For companies seeking stronger consumer relationships, Millennials are natural collaborators. Born between 1980 and 2000, this highly connected generation has changed the way companies interact with consumers. Not hesitant to give their opinion, Millennials are seekers of immediate feedback and expect companies to be present online and ready to engage exactly where and when they want.

Millennials are tech-savvy multi-taskers. According to Forbes, Millennials switch their attention between media platforms (like laptops, smartphones and tablets) 27 times per hour on average, compared to only 17 times for previous generations.

These changing behaviors are affecting the way companies interact with consumers. To stay competitive, companies must adapt their approach to reach this new generation.

The New Generation

Millennials’ behavior, values and other forms of social interaction are influenced by 24/7 access to the internet. Growing up in an era of saturated information means Millennials are more likely to challenge the status quo.

Their motivations are also changing. Consumers aren’t as motivated to act by commercials anymore. Millennials have much larger networks than the generations before them and they look to receive a personal recommendation, rather than being ‘told’ to buy via an advertisement. Their decision making is much more collaborative.

Customer service used to be confined to telephone and over the counter interactions, however a diverse range of channels such as chat, social media and mobility are now available to choose from. These new channels are the preferred choice of Millennials, making them a ‘game-changing’ force from a customer service perspective.

Targeting Millennials

For Millennials, it’s all about personalization. They seek out only the information that’s relevant to them. Millennials will want to know ‘what’s in it for me?’, so it’s important for companies to spell this out. When buying a product, they hone in on the specific features that meet their needs. This behavior means any communication must be tailored to their individual requirements.

Millennials are also notorious for being ‘convenience consumers’. Customer service needs to be accessible and fast. It’s not always about being impatient, a word often associated with Millennials; it’s about having access to the right information. Companies serving this generation need to be available through the right channels at the right hours. If there are barriers or delays, Millennials will happily go elsewhere. Companies need to be available or risk losing them to competitors.

Millennials share what they like with friends, family and wider audiences via social networks so give them engaging and compelling content to play with. Companies that make it easy to share great experiences via ‘word of mouse’ have the potential to boost brand sentiment. Positive comments online can also lead to new customers and increased sales.

It’s also important for companies to extend the experience. Millennials have fewer dollars to spend than previous generations but are willing to spread out spending over multiple pay periods. Be sure to influence that future spending now by cross-training customer service reps with sales skills to offer promos and incentives for Millennials to return.

Millennials also like visuals, with 68 per cent reporting to use YouTube to browse and research retailers. Smart companies use videos or images to connect customers with their brands online. Help Millennials buy with their eyes and while doing so, be sure to speak their language – keeping communications short and relevant.

Engaging Millennials

To effectively engage Millennials, you must go to where they are and join in the conversation. Friends of “Facebook fans” represent a set of consumers 34 times larger than the original fan base alone. Engaging with consumers online can increase your digital consumer reach.

There are many customer service channels available including voice, email, online chat, social care (queries dealt with via social media channels), text message and mobile. Obviously the more channels available, the more consumers you’re likely to satisfy. However which are most popular with Millennials?

  • Email: Email is convenient and easy to use, which appeals to the Millennial generation, however email is declining as a preferred channel. It also doesn’t help that many companies redirect consumers to their websites to source answers for themselves. Millennials, like all customers, expect relevant responses; any redirection will aggravate individuals.
  • Online chat: Online chat allows companies to talk to Millennials in real-time via its website – an important offering for Millennials. It’s easy to use, cost effective and customers can multi-task while the customer service representative (CSR) responds. However your CSR must respond quickly and be well versed with the company’s brand, products and services to prevent this valuable offering turning into a cause for complaint.
  • Telephone support: People like to speak to other people; it makes them feel valued. While it may not be Millennials first choice of communication, they expect it and may notice if it’s not offered. However when a company experiences high call volumes (e.g. following an incident), customers, regardless of generation, will get frustrated when kept on hold or when greeted with a poorly designed interactive voice response menu.
  • ‘Social care’: Whether invited or not, Millennials ask questions via social networks, opening a ‘back door’ into customer service. Millennials like sharing information so when a person voices a complaint, help comes from all corners and companies may feel like the whole world is listening. The big warning is that Millennials will publicly complain if enquiries are ignored. In contrast, companies embracing an active ‘social care’ program are likely to be rewarded with increased loyalty, higher conversion rates, and greater retention from the Millennial generation.
  • Texting and mobile support: Texting offers flexibility, allowing Millennials to ask questions whenever, wherever, and however they like. It’s affordable too with many consumers having unlimited text messages or large data packages as part of their mobile service plans. The drawback is that responses may be too long or complex for texting or mobile apps to handle. Gently moving the individual to a more suitable communication channel is critical in this instance.

When Millennials reach customer support in whichever communication channel they choose, the customer service representative needs to be empowered to deal with enquiries immediately, while making the experience personal and potentially shareable. Every customer interaction is a great opportunity to amplify the brand beyond that one touchpoint.

Creating Brand Advocates

Once you’ve connected with this generation, you can invite them to share their opinions and by default, become your brand advocate.

  • Flatter them: Millennials like to be told they are doing a good job. Remember to say “thank you” and “well done” via Twitter or other social channels when applicable. You could also highlight individuals or share their comments via your company website (with permission); everyone likes to be recognized.
  • Motivate them: Give Millennials a reason to come back. Once you’ve engaged the first time, prepare to follow up and keep the conversation going. You can never go wrong by offering experiences, guidance, products and services to this generation for free!
  • Collaborate with them: Work with your Millennial audience and listen to what they have to say. Once Millennials see their opinions have been heard, ask for their feedback and post it online. Once they see their opinion has been acknowledged, they are likely to share it with their networks and promote the fact your company listened.
  • Empower them: Once Millennials know about your company and have had a great interaction, empower them to share. Provide content that’s easy to promote and your Millennial fans are likely to pass it along via their own networks.

When executed well, companies see the impact of Millennials using their social outreach to become brand ambassadors. It’s a goal that’s well worth striving for with the return on investment being customer loyalty and increased sales.

What’s next?

Just as generations change, so do their expectations. With technology advancing quickly, companies have to keep up with people’s preferred communications channels.

  • Stay current: Millennials expect companies to be available, even on the newest channels. It’s not just about Twitter and Facebook anymore. If your customers are on Pinterest, Google Plus, SlideShare, and so on, then why aren’t you? Keeping up with the new ways of communicating is important.
  • Meaning: Millennials expect a company to “stand for something.” They look to express themselves through the brands they associate with, so be bold with your brand and its significance.
  • Be transparent: Millennials are sceptical. Never say something that’s unattainable or you can’t follow through with. Millennials are investigative by nature given the wealth of information available online so always be honest.
  • Ask: Millennials like to be asked their opinions. If you are struggling to determine what’s working, what’s not working and where to go next, Millennials will tell you. Two-way communication is a gold mine.

Final word

Millennials are willing to collaborate more than any generation before them. They like giving their opinions and respect companies who tailor their communication mediums to two-way dialogue. Go where Millennials spend their time and engage in a conversation. Collaborate and listen: that’s the key to building brand ambassadors among the Millennial generation.

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