What are the Characteristics of the ‘On-Demand’ Generation?
Although the on-demand generation is typically associated with a younger generation born from the mid 80’s onwards, we need to view this generation as not age specific. It is a generation that covers anyone who has embraced technology to control their world and uses technology to receive either goods, services or emotional gratification on-demand. This is a generation that posts their life on Facebook, books cars using Uber, learns using Google, entertains using Netflix, and tracks pizza deliveries in real-time on the Domino’s website. Yes, this is the generation that has an app for everything. It’s the generation that can’t be separated from their mobile phone. It’s the generation that most importantly expects to receive most things immediately.
The on-demand generation has the following key characteristics:
- Intolerance towards anything that just simply doesn’t work and is not intuitive
- Intolerance towards delays in the delivery of goods and services
- An expectation that they will receive gratification from the use of technology
- An expectation that there will be no compromise in quality
- An expectation they will be able to get anything they want online at any time of the day
What Motivates the On-Demand Generation?
The on-demand generation has been conditioned by their high-tech environment to respond in a particular way. For example, Facebook has provided the platform for a generation to receive a sense of social belonging and self-esteem though instant “likes”. Digital interactions now satisfy many of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs required by people across all cultures.
Maslow’s theory attempts to explain how people are motivated. He developed a five stage model based on our basic deficiencies that drive us throughout life. These deficiencies are basic needs that motivate us into action when they are unmet. The original model was divided into five categories of need (e.g. physiological, safety, love, and esteem) and growth needs (self-actualisation). The model was later expanded to include eight stages. The additional stages included:
- Cognitive needs – knowledge, meaning, etc.
- Aesthetic needs – appreciation and search for beauty, balance, form, etc.
- Transcendence needs – helping others to achieve self-actualization
Maslow highlights that the motivation necessary to fulfil such needs increases the longer they are denied. For example, the longer a person goes without food, the hungrier they will become.
Recent (2015) research by Dr Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, identified that adaptation is the “enemy of happiness since we adapt to most things”. Therefore, things like a new material purchase make us happy initially, but very quickly we adapt to it, and it doesn’t bring us all that much joy. Other kinds of expenditure, such as experiential purchases, don’t seem as subject to adaptation.
Gilovich conducted studies about five years ago that found people get more enduring happiness from their experiences than their possessions.
If we take Maslow’s basic theory on what motivates people and temper it with Gilovich’s recent research on the impact of our overpowering ability to constantly adapt, then we can begin to develop a better understanding of what will motivate the on-demand generation.
As the on-demand generation adapts to the instantaneous satisfaction when ordering anything from food to a car, or having access to encyclopaedic knowledge, the logical evolution is towards satisfying needs yet unmet such as:
- Cognitive needs – knowledge and deeper meaning of the world and the things in it
- Aesthetic needs – beauty
- Self-Actualisation – realising your full potential as a person
- Transcendence needs – helping others to achieve self-actualization
The on-demand generation is likely to be motivated by:
- Beautifully crafted technology that is considered fashionable (the function of the technology will only contribute to 50% of the buying decision);
- Services that further reduce effort , increase control and improve the quality of life (for example, social media has become a daily chore for many so a service to reduce this effort will be appealing);
- Experiences that provide opportunities for greater social belonging
- Products and services that enhance body image, fast track a career or financial standing
- Smart machines that were once dumb (for example, fridges that can order your food when you run low on essential supplies)
- Customer Service that is personal, provides positive reinforcement, and elevates them to a higher sense of worth (loyalty programs in their current form are no longer appealing)
- Companies and government bodies that use a portion of their revenues to actively help others and can demonstrate they have made a difference (it will no longer be sufficient to be a silent donor).
Redefining the meaning of being ‘Cool’
If companies and government want to provide great customer experiences, they need to understand what the new definitions of being ‘cool’ means and how they can provide desirable experiences for their customers or citizens.
Organisations wanting to provide appealing productions and services to the on-demand generation need to have a good understanding of the importance of being cool. The definition of ‘cool’ in the context of this topic is an adjective and can best be defined as follows:
“Something that is at the forefront of the latest trends or developments, is fashionable but unlikely to go out of style, and performs better than other products and services in its category”
If we use this definition of ‘cool’ and apply the unmet needs likely to motivate the on-demand generation, we can begin to imagine the types of products and services we need to design to deliver the types of experiences that will attract the on-demand generation.
