Customer Expectations and the Customer Experience: A Millennial’s Perspective
Jan 30, 2020
When companies talk about “transforming” the customer experience, they often do so through a lens of understanding informed by past experience. Rather than being open to new perspectives and new ways of looking at things, they view the customer in the context of their own knowledge and preferences. In today’s disruptive, unpredictable and constantly changing world, that mindset can become a liability.
The ideal “customer experience” means different things to different individuals. People of my generation – Millennials and Gen Z customers – have different expectations and standards than our older peers. Even the savviest members of Gen X find themselves baffled at what appeals to us, as well as what we come to expect from retailers.
For example, while older folks aren’t bothered, my generation loathes returning items. Forty-eight percent of millennials say returns are a hassle, and a staggering 60 percent keep unwanted purchases simply to avoid the return process. If a customer finds your product lacking and your return process clunky, he or she is effectively “stuck with it,” and is unlikely to send future business your way.
Nearly 100 percent of Generation Z consumers have a smartphone and spend at least 4 hours a day online. These potential customers shop online instead of in-store and, thanks to VR and AR applications, expect to try on clothing, glasses and even travel experiences from the comfort of their living rooms. And by virtualizing “try before you buy,” these tools can help us avoid the dreaded experience of returning items.
While VR and AR are becoming baseline commodities for younger generations, older shoppers view them as a hard-to-fathom abstraction. My Boomer Boss, for example, views VR, AR and mobile experiences for business as radical departures from what a customer experience should be. While the transformational and “innovative” feature sets are game changers for him and his peers, for my generation they’re just part of the game we already know. And if we don’t get what we want, we’re likely to walk.
Recently, a friend chose IKEA over a local furniture store his family had used for generations. Why? Because their app could virtually show how his future dressers and couch would fit into his living space. I’ve chosen niche retailers over trusted names because of their in-store VR/AR features. I picked a smaller prescription glasses company over a famous brand name because I could use their app to virtually try on similar-looking glasses. The more prominent brand name’s store had no such option. Instead, they expected me to find a retail store of theirs in my area (there were none) or “take their word for it.” Neither were options as I needed these glasses ASAP. The bigger established brand lost a sale, while the smaller savvier retailer earned a repeat customer.
A high bar of expectations? Maybe. But before dismissing my attitude as “Millennial entitlement,” remember that my generation is increasingly driving the economy. We have roughly $1.4 trillion to spend this year alone. And while our economic clout expands, the older generations that still dominate many boardrooms may be more susceptible to a “we’ve always done it this way” mindset.
To avoid this recipe for disaster, business leaders must consciously push themselves to commit to new ideas and create cultures that encourage risk taking and innovation. In a recent Forbes column, my CEO Jorge Rodriguez offered business leaders two tips on how to do just that:
– Create incentives that specifically reward initiatives and actions that drive change. An example: create positions whose responsibility is to brainstorm ideas for improving operations. Adopting new ideas creates visibility and demonstrates that new ideas are taken seriously.
– Acknowledge the value of creative ideas that aren’t implemented – this can encourage bold thinking and build the “freedom to fail” mindset that's essential to a culture of innovation.
OK boomer jokes aside, the times they are a changin’ (as young people in the 1960s liked to say). If the perspectives of today’s younger and tech-savvier consumers are ignored, we will take our business elsewhere.