Millennials. It’s a fascinating word, isn’t it? Just a few short years ago many people rolled their eyes at the idea of millennials, walking around with their smartphones in their faces, a sense of entitlement wafting around them thanks to all the power they were so sure they possessed.

Then a couple of interesting things happened. Firstly, many of those people rolling their eyes at the idea of millennials looked up millennial demographics, probably on their smartphones, and discovered that they too were millennials. Whoops. Secondly, it turned out that all that power millennials think they have? They actually have it, especially when it comes to retail. This so-called Year of the Customer we’re experiencing is more specifically the Year of the Millennial Customer, and customer service strategies need to be adjusted and improved accordingly.

The importance of millennials

Move over, baby boomers. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2016 millennials officially surpassed baby boomers as the largest generation. In fact, millennials are the biggest generation in U.S. history, a stat likely echoed in nations all over the globe. This matters to the retail world because this hefty generation is reaching its prime working years, meaning they’re also in their prime spending years, accounting for over $200 billion in sales annually.

Representing such a huge market, millennials are also major trendsetters when it comes to the retail landscape, pushing the adoption of technology and disrupting traditional purchasing processes. So in a way, what millennials expect, almost all consumers have come to expect. In order for a business to truly succeed it needs to meet or exceed those expectations, especially when it comes to customer service. Here are the four keys to doing just that.

Millennial customer service key #1: Speed

Rare is the millennial who spends much time waiting. With smartphones and apps it’s easy for anyone to instantly find information, order food, make a bank deposit, download a book, get an Uber or buy anything with two-day shipping. Waiting on customer service certainly isn’t the exception to that need for quick or even instant response.

According to a study from Salesforce, almost 25% of millennials expect a response within 10 minutes of contacting a brand’s customer service over social media. That percentage jumps to over 30% when it comes to reaching out over text message. According to Forrester Research, a further 73% of consumers from all age groups say the number one thing a business can do to provide excellent customer service is value the customer’s time.

Speedy solution: A virtual assistant armed with artificial intelligence, including natural language processing that enables the assistant to converse with customers the way humans actually do, is just what the millennial ordered when it comes to always available, instantly responding, actually helpful and infinitely scalable customer service solutions.

Millennial customer service key #2: Convenience

Speed and convenience go hand in hand, especially in terms of customer service. For a millennial, fast customer service will never include calling a toll-free number and talking to an agent, no matter how quickly that agent is made available. This sentiment rings true across all age groups, as reducing the effort a customer must expend in order to reach customer service is the number one thing a business can do to improve customer loyalty.

Your customer service channels need to be where your customers are. That means going beyond making customer service easily accessible on mobile internet and delving right into the platforms where they spend their time, making it as easy as possible to increase customer engagement.

Convenient solution: Social media customer service is obviously a must, but an even more important platform right now is messaging apps. With messaging app usage outnumbering social media usage, a customer service tool that easily integrates into these apps is essential. Consider a leading chat bot that easily works in Facebook messenger, Kik, Slack and WhatsApp.

Millennial customer service key #3: Empowerment

As digital customer service solutions provider nanorep says in their guide on how to improve customer service, by the year 2020 customers will be handling 85% of their relationships with an enterprise without actually interacting with a human. And research is showing that’s just how they want it. In a study from Nuance Enterprise, 67% of respondents indicated that they would rather use self-service than speak to a human representative.

Self-service customer service solutions empower customers in their interactions with a brand, allowing them to increase their understanding while also helping them feel as though they are reaching purchasing decisions 100% on their own.

Empowering solution: The above mentioned virtual assistants and chat bots are both excellent customer service self-service tools, but you may also want to consider a dynamic FAQ, which uses natural language technology to allow customers to ask questions and instantly receive accurate answers. A dynamic FAQ can also transport a customer anywhere on a website they need to be.

Millennial customer service key #4: Personalization

Millennials just want it all, don’t they? Customer service not only has to be instant, easy and empowering, it also has to be personalized. This is completely understandable, however, and if a brand can nail the personalized experience it can encourage a deepened relationship between customer and business that builds loyalty (as well as customer lifetime value).

This is an area of customer service where your human representatives can really shine. Taking the time to treat the customer not only as an individual with their own set of needs and desires but as someone who is important to the business will pay major dividends.

Personal solution: Customer relationship management software makes it easy to collect information on customers and make it readily accessible to all sales reps and customer service employees. Being able to make a recommendation based on a past purchase or offer a small discount on a birthday can go a long way towards making a customer feel truly appreciated.

Gen Y would you want anything else?

Everything millennials expect from customer service is actually pretty reasonable, and if the above four keys aren’t already considerations in your customer service strategy, it’s time to take a look at that strategy. From everything the statistics are indicating, this isn’t just the Year of the Millennial Customer, this is the Era of the Millennial Customer, so brands have to get used to providing fast, convenient, empowering and personalized customer service.