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Millennials Drive New Order of Customer Experience

Where once millennials were bemoaned as entitled, lazy and non-committal, companies are now clamoring for their business and writing articles about how to best attract and serve them (hello!). And it's no wonder why the focus has shifted to this group of 20- and 30-somethings. According to Pew Research, millennials are estimated to earn $3.4 trillion by 2018, far surpassing the earning potential of baby boomers. So how can businesses best tap into this purchasing power? They can start with customer service, and with that, the contact center.

As digital natives, millennials are accustomed to getting information and commodities quicker than their predecessors (e.g., Amazon instant "buy" buttons). Moving at the speed of light, they like quick answers and don't always want or need interaction with human agents to feel valued. That's why businesses must adapt forward-looking customer engagement strategies that account for expectations millennials have for customer support and the channels availabale to them for communicating with customer service agents.

Here are four of the top technologies that will help businesses accomplish this.

1. Omnichannel Communications – Give Them Choices
Millennials are always on the go, and they expect customer service wherever they are, using whatever device suits them. Gartner predicts that in just over a year, more than 50% of smartphone and tablet users will use their devices for all online activities, including their customer support needs. This behavior will only increase as Internet-connected wearables and in-home products become more widely available for users. Businesses must not only be equally present across channels (chat, video, email, social, mobile, Web) but must also enable a seamless and simple omnichannel experience across devices -- tablets, phones, smartwatches, or the next big thing. Finally, wise businesses will go the next step in providing an empowered customer journey by connecting a complete interaction history along the way.

2. Advanced Analytics – Offer Them Context
As digital natives who have grown up in an era that's seen the introduction and evolution of the smartphone and tablet, millennials are accustomed to convenient and customizable digital transactions. Thanks to advanced analytics, millennials now expect to be targeted and provided services based on their demographics, geography, and public interests across all interactions with businesses, including customer service. Forrester predicts analytics will drive better routing of customers to agents who can most effectively address their questions based on data from their previous purchases and behaviors. The right advanced analytics program not only can log every customer-related event (in the case of the contact center, incoming/outgoing interaction, hold, transfer, conference, queue action, etc.), but also maintain an audit trail of every change made to a customer's configuration along with who made it. This allows agents to anticipate future buying patterns or issues.

3. Multimodal Interactions – Solve Their Issues Faster
The term "multimodal" has been around for years. However, for the sake of this article, let's define "multimodal" as the ability to provide short, targeted bits of information to customers by incorporating an optimal combination of communication modes (aural, gestural, linguistic, spatial, and visual) and channels (chat, video, email, social, mobile, and Web). The goal is to resolve a specific customer service need in the shortest amount of time possible within a single interaction. Just as millennials interact on the channels of their choices, they're also adept at using multiple customer service channels within the same interaction if it means a faster resolution. Think about a customer intiating a Web chat to troubleshoot an issue, and then the agent quickly transitioning the interaction into a video screen- sharing session to provide a quicker and easier fix.

4. Artificial Intelligence – Let Them Do It Themselves
Millennials are major users of do-it-yourself customer service. They'll search FAQs and Web forums for answers to their questions before picking up a phone. Today, artificial intelligence is playing a critical role in adding intelligent automation to enhance self-service. Automated assistance via virtual agents and chat bots are just two examples of how businesses can use AI to provide more effective and efficient service. AI can also help recognize hidden opportunities for the customer experience, such as predicting gaps in service, shifting resources for greater efficiencies, and changing processes to meet a projected increase in demand.

Additionally, AI helps businesses identify emerging behaviors and adapt proactively. For example, PayPal is using machine learning to fight money laundering by helping the company compare millions of transactions to distinguish between legitimate and fraudulent transactions. Finally, AI technology can extend data for a hyper-personalized user experience. A largely millennial customer base requires businesses to go the extra step in providing a personalized experience. AI can let agents know where a customer is located or what he's doing at a certain point in time, and tailor the message, offer, or interaction accordingly.

When all these technologies work in unison, enterprises can provide millennial customers with the ultimate customer experience -- fast, personalized, contextual, and on their terms.