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Millenials are customers too...

12th Sep 2014
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Millenials are special. Millenials require special treatment. Millenials are not like the rest of us, they're flippant, petulant, impatient, and any other insulting words that you can think of.

In fact, we're not very nice about Millenials when we talk about them. We should try to be nicer. I like this argument by Michele Masterson that we should try to deliver excellent customer service to Millenials - many companies are short-changing Millenials by ignoring specific customer service channels.

But I believe it goes deeper than this. I believe we're all Millenials now. If you own a smartphone, if you have a twitter account, if you use Facebook - whether you're 50 or 15, you have a Millenial mindset, and you expect the same levels of customer service as they apparently do. In order to understand exactly what we need to improve, we need to understand how this technology has moved us on - and what it's done to our expectations.

The curse of the smartphone

If, like me, you're old enough to remember having laughed at people with mobile phones, then you'll remember that adapting to life with a mobile phone was a constant series of revelations. No longer did you have to hang around waiting for someone who was half an hour late. You could send really quick text messages instead of having to call people and actually talk to them.

And then came the smartphone. No longer would you get lost walking the streets. You could Google anything, anywhere.

It was almost as if life beforehand were prehistoric. The changes were something we assimilated immediately - yet for a whole generation now coming into the workplace, these changes never happened. They were always so.

So we talk about them in the context that they've never known "no internet" or not being able to tell someone you're running late when they're already waiting for you. Yet we behave in exactly the same way, our behaviours are ingrained despite our past.

The curse of the multi-channel

And then we started splitting off into multiple channels - from various social networks through to snapchat, whatsapp, etc. We bought tablets, and our intentions through each device and each channel are different each time.

We talk about Millenials as if they're this impatient bunch of people, but the reality is we've all become impatient thanks to the speed of our own technology. We expect:

  • - an immediate reaction on Twitter, because that's where customer service is meant to happen (even though most of the time, it doesn't)
  • - someone to answer the phone instantly when we call them
  • - our facebook comments to be picked up instantly by companies when we complain about them

The curse of the multi-channel has put businesses in a corner. How can you respond to customer service issues that are fragmented through multiple different channels, all of which expect 24/7 instant care?

The curse of being creepy

This has led to accusations of being creepy. It's not unlike those companies who are personalising their marketing efforts to a large degree (think of Amazon) - they seem to know so much, and yet they seem not to be always wholly appropriate.

Listening is the latest Big. Thing. So much so that the big guns are making sure it's part of their CRM or ERP packages with social listening a major product offering, and smaller businesses are integrating listening with other functionalities. It's all about knowing the right thing at the right time.

Increasingly, customer service is not about responding directly to customer complaints, it's about knowing when a complaint is about to be made. You can call it predictive customer service, if you want, but it's really all about knowing what's being said about you, before it's being said to you.

And that can work - or it can look creepy. You can come across as the company who eavesdrops on conversations if you jump in too soon. You can come across as a bit weird.

Knowledge is powerful, so long as you know what to do with it. If you are listening socially - then you have to know how and when to respond socially. In many cases, you may not need to respond socially, but you need to ensure that the right stakeholders know about what has been said. They have to know who's said it, through what channel - and they need to know quickly.

Customer Service for everyone, not just Millenials

We should all be receiving the same level of excellent customer service - because we're all demanding it. The question is - when do companies get proactive and start offering another level of customer service on top? A more proactive one. 

We all deserve this special treatment, although our reactions may differ. And here's where the differences may be more stark - millenials, less worried about privacy issues than older generations, may bridle less at the creepiness of social listening & personalisation. It's us 'older folk' who you need to be more careful of.

Technology has brought us huge advances in the ways in which people can get in touch, and it has transformed everyone's expectations - not just those of Millenials. The key is not necessarily 'covering all bases' - that's expected. They key is providing the appropriate response for the appropriate customer.


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