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The business of millennials: Consumers, workers and brand loyalty

(Image credit: Image Credit: Startup Stock Photos / Pexels)

The millennial generation has been the subject of speculation, jokes and awe since the term was coined, and is often criticised about its consumer habits and workplace preferences. It’s not surprising—the characteristics of each generation build on cultural norms of the day and are further shaped by current events. Following World War II, Baby Boomers developed a spirit of independence and rode a wave of economic growth. With the rise of technology, Gen X developed a more flexible attitude and embraced work/life balance. Millennials, having been born into homes with multiple computers and cell phones, have embraced technology in unprecedented ways, and it affects how they think, act and buy.

Today, millennials comprise a transformative core of both shoppers and the workforce, and they have a different set of requirements for how they shop and how they work. As workers, they expect job flexibility, and as consumers, they are loyal to experiences, not brands. As such, the connection between brands and their consumers—and the ability to create loyalty—must evolve to reflect these differences, especially in the still vital contact centre, which is often now staffed primarily by millennials. Attracting and keeping the best and brightest contact centre workers and enabling them to support millennial customers requires an understanding of the distinctive attitudes and needs of millennials as well as for businesses to empower agents with the right tools to satisfy these needs.

Businesses that want to successfully engage millennials—as customers and employees—must understand and adapt to these trends.

Experience-based loyalty

Millennials want great experiences. According to Gartner, more than two-thirds of today’s companies compete mostly on customer experience, and in two years’ time, 81 per cent say they expect to be competing mostly or completely on the basis of customer experience. These companies have realised that while a brand name might encourage an initial purchase, it is the experience that determines whether that first purchase will lead to continued brand loyalty. Brands which continue to rely only on name recognition and advertising will struggle to build relationships with millennial consumers and risk losing repeat business. This explains why so many start-ups, such as Lyft, Etsy and HomeAway, who pride themselves on creating personalised experiences for their customers, are successfully disrupting their industries.

Making the shift from brand-name-based loyalty to experience-based loyalty requires enriching human interactions between companies and millennials based on three key shifts:

  • Technology – Millennials love technology, especially their mobile devices. From connecting with friends to sharing a video or ordering an Uber, millennials expect to pull it off with a simple tap or swipe on their device. They want this same experience with the companies they interact with. Complicated menu trees and long wait times equate to a terrible experience. Companies must dig into the customer journey and provide simple, self-service apps that quickly get consumers where they need to be.
  • Personalisation – Millennials expect vendors to anticipate their needs. This requires capturing customer interactions across all digital and voice communication channels and applying advanced analytics to understand specific needs. Sharing these findings across departments in real-time enables teams to prevent process or product-related customer experience gaffes, and instead, design experiences that align with individual expectations.
  • A social conscience – Millennials have come of age in uncertain political, economic and environmental times, which have led them to hold brands more accountable than any generation before. They want brands to be vested in, and take a stand on, their socio-economic plight. As a result, they are drawn to brands that demonstrate a social conscience, such as Toms, that make it easy to do good while giving them business.

Millennials in the contact centre

Given these trends, the interaction between contact centre agents and customers is more important than ever. Contact centre agents must become brand ambassadors focused on encouraging loyalty and upselling as they provide services and answer questions. They must also be able to interact across multiple communication channels. The reliance on mobile devices by consumers has not eliminated the need for human contact. A recent survey found that 74 per cent of customers are more loyal if they can speak to someone, 60 per cent feel like their voices are heard when they speak to a live person, and 48 per cent are more loyal if they get a hold of a company quickly and easily.

To be successful, the contact centre must find the right people with the right skills, and then support these people with the right technology. Given the diverse skillset required, the amount of information agents must deal with and the fast pace of engagement in most contact centres, it is important to identify the profile and skillsets of an ideal contact centre agent. Agents must have excellent verbal and written skills, and be efficient and thorough, dependable and flexible, and coachable and self-driven.

Finding agents with all these attributes, however, is not enough. The contact centre must support millennial employees with the environment they expect and the technology they need to be successful. Flexibility is paramount. Many millennials are more comfortable working remotely, and organisations that can support remote contact centre agents, for example, are at an advantage. They more easily expand their talent pool while also developing increased scheduling flexibility to meet seasonal demand and 24/7 support operations.

In addition to a flexible work environment, contact centre technology must provide digital self-service options for faster customer access to support while relieving agents of monotonous and repetitive tasks, such as requesting account balances, changing passwords, scheduling appointments or troubleshooting minor issues. Artificial intelligence (AI) is also now critical to empowering the organisation to improve customer engagement and gain deeper insights into the customer journey. For example, machine learning (ML) can help companies predict human behaviour—such as identifying at-risk customers—and use that information to remedy the situation and repair the customer relationship before it’s too late.

Finally, given the millennial attitude toward technology, it is essential that the supporting applications in the contact centre be easy to use and present information in a familiar format—akin to mobile apps and social media.

Organisations that want to ensure loyalty must adapt, both in how they interact with their customers and how they build and support the teams responsible for that interaction. By hiring the right people, deploying the right tools in the contact centre, and enriching human interactions, these organisations can meet the competitive demands brought on by the growing dominance of the millennial generation.

Kris McKenzie, Senior Vice President and General Manager for EMEA, Calabrio (opens in new tab)
Image Credit: Startup Stock Photos / Pexels

Kris McKenzie, Senior Vice President and General Manager for EMEA at Calabrio.