One of the key drivers of change in the way that customers expect service is that the millennial generation is becoming so dominant in society. These are the people born from 1980 up to the millennium who are now university age up to their mid-thirties.
All these people grew up with technology around them - the younger millennials in fact will have no memory at all of a life before the Internet and mobile phones. This fundamentally changes the way that these people communicate with each other and organise their lives so it is no surprise that they have different service expectations of brands.
What has changed recently though is that the millennials are now becoming the dominant drivers of the most important economies in the world. Last year millennials became the majority of employed people in the USA and PwC predicts that by 2020 the majority of workers globally will be from this generation.
This is significant for those managing the customer experience because, according to the same PwC research, 41% of this generation favour digital communication channels as their primary method of communication. They actually prefer digital channels above the telephone or personal meetings.
Accenture research shows that in the USA alone millennials spend $600bn on retail and this rises to $1.4tn by 2020 so the importance is clear. This is a generation that is becoming extremely significant to those managing customer interactions now, and especially over the next 3-4 years.
We already know that technology has changed the way that customer service operations are planned. The customer now defines how and when they get in touch with a brand - this change has already happened - but what are the additional changes that we need to consider with more millennials engaged in the economy?
- Your contact centre needs to be multi-channel and multi-skilled; your agents need to be capable of hopping channels and helping customers in a variety of ways. Give them the freedom to help customers rather than feeling constrained by the old ideas of a very restricted voice conversation.
- Proactive customer relationship; you have more information than ever on your customers - use it. They actually expect more information and "deals for one" to be pushed to them today as part of the relationship building process between customer and brand.
- Embed your service channels; if you are inside a game, you want support to exist within the game. If you are using an app and asking for help, you want support to be there inside the app. Asking the customer to make a call for help rather than just helping them inside the place where they need help is a certain way to lose many of them. Make it easy to ask for help.
In fact, often the best way to help your customer is to ensure that they can help themselves to a solution. This can be achieved in a number of ways, such as:
- Robotic Process Automation (RPA); if your customer has got in touch then see if an intelligent chat or voice robot can help first. For many simple and repetitive enquiries the robot agents can fix the issue before a human is even available to help. This leaves the human team able to focus on more detailed and complex problems and the robot systems can build a shared knowledge base of how they are fixing every customer problem - they learn with experience and never forget.
- Publish common solutions online; many customers will Google their problem before ever trying to reach the customer service team. You can make it easy for them to find a solution by publishing documents or videos with the solutions to every common issue you are aware of - in many cases the customer can fix the problem and never call.
I actually see many more changes ahead because of this focus on building companies around the customer. There is much more to come in future because customer service expectations are going to drive reforms in how entire industries are structured - I'll leave some of those ideas for my next blog.
What do you think of the millennial effect on the customer experience? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn.