Joel Stein’s recent Times article, “Millennials: The Me Me Me Generation; Why They’ll Save Us All”, instigated intense controversy, with multiple responses from various sources debunking many of his claims. I won’t go into detail on his article, but I do think he has one thing right; Millennials will save us all – if ‘us’ means organizations that are actively listening to and reacting to their Millennial customers.
Millennials, generally accepted as being born between 1981 and 2000, are a generation that wants instant gratification, desires to be listened to and understood, and values their ability to make an impact. These characteristics are reflected in the way they interact with organizations.
Customers are more mobile than ever, and Millennials are leading the charge. By 2014, there will be 1.8 billion mobile devices in the US, the majority of which are in the hands of Millennials. They are so tied to their devices that 80% of Millennials sleep with their cell phones next to their bed. This generation is also likely to multi-task across channels, constantly moving across platforms (mobile, social, PC, gaming), and all the while expecting a seamless experience. With information always at their fingertips, Millennials expect speed, ease, and efficiency; and whether or not their expectations are met, they are quick to let others know. They are far more likely than other generations to broadcast their thoughts and experiences in high-volume platforms like Facebook, Yelp and Twitter, where the impact of word-of-mouth is exponential. 60% of Millennials, or 48 million consumers, are actively rating products and services online. And more than 50% use social media to gather feedback on new brands – making Millennials valuable contributors to and highly susceptible to digital word-of-mouth.
With all this public activity, companies could have amazing insight into what their customers want and need, but most companies aren’t even listening. 95% of brand-related posts on Facebook and 71% of complaints on Twitter go unanswered. Considering that 88% of consumers say that they are unlikely to buy from brands that ignore them, this can be extremely detrimental. On the other hand, this constant availability of customer feedback can be extremely advantageous. Organizations can easily set themselves apart by becoming one of the few that do listen and respond to their customers. Not only will they begin to be recognized as having amazing customer service, but they can easily gather significant insights into their customer’s needs. With these insights, organizations can revise their organizational strategy to target what the market is truly looking for.
Reid Hoffman, Co-Founder and Chairman of LinkedIn, said that great companies are in a state of ‘Permanent Beta’ – always evolving. They’re never finished and never fully developed. This state of ‘Permanent Beta’ is inherent to the very nature of Millennials. They expect and appreciate constant change and constant improvement. They are opinionated, full of ideas, and have multiple avenues for sharing those ideas with the world. Because of this, Millennials provide companies the incredible opportunity to gather innovative concepts directly from their customers, launch new programs, get immediate feedback, and iteratively improve until they reach perfection.
Listen to your customers and they will shape your organization’s future. By listening and reacting, you will position yourself to be an industry leader, not only setting yourself apart from the competition, but improving your organization to meet the demands of consumers.
If you pay attention to them, your Millennial customers will not only save your company, they will launch you to the top of your industry.