Magazine

A human touch for a
digital generation

When people create services for millennials they often think a primarily digital approach is required. Actually, to connect with this generation of consumers a human touch is as indispensable as it always has been for generations of human beings.

A push towards digital

A lot of recent literature has been devoted to helping managers understand and serve the millennial generation. With a combined global spending power of $2.45 trillion in 2015 this is no surprise [1]. Many assume that this generation of digital natives prefers self-service on digital platforms over human contact points. This approach misses crucial points about the needs of this generation and how a human touch can help meet them.

Millennials are human after all

Millennials are not a strange new consumer group that doesn’t want any human contact. They are in fact rather similar to previous consumer generations in what they want from a company. The difference is that, because they grew up with digital solutions and a multitude of options, their patience with companies that do not meet their needs is in far shorter supply. Because of this, it’s imperative to truly understand what impact you want each touchpoint to have, and then decide whether to go with digital or human.

66% of millennials rely on their parents’ guidance when buying big ticket items like a house or car.

Contradicting figures

The claim that millennials prefer digital self-service over human contact is often backed up with statistics like “42% of people under 35 would rather clean a toilet than call a contact centre” [2] In reality, statistics like this only tell half the story. Other surveys report millennials are not crazy about digital solutions either. In fact, 76% prefer to call or email with a company to solve service issues [3]. How do these conflicting statistics add up?

The medium isn’t the issue, it’s the experience

By focusing too much on the medium, companies are missing the importance of the experience delivered through that medium. Bad customer experiences are poisoning the well. Of those who preferred human contact, 85% cited at least one negative call centre experience in the last year. When millennials turn to social media channels there’s a good chance it’s because calling or emailing didn’t work [3].

Understanding why and when people want human experiences

It’s true that millennials are digital savants, but an important reason they currently prefer digital solutions is because they don’t want to be engaged by “corporate” spokespeople reading from a script. They’re willing and able to find information on their own. However, companies should carefully consider which type of queries people can solve themselves rather than just pushing blanket digital solutions. By thinking that millennials don’t want human touchpoints in a service, you may lose unique opportunities to provide guidance and build valuable relationships.

Where a human touch can add value

When making purchasing decisions, millennials often seek out the opinions of others, crowdsourcing and polling peers. In high stakes decisions or unfamiliar territories, a human touch becomes more important.

Let’s take, for example, car and home buying [4][5]. When making purchasing decisions this big, they turn to their most trusted authority for advice: their parents. 66% of them rely on parental guidance when buying big ticket items like a house or car [6]. This is no surprise, as 80% of millennials trust their parents’ recommendations the most [6].

Support millennials venturing into the unknown

Why is this important? Millennials rely heavily on their parents when venturing into unknown purchasing territory. This is not necessarily due to a lack of confidence, but rather because millennials, having grown up in a time when the answers to any question were at their fingertips, crave certainty. As a car manufacturer or retailer or financial service provider, this represents an important moment where you can approach millennials with advice. The aim is to come across not as a salesman, but as a trusted advisor.

42% of people under 35 would rather clean a toilet than ring a call centre.

Developing trust in financial services

Now is the time for the financial services industry to start building a healthy relationship with millennials. As they begin their professional careers, they’re starting to think about retirement planning and investing. This is the critical moment for banks and financial companies to be proactive in setting up more human touchpoints that will facilitate these important decisions.

Despite a wealth of digital financial tools, millennials are still in need of human advice they can trust. Only 27% seek professional financial advice despite only 24% having basic financial knowledge [7]. This represents a huge opportunity. If banks can develop human interactions where the objective is to advise, not to sell, they can start building valuable relationships. Millennials are ready for it. 60% wish their bank was more like a partner or friend, there on a human level to provide financial advice [8].

Being human where it matters

So why does this matter to your company? Millennial purchasing trends span every sector and are globally relevant [9]. While they may appreciate the ability to access to information quickly digitally, they should also be supported with human touchpoints. By offering access to opinions they respect, a company can support millennials in their decision making. By connecting in a more friendly and flexible fashion, goodwill, trust and loyalty can develop. These qualities are invaluable in today’s market and especially to this consumer generation.

[1] http://www.cnbc.com [2] http://www.sparkresponse.com [3] http://www.mattersight.com [4] http://www.forbes.com [5] https://www.bloomberg.com [6] http://www.targetmarketingmag.com [7] https://www.pwc.com [8] https://www.wealthwizards.com [9] http://www.unibs.it

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