Generation Y

The 80s gave us a lot of things: Personal computers, BMW obsessions, the music of U2, and a new generation of consumers and workers identified as Generation Y, or the Millennials. This generation is very different than any other that came before it.

As they begin to take the reins of our consumer economy, it is important to understand how these differences translate into how they want to do business. The business world will have to adjust its business as usual approach to accommodate their specific demands for their customer experience.

A Different Kind of Consumer

Journalist Joel Stein described Millennials as the ME ME ME generation in his TIME magazine article where he characterizes them as people with their smartphones raised constantly to photograph themselves to post online. His article raised quite a stir in online communities. Whether Stein is right or wrong in his description of them remains to be seen, but he raises some interesting points about this new consumer generation. In order to do business with this generation, you definitely need to understand them.

Millennials are different than their predecessors because in many ways they grew up in a different world. Many of them have never known a world without the Internet, and shudder at the thought of that dark, slow and unconnected time. They believe in the power of technology and they are not afraid to use it to its full extent.

The millennials have a very specific list of demands as it pertains to their consumer interactions. They grew up online in a email world of immediacy. They are very savvy consumers and price-conscious. They are far more likely to search for products and services they want and need online first, and will use a variety of different devices to do so. They expect to have access to answers 24 hours a day and like to be able to solve their own problems as much as possible, rather than wait 30 minutes for a call to be answered by a help line. Most of all, they believe it is their right to have what they want, the way they want it NOW!

I know all this as my kids are Millennials. I love technology and therefore immersed them in this from an early age. They are never off the web. In fact at a barbeque this past weekend, they told that they feel a need to be connected and are ‘naked’ without it. But when they say connected, they don’t mean by phone call. They mean by any other digitial means. Nobody their age calls anyone anymore.

Honestly, this was not news to me. The only reason they were present at the barbeque is because I texted them to tell them to be there. I send my son appoints over outlook, we converse on Twitter and facebook. When in Rome, do as the Romans do…

This behaviour is typical of generation Y. They want to be in touch, but they want to control the interaction and respond in their own time. They want to be connected, but they don’t want to be too engaged. This transfers over into their Customer Experience. They expect to be able to interact digitally with companies through integrated multi-channels (live web chat, SMS text, email, etc.) and they believe that someone should get back to them within 12 hours, if not sooner. But not live – unless it’s by chat.

Millennials have high standards and high expectations and a good Customer Experience, but when it comes to pricing they expect it to be low. As a result they are savvy shoppers who use aggregator sites to get the best price. Millennials love brands and live on social media, so they take recommendations from friends seriously into account when they make their buying decisions.

A New Customer Experience for a New Kind of Customer

With all of these changes to the habits and lives of our consumers, businesses would be wise to adapt to the changing demands of the consumer. I have a few suggestions for how to adapt your experience to accommodate these demanding new customers:

  • Make sure you have several channels for interaction for your customer experience. I recommend many self-service options for Millennials to solve their problems on their own or with minimal direct interaction, which include: Live Chat, Social Media Outlets, SMS Text service, and Video Instruction. Call Centers are likely to be their last resort for answers.
  • Your digital presence should adapt to the devices Millennials use. More than ever, a digital presence that takes advantage of all technology that is used to access it is critical to your perceived value. You need both a great regular website and a mobile version. Plus, the mobile version must be quick to load and easy to navigate from the multiple devices your Millennials will be using to see your site. Remember too that as technology changes, this group will be the first to change with it. So staying up-to-date with the latest and greatest advances in technology is critical to maintaining your digital image and reputation with Millennials.
  • Ensure that your social media platform is personal, responsive and empathetic. Millennials live their lives on social media and that includes their business transactions. I did a webinar on this topic, What Drives Value in the Social Media Experience?, that fully explains the value of social media interactions as part of the customer experience for your organization. This is critical to master when you interact with the Millennial generation.
  • Be sure to promote your value proposition digitally. The value you that you provide along with your goods or services needs to be included in any digital interaction you have with your potential or current Millennial customers. This generation negotiates everything and will go with the lowest price unless they see the value of paying more for what you offer. Be sure they know what that is.
  • Continue to build your brand and give your customers outlets to promote it. Millennials are more likely to take the recommendation of their friends. Because Millennials are brand-loyal and live socially, do your best to provide outlets for your fans to promote your product to their sphere of social influence to find your new customers and future promoters. Kalina Janevska outlines the importance of this strategy on our blog with her post, Online Reviews and The Customer Experience.
  • Exploit their willingness to give you information. This generation understands business better than ever before so are more willing to play the game. Millennials know that in order to get things for free they must be willing to give up valuable information about their habits and preferences. Use this willingness to learn how to attract and retain this generation. Give them free services in exchange for access to this wealth of information.

Millennials may be the ME ME ME generation that Stein suggests. But they are also the future consumers of your goods and services. Understanding how they operate and making sure that you are available to them where and when they want you to be can insure that you attract and retain this important source of customers.


Millennials Want It All: So Give It To Them - Colin Shaw

Colin Shaw is founder & CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s first organizations devoted to customer experience. Colin is an international author of four best-selling books & recognized Business Influencer by LinkedIn. Beyond Philosophy provide consulting, specialised research & training from offices in Atlanta, Georgia and London, England.

Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter: