New contact centre research published today by Dimension Data found that for Generation Y – that’s individuals born between 1980 and 2000 – the phone is now in joint second place with social media as the favoured way to contact a call centre. The preferred contact method for that age group is now electronic messaging, including email and SMS.
The research found that of those with a preference, 29.4% prefer electronic messaging, with 25.9% preferring the phone, and another 25.9% who prefer to engage via social media. Just behind this, at 24.7%, are those that prefer to use a smartphone app. Only 2.4% in that age group prefer ‘snail mail’ or ‘white mail’.
There are, as you’d expect, significant differences across different age groups. The use of social media as a means of contacting call centres, for instance, is preferred by 12.9% of Generation X (born 1961-1989); but none of the ‘baby boomers’ (born 1945-1960) or ‘silent generation’ (born pre-1944) would use it, according to the survey.
The survey looked at 817 organisations covering 11 business sectors in 79 countries across Asia Pacific, Australia, the Middle East & Africa, the Americas and Europe.
Andrew McNair, Dimension Data’s Head of Global Benchmarking, said, "While the Silent Generation and the Baby Boomers prefer the phone as their most popular channel of engagement with a contact centre (44.7% and 49.4% respectively), the pace of decline in ‘voice only’ contact centres – now down to 53.8% overall compared with 69.4% 12 months ago – demonstrates the continuing trend to multiskill telephone agents across emerging ‘non-voice’ contact channels."
"Generation Y is the biggest demographic group since the Baby Boomers. Its members are highly demanding, vigorously social, constantly connected, and blithely channel-agnostic, so for them, any conversation about channels is meaningless. Generation Y simply want to get things done, and will use a variety of electronic devices they have at their disposal to fulfil that need," said McNair.
"It’s surprising that almost one-half of the organisations we polled have not analysed their customers’ channel preferences by age," he added. "While age is not the only indicator of likely customer behaviour, it is a strong one, as it provides an indicator for which channels should merit the greatest attention and investment. The fact that so many organisations are ignoring the age factor suggests that they may be failing to measure or evaluate customer behaviour effectively."
McNair made the point that omnichannel environments enable customers to move effortlessly from one channel to another using a range of devices: from mobiles and smartphones to tablets and TV. Companies that fail to offer this could alienate Generation Y in particular, he warned.