• February 12, 2016
  • By Anand Subramaniam, Senior Vice President, eGain Communications

6 Ways to Improve Your Customer Service for Millennials

It's a given that Millennial buying power will continue to increase. How do you win over their minds and money through customer service? Here are six things you can do, based on what they are actually telling us.

1. Get faster. Patience is not a virtue among Millennials. According to Boston Consulting Group, they shop at convenience stores twice as often as non-Millennials; prefer upscale fast-food chains for speed, quality, and convenience; and care less about "friendly" service than older consumers. Just a few years ago, a response time of 24 hours used to be acceptable for email customer service, but today, the response better come within minutes or hours. Expectations on social networks are even higher—slow response or no response on social has the potential to cause irrevocable damage to the brand. Make sure your service organization sets fast service levels to please Millennials (and better yet, all customers).

2. Get smarter with your Web site. Speed of response is good, but so is speed to the single, right answer. And knowledge is the key to arriving there. While the biggest service pain point for consumers in general is the lack and consistency of knowledge among agents and on Web sites, it is even more of an issue for Millennials, according to a large-scale consumer survey, conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of eGain. To complicate matters, agents get harder questions from Millennials since they are more likely to have already looked up other sources for information. So your customer care organization and Web site need to be smarter. Here's how you can get there:

  • Make answers easily findable by offering a variety of search options with a robust knowledge management (KM) system. Go beyond keyword search (which typically delivers lots of irrelevant hits) and provide easier-to-use options like natural language and faceted search.
  • For harder queries, guide customers through smarter knowledge. Today, artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities such as case-based reasoning (CBR) can be implemented in a matter of days or weeks. CBR can walk customers through an interactive dialog to answers or sales/purchase advice, much like an expert would.

3. Get smarter with your agents (who are also likely to be Millennials, by the way). While self-service is on the rise, demand for human-assisted service continues to be strong, especially for more complex questions. Remember that among your agents are also many Millennials—in fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Millennials became the largest generation in the workforce last year. These agents bring their consumer habits to the workforce. For instance, they are more likely to look up than remember answers as opposed to older customer service reps. This generational shift in your workforce also makes it important to have a KM system in place.

4. Get pervasive, yet unified. Millennials are digital and omnichannel—in other words, they are "pervasive." Per Forrester, Millennial use of digital channels is 55 percent to 65 percent higher than other groups' usage, depending on the touch point. That said, almost 60 percent of Millennials think that omnichannel customer service, where a single conversation spans multiple touch points, has stayed the same or got worse in 2015 versus 2014, according to another consumer survey, conducted by Forrester for eGain. And 2014 is not a good starting point, since only 14 percent of consumers thought that companies were providing a positive cross-channel customer experience that year, per Accenture.

As you look for customer service solutions, make sure they offer rich capabilities out of the box, support any interaction channel, and are unified across channels through a platform (Gartner calls it the customer engagement hub). This will allow you to add touch points quickly while delivering seamless omnichannel journeys and the consistent answers that Millennials want.

5. Get proactive. Millennials like to be proactively "guided." For example, use of smartphone GPS apps for driving is 26 percent higher for this group than for Boomers, according to Experian. Use of health guidance apps in this segment is 24 percent, the highest of any generation, per Pew Research. The same logic applies to Millennials' omnichannel journeys as a customer. They are comfortable taking proactive guidance, whether it is through helpful content, service resolution, sales advice, or next best step to get to their goal, proactively served to them. AI-powered KM (CBR, for example) can hand-hold customers intelligently with this guidance versus other approaches that might lead to dead ends and cul-de-sacs on the customer journey.

6. Get going. The ideas discussed in this piece are not the future—they are already here. As an example, CBR AI, in conjunction with a unified knowledge and customer engagement platform, is being used by many forward-looking companies for standard-setting customer service. As you consider solutions, look for vendors that offer risk-free, cost-free, expert-guided pilots to prove out value before you invest. In other words, try solutions with free expert guidance for success before you buy.

Anand Subramaniam is senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing at eGain Corporation, a leading provider of cloud customer engagement solutions that power digital transformation for leading brands.

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