Andrew Hall of Odigo shares his thoughts on creating customer experiences that are designed specifically for people of different generations.
If the topic of Millennial and Gen-Z customer engagement is of interest to you and your company, you will no doubt have noticed the huge amount of information and research that has been completed on this topic.
Much of this is based on trying to understand and define what makes them different from other generations and to categorise them, rather like books in a library.
Taking this further, it’s been recognised that the Millennial grouping is very wide (1980–1996), so many companies have also now broken this down into further categories that define ‘types’ of Millennials.
If we continue this process of sub-categorisation, unsurprisingly, we will end up back at personalised service – maybe that should be the starting point and not the destination?
This is not a new phenomenon; the older Millennials are now 39 years old and have been consumers for 20 years, so why the intense scrutiny on this now?
It’s at this point that I start to question the whole process of these intense studies across age groups and what it really all means, in practice, to the companies I spend time with. This is not to say that there aren’t differences across generations – clearly the way I think and go about life is different from my parents and children.
Two Key Points Behind Generational Expectations
Here are a couple of points that maybe help frame our thinking:
1. While my mother ‘adopts’ technologies and then learns how to use them, my children ‘evolve alongside’ technology; it is a natural, and often critical, extension of their person.
The rapid speed with which Millennials and Gen-Z take up and use the latest innovation or fad often leaves older generations behind.
I smile when I see very young children teaching their parents how to use voice assistants on the smart TV or phone. In most cases, it’s not that parents don’t want to use these, but often they are unaware of their existence until it’s pointed out.
In some way, Gen-X and Baby Boomers are not quite as ‘plugged-in’ as younger groupings. However, while the take-up of new technology is faster for Millennials and Gen-Z, the endpoint is, in general, the same.
My parents use messaging services, but it is fair to say that it took them quite a long time to start, compared with younger generations.
2. Regardless of age, we all like great, seamless customer engagement, we all like a pleasant experience and we will all share the good experiences with friends.
Conversely, we all get frustrated and annoyed when things go badly, and we will likely share these as well!
The difference these two points draw out is that it is perhaps the speed of reaction and the connected culture our young people live in that differentiates them most from previous generations.
For those fans of Star Trek, when I see my kids, it’s like the Borg, a group of intricately connected beings who are always on and always in touch, sensing and knowing what each other is doing and moving as one.
Whereas my online friendship group is relatively small and largely of people I have spent time with, my older kids have thousands of friends and acquaintances they have often only tenuously met but associate with in a virtual world.
Taking all of this into account, perhaps one of the most important junctures we are coming to where these differences have a measurable impact is the arrival of the Millennial grouping as the major spending power.
There are three areas that summarise well the direction of travel for companies as they seek to engage the speed and reaction of Millennials.
1. Time to Market
If we take the compression of communication technologies over the last century, it is reasonable to assume this will continue to occur at a more rapid pace. This means that the channel where conversations and transactions happen will change all the time.
If we believe that we need to meet the customer where they want to be served, then companies need to evolve their services across these new channels or become rapidly irrelevant. Whereas, previously, providing new channels to consumers could happen over years, now it is less than 12 months.
Going forward, if companies want a voice, they need to become part of the conversation in the right part of the ‘plugged-in’ world.
2. Brand Loyalty and Self-Service
Many Millennials are highly loyal to brands who deliver a great, customer-centric experience.
In a recent study of 2500 consumers, Dimensional Research identified: “While customer service issues are common, it is how and when a company resolves problems that will profoundly impact future purchases.”
Life is busy and spending too long on any one item is not desired by anyone. Our mindset changes the longer we spend on a task.
With this in mind, organisations need to be able not only to follow consumers across channels of engagement but also to move them across those channels, as required, in a guided process that provide the right outcome.
What is important is that the experience is seamless but memorable (for the right reasons).
While companies differ tremendously in both the diversity of customers served and the number and nature of the offerings to market, those who are succeeding in meeting, or exceeding, Millennial expectations have a channel-less approach to engagement and look to deliver excellent conversations in ways that seamlessly traverse the right channels at the right time.
At a recent meeting, a client said they found themselves having to reset their technology every five to eight years, comparing this to companies who are spearheading the leading Millennial engagements, their model is one of evolution; their platforms allow and adapt to ever changing channels and levels of engagement in a rapid way, with minimal change.
In summary, customers, regardless of age, are not asking for automation, or robots, or new channels of communication!
They don’t all know what AI or digital customer engagement are, but often, and more so with Millennials and Gen-Z, what they want to achieve requires these.
What they do know is, if something is nice to do, value for money, easy to achieve, and a pleasant experience, they will do it again and almost certainly recommend it in some form.