Settle in everyone, I’m going to tell you a story.
Once upon a time, there lived a normal, run-of-the-mill family. The parents would come home from work and find their kids fighting over whose turn it was on the single family computer, which was downstairs in the lounge. Eventually, the older sibling would win and happily spend the evening chatting away to her friends on MSN messenger. (If you don't know of the legend that was MSN, it was basically a IM platform where schoolkids spent all night flirting with their crush, 'nudging' them to get their attention when they ignored them and put a LOT of song lyrics in their display names to show how emotional they were. Good times. Anyway- I digress).
There would always be an argument, because mum needed to use the phone, which was a landline and connected to the dial-up internet. The daughter would have to come offline, forcing her to leave her beloved friends. Once the argument subsided, they would have dinner together at the dining table and finish the evening by watching some terrestrial TV as a family.
Ahhh. Wasn’t that nostalgic?
I wonder if it’s only me who finds it remarkable how quickly times have changed since then. When I was a child I remember begging my parents for a Nokia 3210 (not because I wanted to call anyone- it was so that I could play Snake II. Uninterrupted. For hours). I equally remember a couple of years later how completely blown away I was when I discovered that new technology meant you could get a phone with a camera built in. You mean that I can take pictures and videos... with my phone?
M I N D B L O W N.
Fast forward 15 years and the way we live our lives has been completely transformed by technology. As a Millennial, I’m part of the first generation whose early teenaged years were completely immersed in tech. Smart phones, online shopping, social media and video communication channels like Skype, FaceTime and WhatsApp which became second nature; a fast, effortless way of connecting with people, at any time and in any place.
Then came the next generation: Gen Z. Whereas Millennials can still remember the days of dial-up internet and Microsoft Paint, Gen Zers have grown up with broadband and social media from the word go. Although there are differences between the generations (a story for another day perhaps), there’s more that unites us than separates us. This is particularly true when Millennials and Gen Zers are compared with older generations. In my opinion, one of the biggest differentiators is how technology has changed the way we communicate with each other.
Previous generations, such as the Baby Boomers and Generation X, were not engulfed by the tech powerhouses which dominate us today. Until mobile phones became mainstream in the mid to late nineties) most communication was via traditional channels, such as landline telephones, post and later email. Whether it was with family and friends or with companies and brands, it would be normal to have to wait hours, even days for a response. Younger generations are different. We need a response NOW.
What’s interesting is that despite dramatic changes in the way we communicate, the majority of contact centres are still using the same traditional channels that they were using 20-30 years ago. The internal systems might be modernised, but the process is largely the same: you call a company from your phone, get through to the switchboard, wait on hold and finally get through to the agent on the other end.
More importantly than it just being boring- whilst there will always be some who prefer the traditional ways, this is so far removed from how younger generations interact with each other today. In a world where just about everyone communicates via social media or on a smartphone, it seems surprising that companies are STILL making a large proportion of their customers use outdated channels to get in touch.
The difference is that Millennials and Gen Zers are innate tech users; it’s something that is second nature. Masters of multitasking, they are able to look at 2-5 different screens at the same time with total ease and understanding. Whereas, older generations such as Gen X and Baby Boomers aren’t necessarily as savvy. This also means they are able to disconnect easier from tech because they can still remember a world without it.
The younger generations are therefore using technology to change their communication habits. It has been shown that Gen Zers are using imagery and video to communicate much more than previous generations, through visual-based social media channels like Instagram, Snapchat and Secret and many more. Habits are changing so rapidly that it’s even leaving some Millennials behind. Although video chat is very popular, millennials still tend to prefer to communicate through text based means like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger- but text based chat is facing hard competition. It was reported that only 9% of teenaged Gen Zers have any interest in communicating through Facebook at all - let alone Messenger- which was originally catapulted to success by Millennials.
Say goodbye to lengthy calls on the landline like we did when we were kids.
The appetite for video chat is only growing too; it seems every day there are new video chat apps sprouting up like daffodils in Springtime. What’s more, these apps are gaining more popularity amongst younger generations as the preferred method of contact amongst their friends. Virtual hang-out apps like Airtime, where groups of friends can chat, listen to music and consume media together means that video chat is becoming more normalised by the minute. For the younger generations, it’s fast, sociable and cool.
It's clear then where the future is headed- it’s all about video.
What now? Say hello to Video Chat
As I said in my previous article, if people are changing the way they communicate with friends and family, it makes sense that this will also translate to the way they want to communicate with businesses too. Millennials and Gen Zers make up a combined 48% of the consumer population, so it would be short-sighted of any serious company to not adhere to the changing demands of almost half of their customers.
It is vital that companies are quick to respond to changing these consumer habits, and the easiest way of doing it is by implementing video chat for their customers. Video chat mimics how younger generations communicate with their peers, so it’s a great way to make your brand look more relatable, current and approachable.
Some companies are already reacting to the increased popularity of text-based communications between companies and brands and have incorporated a web chat feature of their website, which allows customers to open a text dialogue directly with a sales or customer service agent. This has proven to be extremely popular, with web chat having the highest level of customer satisfaction when compared to other traditional means of contact.
Move with the times to keep your audience interested
As consumer habits are changing, it’s important to introduce video chat as an alternative contact medium too. Let’s face it- competition is tough enough as it is, especially amongst Millennials and Gen Zers who are notorious for their attention short spans… and the last thing you want to do is to alienate your customers by appearing outdated. (Gen Z in particular- they have an average attention span of 8 seconds.
Having the option available on your website means that your customers can engage in a text chat which can be easily escalated to a video chat if they want to. It’s quick and easy to do (great for younger customers- NB the short attention span) therefore you are less likely to lose out them from your sales funnel than if you force them to leave your website every time they needed to contact you. This is especially true for mobile.
Millennials and Gen Z spend an average of 15.1 hours every week on their smartphones, making them the preferred device for surfing the web amongst the younger demographic. Putting the video chat visibly on mobile sites normalises the process even further than on desktop. An easy call-to-action button on your mobile site means that a simple tap on their screen can start a call, making the process familiar to what consumers are used to when using video apps like FaceTime.
It’s not just great for the customers either; video chat has lots of great benefits for companies too. Outside of being used as a customer service aid, video chat is a fantastic sales tool. Due to its visual nature, it appeals to younger consumers because it acts similarly to the way brands market to them through social media.
Not catching my drift? Let me explain in a different way.
How many times have you been scrolling through Instagram and stopped because you’ve spotted a picture or video of a product you liked the look of? If you’re anything like me, and a lot of other Millennials/Gen Zers, this happens quite often. Brands use media content to market to their consumers for a simple reason: it stands out and makes the product looks fantastic. Video content especially is great, because you can get a better idea of the look and feel of the product than an image and it enhances the customer experience.
Video chat does the same thing, just in a different way. Brands can use it to demonstrate products and show off features as they would in store. Not only is this great for conversions, it boosts credibility for your company and helps to build better, more direct relationships with consumers in a way which is familiar to them.
I’ll end this post with a profound statement: Times Are Changing.
I know right, #deep.
Now even though hashtags, video chat apps and being hooked on a smartphone may sound light hearted, if you’re looking to truly engage a younger demographic it’s incredibly important to take changing consumer habits seriously. Forward thinking companies understand that as tech gets more and more embedded in society, consumer expectations for video chat with companies will only increase to match. Video chat is becoming the norm, so make sure you don’t get left behind.
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