Millennial Think: Millennial Expectations of Customer Service

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It was a bit of a raucous hangout this week as we tackled out Think Tank’s expectation of customer service. As always, we came away with some fairly profound insights, along with a bit of hilarity.

This week we had a panel full of regulars, including:

  • Joe Cardillo,  an older Millennial, Content and Analytics specialist.
  • Judy McCloskey, an older Millennial, actor, director at 2nd City, and social media Community Manager.
  • Samantha Estoesta, a young Millennial working in Public Interest Research
  • Tiffany Daniels, an older Millennial working in Government & Community Relations
  • Kiernan McGinnis, young Millennial, 2nd year student at Lehigh University, English Lit. Major

Watch or listen to the entire show here, or read on for a recap:

Of course, we understand that everyone wants good customer service, but we wanted to get to the root of what it means to Millennials, so I asked the obvious question: What does it mean?

Kiernan jumped right in to define customer service as a two way street; as a Barista (and Lehigh University college student) he described cultural differences (international students not tipping). But the primary motivator for slow service from this Barista was a rude attitude. When he’s the customer he also has high expectations of customer service.

Prompted by me, Samantha jumped in to defend international students, since tipping is very much an American tradition. Since only Joe and Kiernan were the only ones who ALWAYS tip at a coffee shop… we sort of dismissed tipping’s effect on customer service.

What is your preferred method of communication for customer service?

Jillian was quite clear: she wants text messages. They’re immediate, brief, concise, and capable of having photos attached. She gave an example of ordering contacts online after an optometrist appointment. In order to place her order, the company could call the doctor’s office, or, Jillian could text a picture of her prescription. She did that, and the order was immediately underway. Remember this: Millennials like FAST.

Tiffany likes to be able to talk if it’s a technology issue. Of course, she has told us many times that she is a boomer’s heart… but if there is a problem she can’t figure out herself she wants to speak to a person. The reason she wouldn’t? The long wait period. When I asked the panel: what if there wasn’t a long wait period? What method would you use then? The ONLY time Millennials want to talk to customer service is when they can’t figure it out themselves.

How do you feel about non native English speaking call centers?

A couple of our Thinkers have worked at call centers, but none of them minded if the customer service rep was based in another country. They understand that we are in a globalized world, and if we’re going to accept globalization, this is part of the deal. If you’re kind and understanding, you’ll get better results from any call center anywhere.

Joe pointed out that it’s more about ‘getting it done’ rather than where they are, while Samantha cared only that they are paid fair wages, wherever they are.

Examples of Good and Bad Customer Service

Samantha, the most  focused, research oriented Millennial consumer on our panel has a love/hate relationship with Sephora, so they came up as an example of both good and bad customer service. Here is the summation:

  • The many ways to reach them for customer service: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Facebook Message, Beauty Talk (their online forum) and Email is an really good thing.
  • The internal Sephora Beauty Talk forum is excellent way to ask an overarching question to get answers from both users and moderators.
  • Facebook Messenging from Sephora gets a quick response – usually within 3 hours, versus email, which takes longer.
  • If Samantha wants to publicly shame the company, she’ll post it on their Facebook Page and she gets a quick response.

Clarification: Samantha loves Sephora, but will still publicly shame them if they make  a mistake. There is no reservoir of good will a brand can build up to avoid that – these Millennials see social media shaming as part of the customer service process, and she certainly wasn’t unique among our panel on this subject.

What are your expectations in regards to speedy response?

Our Millennials felt that the necessary response time for customer service was highly subjective depending on product and the situation. Jillian used the example of clothing; there is nothing urgent about a clothing customer service issue, while a technology issue is usually far more pressing. Internet access issues? 20 minutes is the expected window.

Joe was interested in getting a same day response to at least say that a company is working on his issue.

Judy expects a much quicker answer if the channel used is social media; there was some disagreement on how long social media response is expected, but the window is 1 – 5 hours. If someone is choosing social media as a channel, it is because they need a quick response.

Do companies consider Social Media part of Customer Service?

Tiffany, who works with many businesses, put in the chat that often businesses don’t see social media as part of customer service. Because I am immersed in the social media business intelligence world, I have to admit that this floored me. My reaction: Whether you want it to be or not, Social Media IS part of your customer service channel. You can tell me it isn’t, but when you have Millennials running around Instagramming, Tweeting, and public shaming you on the channels, it just is.

Tiffany brought up funding as an issue; many companies put social media under marketing because they don’t have the financial resources to put more than one person on social media. My point is that the social media channel will  hear complaints; the key for business is that they don’t necessarily  need to have a heavily staffed social media presence, but they need to make sure the people manning it know where to take the complaints. More importantly, they need to make sure that their customer service teams takes the social media complaints as seriously as they do ones coming in through other channels.

Do Small Businesses get a pass on Social Media?

The Think Tank definitely understands that small businesses have different challenges. Instead of public shaming, they’d send a message privately. They understand that small business may not have the resources to man social media, and there is definitely a soft spot for any small business in comparison to a large corporation.

Are review sites like Yelp public shaming?

