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 Magazinehttp://fieldservicenews.com/. 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