Delving into the Mind of the Millennial, Part 1 of a 2-Part Series
Kathy has been using Delightful Maids cleaning service for the past 20 years. She’s been pleased with their work. But even when she does have a problem, they’re just a phone call away. If they offered on-line scheduling and problem resolution, she probably wouldn’t use it. She likes the personal contact.

Now that’s she’s purchased a new home, Kathy’s daughter, Taylor, has begun to look for a cleaning service as well. Taylor went on-line to set an initial appointment with Delightful Maids and discovered that their presence is limited to a one-page website with an address, a phone number and a few generic pictures. Being a person who “lives on-line,” she found this frustrating. So rather than making a phone call to Delightful Maids, she Googled “home cleaning services” along with her zip code and set appointments with two other firms electronically. 

Taylor’s experience is not unique. As millions of young customers enter the cleaning marketplace, they are bringing with them the expectation of on-line convenience. These so-called digital natives have come of age pointing, clicking and now touch-screening their way through life. Merchants are discovering that if they don’t exist on-line in a substantial way, this generation of customers doesn’t know they exist. 

So how does today’s ARCSI member connect with and serve this emerging generation of customers? In this part of a two-part series, I’ll help you explore the purchasing practices and expectations of this enormous generation. In part two, I will explain what you can do to ensure your success with these wired, demanding and impatient customers. 

The Effect
The Millennial generation, as this cohort has come to be known, has grown up with what I call “the effect.” Amazon pioneered one-click shopping close to a decade ago. Within months, other major retailers released their own versions of this technology. This, of course has been copied by most other retailers. All of this is augmented by on-line support, artificial intelligence and click-to-chat applications. It’s only natural that Taylor and her age peers would expect this kind of instantaneous response when connecting with any business. Sure, the expectation itself is arguably unrealistic. But those who work to meet this expectation capture more business. 

Millennials have been immersed in reality television and marketing almost since birth. When they see people purchasing, renovating, and decorating their homes on Home and Garden Television, they expect the same experience from the vendors in their area. This includes you. While most businesses may not be able to match the pizazz on cable TV, the successful ones work hard to prepare for these unspoken expectations.

Entitled or Value-conscious?
Then there’s entitlement. The Millennial generation has been labeled by many as the entitlement generation. While this is wildly unfair for most, there is an element of truth for some. Marketers, the media, parents, even policy makers have engendered these expectations through their ads, articles, stories and regulations. Is it any wonder then, that we hear stories of young people wanting lifestyles delivered on a platinum platter. 

Those with the means to pay for your services may arrive at your door or on your website with this point of view. Your efforts in catering to these expectations will impact your success in serving this segment. 

The silver lining? Price is less of an issue than quality and delivery.  

The Convenience Factor
That brings us to their hyper-focus on convenience. This generation has been conditioned to think that they can have anything they want, any time they want it, with the click of a mouse. They expect merchants to anticipate their needs and to be in the right place at the right time with the right price when they happen to need or desire the service or product. 

Sound absurd? Of course it is. Yet some businesses find that by going the extra mile to meet these expectations, they will substantially add to revenue. Don’t believe me? Consider your favorite on-line merchant? Why do you keep going back? Chances are it’s because they’ve made shopping convenient. 

Transaction over Relationship
Millennials are also transactional communicators. Those in older generations sometimes lament the demise of civility and cordiality. But many digital natives have not been taught these manners. Add to this the impact of e-mailing, texting and other forms of electronic interchange and they see little need to learn more than absolutely necessary about those serving them. 

The prospect who initiates communication via e-mail may disengage if you attempt to connect by phone. Many feel little need to establish a relationship outside of discussing the services to be provided. That can certainly be accomplished electronically. 

Competing for “Share of Mind”
Millennials are also menu-driven thinkers. With the introduction of graphic-user-interface (GUI) technology in the 1990s, the way of searching for information, making basic decisions and organizing our thinking changed dramatically. This generation grew up learning many of the basics via menus on a screen. It is understandable then, that they search for your services on-line, Facebook their friends and colleagues for referrals, and consult services such as Yelp and Angie’s List for comments about your performance.

Those who have been successful in connecting with and engaging these young customers also work to meet their demand for constant stimulation and entertainment. While researchers have proven that multi-tasking is a myth, the members of this generation still expect to text with you, write a report for work, catch up on the news and listen to music all at the same time. You are always competing for “share of mind” when interacting with Millennials. 

Who Cares about Privacy?
Then there’s manipulation. While much of the world has been expressing outrage about privacy issues, this generation has shown little concern. In fact, one might say they have a desire for logical manipulation. Surveys indicate that they implicitly trust technology. They expect websites to enable them to achieve their objectives faster, better, cheaper and with more convenience. For this reason, they are willing to share detail and data that those in older generations might consider off limits. 

Businesses that provide a superior level of service develop a following among those in this generation who communicate constantly about their lives and experiences. Sure, they know they’re being manipulated. But that’s accepted as long as you’re meeting their expectations and desires. Abusing this trust even once, however, will lose their business and the business of everyone they know.  

The Larger Social Network
That brings us to dependence on their “friends” for referrals. The advent of social networking has enabled this generation to communicate 24/7/365 about issues and concerns significant and trivial. But pay attention. In the midst of this constant buzz, there are referrals, resources and other kinds of intelligence being exchanged. 

We might laugh about the twenty-something who posts what she had for lunch. We need to remember, however, that this might be the same person who posts a referral to your business three minutes later. Take a step back from judging the behavior and instead evaluate the outcome.

Looking Ahead to Part Two
Now that we’ve delved into the “mind of the Millennial,” it’s time to connect with them. That’s what I’ll cover in part two of this series.

Robert W. Wendover has been researching and writing about workforce trends for more than 30 years. He is Director of the Center for Generational Studies and the award-winning author of Figure It Out! Making Smart Decisions in a Dumbed-Down World.