penchant for mobile and online socializing, the millennial generation also yearns for face to face interaction and collaboration – from their peers and, often, from your more empathetic employees.
6 Up with Values
Millennials engage in what can be termed values-based buying. When millennials do business with a company, they’re more likely than previous generations to care about the social values of that company: its social responsibility, green profile, and how ethically it does, or doesn’t, treat its own employees and those of its suppliers. They will reward your company if its behavior mirrors their own ethics, and punish your company if it doesn’t.
7 Speak their language.
This is what I call the “’no worries’ divide.” The new generation is exceedingly informal, and has different words, and methods, of communicating.Â Jay Coldren from Marriott again: “The Millennials want to converse in their own language, according to their own rules. They speak in tweets, texts and Facebook posts. If you want to reach them, you have to speak in their native tongue. And you have to be completely authentic.” When in doubt, follow this millennial rule: Authentic, caring communication is in; scripted service is out.
It’s the new, Millennial world. They can bring their wallet power to you, or to someone else, depending on how you serve them. The choice is yours.
About Micah Solomon
Micah Solomon was recently named a “new guru of customer service excellence” by the Financial Post. His latest business bestseller, “High-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service,” as well as his perennial bestseller, “Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit” (a collaboration with the creators of the modern-day Ritz-Carlton), have won multiple awards. His expertise has been featured in Inc. Magazine, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, CNBC, Forbes, and the Harvard Business Review.
As a keynote speaker, Micah Solomon’s uniquely inspiring and humorous keynote speeches on customer service and customer loyalty convey his passion for everything that makes a business great, delivered in his famously relaxed and friendly 21st-century speaking style. Micah is legendary for engaging his audiences through his sincerity, his genuine passion for his clients’ success, and his unique visual presentation style – no stock photos here, just real life examples.