They are pragmatic, value conscious, and hyperconnected. Bold, entrepreneurial, and individualistic. They also went through a phase where they ate Tide Pods on social media, but that is not what we are going to explore in this installment. They are Gen Z, and they represent today’s largest percentage of purchasing power. In fact, while we were all locked down watching Tiger King, this generation discretely took over the entire world.

As a proud guardian of a Gen Z, I have had a private laboratory to observe and record some of the nuances of this new generation who seem to have taken over the world. First, most Gen Z’ers are no longer just kids. They are budding young professionals with money to spend, currently making up 40% of today’s U.S. consumer base. They may be the most astute group of buyers to ever exist, relying on their vast social networks to make informed purchasing decisions. They’ll assess many different options before choosing, or even engaging with, a product or service. They are paying the most attention to their customer experience, and they’re willing to pay (literally) for a better one. A recent study from CustomerBliss and Oracle found that 40% of Gen Z’ers are willing to pay as much as 20% more for an impressive service experience. Why is this? I have a theory that it is because this generation can quickly detect when they are getting a bad deal. They have ready access to so much information that they can comparison shop in seconds, and can discover immediately which brands live up to their promises and which brands fall short.

Data is king for this group (which is probably better than Tiger King). For organizations, this means uniting efforts across different departments (above all, service and marketing) to meet Gen Z’ers diverse expectations, creating that impressive service experience they’re willing to pay more for. How do they want to do business with brands? What matters most to them? How likely are they to make a purchase, and does that likelihood increase if they know someone who has bought and used the same product? These questions apply to every consumer, but arguably the most data is generated, collected, and available on Gen Z. 

Consider the following statistics:

●      Three-quarters of Gen Z customers would rather seek out non-company guidance (i.e., Reddit forums, YouTube channels, Google search) over contacting a brand’s customer service to solve issues most or all the time, according to research from Gartner
●      Nearly 70% of Gen Z’ers find new products and services through social channels every month, compared to 45% of all consumers. When they do find something they want, 27% are likely to click through and buy it. 
●      The majority (57%) feel comfortable sharing their personal information to tailor service interactions, but only 15% believe companies actually deliver personalized experiences. Gen Z is unlike any other consumer group organizations have needed to reach. They grew up with technology at their fingertips; interacting online comes second nature to them, and they expect companies to offer digital experiences that are not just engaging but also personalized. The key to personalizing their experiences boils down to acting on data insights through service and marketing efforts to build brand loyalty. 

Here are three steps to do so:

  1. Use Technology to Create More Personalized Experiences: Investing in AI applications is the first step to offering experiences that are seamless instead of fragmented; data-driven instead of reactive; and connected instead of siloed. But the key to making the experiences more personalized – and therefore, humanized – is to act on the predictive insights that your AI is gleaning. Those insights give you the opportunity to deliver personalized engagement that goes beyond the obligatory “happy birthday” message. They empower your agents to deliver a consistent experience across all channels with a complete profile of a customer’s service interactions, purchases and digital engagement with the brand. For example, you can use AI to intelligently route a Gen Z customer based on information like their location, current inquiry, and purchase history with a Gen Z agent that best matches those data points. You can also use the insights to better equip agents with the right info they need at the right time (ex: surfacing relevant knowledge articles in real-time based on keywords or phrases spoken by the customer). You can even start tracking trends and conversation themes to create more proactive service experiences in the future. For upselling efforts on the marketing front, you can accelerate the online checkout process and automate personalized “similar items” recommendations based on a customer’s past transactional data. 
  2. Give the Gift of Time to Your Agents by Offering Self-Service: Self-service is a trend that will endure long after 2020. Intelligent self-service (i.e., knowledge databases, voice and chat bots, proactive notifications for sending things like informational videos) cater to Gen Z’s preference for self-service channels that feel natural and easy to engage with. Offering self-service options along with human agents allows Gen Z customers to interact with the brand how, when and where they want. In addition, digital assistants and other types of self-service applications can help an organization automate repetitive tasks and processes,  reducing the time it takes to solve service inquiries while freeing up agents’ time to handle more complex service interactions. Self-service is a value add that will be appreciated by your newest cohort of customers as well as your employees, both young and seasoned. 
  3. Embrace Your Brand Community: Knowing that platforms and forums such as Reddit, YouTube, and Google are more helpful for Gen Z customers to solve service issues they are having with your product or service than your own channels may be frustrating. Your first instinct may be to bolster your own service channels to make these third-party sites obsolete. While ensuring your service agents and overall customer service strategies are top-notch, you shouldn’t shun these channels or the influencers on them. Gen Z is more accustomed than any other generation to influencer marketing and they won’t be quick to abandon those channels they use for guidance for purchasing decisions and now, for service inquiries. Instead, you should embrace those avenuesand understand how you can work with them. All brands strive for a community – the more influential, happy, and loyal yours is, the better. 
The influence of Gen Z will only increase over the next ten years, meaning that if you are not prioritizing your customer experiences for this demographic you have already made the strategic decision to become a niche market player. That being said, this group offers an enormous opportunity. At the intersection of outbound marketing (how marketers are reaching Gen Z’ers) and customer service (matching Gen Z’ers preferences for modalities, expectations they have for brand interactions) is an unmatched opportunity to elevate CX for this rising group who has massive buying potential. Leveraging data as insights, turning insights into connections, transforming connections into loyalty, and building loyalty to build a community is how it’s done. Organizations must take advantage of this to get ahead in the CX race. Failure to do so will send brands the way of Crystal Pepsi (a popular culture reference that no Gen Z’er would understand).


Targets

●      Marketing Dive (submission link) or Retail Dive (submission link)
●      MarTech Advisor or CMSWire
●      The Drum - perhaps the paid column?
●The Next Web (currently only prioritizing Growth Quarters content i.e. personal advice by experts to help other startups and employees improve professionally)

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