Saturday, November 27, 2010

Talk to me in a way I understand

I was standing talking to my student son the other day, when his bank phoned him and asked if he wanted to take part in a survey. Because he is a typical Gen Z multi-tasker he said yes and we continued our conversation while he walked through the IVR survey questions.

Within seconds he was annoyed and started poking the keyboard of his phone with violence swearing out loud that he wasn't stupid. "That's it!" he  exclaimed "Those ****ers are getting bad marks for everything!" and he continued to give them 1 out of 5 for every question (which took a while). What amused me even more was his determination to make sure he finished the task instead of just hanging up.

It turns out that the questions were long and each one was repeated then, just to rub salt in the wound, the explanation of the ratings was repeated for each and every question.

Here's the issue for me. The person who planned that survey campaign spent alot of money getting an outbound team to phone a big wodge of customers, ask if they wanted to participate in the survey and then put them through to the most boring IVR survey they could cook up. What a waste of money! Where I may have either completed it honestly or got bored and hung up, they got a bad score for being boring and I am sure that within a certain age group they would have had some pretty bad results and not even understood why.

So what's the point here? For me it is that if you have a wide demographic, using one single method to survey your all customers is pretty dumb. It's as bad as sending a text survey to my Mum, equally as ineffective. Generation Z multi task, can touch text without even looking at the screen (and faster than I can type) are are generally texting, talking, chatting on facebook and browsing all at the same time. So how someone at a bank thought it was a good idea to subject them to a tedius time consuming survey (which required a lot of attention) I can't fathom. I'll bet that they would have done much better (with that demographic) with a quick text survey.

We have to face facts about the new Generation Z, they are different. They communicate differently, behave differently and are bored with anything that does not work in the way they are used to. They are consumers now and will soon have a growth in disposable income so it's a whole new customer base that behaves differently.

Being bold I think this will change how we communicate with these new customers so much that  in the next five years the customer service department for brands with Gen Z customers will be unrecognisable. For those brands with young customers these changes should be happening now, but over 5 years Gen Z will be getting permanent jobs and have significant spending power. If we don't wise up and start changing how we communicate with them, someone else will. This is such a cultural shift that we should be laying down the foundations for it now.

All those PR people in big brands who think that twitter is for spouting reams of boring press releases or, worse still, that corporate blogs need to be tightly control corporate blather probably need to think again and take a look at some of the thought leaders like Zappos.

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