Digital natives are here to transform your CX
Regardless of whether or not companies were ready, the pandemic accelerated the digital technology adoption timeline from five years to three months.
Published February 11, 2021
Last updated March 26, 2021
How did your life change during lockdown?Whether you spent it muting and unmuting yourself in meetings on Zoom or logging your kids into online classrooms, it comes as no surprise that digital interactions have surged to an all-time high according to Zendesk's Customer Experience Trends 2021 report.
Regardless of whether or not companies were ready, the pandemic accelerated the digital technology adoption timeline from five years to three months. Companies that hadn’t already made the digital leap quickly realised that the initiatives they had in the pipeline were now imperatives. And many didn’t have the skills they needed to bring them to life.
Future disruptions are inevitable, so a talent strategy that doubles down on critical digital and cognitive abilities must also be at the centre of the overall business strategy. For customer experience teams, where you should look for talent is simple - your customers.
The shift to remote working wasn’t the only notable workplace development in 2020. It was also the year that millennials and Gen Z became the majority of the workforce. These digital natives are entering their prime spending years, and with them, they bring an entirely new set of expectations about the online customer experience. As they become the most influential group of customers, engaging with and evaluating your support teams, companies must ask themselves: does my CX team reflect and represent this cohort of customers with undeniable buying power?
If the answer is no, you more than likely have a profound disconnect between your customers and how they want to engage with your business. According to Gallup, only 25% of millennials are fully engaged with the brand and services they purchase - the lowest overall customer engaged score of any generation. Why? Because brands aren’t meeting their expectations on the channels they want to use. So here’s the challenge for businesses wanting to win the hearts and minds of millennials: deliver a positive and consistent experience across all your channels, or don’t bother at all.
Bringing the omnichannel experience to life
Online, offline - the distinction is irrelevant to your millennial and Gen Z customers. What matters most is that you transform your customer experience to enable an omnichannel experience.
“As more customers move online, they want the same personal experience and fast times that they can get in conventional face-to-face retail,” says Ben Chambers, Head of Sales at Huskee. “We realised that the old way of providing online support - impersonal automated messages, ticket number and robotic emails - needed to change. We now use some incredible tools which allow us to manage high volumes of support queries while also providing a high level of personalisation that gives the one-to-one feeling that customers are after.”
The right tools are important, but you also need to have the right people using them. Savvy customers will spot brands with “all the gear, but no idea” a mile off. You need digital natives who are just as connected, app-native and aware of what they can do with technology as your customers.
You can’t be in wait-and-see mode; it’s time to act. The Zendesk Customer Experience Trends 2021 report found that 75% of decision makers are increasing their investment in offering multiple channels, and 64% of customers have tried a new way to get in touch with customer service. It’s not enough to just have these channels available for your customers; you need to ensure they can have a seamless experience initiating interactions on one and completing them on another. But if they have to keep repeating who they are, or what they’re enquiring about, you run the risk of leaving them frustrated, with some taking to their digital soapboxes to air grievances.
Creating a consistent communication journey comes second nature to digital natives, as they’re used to bouncing between channels. In the workplace, they also have a certain dexterity to adapt to the various touchpoints and interactions they have with customers, often suggesting new approaches and ideas based on their own experiences.
Supercharging CX with the right skills
Companies that aren’t addressing the digital skills gaps in their teams will find themselves lagging behind companies who do. LinkedIn’s 2020 Workplace Learning report revealed that 99% of learning and development executives believe if skills gaps are not closed in the next three to five years, customer experience and satisfaction will be affected. If that doesn’t ring alarm bells, it should.
In general, it’s less about IQ and more about EQ, as a lot of IQ knowledge is available at our fingertips through technology. This rings true for Chambers:
“Because we are a primarily online business, we look for talent with high EQ, great time management and a genuine heart to help our customers. This combination results in our customers feeling understood, cared for and their problems solved quickly and efficiently, even when all the interaction happens online. Automation tools can help us to be more efficient at scale, but it is the people behind the tools who represent our brand and have a lasting impact on our customers.”
Here are the three skills that are foundational to your customer experience teams’ ability to connect with next-gen consumers:
If you’re looking to better understand and develop empathy for your customer, start by employing them! Having a CX team that reflects the community of customers you’re serving is the easiest shortcut to gaining an authentic insight into the problems they encounter, and how they want to solve them.
For example, millennials are self-reliant and tech-fluent, meaning they prefer to solve problems themselves rather than waiting to communicate directly for help. While an increase in tickets may make you think that you need more customer support agents to handle them, a better solution for your millennial customers would be to offer digital self-service so they can serve themselves conveniently.
Having empathy is one step towards great customer service. With the ability to see the world through their customers’ eyes, employees can anticipate potential problems before they’re even encountered. Proactively getting ahead of problems is half the battle won, the other is having the skills and capabilities to solve them with digital tools.
Chatbots are now handling simple enquiries, so your customer experience team entrusted with resolving more complex issues. An added layer of complexity is doing this all remotely; from both the customer and other team members, so the ability to autonomously solve customer’s problems via virtual collaboration and technology is paramount.
CX teams need to flex different communication styles to suit where they’re interacting with customers. If you just rinse and repeat boilerplate responses that aren’t personalised to a customer’s enquiry, millennials will see right through it, adding to their frustrations.
Employees who interact with customers need to seamlessly adapt their communication style between channels, mirroring the customers’ language and tone. From writing well (and not like a robot on email) to the need for speed when your DMs are blowing up on Twitter or Instagram, every channel has its nuances and communication needs to be tailored accordingly.
This highlights the importance of transferable skills. Unlike function-specific hard skills, transferable skills are not obviously apparent when you sift through a CV, which means great candidates can slip through the cracks. It’s a problem Hatch is solving through its talent matching platform that uses matching science to identify the best-fit candidates to a role. With a focus on junior roles, Hatch helps companies overcome the barriers to finding people who are a genuine fit, like your digital natives, who are often missed in the typical hiring process as their CVs and experience don’t tell their story.
This digital skills reckoning may feel like it has all come at once, but don't worry, there are some quick wins you can make to upskill and reskill your team. Collaboration is key; digital natives and digital immigrants can come together as digital partners, creating a mutual learning opportunity.
Keeping up-to-date on technological and digital advances is considered one of the biggest challenges facing future business leaders. Pairing some of your more experienced team members with recent graduates presents an opportunity to transfer knowledge of trends and best practice. Many businesses practice this more formally through reverse mentoring programmes and see benefits on the knowledge-sharing front.
Hatch is a talent matching platform that uses matching science to identify candidates with the right skills and motivations for your role, to save you time and manage bias.
Hatch exists to level the playing field for people as they discover a career that’s right for them; allowing them to find work based on their transferable strengths and motivators.
Bree Fedele is a Content Marketer at Hatch, where she writes about how teams and individuals come together to do meaningful work.