Anybody that has had the ‘pleasure’ of bringing up teenagers over the last five years or so will know that they communicate, well, ‘differently’.  They are part of what is known as Generation Y or Gen Y and they view mobile phones and the internet as extensions of themselves, often preferring to communicate by text via these means rather than using voice.

Being ‘connected’ is where it’s at and social networking tools like YouTube, FaceBook and Twitter are the new ‘tribal’ connections where everything can be shared, instantly.  And traditional notions such as privacy and the concept of identity are being challenged by the increasing use of multiple identities online.

It is with this backdrop that industries need to radically revamp the way they deliver digital services, a point made abundantly clear in a whitepaper just released by Telstra.  Gen Y currently makes up 21 per cent of Australia’s population (approx. 4 million people) and represent 18 per cent of the workforce but are forecast to make up to 42 per cent of the workforce by 2020.  As the report states, “they are the most highly educated, over-stimulated and media-saturated generation in our history. The dreams of Generation Y have been shaped by their life circumstances. Therefore if institutions want to serve them better and if institutions want them to serve customers better, they will need to listen very carefully to what they say. Otherwise, this generation won’t listen to them. If institutions want to reach them, they need to understand technology and instant communication as does Generation Y.”

Even though the whitepaper focuses on ICT as a driver to improve service to Gen Y for financial services in order to drive growth, the main points it raises could apply to all industry sectors hoping to satisfy the needs of a major population sector with growing financial and political influence.  There is no doubt that the findings could also be applied to almost any developed economy.  This is a group that likes convenience and control and that expects any problems to resolved quickly, and in a courteous manner.  They expect different tools to provide customer service, preferably leveraging their technology investment (e.g mobile devices, laptops) and they prize their work/private life flexibility provided through the same technologies. Even decisions on where to work are influenced by the technology a prospective employer is offering.

Some of the report’s conclusions are basic common sense that would apply to all customers anywhere, e.g. knowing and respecting the context of the interaction as well as being able to action the interaction efficiently and knowledgeably and interact through the technologies the customer prefers.  What does stand out is the fact that GenY customers may opt to use one or more of multiple channels to make contact, thus placing stress on institutions to provide growing channel diversity and channel complexity.  Synchronous conversational interactions (like instant messaging) introduce a service style that challenges the way institutions assign customer service resources.

Not surprisingly, the report recommends that institutions develop a comprehensive integrated multi-channel strategy using a unified communications framework to include presence and location capabilities. It also recommends providing service staff with enterprise mobility applications so that they can respond to requests at anytime, anywhere, efficiently and using pervasive feature-rich real-time collaboration tools directly from their desktop or mobile device offering the potential for service interactions to be completed much more efficiently than has previously been possible for any generation of customer service.

The paper, although very well researched, fails to point out what would seem to be an obvious recommendation – employ Gen Y people to manage Gen Y customers.  It seems perfectly plausible that if this sector is so unique in what it expects and how it operates then using like-minded people would be a definite advantage.  If today’s multi-tasking teenagers are any indication then massive productivity gains could well be achieved.  However, catering for Gen Y may also create problems for the poor old Baby Boomers and Gen Xers who are still trying to fathom which planet Gen Y came from!

(The whitepaper can be found at here)