Diverging generational engagement preferences forcing contact centres to respond

By Deon Scheepers, Customer Engagement Executive at Pivotal Data

The composition of the consumer market is rapidly shifting as millennials and the first wave of generation Z – those born between 1995 and 2010 – overtake baby boomers as the largest and most influential consumer segment globally.

Forecasts suggest that by 2020, millennials will comprise 35% of the global workforce and that there will be 2.6 billion gen-Zers globally, which accounts for 40% of all consumers.

The resultant market trends are affecting every sphere of business, with the contact centre – often a company’s first line of customer engagement – caught in the vortex of this generational shift.

In particular, the engagement preferences and customer service demands of this digitally-empowered cross-generational cohort are driving significant changes in the contact centre environment.

While both generations take a mobile-first approach, their engagement preferences differ. While millennials are a digital-first generation, gen-Z are digital natives and are, therefore, less likely to use traditional voice channels.

Managing this shift away from physical calls has become a primary concern among contact centre managers, but operators will still require solutions that can integrate voice options into their omnichannel capabilities.

This is important as many consumers now prefer to engage using voice messaging as this conveys emotions and can help to build rapport. However, the trend creates challenges in terms of how agents respond, and how to convert this voice-based data into usable formats that can analysed to extract intelligence and insights.

The shift away from voice also means the prominence and importance of messaging and social media channels will steadily increase as millennials and gen-Zers increasingly opt to communicate via platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Twitter. This, of course, creates additional complexities around how best to manage the resultant fragmentation.

However, regardless of what platform or channel they prefer, both groups expect seamless digital experiences. Their affinity for multi-tasking also means they have short attention spans, which requires responsive and real-time customer experiences (CX) from contact centres.

Integrated, omnichannel engagement and communication capabilities that span multiple digital platforms and devices, with digital self-service options such as chatbots have, therefore, become non-negotiable capabilities.

Contact centres require this functionality to deliver seamless engagement and memorable omnichannel CX, without a loss of context or relevance, particularly when consumers switch from self-service to front-line live customer service agents.

As a consequence, contact centre operators need to transform their communication, engagement and service design approach to cater to this new generation. Those that fail to embrace and adopt the digital solutions that meet these demands will face fierce competition and a loss of relevance in a rapidly evolving digitised marketplace.

In this regard, cloud-based digital solutions have revolutionised how contact centres can engage with this new generation of consumers and, more importantly, deliver granular insights that deepen their understanding of their target markets.;

By gaining access to solutions that can easily and cost-effectively apply data analytics, machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI) and automation to big data, contact centres can create opportunities to treat customers as individuals, talking to and engaging with them through personalised digital engagements and live agent interactions.

Moreover, they can leverage these data-driven insights to craft relevant interactions, using the consumer’s preferred channel and tailoring engagement according to their specific preferences.

Chatbots in particular, offer an effective means to personalise engagements across channels, while also offloading more mundane tasks from agents. The real benefit, however, is a chatbot’s ability to instantly access real-time insights from both structured and unstructured consumers data to significantly improve CX. There are also cost optimisation benefits to consider from the broader application of chatbots in contact centre operations.

Unlocking these capabilities ultimately requires a comprehensive digital transformation strategy that applies intelligent and automated solutions and advanced data analytics within the contact centre to align CX and engagement with the expectations and demands of a new generation of digitally-savvy consumers.