The 2018 NGCX Benchmark Report
The Millennial generation, defined as those born between the early ‘80s to the early 2000s, are a demographic with a deep connection to technology. Coming of age along with the development of the internet means that for many Millennials, keeping pace with the newest devices and trends is second nature. As the tools they use to reach out to each other have evolved, so have their expectations for service and the desire for more personal brand interactions. This makes it critical for businesses to learn to meet them on the channels that they favor and to develop a voice that feels authentic and accessible, or risk being passed over.
To better understand how brands are tailoring their customer experiences to remain competitive as Millennials continue to come of age as consumers, NGCX surveyed 100 leading Customer Experience (CX) and User Experience (UX) executives on the effectiveness of their strategies, their levels of preparedness, and the technologies that they feel will have the greatest role to play in the near future.
Read on to discover the insights that your peers had to share, along with the current state of the industry. Are you beating the curve, or falling behind?
of organizations have established customer service departments with the express goal of providing better experiences.
also acknowledge that the Millennial generation has distinct preferences that require specific strategy adaptations to meet.
- 70% -
of brands have had a CX department for over three years.
Most brands have been focusing on customer service for years but may still struggle to keep up with Millennials’ taste for disruptive technology.
CX is a well-recognized differentiator, and the large majority of brands have developed a strategy that encompasses their efforts across the organization. However, the Millennial generation’s preferences put even high-performing programs to the test. Disruptors can quickly gain a following and the convenience they provide becomes a baseline expectation, challenging brands across industries to keep pace in a CX arms race that can demand strategiclevel changes on the part of brands to stay competitive.
- 30% -
of brands ranked mobile as their #1 priority when planning their budgets.
Mobile and social should be regarded as the vanguard of a brand’s presence when developing a Millennialfocused strategy.
One of the key characteristics of the Millennial generation is a pronounced focus on all things mobile. The social channel is a natural complement to mobile as well, as instantly recognizable apps such as Instagram allow savvy brands to engage their customers on content-rich platforms with the potential for audiences to grow exponentially. Increasingly, Millennials want to connect and interact with their brands of choice in the same way they would speak with someone they know. This means that social presences should tie in to customer service with meaningful, real-time interactions.
- 51% -
of brands rank either lack of strategy or execution challenges as their top barriers to Millennial engagement.
Executive buy-in isn’t what’s holding brands back from creating CX strategies specific to Millennials. In most cases, it’s the details of planning and executing a strategy.
Ultimately, most executives recognize that the growing purchasing power of Millennials means that their preferences will need to be understood and catered to. That realization does not necessarily mean that they have a clear strategy for doing this. The speed with which Millennials can switch preferences can be a cause for hesitation, as well as the challenges related to developing personalization and segmenting that can keep up with a higher standard of brand interactions.
Customer experience as a mainstream focus
Customer experience has become a major focus for competitive brands, with 70% having prioritized developing a focus on customer experience for over three years.
Over the past several years, it’s become clear that customer experience is one of the most important battlegrounds for brands today. Metrics such as loyalty and retention now hinge on the ability of brands to develop a real connection with their customers. For Millennials, more and more of this activity is taking place through digital touchpoints, usually split between two or more screens. That’s not to say that physical stores don’t have a place within these strategies.
Rather, to meet the expectations of Millennial customers, brands must ensure that their strategies extend across the full breadth of channels available to them while remaining coordinated. In addition to omnichannel availability, fully developed personalization strategies that unite the experiences of a customer across channels are expected by many Millennial consumers. Given the crossdepartmental nature of these initiatives, over time it makes sense to centralize CX under the banner of a single group with a dedicated mission.
Without a dedicated CX department, it’s likely that brands will fall behind their competition, the majority of which already have a core CX group in place.
The importance of building a customer service strategy that can compete on a high level has seen many organizations develop departments specifically to manage their CX initiatives across the organization. Omnichannel consistency requires coordination that spans departments, making it impractical for several business units with clearly defined missions to add responsibility for CX to their plate. This is true especially when brands attempt to compete against their peers who have already established centralized customer experience groups. With centralized CX leadership, it becomes much more feasible to establish organization-wide best practices.
Satisfaction, retention, and loyalty are the trifecta of KPIs in place for the majority of CX programs.
When judging the success of CX initiatives, the most commonly utilized KPIs are satisfaction, retention, and loyalty. Engagement is also used as a KPI by over half of respondents.
What insights can be taken away from the order of these KPIs? The primacy of satisfaction—even more important than retention, goes to demonstrate that in a sea of options, brands may only have one chance to deliver a quality experience to their customers.
The battle for retention, and then loyalty after that, can only begin after making a strong first impression. A focus on engagement can be particularly useful for helping drive the connections that brands need to learn more about their customers’ preferences, and can yield strong long-term benefits by providing the data foundation for more ambitious initiatives.
As programs mature, seeking the methodology to tie revenue and profit to the effects of CX initiatives becomes an important next step for creating more buy-in from key stakeholders within the organization. What are the KPIs for your customer experience efforts?
How do the brands Millenials love deliver a
personal, fast, and proactive experience?
Glossier, the hyper-cool beauty brand Millennials love, is built totally around the customer. Glossier’sservice team provides personal, consultative service by giving their agents single holistic view of their customers—including conversations, orders, feedback, and more.
Millennial feminine care brand LOLA’s goal is to create relationships that last a lifetime. Lola uses proactive outreach and bulk messaging to contact their users whenever there is a glitch in service, keeping them engaged and informed.
