Customer Service and the rise of Millennials, part 1 of 2 posts

Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it. George Orwell

I was asked to take part in a discussion on the impact of the Millennials on the service industry by the Field Service Magazine What on earth are Millennials you might ask? Well they are a group of people that can be best defined as:

Millennials (also known as the Millennial Generation or Generation Y) are the demographic cohort born between 1980 to 2000. They follow Generation X, my generation, who were born between 1965 and 1979.

Other names for Millennials include: Generation Y, Generation WHY, Generation Next, Nexers, The Digital Generation, and finally The Gaming Generation

They are the first generation of humans to have been born and brought up in a digital world. If you think about it for a moment you will realise that before the 1980’s there was no digital TV, no smart phones, no public internet, no Personal Computers, nothing of the Internet of Things, no Facebook, no Twitter, no 24*7 multi-channel TV, etc.

If you wanted to phone someone you either used a public phone box or called from home. If you were working on your homework, researching a topic or revising for exams, you either used the school or college library, the local public library or if you were rich [and we were not] a set of Encyclopedia Britannica books. There were only 4 terrestrial TV channels – BBC1, BBC2, ITV and Channel 4 [launched in 1982]. Satellite TV was only launched in 1990! Games were restricted to Atari and Space Invaders, or ping pong.

In the IT service industry, we have seen the technology shift more than anywhere else. When I started in the industry, the kit I used to repair were terminal’s, impact printers, and computers running Basic, Pascal, Fortran or proprietary manufacturer operating systems. Now it is Laser printers, PC’s, Intel Servers and a mix of Microsoft, Android, Linux and Apple OS operating systems – much more standard and non-company specific.

In the IT service world, the challenge is that our customers have equipment that may be very new, or up to 25 years old. This means that you need to have the skills and capabilities to be able to manage and repair a set of products that spans such a wide technology platform. In effect bridging two or more generations of knowledge.

This is the challenge all technology providers and supporters face. How do you have the skills and capabilities that you need to maintain a service for 25 years? We have a workforce that is now more than ever aging. A recent report stipulated that the average age of a customer field engineer was over 40 years of age. That 60% of companies currently report that they are understaffed in their technical positions. We are recruiting new engineers all the time and in a lot of cases, they are under 30 years of age with a Millennial view of the world. So what are the typical attributes of a Millennial generation are:

# Always Connected…24/7 and expect that the technology they use is as well
# Extremely self-confident and assured
# Optimistic and hopeful of the future
# They are very independent and are comfortably self-reliant
# Determined and goal oriented, you need to set challenging goals and reward them
# Highly success driven, they do not like it when failure occurs and seek to question why
# Lifestyle centered which means they are not indoctrinated into a 9-5 office world, work-life flexibility is key
# They live and breath diversity and inclusiveness and do not, in general have the same types of hang up and prejudices as the previous generations
# Every single one I have worked with are passionate about global, local, and community social support and activities. They are at the forefront for any charity or positive social actions
# They partner well with mentors, as they value guidance and support. However, they also expect respect
# They thrive on flexibility and space to explore and develop, so find time bound and structured sets of activity frustrating.
They are comfortable with speed and change and are flexible
# Finally, they are great at working together and you might find this surprising, very service oriented.

Why, would they be more service orientated than the previous generation? It is because of the world we live in and the growth of the service sector over the past 20 years. Since 1995, service sector jobs have grown 2x’s versus non-service sector jobs. In fact, over 80% of the jobs now in both the UK and USA are Service sector jobs, versus less than 15% that are traditional manufacturing type jobs. You only have to walk down the high street to see the plethora of cafes, restaurants, coffee shops and the like [for example Costa, Starbucks, Pret, Yo Yo sushi, and Subway just in the food sector].

In the next article, I will share the Q and A that was the outcome from the interview I did.

I leave you with this quote in homage to Christopher Lee who died on the 7th June this year.

He was one of the outstanding actors that spanned the Baby Boomers [1946 – 1964], Generation X [1965 – 1979] and even was recognised by the Millennials [1980 – 2000]. Think of the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit series. He started his film career in 1948 and his last film was this year, 2015 – 67 years. He stared in over 206 films and 65 television appearances. Many a Friday evening I would stay up and watch a Hammer House of Horror film with Lee starring in it ….

What’s really important for me is, as an old man, I’m known by my own generation and the next generation know me, too. Christopher Lee

Customer Experience Design is unique to your companies customers, you can’t copy other people’s

“In the innovation age customer experience is key. Your impression defines their expression” ― Fela Durotoye

I have been a passionate advocate of Customer Experience Design for many years. As a process; as an approach to changing your customer service; as much as an ethos – the idea of consciously and thoughtfully thinking though how you are going to design the experience that your customer have with your organisation – be it public sector, private sector, large or small – is one I feel passionate about.

I have designed organisations and processes around a set of key Customer Experience Design principles; as well as been on the receiver of other people executing a customer experience scenario.

Every single day of our lives, we are both consumers and providers of customer experience. You fill your car up with fuel; buy groceries at a store; go shopping in a mall or shopping centre; go out for dinner / cinema / brunch; or interact with any other human being or via technology [web sites, portals, or online purchase / complaint / ordering systems] and you are a consumer of Customer Experience Design.

Think for just a moment on the last purchase or engagement experience you had. Do you even remember it? If you do, was it positive or negative or just plain bland. Yes, I’ll challenge anyone, that we seek to please through bland and “sameness” of service, rather than seeking to be different.

if you are in the product, produce, or service business, this applies to you. Hang on one minute, I would even go so far as to say, tell me a job that does not involve Customer Experience Design. I find it hard to think of one. But please feel lt to suggest some.

So, what is Customer Experience Design?
Customer Experience Design or CED, is the explicit processes, tools, technology, people and approach you use, to place your customers at the heart of your business, to deliver the experience YOU want to deliver to YOUR customers, that delivers value to your customers, employees and if successful, shareholders.

I stress the words YOU and YOUR as this is a reflection of your organization’s feelings, emotional connection to and way you want to interact with your customers. It is all about you.

you can not and must not seek to emulate, copy or fudge your customer experience design principles. Annette Franz stated it really clearly by saying:

“…..are you more focused on what your competitors or other companies are doing than on your own business, customer and customer experience strategy? I feel like some companies are dumbing down their customers and the customer experience.“

I completely agree. Companies are not looking at they own capabilities and seeing where excellence in their own organisations is. Rather, they are recycling the same excellent examples where previous thought leading organisations have developed their own Customer Experience narrative. I doubt any of those companies deliberately set out to be the exemplar, rather they said:

“what do we need to do to be different; to stand out; to be the leaders in our field; to be the best we can possibly be; to be the company our customers never want to leave?”

Perhaps it is these types of questions you need to focus on instead?

Thanks again to Annette Franz for the post that inspired these thoughts.

I leave you with this quote….

“Companies that were paying attention understood they were witnessing the birth of the “self-directed consumer”, because the internet and all the other tools for the flat world had created a means for every consumer to customize exactly the price, experience, and service he or she wanted.” ― Thomas L. Friedman