Don’t Talk, Chat: 4 Ways to Tailor Your Customer Service to Millennials


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Over the past five years, Millennials have proven to be a phone-averse generation. While they might love their smartphones for Tweeting, snapping pictures, and chatting with their friends online, they would rather engage with a machine than talk with a live person–even if it’s to reach out for help. In fact, Millennials would rather get their teeth cleaned than call a customer service line.


The Minneapolis Star Tribune summarizes: “[Millennials] don’t engage in pleasantries and small talk, and they get right to the point.” In other words, talking with a “real person” tends to be a waste of time for consumers under the age of 33.

Brands concerned with customer service have responded to this generation’s needs to the best of their ability… and have gone overboard in the process. In fact, according to a recent study by Nuance Communications, a third (32 percent) of Millennials say that their biggest gripe with customer service is that they cannot reach a live person when they want to.

These two sets of data points seem contradictory. If Millennials don’t want to be on the phone but do want to communicate with a live person, what are brands to do?

Below I outline four ways customer service innovators are addressing this problem–and why they’re working.

Invest in live support.

Colloquially known as “live chat,” live support allows businesses to message visitors to their site in real time–it’s like Facebook messenger for customer support.

Millennials, more than any other generation, love to communicate with companies this way.

According to Software Advice, Millennials (more than any other generation) prefer live chat because there are no hold times, it’s convenient, and it automatically provides a record of the conversation.

Another study from Salesforce’s reaffirms this point. The study notes that a quarter (24 percent) of Millennials “would most likely use online chat as their ideal support interaction.” Live chat is far more similar to Millennials’ primary forms of communication.

All the hype is true: Millennials love social media.

There is no overstating how often Millennials are on social media.

A new study from Pew notes that, of Internet users between the ages of 18 and 29, 82 percent are on Facebook, 32 percent are on Twitter, 55 percent are on Instagram, and 22 percent are on LinkedIn. These numbers roughly align with’s study mentioned above. The research shows that 78 percent of Millennials prefer to receive customer support on Facebook, 43 percent on Twitter, 25 percent on Instagram, and 13 percent on LinkedIn.

Investing in social media support is a serious endeavor. Almost half of all consumers–Millennial or not–expect a one-hour response time. And they’re not forgiving of down time. Fifty-seven percent maintain that that response times should hold past 5 PM and on weekends.

Millennials might not be talking on their phones, but they’re still using them for communication.

According to research from Ovum, as many as 50 percent of all customer service calls come from a mobile phone, and 30 percent of those are from a smartphone. The study notes, “Customers who now wonder why they have to repeatedly enter information, and why communication channels that rub shoulders on the device are separate in real- life engagements.”

Naturally, Millennials are leading this trend.

An incredible 36 percent of Millennials would reach out to companies “more frequently” if they could simply text them (30 percent of the general public agrees). The study continues, “41 percent of Millennials say that they would be ‘truly satisfied’ if they could use text messaging or SMS to connect with companies and organizations where they do business… You better have a mobile strategy, or eventually, you won’t have customers.”

Customize your customer service to address specific problems.

When you can’t remember your username on a site, do you call up customer service? Or even tweet at them?

No. You self-service. You punch in your email address into a form that automatically tells you (or sends to email) your screen name. If that isn’t an option, you probably then check the company’s FAQs before reaching out to someone on the customer service side.

(And I can guarantee you that any Millennial would be annoyed at that point.)’s research is quick to highlight that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all model for customer service–in fact, the specific problem that each customer is looking to solve often dictates how they interact with customer service. For example (all taken from

  • More than half (55 percent) of respondents seek in-person service for returns
  • When logging a complaint, a plurality of customers (44 percent) prefer email
  • A third (31 percent) of customers prefer to get technical support via online chat

For businesses, this means that there can not be just one or two channels of support. If your audience is largely from the Millennial generation, they like having live chat, Facebook, Twitter, email, and sometimes even phone.

The biggest takeaway?

Millennials are dramatically changing how companies interact with their customer base–and America’s largest generation are not going to change. That means customer service has to.

Companies that are willing to shift their customer service operations early have a massive head start over those clinging to tradition. Even if Millennials aren’t your user base, consider this: if you want your company to continue growing in the future, they will be.

Smart companies are making these changes now. It would be prudent to join them.


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