When it comes to brands, millennials are not lacking for options. The first generation raised on digital tools, the ability to research and choose among thousands of search results is second nature. This has fundamentally changed the nature of their relationships with businesses, as they now favor experience over function. The 1:1 relationship—the interactions that millennials have with brands—are just as important, if not more so, than whatever it is the brand is selling. Your traditional levers of customer loyalty (price, quality, advertising) might be competitive, but if the customer experience you’re providing isn’t unique or engaging—there are plenty of other brands with similar offerings to choose from.
According to a recent inContact survey, the majority of millennials are highly likely to turn their backs on a company after just one poor customer service experience. This means that contact centers face increasing pressure to deliver a seamless, positive experience—every touch of every customer. Failure to do so may likely result in losing that customer forever—with the added possibility that customer experience “miss” is shared via social media, compounding your troubles by turning away other potential customers. It is critical that contact centers take a hard look at their customer experience strategy to ensure they are hitting the right criteria to meet millennial expectations.
Here are three things to avoid when engaging with millennial customers through your contact center:
1. Don’t Assume Direct Voice Contact is the #1 Preference
With the multitude of channels available to consumers today (chat, web, social media), one of the biggest mistakes contact centers can make is prioritizing a voice-first strategy. While voice has traditionally been the bedrock for contact centers, failing to provide the appropriate host of options for engagement can almost immediately put you at a disadvantage with a millennial, especially considering that only 26 percent of millennials prefer to call a company to speak with a live representative. While older generations do still respond well to voice, contact centers need an omnichannel strategy to meet the expectations of this growing audience.
So where can brands get started? It might seem obvious, but the website is one of the first places millennials look when seeking information, and should be the first line of defense for any customer service strategy. Millennials are self-starters—they prefer to solve issues themselves if they are given the tools to do so. This means that for brands, you need to ensure that your web page and other self-service channels provide enough information that potential callers can solve a majority of possible complications. In fact, millennials are twice as likely to be satisfied with their customer service experience when information is provided via website (using mobile first design of course), compared to other self-service or voice options. For many millennials, the phone line is a last resort.
2. Don’t Prioritize Automation over the Human Touch
Despite a very public disagreement over the long-term consequence of adopting artificial intelligence, most experts would agree that AI and other automation tools such as chatbots will continue to be an effective tool in streamlining the contact center experience. However, contact centers need to be careful about leaning on these tools too heavily—or risk having the opposite effect.
One of the highest priorities for millennials when they engage with customer service representatives is that whatever their issue may be—it is resolved quickly. Even though channels such as chat/SMS/social lend themselves quite well to automation tools, if they aren’t shepherding the customer in the right direction, they will quickly grow frustrated. Contact centers need an infrastructure in place that will identify when a self-service or AI-powered interaction isn’t working, and will route them to a live agent.
Mind you, this moment in the customer journey is one of the most important. Once the switch is made to a live agent, the entire interaction up to that point needs to be readily available to the agent, as well as any additional personal information, such as purchase history, to enable a seamless experience and fast resolution. Millennials repeatedly cite that customer service representatives should know their purchase history to help create a more personalized engagement. Chatbots and other automation tools can be incredibly helpful in many scenarios, but ultimately, they are best served enhancing 1:1 human interactions.
3. Be Careful Which Channels You Use for Follow Up
Millennials view their relationship with brands as exactly that: a relationship. There’s a back and forth required to create that experience, therefore contact centers are an important way to conduct proactive outreach to customers. However, you need to think strategically about which channels you’re applying to different situations—there is no blanket solution when approaching millennials.
Look specifically at the type of follow up you need to conduct. Is it a survey requesting feedback on a recent interaction? An email would be most appropriate. Was there a change in the service that requires immediate action? Pick up the phone. You need to match the channel with the nature of the outreach in order to demonstrate to the customer that you understand their needs and preferences, and are ultimately trying to make a better experience for them.
Millennials Can Be Your Strongest Allies
Accounting for $1.3 trillion in annual buying power, millennials continue to be a top priority for businesses. As they are the first digital generation, building a strategy that touches upon key expectations of millennials will provide a much-needed blueprint for the digital natives in the generations that follow. Prioritizing the end-to-end customer journey, crafting an experience that resonates with millennials and aligning the contact center to consistently deliver a seamless experience across channels will be important steps in turning these customers into advocates for your brand.