We all know that customer service is key to winning customer loyalty, referrals, and more--not to mention avoiding awful online reviews.

But what do Millennials want from customer service? Is it different from what their Baby Boomer parents want? Do Millennials want to be greeted with a smile and a handshake, or something else?

The Center for Generational Kinetics partnered with Aspect Software to determine the answer, and it surprised even us.

On one hand, one-third of Americans are frustrated with customer service interactions. Our research shows they'd rather clean a toilet. Wow... is it really that bad?

On the other hand, 76% of the 1,050 Americans (18-65) we surveyed view customer service as the "true test" of how much a company values them.

The study revealed other surprising results, painting a picture of what Millennials want from customer service:

Key Finding #1: 40% of Millennials prefer purely online customer service.

That is double the percentage of Baby Boomers. In other words, for every two Baby Boomers who use the Internet to skip a customer service line, four Millennials are doing the same thing.

Key Finding #2: 36% of Millennials--that's over 25 million people in the United States--would contact a company more frequently if they could text the company.

But most companies don't offer any ways in which Millennials can engage with them by text. This is like giving a Millennial a shiny new smartphone as a present with unlimited text and data and then telling them they can only use the phone for actual talking. #fail

Key Finding #3: Over 70% of female Millennials said they were comfortable getting their issue resolved without talking to a human.

This idea will be huge going forward because females have an outsized influence on household spending and consumer trends.

Key Finding #4: During the last 12 months, Millennials, more than any other generation, left a company where they received bad customer service.

That's billions of dollars walking--or texting--their way right out the door after you've already spent money to win them as a customer. (You might want to reread that and let it sink in.)

You and I know what happens if companies don't adapt to customer service expectations. The response is literally on the company's Facebook page (and Instagram and Twitter...).

The Immediate Step You Should Take...

Get a cell phone number so Millennials can easily text you. For entrepreneurs, it can be as simple as getting a cell phone for your business with the cheapest plan and unlimited texting. Promote this new text-only phone number as another convenient way in which you can help your customers get fast answers to their customer service questions. The phone will pay for itself within the first month.

A client recently proved to me how using text messaging affects even a traditional business. They are in the car business, which is known for face-to-face sales and drive-up service questions. But one sales person decided to turn that traditional experience upside down. He knew that many people prefer to text message depending on the situation, so he made that an option. He started texting with customers when they had service questions or were interested in buying a car. His co-workers teased him that he was going to get text messages at all hours of the day and night.

They were right. 100%. The text messages appeared in the morning, in the afternoon and occasionally in the evening. He replied to each one as best he could.

With every text he answered, he paved the path to becoming the # 1 salesperson in his entire company in his very first year on the job.

You can text that one to the bank.

Published on: Apr 24, 2015