Nothing comes more naturally to young consumers than the click of their keyboard or the tap of a mobile app -- except when they contact customer service.
When it comes to contacting cable and high-speed Internet service providers, the telephone still rules, even among millennials, according to the 2015 Communications Industry Customer Experience Survey by Cognizant.
The reason is simple: It works. For millennials, dialing up customer service is the path of least resistance. They say provider's digital support options are cumbersome to use, yet the survey findings point to improvements providers can make to encourage younger subscribers to revisit digital options.
Preferring the human touch
In fact, the survey of 925 consumers found heavy use of telephone support across all demographics.
But what prompts typically digital savvy millennials, age 18 to 34, to dial support rather than reach out through websites, mobile apps or online self-service? Topping the list of reasons is the human touch. Even among tech-savvy millennials, nearly 60% report they telephone customer service "to talk to a person." They also report online processes are too complicated (17%) and information too hard to find (16%). (See the infographic at the bottom of the story for more detailed stats.)
The results underscore a double whammy for service providers: Not only do younger customers prefer to contact them by phone, but they also dial in with far greater frequency than older customers. Thirty-two percent of young subscribers contact their service provider weekly or monthly, most often for billing or recharge purposes or to review their service usage or status. Among older subscribers, a scant 8% call with the same level of recurrence.
And even with all the contact, millennials are more likely to switch providers. Forty-six percent in the youngest category have changed carriers in the last two years. Among older customers, the number is just 14%.
The takeaway? Despite service providers' investment in digital channels, their youngest customers prefer the more costly contact options and make use of them more often.
Countering the trend
How can service providers counter millennials' failure to embrace digital channels? More than other industries, products need to work flawlessly, and customer service and engagement has to be top-notch.
Here are three steps service providers can take to provide simpler, clear services and support processes to retain and even recapture younger customers:
Get digital channels right -- Like all customers, millennials have low tolerance for channels that don't work. Few will return to options that don't run well the first time. Who can blame them?
Yet the survey results underscore that too many providers continue to plow capital into front-end technology like snazzy user interfaces and apps that don't change customer behavior or generate sufficient returns.
Customers return to channels that work. They are enthusiastic about browsing online for products and services, for example, and despite favoring telephone support, there was a slight uptick in their usage of online channels.
How can your organization build on that momentum? Spend wisely. Focus on leveraging technologies to improve underlying business processes. Get to know your customers by understanding the digital swirls of information that surround them -- their likes, tweets and posts, or what we at Cognizant call Code Halos. Mastering analytics can help you gain valuable insights into their viewing habits and product preferences.
Measure customer effort -- It's simple but sage advice: Focus on benefits for your customers, not your organization. Where is it complicated or cumbersome for customers to engage with your digital channels? To counter millennials' tendency to jump providers, make it easy for them to be your customer.
Take the example of ordering and installing new cable service. Within a cable company, the process involves roughly a dozen functions such as placing the order, confirming it, and scheduling and completing the installation. Customers, however, experience this as a single activity.
View your digital channels from the customer's point of view. Align scorecards and KPIs to measure customer effort. For most organizations, that change requires a dramatic shift in perspective. Survey findings show customers want to be online. It's your organization's job to help get them there.
Make personalization worth it -- Millennials are more willing than older customers to share personal information – but only as long as it results in custom offers and rewards with genuine value.
For example, an attractive offer for subscribers who consume high levels of OTT video usage might be downgrading to a lower tier of pay-TV service and upgrading to a faster data package for improved video streaming.
The offer might cost your organization revenue in the short term, but it can also deliver long-term value that deepens the customer relationship and discourages churn while paving the way for future upselling.
To ensure your organization retains tech-savvy young subscribers, focus investments and strategies on reducing customer effort and creating personalized solutions with real value.
— Bryan Powell, director, Cognizant Business Consultings Communication and Technology Practice, special to The New IP
Click on the infographic below for more stats from Cognizant's survey.