Connected doorbell and security solution Ring has exploded in popularity, and was recently acquired by Amazon. As their audience grows, they track every customer’s history and preferences, so their experience still feels as personal and responsive as knocking on neighbor’s door.
The Customer Service
Platform Built for People.
Single view of the customer
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Budgeting for performance across channels
Investments in mobile and social reflect the fact that they are key communication channels for connecting with Millennial customers.
Mobile is now in the lead as a first-tier spending priority with 30% of respondents placing it as their top area of investment within their budget plans. It should be noted that the second most common tier-one investment area is in-store. Given the overhead associated with a brick-and-mortar location, the fact that mobile spend still outranks this category strongly suggests that brands recognize mobile as a critical area to develop in order to maintain their relationships with their customers.
Similarly, social media is the third most common tier-one priority, and the first out of tier two. Aside from serving as a clear complement to mobile strategies, the development of a social presence is important for brands seeking to bolster their relationships to their Millennial customers. For Millennials, the desire to interact with a trusted brand, share and tag content, and air their complaints means that a brand social presence is taken as a given, and a high level of social development is often expected.
Many brands admit that their overall omnichannel coordination is behind their ability to manage CX through a desktop website, making this a key area to improve to meet Millennial expectations.
Web continues to lead the pack in terms of overall channel performance, with 61% of respondents rating it above average. Mobile is the second most performing channel followed once again by social. This follows the fact that for many brands, a flagship website will be one of their most long-standing digital properties with supporting SEO strategies and potentially years of testing and refinement supporting its performance. Mobile’s advantage is the near-constant accessibility that an app or mobile website can offer. When catering to a generational preference for convenience, mobile’s importance is hard to overstate.
Looking at the channels with more pronounced splits in their performance, it becomes clear that in-store is in the process of being reinvented. Only 31% of respondents rated their in-store performance above a neutral level. As performance and revenue from digital channels increase, the role of the physical store is ripe for disruption and can still play a critical role in delivering positive customer experiences. The potential for convenient deliveries and returns from brick-and-mortar locations is compounded by their unparalleled ability to deliver engagement through interactions with sales associates and in-store technology.
Overall omnichannel coordination is still in the midst of fine-tuning for the majority of respondents, with 69% of respondents ranking their performance as neutral at best. Bringing the threads of social, mobile, desktop, and instore together into a singular cohesive experience separates brands that have managed to digitally mature from those that are following in their footsteps, or just beginning on their journeys.
The imperative to develop a Millennial engagement strategy
89% of respondents acknowledge that they will have to adapt to changing Millennial preferences, over eight times the number who do not see a difference in their preferences.
While 52% of respondents feel that their efforts to adapt to Millennial preferences will mostly grow in importance in the longer term, this belies the fact that in order to keep pace with Millennial development, the groundwork to support the features they expect needs to be laid down now. Another 37% of respondents are already feeling this pressure and are taking pains to adapt to this reality in the near-term.
Having a clear strategy for Millennial engagement or at least a strategy for segmentation that can cover this by default is critical, yet nearly a quarter of respondents still don’t have specific engagement strategies in place.
The growing influence of the Millennial generation has caused 34% of respondents to prioritize the development of strategies specifically engineered to boost their levels of engagement, satisfaction, and retention. While not explicitly engineered with Millennials in mind, another 32% of respondents are working on customer satisfaction strategies that include segmentation which recognizes Millennials as a specific, targetable demographic.
This still leaves a third of respondents without a developed strategy. For 11%, targeting Millennials is not a priority, while 23% have not yet managed to develop their strategies and are at risk of falling behind. Compared to the 89% of respondents who affirm the reality of specific Millennial preferences, this is a significant chunk who are either content to do nothing, or fully acknowledge that they are in a bad position. That said, some barriers remain to the success of Millennial engagement strategies that can be difficult to overcome without the right strategies and tools.
Overcoming the barriers to Millennial engagement
Half of respondents are struggling with either executing their strategies or defining them in the first place.
One of the key challenges that are being faced by brands that are developing Millennial targeting strategies is the ability to execute on the plans that they have developed. Often this is a symptom of a lack of adequate data needed to build the segmentation to support a Millennial engagement strategy. With the range of responses on overall omnichannel coordination pointing to a roughly even split between the capable and those playing catch-up, those who admit that execution is a challenge are likely in need of overall improvement of their capabilities.
Worse off are the 25% of respondents who report that they do not have a strategy or have only the beginnings of a strategic plan that is not yet ready to implement. They must complete the hard work of identifying their Millennial customers’ preferences, then laying the groundwork to engage them based on the data they collect.
32% of respondents cited either budget or internal resources as the greatest challenges that hold them back from rolling out a Millennial engagement strategy. While not an insignificant number, this does add weight to the premise that the majority of executives are in a position where they understand the importance of growing Millennial buying power and how it pertains to their business.
Only 8% of respondents cited a lack of executive buy-in as the largest obstacle in the way of their Millennial experience strategies.
The majority of brands recognize the need to roll out a strategy that targets and appeals to Millennials.
Arguably the most critical step is to understand their preferences and meet them on the platforms that they favor.
Millennials expect that the brands they favor will have a presence on social media and mobile.
Further than that, they expect to be able to interact with them in meaningful ways, including fulfilling customer service requests. The ability to field these requests is another point of development that most brands will require.
Today, omnichannel coordination is a journey that only a leading few have fully completed, but most have embarked on.
That said, it’s imperative that brands continue to develop their ability to view customer data from a singular view.
The results analyzed in this report were gathered from responses to a benchmarking survey delivered to an audience of executives with responsibility for customer experience and user experience within their organizations. 100 executives responded to the survey.
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