Modernizing Customer Support for Millennials

When it comes to customer support, Millennials are doing anything but phoning it in.

This connected, vocal and technologically-empowered generation has a low tolerance for friction in customer experiences and a penchant for tweeting, posting, hash tagging, and recording their discontent with customer support and broadcasting their discontent (as was the case in the Comcast call) at the expense of hapless organizations.

To say that customer care is on the cusp of a new paradigm in the face of this new demographic's expectations would be putting it mildly. Millennials attitudes to technology and their "always on" lifestyle is ushering in the need for an entirely new approach to customer care both within and outside the contact center.

Reframing the way you think about customer care -- be it customer support operations or the customer experience itself -- is imperative. Failing to embrace change means risking obsolescence within a demographic that has little patience for slow, company-first customer experiences. With that in mind, we're going to examine some of the behaviors and attitudes that characterize Millennials and the impact they have on customer support for Millennials.

Millennials and Social Media

A recent study by Annalect observed that Millennials (those born between 1981 and 1995) look at technology, not just as a tool, but as a means of empowerment. Nothing exemplifies this more than Millennials use of social media, which they use with a fluency that other generations don't.

That makes sense given that the 80-million strong Millennial segment grew up with social media as a dominant force in their lives and have a strong familiarity with the ‘medium.' More importantly they view social media as a means of interaction on par with in-person socialization -- not a barrier to engagement.

This intimacy with social media translates into a few observations:

They're vocal. For Millennials, social networks aren't a place to waste time. They're a source of community and they understand the power and reach social media can offer. That explains why so many Millennials are willing to use social media as their bullhorn when it comes to expressing dissatisfaction with issues -- customer care  included. A recent Ipsos survey found that 63% of subjects 18-34 were "somewhat likely/very likely" to post on social media following a bad customer experience. Only 35% of subjects 55+ said they would, for context.

They share. Normally that's a good thing, but for brands with poor customer support, not so much.  According to a recent ShareThis report "interactivity and discussion are far more likely to influence [Millennials'] purchase decisions than viewability." In fact, 40% of Millennials said they were somewhat likely to make a purchase based on a friends' social media post.

They don't understand your absence. Given what we've said about Millennials willingness to use social media, it should be clear that not being present in social media for purposes of customer support can impact a brand's standing with Millennials.  And they're not alone. Zendesk recently found that a whopping 63 percent of customers think companies' should use their social media pages to  inform customers of relevant updates or promotions, and address customer feedback (including complaints)!

So what's the takeaway from all of this? Quite simply that Millennials natural tendency to reach for the digital soapbox and their reliance on digital word of mouth demands a couple of key elements to any modern customer care program, namely:

Vigilance: It's not enough to respond to social media after the fact, because that may even be too late. It's becoming increasingly important to utilize tools formerly under the umbrella of marketing -- namely social listening and sentiment analysis -- to stay on top of any negativity customers may be expressing in order to provide effective customer support for Millennials.

Expertise: Social media support is still relatively underemphasized as a channel. Chat, email and phone all get their due, but social media is still treated as an afterthought. It's time for that to end with dedicated support specialists being a part of your support team.

More than Omnichannel -- Omniscient: Don't worry, we're not recommending becoming Big Brother, but the way Millennials use social media is an indication that their issues with your product, service or customer care could be happening offline. This only emphasizes using metrics and customer experience mapping to find sources of "opacity" where customers may encounter problems consistently.

So, what's the takeaway? In short it's that the first part of adapting your customer experience for the modern era is to consider the nature of your audience not just in terms of buying behavior, but also in terms of interaction with technology and the world around them.

March 16, 2015