Delivering ‘cool’ experiences has now become an arduous task since the on-demand generation has high expectations around what is now considered ‘cool’ and the bar has been elevated to new heights. Besides being ubiquitous and instantaneous, the requirements for being ‘cool’ now include:
- It needs to be beautiful
- It needs to be ‘new’
- It needs to reduce effort further
- It needs to elevate me in society
- It needs to perform faultlessly
Being ‘cool’ is an important concept for the on-demand generation as this is the generation currently working their way up the hierarchy of Maslow’s unmet needs. They are the generation that consumes anything that helps make them relevant. It’s a generation that has had to compete with unprecedented social chatter through social media and the self-publishing phenomena. The noise created by social media and its global reach has led to many people struggling with personal insecurities. Overcoming personal insecurities requires individuals to receive constant affirmations of their worth in social, family and work groups. Consuming ‘cool’ products and services helps this generation confirm their relevance amongst social groups and satisfy a number of unmet needs.
Designing Interactions for the On-Demand Generation
Having ‘cool’ products and services to satisfy new unmet needs and expectations for the on-demand generation is insufficient. You need to do more than simply to deliver a good customer experience to keep them coming back. The assumption that this approach will grow your business through customer loyalty and advocacy of your brand is no longer relevant. Careful design around interactions with customers is essential to ensure the entirety of their experience with your organisation delivers an overall image that you are a ‘cool’ organisation. As long as this image is perpetuated, then customers will keep coming back.
Before you design your customer interactions, you will need to have a strategy. To construct an interaction strategy you will need to consider the following:
- The profile of your customers
- The differentiators of your products or services most valued by your current customers
- Most annoying aspects of your competitors’ services
- Most annoying aspects of your product or services as viewed by your customers
- The preferred customer channel(s)
- The cost/benefit equation by channel
A strategy should be developed by considering the dimensions outlined above. Once the strategy is developed then each customer interaction in each channel should be carefully designed.
When designing a customer interaction ensure there is consistency across all channels otherwise customers will not be able to associate your brand with a clear identity. An excellent experience in one channel will easily be negated by a poor experience in another channel resulting in a negative experience for the customer that will create frustration and likely lead to desertion of your brand.
It’s also important to not try and be too cool as this will likely backfire as a strategy. I recall when Virgin Blue launched their airline in Australia, passengers would board the plane and were greeted with sassy crew trying really hard to be ‘cool’. Not all passengers are in the mood for sassy crew. Before long Virgin realised this was not a sustainable strategy and stopped the try-hard ‘cool’ behaviour on all their flights.
The interactions should be designed across key channels. The ones to consider should include the following:
- Social media
- Snail mail
- Self-service (web/kiosk/mobile/IVR)
Emerging channels to consider include:
- Smart machines
The on-demand generation has largely resorted to self-service, web, and mobile as their preferred channels. This gravitation towards digital access of the world around them will eventually increase the need for human-to-human interaction. Face-to-face human interaction is the most powerful means to satisfy the need for belonging and affection. As outlined earlier, the desire to fulfil the unmet need increases the longer the need is unmet. Based on this, it is our opinion that face-to-face interactions will become the key differentiator for customer experience in the future.
Fundamental Rules for Face-to-Face Interactions
It’s not surprising to know that Apple has a better brand image than Google. The experience provided at the Apple store to their customers is a cool experience. Customers can walk into the store and ask someone about how to use their device or play with other devices on dining room tables. Google does not have a store and as such remains faceless. It’s a 100% pure online brand with no retail presence. The inability to “press the flesh” of Google will always place them at a disadvantage to their competitor brand with comparable products and services.
Mastering face-to-face interactions has the potential to yield a key point of difference in the marketplace and place a brand ahead of its competition. Successfully achieving this is a difficult task and many organisations are still doing it incorrectly, wasting resources and contributing to brand damage. There are some fundamental guidelines to follow to avoid making mistakes with face-to-face interactions. Some of the do’s and don’ts include:
- Train your staff to read body language and people’s moods
- Train staff to have a strategy around the mood of the customer
- Train your staff not to hassle customers
- Train your staff on how to always be pleasant and never sarcastic
- Use customer names instead of issuing a numbered ticket to wait for service
- Train your staff to be authentic
- Train your staff to have conversations with customers and that’s it’s ok to not make a sale if they are unsure about a product or service
- Train your staff to manage customer energy levels and lift customers to positive energy levels. Getting customers to feel good about themselves is the key regardless of whether a sale is made or not
- Train your staff in understanding cultural and gender differences, but not to typecast people at the same time
- Don’t train staff to use a script when talking to customers
- Don’t train staff to fake smile
- Don’t have a strict uniform policy
- Don’t hand out numbered tickets and ask customers to wait their turn
- Don’t train your staff to sell product or service
- Don’t hire staff who are not genuine advocates of your product or service in the first place
- Don’t hire staff whose cultural/sociological difference is not in synch with your brand and may create a barrier to your customers. This may go against political correctness, but trust levels have been proven to diminish because of inherent prejudices we all have when we meet someone vastly different to us. Staff need to be brand appropriate and appeal to your customers; strong differences to your customer profile may hinder that.
