Real Time Communications Featured Article

Few Contact Centers Are Ready to Meet Millennial Customers' Expectations

February 12, 2015

Contact centers today are facing something of a dilemma. There is a huge disparity between how older customers, who prefer to pick up the phone, and how younger customers, who prefer nearly any other channel OTHER than the phone, expect to be served. Some companies can take refuge in the fact that they serve a single demographic: if you’re selling Hover-round vehicles or bath tub elevators, by all means…keep your customer support practices of 10 years ago. If you’re planning to sell to younger customers, however, it’s time to ensure that the digital channels are being properly handled.

It’s a curious phenomenon, and there may be many reasons behind it, but younger customers – the so-called “Millennial” generation -- really dislike making phone calls (which is why they text so much, and rely on mobile apps). It doesn’t negate the need for contact centers, but it does change how they need to operate, according to a recent blog post by Mark Plakias writing for the Web site Orange Silicon Valley.

“Based on Millennial behaviors, the call center has become the point of last resort, not the first choice – this is fundamental shift that managers in call centers may or may not fully appreciate,” he wrote. “Because of this, consistency of information becomes aa key factor in satisfaction: 74 percent of customers expect the same answer online as in the contact center.”

Even if younger customers aren’t picking up the phone to dial a toll-free number, one way or another, they will end up in the contact center. Either they will require live assistance in the form of SMS while inside a mobile app, they will expect a response to their Tweet, or they will initiate a video chat session via the Web site if they’ve run into a self-help brick wall. What this means is that companies shouldn’t be eliminating their call center, but they should be ensuring that they have achieved broad omnichannel integration that culminates in a single customer experience centered around the contact center.

Image via Shutterstock.

Real-time communications will play an enormous part in this idea. Millennials may hate traditional phone calls, but even they will eventually need live help. Technologies such as WebRTC, a standard that allows for browser-to-browser voice and video conferencing without the need to download an application or plug-in, can help enable this live communication when and where younger customers choose it.

Unfortunately, most companies aren’t ready for this yet. Plakias writes that a lot of research today suggests there is a massive disconnect between what call center agent pools are trained to do and how Millennials expect to be treated. More than half of contact centers don’t even ask their customers what their preferred channels of communication are. For companies hoping to win and keep customers – particularly younger customers – this is simply unacceptable. 

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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