If Facebook were a country, it would be the fourth largest in the world; 96 per cent of Generation Y – the Millennials – has joined a social network .
Research also shows that 80 per cent of Twitter usage is through mobile devices: anytime, anywhere… after any bad experience.
The question for a company thus becomes, how do I become ‘authentic’ to meet the single most important business imperative of an experience economy. Answering that question requires a company to understand itself, understand its customers, and apply new and dynamic means of communicating with consumers to its business practices.
Here Keith Pearce, EMEA Marketing Director at Genesys, delves deeper into the complexities of servicing a new generation.
Understanding your own brand
The desire for an authentic experience means that businesses have to control the expectations that they create for their customers – and ensure that a dynamic customer experience upholds those brand values.
Authenticity has to be retained at all times – one experience that falls short of brand expectations undermines a customer’s trust in the brand. For example, if an organisation that sells expensive, high-end stereo equipment delivers a low-budget customer service experience, it does not remain faithful to its brand and creates an inauthentic customer experience – this makes the value of an interaction lower, so higher prices are unjustified.
Understanding the customer
Realising who the customer is and what their expectations are has always been a high priority. Now, organisations need to understand a new type of customer base – and delivering authenticity relies as much on understanding them as your own brand.
The dawn of the Millennials – how do they tick?
The new customer that is driving these changes is the Millennial or Generation Y: generally described as a consumer born between 1982 and 2000. Millennials are differentiated not just by the technologies that they use, but the way that they use them. Generation X and Baby Boomers use the internet, for example, as an information gathering tool. Millennials, on the other hand, use the internet as a communications medium: for real-time interaction and content sharing.
Millennials will interact with their peers and social networks for information and recommendations on buying decisions. They will often not go to the organisation itself until the moment that they make the purchase.
Resources for this research are readily available: 25 per cent of search engine results for the world’s top 20 largest brands are links to user-generated content. This information is very important to consumers: 90 per cent trust peer recommendations , while only 14 per cent trust advertisements.
The increase in use of new channels is profound. SMS messaging, for example, has seen 38 per cent year-on-year growth in the last few years. The latest MDA figures show 78.9 billion SMS messages were sent in the UK during 2008 – that’s 216 million per day.
Millennials will communicate with their peers through voice calls, SMS, social media and Instant Messaging. A conversation will cross channels, but the friend will still know the details of the entire interaction. This expectation applies to business-customer interactions as well. Millennials expect that if they email and then call, that the person they’re speaking to knows about the email.
Consumers with real power
As well as more research options, Millennials have more of a voice to express their disenchantment with a brand. Of the 200 million blogs, 34 per cent (that’s almost 70 million) will post their opinions about products and services. YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine – where it is easy to find user-generated content about specific brands.
Dave Carroll, from the band Sons of Maxwell, has launched a personal campaign against United Airlines using this medium. After his valuable guitar was broken during a flight from Chicago to Omaha, Nebraska, his complaint process lasted for nine months before being rejected. As a result, Dave Carroll has created 3 songs, with music videos – two of which are already available – about his experience. The first has over 5 million views on YouTube, the second had 250,000 views in its first week! The song even includes the name of the United Airlines employee who rejected his compensation claim.
These videos are an ad-campaign against United Airlines, the cost of which would be tremendous if not for YouTube. This is not the only opposition that United Airlines faces online: the website Untied.com has a user-base of anti-United consumers.
The Millennial Experience – new and dynamic ways of communicating
Consumers expect personalisation today, more than ever: you can design your own Nike trainers; most computer companies gives you full customisation of your new system. The Millennial Generation has spent most of its consumer life with these product options available – so why would they expect anything less from customer service?
A dynamic customer engagement model enables organisations to understand a customer’s needs and create a service option that meets them.
Cross-channel, not multi-channel
Current projections suggest that in two years’ time the telephone (IVR and non-IVR) will only be preferred by a minority of customers; organisations need to prepare to have cross-channel conversations.
Cross-channel and multi-channel are not the same. Millennial customers expect to be able to communicate across all channels, simultaneously and seamlessly – not just to have them available. Organisations need to retain knowledge as a conversation progresses across channels – whether through customer choice or forced escalation rules. As more and people adopt the behaviour of researching online and buying offline, companies that bring the context of the online interaction into offline channels will reap the rewards in higher conversion rates and more sales.
Engage and convert
An example of the need for e-Services: a loyal customer books a holiday online – he’s ready to pay his $10,000 bill. Before finalising, he has a question about visas, but the answer isn’t on the website. The customer service phone line charges $25 per call.
Our Millennial is a high-value customer, but has a barrier to finishing the transaction. An agent is required, but the customer has to leave the web – and pay $25! If the travel company were to monitor its site, it could offer escalation with a pop-up webchat window. This would maintain the consistency and integrity of the interaction: it helps the customer, keeps them in an environment they have chosen and secures a $10,000 purchase.
In technology terms, it doesn’t take a complete overhaul to effect these changes – some new technologies may need to be deployed, but with a clear path to return on investment. Beyond that, optimising existing systems and aligning them to a new goal can be the most effective avenue for organisations to pursue.
Blogs, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and many other media – social or otherwise – have changed the communications landscape. The irony about these new media, ushered in by Millennials, is that they’re now being adopted most rapidly by older generations – generations with the purchasing power that Millennials don’t yet carry. It demonstrates that building a strategy to service the Millennials is, in fact, the future of customer service.