Millennial Customer Service – How to Wow *and* Convert them


Does your customer service strategy meet the demands of Millennials? What you can do to make your customer experience more responsive to the largest generation of consumers.

What is a Millennial (Gen Y) customer?

Millennials, also known as generation Y, were born between 1981 and 1996. They are the nation’s largest living adult demographic and age range according to the latest population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. The typical marketing-focused customer profile for millennials is characterized by a desire for personalized experiences, instant results (gratification), value-driven purchasing, love for social media, and strong research skills. This demographic also places high value on easy and successful communication with businesses and their customer success teams.

Gen Y have surpassed baby boomers and that means most of the readers of this article will be Millennials. So the real question is not how we meet the preferences of a random demographic we’ve carved out of the population. It’s actually about how to provide the best customer service for US. So what do WE want in CX?

We (millennials) want to tell everyone about our experience

Let’s be real. We’re social media over-sharers. Guilty as charged. Gen Y grew up with two amazing communication tools previous generations did not have. We were the first generation to get cell phones. While our older brothers and sisters were stuck sharing the family fixed line phone, we got our own number and were free to communicate whenever we wanted. 

We were also the first generation to grow up with the internet and social media. From chatrooms to the Friendster and MySpace, ours was the first voice to be heard and responded to on the world wide web, as it was known then.

This has a profound effect on connecting with us. If it’s good or bad, we will tell others about it on social media

A study by Medallia found that, depending on the type of customer service experience, Millennials are anywhere between twice to five times more likely to write a public review than baby boomers. In fact, Gen Y are much more likely to become brand ambassadors once they have enough reasons to be loyal to a company.

Another study by Edelman Intelligence found that 74% of Millennials believe they have a direct effect on the purchase decisions of fellow Millennials as well as those of older generations, such as their baby boomer parents. And this is not just a passive activity. In the same study we learned that 70% of Millennials believe they have a responsibility to inform others of their experiences. 

That’s right. Writing impartial reviews is seen as a duty of the modern consumer by the younger crowd. 

And we’re not just speaking, we’re listening too. According to Adweek, 93% of all Millennials read reviews before making a purchase and 77% trust them. Both these percentages are higher compared to other age segments. 

What’s the most important purchasing factor for Millennials?

  • 75%: Personal experience
  • 56%: Friends and family
  • 50%: Online reviews

(Source: Medallia)

But brands are not engaging (and converting) millennial customers

The sad truth is that brands are ignoring America’s largest living generation.Gallup says that only 25% of Millennials are engaged with brands. Some companies want a cheap fix with chatbots but fail miserably. Most have very little omnichannel strategy. This means that only one in four are emotionally and psychologically attached to a brand, product or company. That number is the lowest for any generation.

And it’s not that we’re a bunch of disloyal brand-hopper youth. In fact, the opposite is true, once we find a brand we like, 80% of us will stay loyal, interact with brands, and continue to give that company our business and our personal data to boot. So why are we not engaged with brands?

We (millennials) demand a higher level of customer service excellence 

Millennials want better customer support. Not just technical support, but also hand-holding and a concierge-like experience when it comes down to ecommerce. Think of how retail and in-person transactions have worked for thousands of years. It’s that simple. Companies and brands are not giving Millennials the types of experiences we demand. Our customer journey is more influenced by software and technology than any other generation. If you don’t get the digital experience right, you do not get the Millennial customer. 

It’s not enough to provide digital channels. That’s just table stakes. Your customer service channels need to evolve and have the same functionality we get in social media, for instance. We want things to work instantly, seamlessly, and faultlessly. We are not comparing a brand experience with other brands, we are comparing the experience with every other digital experience out there. If Netflix, Instagram or Facebook have a good user experience, we expect you to have the same. If Zappos delivers a knockout product return policy, you have to too.

We (millennials) want conversations

A lot has been written about the preference of Millennials when it comes to customer success. It’s very easy to take the bait and start adopting slang terms and hip dialog in an attempt to appear cool to your millennial customers. But that is never going to work.

