They create six-second videos and have never seen a fax machine. They don’t know the price of a postage stamp, and some have never used one. And in the U.S. they earn an average of $16 per week—as allowance from their parents—which amounts to an annual total of $44 billion to spend at a store near you.
As Generation X settles into middle age and Gen Y (aka the Millennials) looks for their first big promotion, here comes Generation Z. Gen X might have monetized the Internet and Gen Y socialized it, but members of Gen Z—who make up 26% of the American population—speak it as their first language. So what does that mean for Gen Z as consumers? What is the ideal customer experience for them? It may still be on the early side to fully anticipate the preferred Gen Z CX, but here are a few early predictions on how to please the most digitally native generation to date…
Hang Up the Phone
If you want to engage with the cohort generally considered to have been born between 1995 and 2010, put down the archaic device that’s ten times their age. This group lives online (73% are plugged in within an hour of waking). So truly responsive customer service needs to prioritize reaching them via email, text, chat—and, primarily, social media. Popular Gen Z targets like Supreme clothes, YouTube, and Snapchat don’t even offer telephone support. And some Gen Zers have already deleted the phones from their phones. But recent studies suggest that a Gen Z majority (53%) actually prefers face-to-face engagements over digital interactions, which could be great news for in-store retail service.
Leave Them Alone
Gen Z is incredibly self-educated. They are accustomed to getting all the facts they need through Wikipedia, YouTube, and Google searches. The companies who will resonate with them best are likely those who let them solve their own problems through customer service platforms that encourage self-service, enabling users to research and resolve issues by searching a robust online help topic database (Twitter has 12 separate FAQ sections navigable by subject area). Consider setting up help forums to let customers assist each other, and post how-to videos to YouTube, which 93% of Gen Zers say they tune in to at least once a week. Naturally, YouTube has a video help channel as part of its own support service.
It’s an anecdotal truism that Gen Z processes information faster due to their early exposure to digital media. But the digital citizenry also have the shortest attention spans. Just ask Secret, the popular mobile app favored by Gen Z—for about a year—before privacy concerns and lack of interest killed the anonymous social platform within 16 months of its launch. What does work for Gen Z? Ten-second videos: the hallmark of one of their favorite platforms, Snapchat. Supreme sends “snap-sales”: Snapchat stories delivered daily to alert customers about short-lived sales (which sometimes create lines so long that have to be monitored by the police). And speaking of “snaps”…
Facebook is so 2007, when these kids were still in grade school. While their big brothers might still be posting 5th-year college reunion pictures, these kids have moved on. It’s time for everyone to learn the fine art of the “regram.” But you can still encourage Gen Z to sign in to your business via Facebook and Twitter, because while their use of these older platforms is lower—65% and 27% of them, respectively, still check those platforms at least once a week—the instantaneity of a check-in or page “like” does allow them to quickly associate with your brand.
Gen Z is the most multicultural American generation yet, with the lowest White population (53%) and nearly 1 in 4 a member of the growing Hispanic community. So consider adding multilingual capabilities to your CX platform, but not necessarily for them: 93% were born in the U.S. It’s for their parents, who are still paying the bills for the majority of their purchases. (And for that reason, your phone banks may still come in handy, even where Gen Z is concerned.)
Listen—They’ll Tell You Everything
This group doesn’t just share selfies; they’re publicly publishing their every concern and demand. From intimate reveals on Whisper’s “Your Voice” about coming out of the closet or living with bipolar disorder, to allowing Taco Bell to “revine” their homemade fan videos to a huge audience via 6.5-second Vine clips, Gen Z is quick to offer up who they are, what they like, and how they want it.
And listening carefully might be what’s key, as the habits of this generation continue to emerge. Will more companies soon abandon 800 numbers? Video may have killed the radio star, but Gen Z might kill the traditional call center. No one knows just yet what the optimal CX experience for this group will turn out to be, but it’s clear that they won’t be shy about letting you know. If you can keep them focused long enough.