Does your company have a separate strategy on how to communicate and increase engagement with millennials? This group, most simply described as anyone born in the 1980s – 90s, surpassed Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living generation, according to 2015 population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. They represent a new way of thinking about work and personal life, and how technology spans the two, often blurring the lines, using personal devices for work functions and work devices for personal activities like banking, shopping, and reading news. And, it may go without saying, but they have no time or interest in noticeably clunky corporate ways of including them in your business — whether as customers or employees.
If you run your customer or employee engagement program, this topic raises some interesting questions about the changing landscape of communication, loyalty, and business relationships. How best to engage this generation of people who were raised with a smart phone in their hand and a delete button at their fingertips?
“Millennials, in general, express little loyalty to their current employers and many are planning near-term exits,” according to Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited’s fifth annual Millennial Survey. “This remarkable absence of allegiance represents a serious challenge to any business employing a large number of Millennials, especially those in markets—like the United States—where Millennials now represent the largest segment of the workforce.”
The above quotation refers to employees, but I think it could be accurately extended to describe depth of loyalty between millennials and any given brand as well. This group sees through corporate duplicity and wants to be treated directly, honestly, and with respect.
As an example of a company that does this very well, I thought of one of our sibling solutions, Clicktools by CallidusCloud, and their customer — Sony Playstation. Especially for Badgeville customers, who understand the value and power of gaming to millennials, Sony Playstation’s customers (predominantly millennials) are so loyal to the brand that they’ve been known to literally tattoo the company’s logo and its various game logos/characters on their bodies. Sony uses Clicktools to run chat and phone CSAT surveys in multiple languages to gauge how they’re doing with their gamers and to make sure they’re relevant and top of mind. And, they get good response rates from an audience whom you might presume would close out of a survey offer immediately. They don’t. Because they care about the brand and want to be involved.
How does Sony achieve this and what can we learn about keeping millennial customers and employees engaged and loyal? One tip from the Sony example is to speak to them in their own language and have a genuine respect for their time, availability, and willingness to engage and give feedback. You can perform your own internal testing to determine these things, but find out! If your “players” prefer being called “gamers,” then call them that. If you know that certain online challenges don’t garner significant attention, then get rid of them. If particular marketing efforts get extremely low response rates, then try out different channels.
Beyond these considerations, how can companies connect to millennials in a meaningful and authentic way?
“While they continue to express a positive view of business’ role in society and have softened their negative perceptions of business’ motivation and ethics compared to prior surveys, Millennials still want businesses to focus more on people (employees, customers, and society), products, and purpose—and less on profits” (Deloitte).
Ah, it all comes back to experience. To refer to a recent post, “…companies get stuck in the literal definition of ‘customer experience’ and focus only on the customer side of the equation, which is silly. It takes two to tango and great ‘customer experience’ in many cases involved a great employee confidently, competently, and happily doing her job.”
The way to drive loyalty and engagement among “digital natives” is to respect the experience from both sides of the customer and employee equation. People may joke about shorter attention spans and apathetic attitudes of millennials, but there are valid lessons to be learned from those raised in multi-screen environments.
Whether as an employer or business attempting to connect with millennials, here are five tips to keep front of mind:
1. Get them in the game. As a gamification company, we know that digital motivation works in business environments — especially regarding millennials! Without question, companies can drive engagement with the solutions people already use by adding a gamification layer. This creates friendly competition and fun among users, while also encouraging desired behaviors in employee and customer communities. Millennials were raised on gaming, so this is a familiar, reliable method to get them more involved and interested in your company, products, services, etc.
2. Put people first. To draw from the Deloitte quotation above, millennials are forcing the hands of companies by demanding a more personal, compassionate way of doing business. Whether as employees or customers, they generally care less about your products and more about how you treat people. So you need to prove that your customer or employee experience is designed around supporting them, not solely your bottom line. Otherwise, let’s face it; they’re gone — off to a new job opportunity or a competing product that better aligns with their view point, their needs, and their style of engagement.
3. Mobile is a must. It may go without saying, but you need to optimize all communications and services to a mobile model. A recent report cites: “Eight out of ten Millennials reach for their smartphones first thing in the morning, and 87% report that the phone ‘never leaves my side, day or night.’” So whether we’re talking about gamification or any other online interactions, “mobile first” is the mantra to repeat when trying to connect with millennials.
4. Avoid “corporate speak” at all costs. Make sure your language is succinct, meaningful, and in the vernacular of your audience (not your internal teams). To return to the Sony example, speak to them in their own language, so that they’re really included and more inclined to share honest opinions that may serve to bring them deeper into the fold and improve your business.
5. Don’t waste time on things you already know. Millennials understand technology and know darn well that your database contains contact information, purchase history, and other data, so don’t double ask for it. Demonstrate that you respect the barrage of information they see and receive everyday, and are only asking for their input to improve their experience and that of their peers.