What Difference Does 5 Years Make?: Millennial Channel Preference


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Earlier this year, a client was interested in learning more about millennial channel preferences for consumer affairs and how they’ve changed over the past 5 years.

Though much has been written about how these consumers prefer to shop, and which industries they’re killing (casual dining chains, diamonds, cereal, to name just a few), there wasn’t a lot of information available to discover how they prefer to initiate consumer affairs inquiries with brands.

We could guess, of course, that text-based mediums like chat and SMS would be their channels-of-choice, while actually talking on the telephone would be much less popular. As a borderline Millennial myself, I know that I’d rather spend 30 minutes in an online chat with a customer service agent than 30 seconds on the phone with one.

But does the research support that? And how much has it changed in the last 5 years? In order to find out, we conducted an informal survey via Google Survey of 250 US-based Millennials (aged 18-34).

As a side note: Marketers, have you tried Google Survey yet? You must. It’s a great, inexpensive way to survey those outside of your usual subscriber/follower base. I highly recommend it.

This is what we learned:

Phone and Email Still Reign Supreme

Among those surveyed, Phone and Email are the most preferred channels for surveyed Millennials, both now and 5 years ago. As you can see, the results would suggest that phone and email are roughly equivalent.

5 Years Ago:


Though preference for phone has decreased significantly from 5 years ago (24%), it was still the channel-of-choice when contacting customer service. Email has remained popular too – holding steady as the most popular channel for about a third of respondents both now and 5 years ago. The same holds true for both younger (aged 18-24) and older (25-24) Millennials.

Younger Millenials (18-24):

Older Millenials (25-34):

Surprise: Text/SMS for Customer Service Not as Popular

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the survey results was that text/SMS was not a preferred method among surveyed Millennials for handling customer service inquiries. In fact, it actually decreased slightly over the past 5 years. Maybe this is simply an awareness issue? Consumers don’t realize they can text customer service at their favorite (or not so favorite) brands. Or perhaps they have tried to do so in the past and the brand’s 1-800 number wasn’t text enabled? (A fact that I find hard to believe when it’s estimated that over 560 billion texts are sent every month, worldwide.) If that’s the case, then what are the brands waiting for?

Social Media, Chat & Self-Service Gaining Traction

Unsurprisingly, web-based channels like social media, chat and self-service have become increasingly popular ways for Millennials to contact brands for customer service. Chat, in particular, went from least preferred channel to 3rd most preferred channel behind phone and email. Some of this may simply be driven by the explosive growth of smartphones enabling anywhere, anytime access – even at the point and time of the retail sale. Or maybe it’s because they simply don’t like making phone calls.

The Bottom Line

Regardless of channel, Millennials expect fast, convenient and seamless resolution of their customer service inquiries.

Krista Capone
Krista has over 10 years' experience leading marketing, branding, lead generation and communications initiatives. As Sr. Manager, Corporate Marketing for C3i Solutions, Krista is focused on strategies for advancing they company's position in the marketplace.


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