Customer service for millennials: How not to lose buyers with purchasing power

By | 6 minute read | January 27, 2017

Key points:

Millennials are driving a shift in the way that businesses should approach customer service. Organizations should look to:

  • Switch to conversational commerce which offers rapidly expanding market opportunity
  • Add intelligent automation to enhance customer’s self-service experience
  • Use customer data and insights to better route customers to agents who can best address their needs through personalized content


By engaging with brands through emerging technologies, millennials are driving a paradigm shift in the customer service conversation. Businesses must evolve their approach to join the conversation, or face losing the significant buying power of the millennial consumer.

Since birth, Millennials have grown up with technology. This has shaped their behavior and expectations whilst transforming the way they engage with consumer brands. They are tech savvy, craving convenience, time sensitive and spoiled by choice. This article will look at these behaviors – supported by research – and explore how companies can utilize the latest technologies to better meet the expectations of millennial customers.

I want it now!
Millennials have grown up with technology at their fingertips. Through smartphones and laptops, they have the power to instantly access information and access responses in real-time. This has made them time sensitive and impatient when engaging with brands.

More than 22% of millennials expect a response within 10 minutes of reaching out to a brand via social media, according to a recent study. In addition to this, 52% will abandon online purchases if they can’t find a quick answer. The need for speed in customer service has never been higher.

Big brands are increasingly turning to chatbots to provide a solution for this need for speed. Chatbots can offer 24/7 customer service, rapidly engaging millennials, answering their queries as soon as they receive them.

The global office supplies retailer, Staples, is a major brand leading the way on innovating and engaging millennials through bots. Staples are using machine learning to automate ordering and customer service, engaging customers in real-time through their Facebook Messenger app. Going one step further, they are enhancing their Easy Button product with technology, allowing customers to talk to a bot that interprets and provides solutions to a customers query. If the bot is unable to find the answer, the customer is transferred to a human rep.

Conversational Commerce
Seen as the natural evolution of digital shopping, conversational commerce is the act of purchasing goods through online conversations. Businesses must switch on to this trend which offers rapidly expanding market opportunity – or risk missing out on significant economic growth.

2017 is set to be a defining year for conversational commerce. According to Gartner, nearly $2 billion online sales will have been performed exclusively through mobile digital assistants in 2016. Adding to this fact, messaging apps have now surpassed social networks in monthly active users – offering a vast audience for businesses to engage with.

Millennials are the key driving force behind conversational commerce, their mass adoption of smartphone technology, paired with a desire for convenience, presents a huge opportunity for businesses brave enough to venture into this space.

AI-powered chatbots will arm businesses with the ability to engage millennials via these messaging apps. Using big data and paired with advanced analytics – these platforms can use purchasing and browsing history to offer personalized product options perfectly matched to each individual. A feature that millennials crave. Their entire online experience has been crafted to their personal preferences – an expectation and opportunity that businesses must wake up to. Taco Bell and Pizza Hut are both brands redefining the customer purchasing process in this space.

The stark reality of consumer commerce is that chatbots are the only viable solution to this emerging market space. The sheer volume of the audience makes it almost impossible for businesses to hire the human Salesforce that can leverage this opportunity and still offer a credible profit margin.

Satisfying the self-service, do-it-yourself generation
When it comes customer issues, millennials are major users of do-it-yourself customer service. This tech savvy generation is more comfortable and more likely to search a web forum or FAQ page, before picking up the phone to a customer service rep. In fact, nearly 3 out of 4 millennials prefer to solve their own customer service issues. Businesses must wake up to this trend, ensuing their FAQ pages are comprehensive and flexible enough to deal with an ever increasing range of inquiries.

Artificial intelligence can play a critical role, adding intelligent automation to enhance self-service. AI powered virtual agents and chat bots can respond to customer requests, using data to recognize hidden opportunities for the customer experience, while simultaneously predicting gaps in service.

The fragility of brand loyalty
The age brand loyalty is coming to an end. Millennials are offered more choice than any previous generation. This makes the concept of brand loyalty a fragile thing, customers are no longer afraid to leave brands behind.
In fact, more than 50% of millennials abandon brands ever year, according to the Aspect Consumer Experience Index study. It also doesn’t take much, more than 25% of millennials will abandon a brand after one bad experience, with 82% abandoning the brand after three poor experiences.

Millennial typically shun human interaction in a complaint situation. According to the earlier study, 72% feel customer service over the phone is not the best way to resolve their issue. With 80% finding calling customer service highly inconvenient. Artificially intelligent chatbots are set to be crucial in this space.
Chatbots offer a rapid response, sentiment analysis and data collection can provide instant feedback and escalation if required. Unlike their human counterparts, chatbots don’t get tired, even-tempered and always polite. A combination that offers the possibility of a positive complaint resolution.

Make it personal
Millennials are open to sharing their data with businesses provided it also benefits them in return. With big data and advanced analytics now available to every business, millennials expect to be targeted with personalized content, offers and services based on their demographics, interests, location and personality, across all interactions, including customer service. Businesses should use customer data and the insights available to better route customers to the agents who can best address their needs based on data from their previous purchases, social media interactions and behaviors.

Millennials also have more power than any previous generation to influence the perception of a brand. The Internet offers a vast platform for disgruntled customers to make their voices heard. Millennials are among the most vocal – with 59% willing to share a bad experience online. The last thing a business needs is for a complaint to go viral.

The face of customer service is changing. Whether businesses like it or not, they must adapt to the needs of consumers. Millennials are moving the customer service into new spaces, dictating the conversation and setting the bar high for their expectations.

Businesses must see this as an opportunity, embracing emerging technologies to engage millennial and tap into their huge spending capital. Failing to evolve could see organizations risk their place in the industry.

Cognitive customer engagement for the win
Watson Virtual Agent is a new way to provide automated services to your customers. It offers a cognitive, conversational self-service experience that can provide answers and take action in real time. You can easily customize Watson Virtual Agent to fit your specific business needs, provide custom content and match your  brand voice and tone. Additionally, deep analytics provide insights on your customer’s engagement with the Watson Virtual Agent and help with the understanding of your constantly changing customer’s needs.

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