Are You Ready for the Toughest Generation of Customers yet: Generation Z?


For Generation Z, a world without internet, smartphones or social media doesn’t exist, and answers to any question imaginable are just a click of a button away. How do you serve customers that are educated, resourceful, self-directed and impatient?

Who are less loyal and less interested in spending for the sake of brands and celebrity status? In just a few more years, their buying power is said to be valued at more than $40 billion, and it’s already evident that they will expect customer service unlike any other.

Who are Generation Z?

Generation Z were born between 1995 and 2010 and have grown up in a world very different from previous generations. They’re a global generation that are more diverse, hyper-connected and have limitless interests but short attention spans.  Unlike Millennials, Generation Z has a more realistic view of life. They have not been shielded from harsh realities and are far more self-aware and socially aware. They have less of a sense of entitlement and would rather participate in the solution. They don’t sit back waiting for things to happen.

In this there is a huge opportunity for customer service. Generation Z will not only tell you what they want, they are more than happy to participate in finding the solution, because that solution will ultimately be more personalised and customisable – which is exactly what they want.

For example: In 2015, a fast-food franchise became the first to design a mobile app with the Generation Z customer in mind. The app included extensive customisation to the menu by offering add-ons to each menu item. It  also allowed customers to place orders online and then share their choices through other third-party apps. And all of this was done without a human interface, placing the whole process in the hands of the consumer.  This franchise consistently receives 20% more orders than was received by a person behind the counter.

Generation Z as customers

Traditional loyalty programmes carry very little appeal to Generation Z. They are far more sceptical and aware of corporate insincerity. They expect companies to demonstrate excellent service and loyalty to them as customers before they are willing to reciprocate. And even then, if they can’t get what they want from one business, they will quickly move on elsewhere. While Millennials are likely to spend more on brands with celebrity endorsements, Generation Z are more savvy with their spending and more influenced by social proof as well as social and environmental responsibility than celebrity status.

So how does one serve customers that expect everything to be instant, efficient and near perfect?

  1. Be authentic

Generation Z are smart, informed and quick to filter out empty corporate promises and marketing nonsense. They want interactions that are real and transparent because they want to evaluate for themselves if your business is worthy of their support. They like direct and honest responses and won’t be fooled by PR blurb intended to placate them while delaying finding a solution. Companies that focus on building real relationships with their customers are more likely to attract Generation Z.

  1. Have an omnichannel presence

It is estimated that Generation Z spend a vast majority of their time on smart devices. Statistics show that the average Gen Z receives more than 3,000 mobile messages a month and spends at least 2 hours daily on YouTube. Twitter is considered old school and they prefer social media channels such as YouTube, Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram that are more visual.

Because they are self-reliant, they embrace self-service customer service more than other generations, but they want accurate and concise information that is easy to filter. Information should be in bite-sized chunks with descriptive headings, and it needs to be storytelling in nature. Infographics are ideal for explaining detailed or complex information in a concise way.

  1. Provide co-creative opportunities

Research shows that 60% of Gen Z would prefer to start their own businesses than have a job-based career. They are innovative self-starters that are more interested in collaborating, especially on a global scale. Rather than Millennials, who were all about ‘what’s in it for me?’, Generation Z is interested in ‘what’s in it for others?’ They have a strong sense of social and environmental responsibility and are more willing to support businesses that are about more than just profit. More importantly, they want to participate in finding solutions and are proactive about finding opportunities to do so.

Generation Z is very likely to redefine customer service because they demand perfection and are innovative enough to know how to achieve it. Companies that want to connect with this next generation of customers need to start adapting now by looking for ways in which technology can help them connect with Generation Z on their playing field.

This will involve designing customer journeys around the Gen Z customer and not around your own corporate systems and processes and preferred ways of working. Training your teams will also play a huge part in being successful in appealing to this customer base. They want interactions to be digital, down-to-earth, personalised and human. Removing scripts, tick-box quality approaches and empowering frontline teams is key to success.

Carolyn Blunt

Carolyn Blunt

Carolyn Blunt is Managing Director of Real Results, a consultancy that works with contact centres to improve performance. 

Carolyn is especially renowned for identifying opportunities to improve customer experience and sales whilst creating efficiencies.  Carolyn is co-author (with Martin Hill-Wilson) of the book ‘Delivering Effective Social Customer Service’ published by Wiley.  

Published On: 9th Nov 2016 - Last modified: 11th Dec 2017
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