skip to main content

Reach Out and Cuss Someone: What Gen Z Calling Habits Reveal About Changing Customer Experience

AcxiomDecember 20, 2016

Will Gen Z be the first generation to go all digital? Or will they react prosaically, even crassly, to make a point when brands aren’t meeting their expectations?

Perhaps surprisingly, a new Marchex study shows that Gen Z young’uns, the first truly digital native group, actually like to talk to businesses on the phone. In fact, the study reported that they have “a much higher tendency to make old-fashioned phone calls to businesses they found online than any other age group.” Another finding? That many don’t hesitate to curse at lackluster agents when needs aren’t immediately met.

The topic of this post, however, isn’t about the decline of good manners – it’s about the much-probed customer experience. Namely, letting customers engage with your brand relevantly and seamlessly. For omnichannel marketers, these words are a kind of mantra. As we’ll see, Gen Z calling habits suggest that we might want to add “human” to our industry chants.

What’s old is new again.

Like anyone else, Gen Z consumers are just looking for a good deal. Marchex points out that they are “extremely deal-savvy and they have no compunction about calling out a company if a deal offered over the phone is more expensive than what’s advertised online.” According to the Marchex study, Gen Z (18 to 24 in age) is as restless as Millennials.

Looking for quick answers, they’re 60% more likely than average to hang up if a call isn’t answered in 45 seconds. And call analytics show they’re 30% more likely to use salty language, based on usage and frequency of common curse words.

But this group doesn’t prefer digital-only transactions. They’re actually much more likely to click-to-call a business from a mobile phone, whether they’re trying to reach a wireless company, a cable provider or a hotel, than the average consumer. In other words, while Gen Z wants a bunch of options to connect with businesses—texts, social media and email, to name a few—they don’t mind calling because, as a Marchex blog notes, “they desire a real-time, authentic connection.”

Customers are people, too.

An authentic connection? Hey, me too! And I’m old enough to reference TV ads from Bell (remember them?) in headlines. Ads which, by the way, were about reaching out and making a human connection.

To wit, I’ve had one insurance company, USAA, as long as I’ve had insurance. Yes, I can (and recently did) track an auto claim online, get emails from my adjustor and enjoy the convenience of a personalized page on their website.

But I can also call them and hear a friendly, helpful voice—in no small part because they don’t try to hide their number and drive me online. They’re based in San Antonio, TX. Whenever I dial them up, I quickly connect with knowledgeable service, usually delivered with a Texas twang.

I love that. For the authentic experience and, truth be told, because I still trust a human voice more than automation. Okay, not every telephone voice is helpful or even trustworthy. But even if the agent is reading a script, he or she is real. Said agent will also hear me if I’m driven to use bad language. Not that I’m endorsing the habit, but come on, it’s…human.

The customer experience: add “human” to “relevant and seamless.”

We are all in the business of making marketing relevant. As in personal, meaningful and less annoying. Fine human qualities, all.

With roots in direct marketing, Acxiom has been a leader in the original data-driven school of marketing practice for over four decades. We watched as DM mavens have long achieved relevance by humanizing their efforts. They start with data, refining segmented customer lists, then add the personal touch by saying “Hi Alexandra” instead of, ugh, “Dear Valued Customer.”

As a DM copywriter in another life, I and remember how adding personalization really juiced response. So did making it simple to act: “3 easy ways to reply! Mail, call or click.” All the Gen Z consumers are asking from us is to make it simple for them today.

Relevant + seamless + human = better results. I’ve always been terrible at math, but I did know that higher response rates came from connecting with human beings.

So, fellow marketer, how else could you humanize your customer experiences? By appreciating the “omni” in “omnichannel”—that it includes offline, even phone calling? By using a customer’s name, when appropriate, of course, not in any way that violates privacy? Or by knowing which age groups don’t mind calling your business and which would rather hang with bots?

As you ponder this, let me quote my friends deep in the heart of Texas and say: happy holidays, y’all!

For an in-depth look at how leading brands are improving customer experience, check out Speed to Insight: Accelerating Dynamic Customer Engagement, a Forbes report commissioned by Acxiom.