News & Insight

Despite Digital Preferences, Millennials Want to Interact with Humans

Millennials are famously digital savvy. But it doesn’t mean they don’t want humans delivering their customer service.

Encompassing people born between 1980 and 2000, millennials have now overtaken Baby Boomers as the largest consumer demographic. With more millennials starting to reach their prime working and spending years, companies of all types are viewing them as the top target audience as this group’s buying power (estimated at US$200 billion) grows to exceed that of other generations.

There’s been a lot written about millennials and their technology habits. They’re not just digital-savvy, they’re digital-first in how they approach everything from reaching out to friends, to ordering dinner for delivery, to resolving questions and customer service issues.

But just because millennials love their digital channels, doesn’t mean they don’t want or need to interact with humans. In fact, humans are just as important as ever in the customer service experience across all age groups.

Consumers prefer interacting with humans

With the rise of digital channels and self-service technologies, such as chatbots and other artificial intelligence (AI)-based technology, STARTEK set out to measure consumer sentiment about using this technology for customer service. In mid-2017, we surveyed more than 500 U.S. consumers about their recent experiences, preferences, and expectations for customer service and technical support.

When asked about potential customer service contacts either online or by phone, 85 percent of survey respondents said they prefer a customer service representative versus a chatbot/AI or IVR (interactive voice recognition) experience. The preference to interact with a human was consistent across all industry sectors, age groups, and types of customer experiences, with the exception of answering a simple inquiry such as an account balance or payment status.

Three-quarters of millennials want to communicate with a human instead of a machine

Perhaps contrary to conventional thinking, in the millennial age group (18 to 34 years), an astounding 76 percent preferred to speak with a human. A slightly higher preference was shown by the 35 to 54 year old group at 82 percent, while 91 percent of the 55 and over consumers in the survey preferred human interaction.

Thinking about potential customer service contact experiences, if you contacted a company by telephone or online, which of the following would you prefer? Base: 18-34 years n=90, 35-54 years n=171, 55+ years n=166, refused to provide age=75

“While millennials might prefer different modes of communication, they certainly are no different than other humans in their desire to interact humanly, particular in times of need.”

—Ted Nardin, President, STARTEK Science Lab

The takeaway: You need human engagement specialists more than ever

Even though millennials and other age groups increasingly turn to digital self-service for straightforward help and interactions, they can’t always resolve the issue on their own. At that point, they want to engage with a human to help them handle it.

Not only does your engagement center (contact center) need humans more than ever, but you also need engagement specialists (agents) who are better prepared to handle complex issues. This requires the right training and coaching around proven communication skills. With the right skills, your engagement specialists can respond to millennials with emotional understanding to build rapport and create an engaging and effortless experience.

Get the report: STARTEK Customer Engagement Survey

Find out more about the key findings in the STARTEK survey in our white paper, “Will Chatbots Replace Humans Any Time Soon?”