By George Wright, CEO at Smart Communications
If any trend defines the millennial generation, it’s the reliance on digital communications.
With access to channels and devices their predecessors could never have dreamt about, electronic interactions are now the norm – and almost two-thirds (65%) of millennials communicate in digital form more than in person.
But this trend for digital communications isn’t just restricted to peer-to-peer interactions – it also extends to business communications. Research from Dealerweb discovered more than half of millennials (52%) would rather communicate with car dealers via messaging apps, SMS, email, and social media than by phone, while a Legg Mason study revealed almost half (46%) of millennials would rather do their financial planning via a smartphone than face-to-face.
A recent InfoTrends report from Keypoint Intelligence, commissioned by Smart Communications – designed to investigate communications in agile business environments – revealed millennials have particular preferences when communicating with enterprise companies, favouring electronic channels such as mobile apps, web portals, and emails. They are happy to communicate via multiple different channels and can hold several conversations simultaneously, but expect joined-up experiences and instant responses.
The InfoTrends report found that millennials accounted for a considerable share of respondents’ customer base (33%) and an even larger share of revenue percentage (41%), so how should businesses adapt their customer communications strategy to meet the needs of this vital demographic?
Avoid generation-specific strategies
While it may be tempting for enterprises to employ a specific communications strategy especially designed for their millennial customers, this is not necessarily the most effective approach. Over a quarter (26%) of the businesses that took part in the Keypoint Intelligence survey used a specific strategy when communicating with millennials, but these companies experienced higher churn rates than the 45% of businesses that chose to vary their strategy based on the purpose of the communication, rather than on demographics.
By isolating millennials as a different group, and creating a bespoke strategy that treats them all the same, enterprises risk missing out on the individual preferences that make each customer unique. For instance, millennials may generally prefer electronic channels, but by only using these channels businesses could risk the loyalty of the many millennial customers who still want printed communications because they like to keep a hard copy for their records. Millennials also like to take ownership of communications, choosing when and how to interact with businesses, and implementing a specific one-size-fits-all customer communications strategy for the entire demographic may restrict their choice of communication channels.
Put the customer at the centre
Customer centricity is not just the answer to communicating with millennials, it is the answer to communicating with all generations. What millennials really want is a personalised, seamless experience that works across all communication channels, but this should be something businesses strive to provide across their entire customer base, not just one specific age group.
Millennials’ requirements are changing the market as a whole, and customer communications are becoming strategically – rather than operationally – driven. Communications strategies must be tailored to the purpose of the message and the personal preferences of the individual customer, not to generic perceptions of a generation. All communications – regardless of demographic – should be relevant, personalised, channel-sensitive, and timely.
Adopt cloud-based communications
As businesses become ever-more reliant on their digital customer communications strategy to deliver personalised, channel-agnostic communications that support individual preferences, it is clear outdated legacy systems can’t keep up with evolving preferences. When respondents to the Keypoint Intelligence survey were asked whether their current customer communications systems were up to supporting millennials, almost half (47%) reported modifications would be needed.
Many enterprises find making the necessary improvements to digitise their on-premises systems – for instance updating layout and design, introducing mobile app capabilities, and enabling synchronisation across touchpoints – requires too much investment. Cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) models provide an effective alternative, as they are quick and simple to implement, as well as flexible enough to grow and evolve with ever-changing customer communications requirements and the shifting needs of the customer.
Although millennials do have distinct communication preferences, and a marked predilection for digital interactions, they are still unique individuals, and businesses should treat them as such. By taking a customer centric-approach that tailors strategy to the individual and the purpose of the message, as well as adopting agile cloud-based communications solutions, enterprises can benefit from relevant, personalised interactions with their entire customer base, including the ever-more influential millennial generation.