September 20, 2016 5 months 1 week ago

CCSA Connect 2016: Don’t put millennials in a box

WHISTLER – If there’s one thing millennials hate, it’s to be thought of as one homogeneous group – and to market to them, or employ them, thinking that way is a sure road to disaster.

This was part of the message delivered in an entertaining keynote Tuesday morning by Curt Steinhorst from the Center for Generational Kinetics (pictured). He was speaking to the delegates at the 2016 Canadian Cable Systems Alliance Connect Conference.

Groups of generations, be they Baby Boomers, or Millennials or any other group, don’t meet every definition foisted upon them. “They’re not a box,” he said, “which every person of a particular age is going to fit into.” Companies must think of the labels more as clues than rigid rules.

Steinhorst told the audience that millennials are judged through the lenses the generations before them can’t help but use. Many of those Boomers who got jobs in their early teens, made peanuts, endured, and moved up and on in their lives pushing through hardships at a young age can’t understand why millennials aren’t prepared to do the same.

The funny thing is, the millennial generation were raised by Boomers who, of course, tried to make things easier on their kids, (many of whom didn’t work in their teens and were/are sheltered by mom and dad), and are now surprised the millennial generation seems so entitled and confused when they enter the workforce.

“We were raised that way by parents who shielded us from experiences that you have,” added Steinhorst, himself a millennial raised by boomer parents.

So millennials are doing everything later (including when they show up for work, he joked), from moving out of their parents’ home to starting a family and buying a house. In fact, a recent survey conducted by CGK found that millennials aren’t really considering themselves adults (which means when they pay all their own bills, live on their own and hold down a job) until the age of 30.

So, unless companies acknowledge and to some extent accommodate the way millennials think and work and then alter business practices, whether it’s marketing to them or employing them, “you will lose that generation,” said Steinhorst. And it’s a generation now making up the largest portion of the workforce in the world and will soon have the most purchasing power.

That doesn’t mean, however, that millennials can all be treated or thought of as the same. Plus, they hate that. While there are traits that can be found across generations, millennials all want to be treated authentically, as a real person and not as a number. “We’re all unique and special… I have a ribbon for 13th place that proves it,” joked Steinhorst.

For example, young consumers are assumed to be technically savvy, which is not exactly the case, he added. Yes, most are adept in using their phones, but it doesn’t mean they know how it works or how to trouble-shoot it, or how to solve customer service issues on their broadband company’s website. They want what they want in as few clicks as possible and when it becomes frustrating, they will quickly abandon their efforts and sometimes vent on social media, neither of which is good for business.

“If there are obstacles and road blocks, we’re not going to use it,” he added.

For example, Steinhorst told attendees their companies should be on social media and reachable via text there or on a one-button-push text chat on their web sites, where customers can communicate with a real person who will help them solve their problems in real time. Companies must make it easy for their millennial customers, who do not have the patience to wait on hold, for example. In fact, many of them won’t make and don’t like phone calls. “We see phone calls as an invasion of privacy, we think ‘who is this person calling who thinks what they have to say is more important than what I’m doing’?”

He also warned the delegates in attendance their marketing and training needs to be far more visual than in the past. “We do not read,” explained Steinhorst. “We’ve been trained to skip over blocks of text… We have no attention spans.

“If you can watch a 30-minute sitcom without pulling out your phone, then you’re the best we’ve got.”