- Don’t overwork your staff. Face-to-face work can be emotionally and physically draining
The on-demand generation has learnt to live life though their mobile phone, social media and microblogging sites. For them, it’s less tolerable to accept long queues and fake scripted service in a face-to-face interaction. They crave authentic interactions without the hidden agendas since this is what they have become used to when they interact online.
Organisations able to deliver moments of authenticity in a pleasant and personal manner without the pressure to purchase an item will gain an edge in face-to-face interactions.
Understanding Mood and Energy Levels
Having a single approach to face-to-face interactions will simply not work for the on-demand generation. Assuming all customers are the same and using a scripted approach is a flawed assumption likely to contribute in damaging your brand. Understanding the relationship between a person’s mood and their energy levels is integral to mastering face-to-face interactions.
A person’s mood is a reflection of how they are feeling. A tired or hungry person will have a different mood to a person who has just received a bonus cheque or had their first cup of coffee in the morning. Mood is often reflected in body language, facial expressions and tone of voice. Teaching staff to understand how to read another person’s mood is an essential element in applying the right approach in the interaction.
A person in a negative mood will be less responsive towards positive information and will be more critical of the information they are presented with. On the converse a person in a positive mood will absorb positive information and be more responsive towards the value a product or service may offer them.
Research in the impact of mood in information processing (Trope, Ferguson, & Raghunathan, 2000; Trope & Fishbach, 2000; Trope & Neter, 1994) confirms positive mood enhances people’s ability to act according to their long-term goals rather than according to competing short-term outcomes. A positive mood presumably facilitates elaborate processing of such emotionally aversive but potentially useful information. When people are in a positive mood, they feel more confident coping with the negative emotional impact of negative information.
Klaus R. Scherer provides us with some insights into how we can map emotional states into a dimensional graph to help identify emotional states associated with positive and negative energy levels.
Face-to-face staff need to be trained to read moods of people and apply the appropriate strategy to effectively manage the interaction. The aim is to drive the interaction to achieve an emotional state that is associated with positive energy to ensure the information regarding the product or service is processed in the most favourable way. Furthermore, staff need to be encouraged to do what is required to ensure the customer does not, in any way, leave with a negative emotion; even if it requires staff to simply leave the customer alone.
The impact of positive energy to achieve optimal performance was discussed in detail in our paper titled Full Organisational Engagement. It identified the importance of creating continual positive energy in the organisation to achieve full organisational engagement if a CX program was to become a sustainable differentiator.
Creating Appropriate Moments of Pleasure
The on-demand generation has become accustomed to carefully crafted and designed technology applications that deliver effortless and intuitive interfaces for the user. The online organisations that have won over this generation have done so by meticulously analysing every line, colour, box, and font that exists in the user interface. Their aim has been to deliver the right experience for the user based on the type of function the application is to perform. When we speak of function we no longer refer to just utilitarian outcomes but more to the emotional manipulation occurring on the subconscious level. User interface designers are trained to place the right combination of colour, line size, font size, positioning on the page, and number of steps required to complete a process. Their aim is to get you using their application or device on a repeated basis for as long as possible. This can only be achieved when there is a pleasurable emotional exchange that is triggered.