Above all, we value honesty and transparency. Because we grew up with smartphones and the internet with its endless knowledge base, we are incredibly well-informed about topics we speak about. We know we have choices. Customer support must understand that any conversation with a Millennial is based on an equal footing of expertise and be treated that way. We cannot be fobbed off with jargon or untruths, company policies and vague promises. We know our rights and where we stand when dealing with corporations. 

Keep it brief. We are hard-pressed for time and have short attention spans. Trying to bury bad news in wordy responses, doesn’t win any prizes with us. We can generally see through marketing campaigns and industry PR speak and fully understand when we are being sold to.

And finally, never make your communications about yourself. Your message should always be about us and how your offering benefits us personally. A great example of this is from a major national bank:

Don’t say “We have 6,000 ATMs for your convenience”

Do say “We guarantee we have an ATM near you”

The difference here is understanding the customer. 6,000 ATMs is a boast about yourself and not relevant to me. I don’t need to use 6,000 ATMs, I need one near my house. Do you have that?

And never forget that conversations are two-way. Smart companies value the conversations they have with us. They learn from our feedback and adapt to meet our expectations. We will be truthful and forthright with you. If you can work out how to change and profit from this, you will win customers in the largest generation there is.

How you use your technology is the deal breaker

I wrote before how computers and tech is at the center of our lives. We grew up with all this stuff and we know how to get the most from it. This is very important when you apply new technologies to your customer service and not just your marketing.

Sorry, I can’t give you an answer for what is our favorite channel. It varies from day to day and minute to minute. We might try your self service options first, then start a conversation in live chat, then move to voice and finally express our opinion on the matter in any or all of the social media platforms. Multichannel, omnichannel. You name it, we’re like that. Hope your CRM can handle it.

So what you have to do is provide us with every option to communicate with you. Not only that, you have to make each one as rich and powerful as the other. We need to be able to get our account balance through messenger, just as we would through your 1-800 number. If we talk to an agent, we want them to know about the last interaction we had on chat. We value efficiency and won’t be happy explaining our situation twice, so every channel needs to be integrated with our latest data.

Companies that push the envelope and innovate new ways to meet our demands are going to be the winners with Millennials. If you are truly groundbreaking with how you apply today’s technology we will notice, and of course tell everyone else.

We want it all now

There are no apologies here. Unfortunately Millennials are an impatient bunch. COVID-19 and food delivery to our doors and other community services aren’t helping. Our customer support expectations are high. We expect real time, fast paced, instant service and instantaneous attention. We’re not going to send off an email and wait patiently for a response. We’re not going to pick up the phone and wait on hold at your contact center. We’re not going to reach out on social media and not expect a reply. We see that as customer neglect and will move on. Are you seeing a problem yet when it comes to your organization?

The same goes for technology adoption. Some traditional things like a nicely written letter will never go out of style. However, if we see a company has rolled out an innovation that works for us, our next thought is “Why hasn’t everyone done this?”. We simply cannot comprehend why company X can offer free shipping and company Y cannot. Seems like a simple solution. Why one company can send us a text message with an e-ticket and another company uses email and a link to download a PDF that we must print out on our non-existent home printer. Why one company has a friendly and funny social media presence and another is lame. We understand technology and systems and know that if it’s possible for one, it’s doable for all.

You should pay close attention to the NOW, because this is probably the most important thing you can learn from this article. I started out by telling you that the Millennial generation has surpassed the baby boomers in size. We’re no longer a potential gold mine. We are the gold mine. We’re here, bigger and more powerful than any other generation. We’re no longer virtual reality, we are your reality. We have money and we’re acquiring more and more of it. We will probably also inherit quite a bit too soon.

You should act now if you want to capitalize on catering to our needs and desires. Shockingly, some of us are reaching our 40s and our peak earning years and purchasing power are just starting. We (millennials) are your primary consumers. Anyone who considers Millennials as an outlier in their customer service strategies is going to be left behind.