Life, after IT, has changed a few gears and people have adapted to the new pace. We live differently than we did a decade ago. We feel empowered with information and accept that technology is ubiquitous. The lion’s share of the credit goes to the real change-makers among us: the millennials, or Generation Y.

Born between 1985 and 2000, the oldest millennial today is 34, while the youngest is just 19. Their parents—Generation X— saw computers for the first time, in their teens. While millennials were born into a world increasingly reliant on computers. In fact, computer science was fast becoming a part of the curriculum in many schools at the time.

Millennials grew up learning about computers, had more access to them and spent a lot more time with technology. This makes them doubly vital to business. They’re not just present and potential consumers; they also present the talent pool business will hire from. Over the next two decades, the consumer base and the workforce everywhere will be made up of millennials and their successors, Generation Z, who have only just turned 18, but are more immersed in technology than their predecessors.

Are we geared for a millennial way of life?

With this turn-of-the-millennium generation taking center stage, every aspect of life and business worldwide will feel their impact. In fact, analysts projected that by 2020, millennials will contribute to 30% of all consumption of goods and services.

These projections had businesses galvanising to adapt to the challenges technology posed, even as it democratized knowledge and information.

  • At first they scaled to have a presence where consumers spent the most time.

  • Then they reached out via media that consumers had more faith in.

  • Now they’re gearing up to meet changing needs and perceptions, as well as new demands and expectations.

The willingness to embrace new trends, understand them and learn to work with them is what helped the business organism be the first to evolve.

The First Respondents to change.

Though marketing and sales are at the forefront of business, the first effects of changing trends and lifestyles are felt at customer service. This isn’t surprising, since customers tend to be more willing to engage when they reach out for help. Even when they are less than pleased with your product or service, they are likely to be forthcoming. Customer service is effective when it is driven by agents who are patient and take the time to understand the customer and find out what they need, want, and expect from you.

This is why the willingness to learn and the ability to roll with the punches is central to the customer service skill set. An efficient customer service team:

  • senses changes in customers’ needs and expectations,

  • shares this information with the business through established channels, and

  • works to effect relevant changes in their delivery process

Let’s turn proclivity into a leading edge. 

Fingers do the talking when smart phones and new media lets us be more hands-on with communication. The growing consensus is that it’s easier to type or text than talk. Especially in unpleasant circumstances when text allows us to be once removed, or gives us a little breathing room and insulation from direct conflict. With text and email to the rescue, communication can be more efficient and less messy, to quote a millennial colleague. It’s easy for some to believe all millennials are uncomfortable with phone calls, or that they consider them invasive and awkward. But many millennials already work without issue, in roles that require them to attend to frequent phone calls.

Participation in the digital discourse means millennials are nearly everywhere online. From Twitter to Reddit and Skype, this new generation is hyper-connected, and communicate over multiple channels and devices simultaneously. In fact, millennials are already quite adept at being on many platforms at once. They know firsthand that an online presence is a must and that a multi-channel approach is paramount to success. They know how important it is to respond via the same channel the customer uses to reach you. Changing channels to respond is akin to speaking out of turn or context, and compromises content. They are also aware that though the digital domain is asynchronous, your digital presence must be seamless and provide the same experience across all your platforms.

Encourage self-service to the generation that has a do-it-yourself attitude and takes great pride in it. Millennials prefer to be independent and solve problems on their own, rather than being a bother to others. However, when it comes to service that they’ve paid for, millennials can be impatient and demand immediate attention. This is why it makes practical sense to encourage the use of self-service tools. This way the do-it-yourself attitude and the impatience can both be leveraged to increase efficiency and reduce complaints about time taken, in one fell swoop.

Finding common ground is important for this generation that spends most of their time online. They have faith in numbers and rely on the crowd, which means other people’s opinions and experiences have begun to take precedence. They believe there is more truth in the first person accounts of ordinary people than in the sweeping statements of media and business. The smart thing to do is to develop an online community that nurtures ongoing conversations about your product or service. Nurture this community to be a space for customers to express their thoughts, share their experiences,and help each other and themselves. This way millennial customers can use community pages to solve their problems, and the millennial service agent has more time to respond to customer concerns that require personalized attention.

Personalize to connect to millennials because they loathe the idea of a one-size-fits all service process. You need to make the effort to remember their names, their product information, and their service history. They expect to be remembered as a basic courtesy and demand effective service in a jiffy, especially when they’ve paid for your product or service. Millennials also like to engage with people and look forward to building rapports and relationships. Personalized interactions with millennials can range from referring to them by their first name, to tagging them in a post online about valuable customers. Let millennials know you genuinely care about them and they’ll be loyal customers who influence others to become your customers. Show millennials you’re committed to their well being and you will have a loyal and committed workforce working with you.

To set the detractors aside

There is some concern about how new tech and the smartphone have seemingly distanced people in real time. Yet millennials meet their social circle more frequently than Gen X did at the same age. The difference is millennials meet several times a day, but they do this online and via electronic devices. This is why business must be present in the online space, to connect with them. Only a skeptic would look askance at the opportunities that new technology presents. Especially since this kind of tech immersion has been seen before. People have been just as enthralled when new inventions like the radio and television captured people’s imagination and lives. As for those who find the millennials to be a little young or lacking in maturity; the elders among them will soon bridge this gap as every generation has done before them.

When social media ingratiated itself into customer service, CX suddenly became a social phenomenon. You don’t need to reinvent customer service to attract the youngest customers. You just need to shift gears to keep pace with the millennial mindset at customer service in this age of customer 3.0.

Photo credit: afagen on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-SA

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