The Millennial Mind: What’s in a Customer Experience?
By Megan Freshley
While millennials are closing in on their peak buying years, companies need to be prepared to deliver tailor-made CX with this mercurial demographic in mind now more than ever. With at least 75.4 millennials in the U.S. today, it’s not news that brands must shape up or ship out to stay up in sales.
So what exactly does this generation want out of a customer experience, how do their expectations differ from those of previous consumers, and how can brands customize customer service offerings to align with this new and rather tricky set of expectations?
Which millennial values translate to CX?
While it’s hard to pin down the values of 75 million, the 10,000-foot view of millennial behavior has now been established long enough to reveal a few unifying characteristics.
Whereas baby boomers expect and appreciate rigorously-guided customer service, millennials prefer to take the reigns themselves and co-create an engaging experience.
Authenticity, spontaneity, and engagement vs. possessions are millennials’ bread and butter, and discerning brands can take advantage of all three by giving customers an experience that feels human.
Does your CX look and feel human?
Most Americans are too familiar with stiff customer service bots on the other end of a phone call. Same as scripted face-to-face interactions in retail and hospitality environments. But while this type of highbrow professionalism once signified a brand’s credibility, today’s consumers translate heavily-proscribed interactions as less trustworthy than casual, freeform exchanges.
While we are still in a world where rigid CX makes brands appear tone-deaf, how do they reach the cool factor millennials crave? Joseph Pine, the thought leader responsible for introducing the world to the notion of the experience economy, says that, with a lot of research and a little panache, a sense of authenticity can be rendered to suit consumer taste. This means beaten-path marketing that feels like marketing is well past its sell-by date, and earning trust is all about giving customers interactive experiences. To land in the sweet spot, those experiences must be both warm and intelligent. Not only that — they also need to blend seamlessly with consumers’ daily lives.
Engagement outweighs any facade
If you’ve been teeter-tottering on a approach to retain and grow your millennial set, there is some good news. Once millennials do catch on to the true appeal of what you offer, they’re there to stay: This generation is steadfast in its brand loyalty, with 50.5 percent reporting that they’re “extremely loyal or quite loyal to their favorite brands.” Their dedication to social and environmental causes means they place a high value on companies with a philanthropic bent, and so much technology at their fingertips means they use the unprecedented online visibility of their friends’ shopping decisions to determine which companies are worth initial attention.
Of course all the perfectly-executed marketing in the world won’t keep brand loyalty afloat without the robust customer support to anchor it. The process of humanizing your CX — of “rendering authenticity” as Pine would put it — should be undertaken with solid metrics and an adventurous spirit. How can your make your CX more lighthearted? More to-the-point? More culturally savvy?
If millennials don’t want to hear a script by phone, read a canned response on social media, or chat with a woefully dim bot, companies have an opportunity to give them the opposite. Take video support for instance. Whereas dollars spent on uniformed employees reading word-for-word from their notes in a sterile environment has customers saying “One time too many,” one casual interaction with a genuinely engaging and knowledgeable staff member can win a customer’s loyalty forever.