Disrupting Conventional Thinking on Consumer Engagement, One City at a Time.

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Earlier this month I had the fortune of traveling down to Austin, Texas with Joe Gagnon, Aspect’s SVP and GM of Cloud Solutions, a title which Joe himself will tell you does not do his mission complete justice. Yes, Joe is responsible for the strategic vision and executional success of Aspect’s cloud business but he is also somewhat of our Chief Travel Officer because he has hands down traveled more in a calendar year than any other Aspect executive. You could also adorn him with the title of CSO or Chief Storyteller because rarely does a conversation go by without a stat cited or a personal anecdote added on virtually any topic you can think of. But really he is our CVO, our Chief Vision Officer.
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We came down to Austin to tease out some upcoming survey findings we have on Millennials and customer service. Some pretty interesting insight on how this growing demographic is set to radically change how companies approach customer service: higher demand for self-service and digital interaction with ever-increasing expectations of customer service. We teamed up with noted Millennial expert Jason Dorsey (that’s him on the left) otherwise know as the Gen Y Guy. Jason’s understanding of Millennials was key to helping us discover what this generation wanted from the companies they do business with. Jason’s research tells us that Millennials don’t carry cash and largely don’t believe that money is the best measure of success. And perhaps most importantly to our research, is that Millennials have a lower level of trust as compared to other generations. It was with little surprise then when the survey data told us that 72% of millennials said customer service is the “true test” of how important they are to a company.

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In Austin, Joe and Jason teamed up to do a panel at SXSW on Solving the Millennial Content Challenge. They got together the night before to talk about what they wanted to say. Actually, they had so much they wanted to talk about, the conversation was more about what they were not going to be able to say. The data is so interesting. For example, did you know of the people we polled, nearly a third of them would rather clean a toilet than speak to customer service? Central to their talk was that companies are doing customer service wrong.

But being heard at SXSW is easier said than done. The key to making a splash at SXSW is announcing a video broadcast app like Meerkat or Periscope. But since we didn’t have an app like that, we had to figure out how to cut through the clutter. As you can see from the schedule, there is a lot of clutter.

 

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Here is the first hint at solving the Millennial content challenge: Make it digital. If you can’t reach a Millennial on his or her phone you can forget about them entirely. Our research found that 50 percent of Millennials said their smartphones are more important to them than their computers. Can you imagine then how much more important their smartphones are to them than being spammed by a lot of worthless information? We didn’t ask that but I’m guessing a ton. Also no word on if this guy ever took back his Internet.

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What we found is that Millenials have an overwhelming desire to do things on their own. In fact, when it comes to customer service, 65 percent of all consumers and 69 percent of Millennials say that they feel good about themselves and the company they are doing business with when they resolve a problem without talking to customer service. It’s a win-win. Customers get the interaction on their terms and feel better about it in the process. Hashtag awesome. Why are all these pedicabs at SXSW sitting idle? Probably because all the millennials wanted to walk. I rented a Nissan Sentra.

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So when things got started at the session, Jason shared why millennials need to be engaged differently than most companies are accustomed to engaging their customers. They value loyalty but they are more fickle about being loyal than any other generation. A big reason for this is the same frustration all generations feel. We provide a wealth of information to the companies we do business with and yet nearly every time we pick up the phone to talk to them we feel like a stranger. Our survey results support this. We found that  making a customer feel like you know them promotes loyalty in seven out of 10 people. And that’s where Joe came in. Joe talked about what companies can do to address this shift in consumer expectations largely led by the millennials.

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He talked about what companies can do. They need to show their customers that they know them. The need to make the customer experience mobile and provide the ability for millennials to solve the simple and moderate issues on their own. We found that 70 percent of millennials feel really good about both the company and themselves when they are able to answer a question or solve a problem related to that company without having to talk with a customer service agent. Who’d have thought that the idea of leaving your customers alone to fix their own problems would make them like you more? But as long as you provide an easy and engaging self-service solution, it’s true. they will.

The talk was a big hit. Many people told Joe it was the best panel they’d been to as SXSW. So I didn’t have to ask Joe and Jason to smile when I took this shot when they were done. They already were already smiling.

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So SXSW is behind us, we’re focused on this new research that very strongly supports our vision that if you let your customers interact with you in the means and manner they want, its going to be easier for you and more satisfying for them. Before Joe was in Austin, he presented this vision to a group of about 400 people in Mexico City and next week he is off to Ho Ch Minh City to present it as Aspect ACE in Vietnam. Changing a conversation of this magnitude takes a little time. Disruption can take time. But if anyone is up for it, its Joe. Disrupting conventional thinking on consumer engagement, one city at a time.

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