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Graeme Gabriel, Strategic Back Office WFO Consultant, EMEA, Verint

When I first heard the term “millennials” I got quite excited, as I thought it was another Marvel Comics franchise to accompany “The Avengers”. However, according to Wikipedia, it’s in fact a “demographic cohort defined as typically people born between the late 80s and early 2000s.” Now the saddest thing about that is I’m not part of that group anymore.

A study by BCG (Boston Consulting Group) found that millennials, who account for $1.3 trillion in direct annual spending, engage more extensively with brands than older consumers and expect a more personalised two-way marketing relationship. In a recent Verint study, millennials above all others were revealed to favour speedy service, so that they don’t have to interrupt their day too much to contact brands. Furthermore, almost half (48%) like it when service is personalised to their interests and a significant 38 percent are more forgiving of businesses who know them.

This means the whole customer service experience for them needs to be different. By way of example, I was on site with a customer recently. They were an exclusively online fashion retailer, whose chosen demographic sat squarely with millennials. They had made the conscious decision to only communicate digitally with their customers. Now for me (not being their target audience), I thought this was dangerous. They provided me with one example of why this wasn’t the case. After sending an order to a customer, the organisation tweeted them and asked if the item fitted, the customer responded saying yes. They then responded to that, asking the customer to send them a picture with them wearing it. Here is where the magic happens, the customer duly did this, to which the retailer replied: “That looks great, we have some shoes to match that, here’s the link.”

It’s this instant interactive dialogue and willingness to share that separates millennials from the more mature customer. It also demonstrates how marketing and customer services are developing a symbiotic relationship. What I mean by that is that consumers are now budding marketeers; they use social media to project themselves in the way they want to be seen. They will broadcast what they are buying, what services they are interacting with and what their perception of said service was. This has the knock on effect of influencing their wide social network. This was brought home to me on a recent visit to Nandos with my youngest daughter, who aged 12 now has an Instagram account. On arrival, the first thing she did was take a picture of the Nandos chicken logo and post it, which resulted in over 50 likes in half an hour.

Organisations wanting to target this group need to account for this behaviour. They also need to realise how their service and actions affect brand perception. What they say to a customer, and how they treat them, is no longer a private exchange, it’s shared with others who will also act on that message. The afore-mentioned research from BCG revealed that millennials are more likely than other demographics to be influenced by online reviews and recommendations from friends, family and even strangers and BrightLocal found 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations[1]. Furthermore, our research showed that 40 per cent of millennials are likely to write a positive review after they received good customer service. Given these reviews have the power to persuade others to buy or sign up to services from a brand, businesses should do all they can to provide a positive experience and encourage this activity.

All this requires a change in operating model to incorporate a more sophisticated outreach to target millennials. Omni-channel refers to the bringing together of the multiple channels of customer communications that are typically deployed in the contact center. Typically this manifests itself in different functional areas supporting different channels, creating silos. The problem is that customers will be doing all their communication on the whole, through one device, and accessing different platforms, voice, email, social media, etc, but they expect the experience to be the same regardless. It’s no good if someone that calls in to the call centre is able to get their problem resolved much faster than exactly the same request posed via social media. It shouldn’t matter what channel customers use; the level of service should be one and the same.

Organisations need to break down operational siloes and recognise the different channels customers will use and flick between, offering true omni-channel support. It requires a joined up approach behind the scenes. Customer facing staff across channels should be able to share customer information (such as past purchase history and account details) to help deal with requests efficiently. In addition, in this “on demand” society we live in, they need to respond quickly and appropriately. Failure to do this will ultimately have a damaging effect on the brand. In an environment where organisations have even less control over what customers say about them and to whom, this point is critical.

As a final thought, using Emojis or acronyms when communicating with this group will be seen through immediately, especially if you don’t understand the context or it simply isn’t relevant. Know your audience, but don’t try to become their best friend overnight by using their language. It will come across as insincere.

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