Is It Time For The Chief Customer Officer?
An interesting research report released this month in the USA shows that in the American labour force, millennials are now in the majority. More specifically this means that most American employees are now in the 18-34 age range.
I think it is interesting to finally see this happen. It is one of those statistics that has often been thrown about by future-watchers over the past few years, but now it is upon us. Instead of talking about a future time when the American workforce is going to be mostly young, now it actually is.
I think this should be a wake-up call for many companies planning how they interact with their customers in the coming years – not just in the USA, but also across the world and in every industry. If we are now in a world where the employed people in major developed nations such as the USA are mainly young then it’s time to stop thinking of serving millennials as being a strategy for the future. This is the right now.
These are the areas that I believe need more focus:
- Younger consumers embrace change faster. You want to try automating some services or developing a multichannel approach to serving customers? Customers now are not only more likely to accept new ways of doing things, but are likely to embrace them so long as you can demonstrate that the customer experience is improving.
- Customers today are less loyal to brands. If you let down a customer then they will not just boycott you forever more, they will never buy from you and they will ensure that their friends and family know about their decision on the many social networks most people use today. Customers are footloose – it’s easy because they can compare every seller of every product online in seconds.
- Customers are now focused more on the overall experience they have with a brand. This is partly related to the purchasing experience and any service that is required, but it could also be anything from questions before a purchase even commenced to the way your employees reacted on a chat or Twitter message. Every interaction builds into a level of engagement that often resembles a relationship when customers really love a brand.
As millennials become the largest chunk of those in society with spending power, all these factors are becoming far more important. I find it hard to believe that I am still talking to customer service managers and corporate executives who question the need to be conversing with customers and influencers on Twitter. You cannot just continue doing things the old way – the relationship is key whether you are a retailer or a B2B player selling expertise to other companies. Customers only need to be let down once today. That’s it, they will never return.
But more than ever before, all customer-facing aspects of a brand need to be aligned. The service and marketing team need to be speaking the same language and keeping the PR team quiet to bury bad news can no longer be considered an effective strategy.
I saw a great looking Samsung TV last weekend and almost bought it, but then I thought about a news story my wife had shared with me on Facebook. Samsung was being sued (not for the first time) by the Brazilian government because of their ‘terrifying’ working conditions. It may only be my words, but you could summarise their Brazilian operation as slave labour.
Samsung could have answered the issues. They could have invited journalists in to see what has changed, but they chose to stay quiet, assuming that most consumers will forget a news story the longer it drifts into the past. Of course they are mostly right, but some consumers don’t forget and I’m not only buying my TV from a rival this week, but I’m reminding my own friends and family why I didn’t buy that attractive Samsung model.
I’m not even a millennial, being a part of Generation X, but if millennial customers are even more switched on than people my age then brands need to start getting their complete customer experience in order. It’s time for a lot of companies to start creating a Chief Customer Officer with complete oversight of branding, marketing, sales, and customer service.
Those who want to blunder on, insisting that customer service is a post-sale function for handling complaints will surely be joining other once-mighty-now-insignificant brands such as Nokia and Blackberry in the near future.