Jillian is an outspoken critic of Yelp, their pay to play model, and she sees them as bullies. Her exact metaphor was the huge jock in high school that acts like your friend but hits you a little too hard when he’s joking. Despite the fact that she detests Yelp, she has had success finding businesses she likes via the site. Specifically, the way the business owner reacted to negative reviews means a lot.

Tiffany sees reviews as less shocking than other forms of social media shaming; bad reviews are expected on review sites.

YikYak is THE Vehicle for Public Shaming on College Campuses

Kiernan brought me back to why we started the Think Tank to begin with; to talk to and hear from Millennials themselves. He brought our attention to an app that I’d never heard of: YikYak. It’s an anonymous forum where you can post anything you want within a geographical radius. Other users give you an up or down votes. He talked about new fraternities that are getting smashed by hundreds  of people collectively … which he described as ‘fun.’

When I asked if an anonymous review has as much resonance as one that is straightforward, the answer was YES. It does on a college campus, where hundreds of kids are affirming that review. He described freshman who would not pledge a fraternity because of things they’d read on YikYak. I asked whether small businesses were being reviewed on the app he said he hasn’t seen them, but he knows it’s coming. Who has wizened to the app are the local police, who read the posts of underage drinkers planning parties, and show up accordingly.

Customer Service Doesn’t Exist in a Vacuum

Joe, as he often does, brought us back to the core of what matters. When customer service crises blow up they aren’t usually unforeseen, even if the company pretends they are. You can’t find your way out of a crisis by only caring at that moment. If a company does not care about most of the moments their customers have while interacting with them, caring about one is not going to help.

Samantha came back to Sephora, citing the fact that now Canadians have to pay extra duties for purchases online. What has happened is that the Beauty Talk forum that Sephora set up as an internal community, has figured out a way around the new taxes. People that are close to a Sephora retail store that has a product wanted by another member will buy it and mail it to them. The PR response from Sephora has been terrible dealing with Canadians feeling mistreated, so the community took t into their own hands to find a solution.

How personalized do you want your customer service to be?

I began the discussion citing Bright House, my local cable company that has been more than stellar for years. I have a huge reservoir of good will for them, so, even when my internet is down I don’t mind their chatty, friendly customer service people.When I contact Wells Fargo, on the other hand, a company I do NOT have similar feelings about, I don’t want a discussion about the weather; just help me and get out of my life.

I asked the Think Tank for feedback on this Amazon customer service response, which garnered a lot of praise across the web. The panel loved it, and said that obviously customer service takes common sense; it depends upon the situation and the need for urgency. Joe brought up the worst possible practice: when the customer service people are not empowered, and have to stick to a cut and dried process while pretending they aren’t.

What are the industries with the worst reputation for customer service?

Here are the simple answers that came out:

  • Banking
  • Time Warner
  • Telecommunications
  • Health Insurance

Do you think you are more or less high maintenance than other generations when it comes to Customer Service?

Pushy, aggressive sales people are not successful with our Millennials for certain, but the mind blowing statement of the night for me? When Jillian said:

I think that the older generations expect more than we do in regards to customer service.

My reaction was: REALLY? In my mind, because of the speed with which Millennials expect service, and their penchant for using multiple channels and public shaming, I assumed the opposite. But our panel clarified it for me:

The time that Millennials reach out is when they actually need service; they do not want to talk through the decision making process with a brand. They may want faster service, but they only want the information they ask for. They see older generations wanting a more involved, longer customer service interaction leading up to the sale.

Another mind blower for me was when Joe put in the chat:

I hate consultative selling.

If a product has to be explained to get someone to buy it, Joe assumes that the product is crap at its core. Of course, for an understandably complex product, like financial planning, consultation is necessary. When we dug deeper, it appears that what our Millennials really detest is up-selling. The entire panel agreed with Joe.

Kiernan weighed in with this:

We prefer to trouble shoot on our own. We are kind of a Do-it-Yourself generation. If our water heater isn’t working right, we’ll look something up on You Tube – how do you fix this?

They only want customer service for the specific answers to the questions they want answered. Brands, if you’re listening, I’d think long and hard about how your website functions, and make sure it gives a lot of trouble shooting options for Gen Y.

 Next Week’s Hangout

Next Thursday we are tackling a hot topic: What Responsibility to Social Networks have to their users and their brand?

If you’d like to participate in the panel, or send us questions you’d like discussed, email us here.


Photo credit: monstro via photopin cc

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0 thoughts on “Millennial Think: Millennial Expectations of Customer Service

  1. AmyMccTobin says:

    SwansonJulia MelissaOnline Julia… if you’re a Millennial and interested in being on the panel, let me know.

  2. SwansonJulia says:

    AmyMccTobin MelissaOnline I think Sure! But I think I’m just over the cusp 🙂 thank you!

  3. AmyMccTobin says:

    SwansonJulia MelissaOnline 18 – 33 is the age group roughly

  4. SwansonJulia says:

    AmyMccTobin MelissaOnline Definitely over the cusp then 🙂

  5. AmyMccTobin says:

    SwansonJulia MelissaOnline Me too. We’re setting up a Gen X and Boomer think tank too 🙂

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