The advantage of the face-to-face interaction is the access to our other senses. Other channels are usually limited to 1 or 2 senses (sight and sound). All the senses, sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste can be utilised to deliver a memorable and pleasurable experience for the person. As soon as a person enters your premises they should instantly feel the uniqueness of your brand and why they want to own or belong to it. Each setting needs to create a clear subconscious message for the person entering about your brand and what it stands for. It needs to be appropriate for the brand. For example, think of the no thrills warehouse layout when you enter a Costco store compared to the all-encompassing deep engagement achieved when you enter a Hollister store set up like an up-market, dream-like, island surf shop. Both experiences represent their brands well. The Costco store portrays the low-cost, bulk purchase advantage whilst the Hollister experience takes you to a fantasy dream-like experience full of summer delight and the beautiful bodies to go with it! They are appropriate for the message portrayed by each brand, and physically set the scene for the perfect environment for their customer, creating a ‘moment of pleasure’.
Setting the appropriate scene for your brand experience requires you to design a strategy for the following:
- Background music
- Volume of the music
- Flooring colour and covering
- Wall colours and covering
- Smells in the store
- Available stock
- Customer walk flow and queue management
- Amenities for the customers
- Number of staff to customers
- What staff member does what and when
- Checkout and customer service support
There are other considerations for setting the right scene but these are the key ones. The on-demand generation does not have time for face-to-face interactions where the organisation has not paid meticulous attention to the setting. All the senses need to be catered for to provide a richer experience than online and at the same time satisfying a fundamental need for immersive social interaction not available online or through self-service channels.
The on-demand generation is all about taking and having control over the world around them and making sure the decision to purchase anything is largely driven by themselves. If we take this trait and apply it in a face-to-face interaction it means that the worst thing you can do is be all over your customer when they enter your store. The on-demand generation wants to experience your product and service and prefers to approach you when they need assistance. This requires you to have a strategy that carefully balances the experience of your product and service with the face-to-face interaction. Remember, ultimately customers are going there to “press the flesh” but also to receive that deeper human interaction missing from self-service channels.
Your setting should help elevate your customer to the positive emotion end of the spectrum discussed earlier. Making your customers feel good will help in creating an interaction which is pleasurable. Your goal needs to always be how you can make the customer keep coming back, regardless of the sale. Ultimately, if you follow the outlines in this paper, the sales will follow.
Moments of pleasure need to be appropriate to your brand and setting. For example, trying to sell products at an airport lounge where members go to relax prior to a flight is inappropriate. Deeper social interaction is the key to achieving the desired moments of pleasure and has more impact on your customer than the setting created.
Customers are likely to overlook any flaws in your setting if the social interaction fulfils a fundamental need, even if momentarily. There are some common aspects to a pleasurable interaction that apply regardless of the product or service. These ingredients are powerful because they cut-through to the heart of what the on-demand generation is going to be seeking and defines a great customer experience.
These interaction guidelines are as follows:
- Remember to use your customer’s name in the interaction
- Remember an important date such as a birthday, anniversary or loss of a loved one and acknowledge it when close to the day
- Remember the name of their child, partner or favourite pet
- Listen equally to what they are saying and how they are saying it
- Be empathetic if the conversation leads to a complaint and acknowledge the problem
- Speak at the same rhythmic tone of your customer but never use an angry tone if this is displayed by your customer
- Never use sarcasm or emphasis a point that is not agreed by your customer
- Try and take the conversation to a place where the customer feels comfortable expressing their feeling
- Always end the conversation in a pleasant manner
Author Alexander Lowen sums up well when a conversation is pleasurable:
We enjoy a conversation when there is a communication of feeling. We have pleasure in expressing our feelings, and we respond pleasurably to another person’s expression of feeling. The voice, like the body, is a medium through which feeling flows, and when this flow occurs in an easy and rhythmic manner, it is a pleasure both to the speaker and listener.”
Author: Alexander Lowen
Applying a strategy to properly manipulate all the senses in a face-to-face interaction to reflect your brand, and deliver an “appropriate moment of pleasure”, is the differentiator for delivering exceptional customer experiences for the on-demand generation.
Kinetic is an award winning company that has provided numerous organisations, and government around the globe with consulting and operational management in the customer experience and management domains.
 McLeod, S. A. (2014). Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html
 May 27,2015: Cornell Chronicle, Cornell University
“Apple passes Google as the world’s most valuable brand, ranking says”. May 27, 2015 http://mashable.com/2015/05/27/most-valuable-brands/
 Raghunathan, & Trope (2002) Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the American Psychological Association, Inc.,. Walking the Tightrope Between Feeling Good and Being Accurate: Mood as a Resource in Processing Persuasive Messages..
 Scherer, Klaus (2005) Trends and developments: research on emotions. What are emotions? And how can they be measured? Volume 44. No. 4. P.720
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