Generation Reply: How modern customer service still fails millennials
Hi there, my name is Jannis, I am a millennial, and work in customer service. A few weeks ago, I started a new job, building up customer service from scratch, something I wanted to do for a long time. I quickly realised that there aren't many resources that could help with my specific questions, and I felt the urge to start writing myself: a blog that is dedicated entirely to customer service for millennials.
I believe that a lot is going wrong with customer service as it is. Especially for my generation. As a digital native, I am stunned by what companies manage to pull off in 2020. Here's a story from a few days ago:
I had to change the reservation for a holiday home, my partner and I had rented. Long story short: COVID-19 happened. We intentionally did not book through Airbnb or Booking.com but decided to use a smaller local agency when planning our holiday back in January. The whole experience of rebooking was quite odd for me and left me with a negative feeling. It felt like I was a burden for them, and they didn't want to help. Here is a short overview of what happened:
- The agency has a great web portal to book houses, including a login section. Yet there was no option to rebook or cancel through that.
- The option to rebook was hidden away in a massive PDF document — the terms and conditions
- According to the T&C, I had to write an email to a specific email address.
- That email was not answered for a week. We didn't even receive an auto-responder.
- I decided to call them, but they only had a foreign number. Their target group was clearly German though (I live in Germany).
- I had to click through an extensive phone menu to finally get into the "queue".
- It took them 20 minutes to connect me to a human being.
- Their team member was super friendly and could help me with my problem, but insisted I had to pay an additional rebooking fee. It was clear at this point, however, that an official travel warning would still persist by the time we were initially planning to go.
For me, as a millennial, this experience was a bit confusing, to put it lightly. Small travel agencies, individual hotels, and holiday homeowners are regularly complaining about how the big players on the market are eating away their profits. Yet, I never had any issue with the Booking.com or Airbnb customer service. In fact, I had to cancel a hotel through Booking.com for the same reason and could do that within 30 seconds.
Millennials: the most significant piece of the cake
This entire rebooking process might make complete sense for my grandparent's or my parent's generation. They wouldn't even try to rebook online. For them, it's more natural to pick up the phone and "speak to an actual human being who can help". But — and this is what this blog will be about — millennials, like myself, have overtaken Baby Boomers as the largest consumer demographic.
"As of July 1, 2019 (the latest date for which population estimates are available), Millennials, whom we define as ages 23 to 38 in 2019, numbered 72.1 million, and Boomers (ages 55 to 73) numbered 71.6 million", according to a Pew Research US-study from April this year. So, in short: we are here to stay, and businesses will have to deal with us.
The opportunity here is enormous, yet most companies are still neglecting us. To give you more context: In 2020, it is projected that the millennial's annual spend will grow to $1.4 trillion per year, which will represent 30 percent of total retail sales in the US. So, we are talking about quite a substantial piece of the cake here.
4 things millennials expect from modern customer service
Now that we have established that it is inevitable for businesses to change their approach let's have a look at what millennials really want. Spoiler alert: it has nothing to do with waiting to be connected for 20 minutes.
DIY/Self-Service Customer Service
Fast-food restaurants do it. Airlines do it. You can do it, too! Self-service customer service!
What is that? Well, literally what it says: As a millennial, I expect to be able to help myself. I don't want to call your business, and I don't want to write an email. I want to have the option to do it myself.
Let's take the example from before: rebooking a holiday home. My first instinct was to log into the agency's website, press a button, select a new date, confirm, and receive a confirmation through email a few seconds later. In reality, I was able to log into the website, see my booking confirmation...and that's it. My question was: WHY DO YOU MAKE ME REGISTER FOR YOUR PORTAL IF I CAN'T DO ANYTHING WITH IT APART FROM SEEING MY ARRIVAL TIME 🙄🙄🙄
For most businesses, there is an even easier option: Frequently Asked Questions. This, by far, not a new concept, but I am surprised by the number of businesses forgetting about this. You simply put a (well written and researched) list of your most frequently asked questions on your website. Two birds, one stone: your customers can help themselves, and your support team has less repetitive inquiries.
My preferred solution for this: Help Scout Docs. It integrates right into your live chat widget on your website. How cool is that!
Generation Reply: give me that answer right now!
There is a good reason why I named this blog "Generation Reply". Because that's what millennials expect: a reply. Right now!
What's the point in having a broken device at home if I need to wait for a week until I receive a reply from your team? Why should I spend half an hour just waiting on your phone line to be connected? If you value your own time, do the same with your customer's time.
To put this in numbers: 66% of people feel that valuing their time is one of the most significant things a company can do, to provide them with an excellent customer service experience.
Just a few ideas to implement this:
- A live chat (millennials love messaging, it is much more natural than email or phone)
- A call back service: your customer isn't connected to an agent within 30 seconds? How about relieving them from waiting. In my current company, we play a recording after 30 seconds, apologising for the fact that we can't connect them right now. At the same time, we are assuring them that we will call them back as soon as we can. The result: happy customers and a more streamlined process for us.
- Setting up instant replies in your Facebook Messenger (or any other messaging tool you use), so you can automatically answer your customers' questions.
Show, don't tell!
You know what's really annoying and frustrating? Having to read through hundreds of pages of instruction manuals (I acknowledge the irony of you reading through hundreds of words of text here on this blog 🥳).
Instead of doing that, how about a few videos? A graphic that clearly shows how to use your product? Maybe even a live webinar? There are so many fun possibilities! And the best thing: millennials will love you for it.
According to a TechSmith survey, more than 64% of millennials say they understand information faster when it's communicated visually, and more than 54% say they remember more from visual content than from text alone. Boom!
Here are a few excellent examples of visual explanations, compared to written text:
- Hubspot Academy (instead of writing about something, they just created a video!): https://youtu.be/qDCyvvdzND4
- Help Scout Getting Started Guide (videos embedded in writing): https://docs.helpscout.com/article/831-get-started-6-steps-to-setup-success
- Buffer Help Center (lots of nice screenshots): https://support.buffer.com/hc/en-us/articles/360038342113-Connecting-your-social-accounts-to-Buffer-Analyze
Omni-channel solutions: because you can't hide
I have a straightforward rule: a customer should receive the same level of service, no matter where they reach out. This is a good practice for every company out there.
I have experienced quite a few times that I reached out to a company on Facebook just to receive a reply 2 days later requesting to send an email to "email@example.com". Wow. Really helpful.
Long story short: be where your customer is. To do so, have a reliable CRM solution that allows you to access all these channels. There is nothing worse than being redirected multiple times, just because your business is not set up to help a customer on the channel they reached out on.
A few great solutions for omnichannel help desk tools:
- Zendesk: https://www.zendesk.com
- Freshdesk: https://www.freshdesk.com
- Salesforce: https://www.salesforce.com
The conclusion from all of this is straightforward: you are missing out if you're not set up for millennials. If you are not worried about the hard cash you are losing, think about it this way:
If I have the opportunity to rent the same holiday home on Booking.com or from the aforementioned local agency for the same price, where would I go? Where would you leave your money?