Customer Care for Generation Y and Z

News flash: After a single negative experience, 51% of customers will never do business with that company again (Source: NewVoiceMedia). We always think we can apologise to a customer, send them a 10% coupon and everything will be back to normal. Well, not really. Customers in 2020 are harder to please. Excellent customer service is becoming the new norm (yas!). Slowly but steadily.

To understand what drives people away from businesses, let's have a look at nine things millennials hate about customer service:

1. The callback that never happened

"Yes, Mr Betschki, I will address this with the responsible department and give you a call back once I have a solution."

This has happened to me multiple times: companies promise a callback and then never actually bother to dial your number again. If you want to gain the trust of your customers, stick to your promises, even if it's about small things like a callback.

2. "Sorry, I am not authorised to do that."

As a customer, I can't think of much worse than an employee that is not authorised to help me. "It's company policy" or "I am not authorised to do that" are some of the worst phrases in customer service. It means that a company is not flexible enough to meet customers expectations and restricts its team members.

Yes, tiered support teams make sense, but never make the customer feel like they just wasted their time - which is what you're doing when one of your staff members has to tell them they can't help.

3. Not communicating

This point actually comes from Twitter (👋 follow me @jannisnbetschki). I have found this tweet through some re-tweets, and it summarises my feelings so well:

Remember the story about my new car. If you haven't read it, you can have a look here. Never, ever leave your customers hanging.

4. Hiding behind excuses

If a customer calls you, they have one single expectation: they want you to fix their problem. Sentences like "Oh, this happened because of delivery company XYZ. There is nothing I can do, unfortunately. Please wait a few days until they try to arrange delivery again." might be factually correct, but - once again - leaves the customer hanging.

Instead, say the following: "I see that there was a problem with your delivery. Sorry about that. I will follow up with them right away and send you a quick email right after."

Your customer expects an answer from you. All subcontractors are - in the end - your responsibility. Be accountable for that, and you will gain your customers' trust.

5. Using obvious canned responses

Let's face it: every single customer service team uses them — canned responses. They are as old as our trade and save a ton of time. After all, most customers ask the same 3-4 questions.

While I fully understand the purpose of those canned responses, here are two thoughts:

  1. Instead of writing canned response after canned response, how about fixing the underlying issue? Are your customers always asking about your return policy? Do they want to know what payment methods you accept? Instead of writing and sending those templates, improve your self-service options or the user experience on your website.
  2. If you have to use a canned response, make it personal. There is a difference between a stone-cold template that has the character of a dementor and a well-written, personalised message that you re-use from time to time.

6. Waiting in your queue forever

I have mentioned this before in a different post, but it makes me angry every single time. People, we are in the 21st century. We have options to use technology. I bet most of your phone systems run on cloud-based software.

So, why are we still sending people to an endless call queue where they wait minute after minute and end up more frustrated than before? What's the alternative? It's straightforward, and I have had great success with this myself: let your phone ring for 30 seconds, and if an agent picks up, great connect the customer (duh). If all agents are busy, or after the 30 seconds passed (let's hope they are not just ignoring your callers), play a very simple message: "Hey! Thank you for calling XYZ. Currently, all lines are busy. Nevertheless, we have received your call. You can hang up the phone, and we will call you back, once a member of our team is available."

Your phone system should now send an automated email to your help desk software, informing your agents of the missed call. Your goal: call that person back within 5 minutes, so they have to spend less time on the phone. Technology is beautiful, I know.

7. Support channels that are stuck in the past

As we all know, Germany is often very rigid and traditional. While there are many great and innovative start-ups, contacting the customer service of a "traditional old-school" company will always give you a headache. Here is what their support channels usually look like:

  • send a fax and never hear back
  • call a number between 10:00-12:00 and 14:00-16:00 - but wait in a queue for 20 minutes
  • send an email and receive a reply after two weeks
  • send a letter and eventually hear back if the post office doesn't lose it

You can see, big old German businesses are like a time-machine that combines all my fears. It's like a horror movie that came to life. Really scary.

8. Not delivering on a promise

In my company, we regularly order IT equipment for employees. Always from the same store, a medium-sized chain with multiple locations across Germany. Recently, we needed something a bit quicker than usual and booked morning express shipping for an additional 25€. The promise: our order would arrive the next day between 7:30-10:00 am.

One of my colleagues came early to be here, in case the delivery guy shows up at 7:30. The time passed and at 10:00 am we still haven't received anything. Great, isn't it. We waited and waited and only found out what happened hours later. I guess you can imagine the frustration on our side.

9. Phone menus ("IVR")

Let's imagine that I have a problem with the heating in my apartment. The radiator isn't working for days, and I just want somebody to fix it. What will most people do? Call their landlord!

Here in Germany, we mostly rent from bigger agencies, so I call my landlord's service centre.

"Welcome to the XYZ service centre. Your request is important to us. If you have an inquiry about viewing possibilities, please press 'one'. If you would like to know more about our services, please press 'two'. If you are already renting from us and have a question regarding payments, please press 'three'. Is there a problem with your apartment? Please press 'four'. To repeat this message, please press 'five'".

Yes, sometimes a menu like this is necessary. But they are simply annoying. Easy as that.


As you can see, most of these points are pretty straightforward. For me, it's always surprising how customer service managers try to implement rules and policies that they would hate themselves as customers. If you are in charge of customer service in your company, please try putting yourself in your customers' shoes before implementing any new policy. You'll do yourself a favour. 😉