Generally speaking, I wear the millennial badge proudly because that is the generation that I belong to. Millenials are born roughly between 1980 and 1995.

Recently while at work, I asked a customer for their ID number and on their responding, I mentally compared that to my ID number and all I could think was wow! We have a new generation that has attained the age of majority in recent years. Who are they? What are their characteristics and idiosyncrasies? What are their expectations? How do we best serve them?  

Enter Cen·ten·ni·als /senˈtenēəls/ also known as Post Millenials, Generation Z or iGen and they are born roughly between 1996 and 2008. Centennials are digital natives meaning that they are born or brought up during the age of digital technology.  They typically do not have to wait until after high school to go for “Computer Packages.” Because they are comfortable with technology from an early age. Their interaction with social media forms a significant portion of how they socialize. They typically access technology, mobile first. This probably explains why they write emails in SMS language, but I digress, that’s a story for another day….

Centennials are set to be one of the most interesting generations of customers for organisations to engage with. This is primarily because their expectations are higher, they have greater desire for information and have shorter patience levels. Sound familiar? Technology has empowered them to make decisions and find solutions independently whereas the opinion of their peers or mentors on digital media heavily influences their choices and decisions.

So how do we engage them?

1.       Mass Personalization

Did you know that studies have shown different parts of the brain light up when someone hears their name over others? Well, in mass personalization we are talking about how we can take information collected on a day to day basis [Big Data], package it and deliver back product and service information that is targeted and made personal for the right individual in the right place and at the right time.

Mass personalization got its start primarily in email campaigns. Here, it is common to have a {NAME} field, where each recipient’s first name, instead of a generic subject line or salutation is inserted into the email customers receive. Mass personalization is now also commonly used in e-commerce. This also works well for SMS messaging because people like hearing and reading their own name. Hopefully they don’t have long names like Nebuchadnezzar which would take up most of your space in the 160 characters that you are working with for an SMS…. All the same, when used effectively, mass personalization can lead to a better customer experience.

2.       Omni Channel Presence

Single touch points do not work for Centennials. They want options but they also want to move across these touch points seamlessly. For instance; start a conversation on Social Media, continue on Email, conclude with a phone call or walk in without having to repeat themselves at every single touch point. Here is the thing; they could do multiple touch points for the same issue on a single day. Sigh!

3.       Provide Answers

They want answers now.  What does that even mean?

First, ever wonder why centennials like emojis J, memes and acronyms like SMH, IMO etc.? That is because they suffer from short attention span due to information overload. They are not reading your 3 page terms & conditions written in font size 2; sorry. Short frequent communication works best.

Then, redefine feedback. What. Is. A. Feedback. Form? For Centennials, feedback is not an event scheduled monthly, quarterly or annually. Feedback is an everyday occurrence on the public timeline of your corporate social media handle. If you are lucky, you might get a Direct Message [DM].  Deal with it on a daily basis as it comes.

And, do not take yourself too seriously all the time. Occasionally loosen up on your responses especially if your target audience age is 18-35 years old…

In spite of everything, we have to make effort to ensure that the products and services offered by our organizations are easily accessible and understood by Centennials. What we offer them should be relevant; practical and value-conscious. Centennials relish experiences and use the vast amount of information at their disposal to discover distinct stories. Maybe we need to ask ourselves what their moments of truth are, if we understand these, we just might get their attention and make them excellent brand ambassadors who will then in turn use social to spread the word.

Article written by Wavi Muigai
Head of Corporate Communication & Customer Experience
Higher Education Loans Board, Kenya