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Keep Millennials, Keep your customers

October 2, 2012

The internet is saturated with ways businesses can leverage social engagements to improve sales and brand recognition.  However, one of the most valuable benefits of embracing social and cloud technology continually goes unmentioned –employee retention.   Specifically, it helps retain the millennials who dominate most customer-facing or support positions.    With the right technology, the “entitlement” generation can be transformed from their self-centered, lazy, over-coddled stereotypes into the essential ingredient for exceptional customer experience.

The same entitlements millennials demand from their employer, match what customers will demand from your business.  Here are a few tips to take the top Gen Y stereotypes and harness them into long-term, happy customers and employees.

Trait 1: Need for Immediate Answers

Generation Y is raised with the “Google it” mentality and are easily frustrated when information is not readily available.  However, consumers have an increasing expectation that the first person to answer the phone should answer all their questions.

Adopt: Dump the dusty, phonebook sized training manual and implement a knowledge management system.   These Wiki type systems allow employees to search for relevant answers, update outdated information, and contribute new solutions as technology changes.   For small business, start with simple file or customer management tools from 37 Signals or one of the many options available through a CRM, such as or Zoho.

Result:  Your Gen Y team will feel they are properly equipped with searchable reference material and your customers will have quicker resolutions to their needs.  Once you have a large enough library, consider publishing the articles to customers in FAQs or self-help options.


Trait 2:  Always looking for new job opportunities

The average tenure of a Gen Y employee is about 16 months.  Why?  The millennials’ American Dream is less focused on long-term, hard, honest work and more about exploiting a niche opportunity to create the next successful start-up, go public, and make millions.  While many people see this as being lazy, unrealistic or uncommitted, this approach can be harvested to drive start-up type innovation within your organization.

Adopt: Spend more time explaining the long-term company goals, your competitive advantage, and developing company culture.  Millennials need to feel they are part of a bigger purpose and not just a monkey at a desk.  Find special projects that have a large impact, such as focus groups centered on system/process improvement, employee satisfaction, or even charitable outreach programs.

Result:  Your employees become brand advocates for your business.  They build a sense of pride that is articulated to customers, new employees, partners, and even their friends.  In a couple of years, millennials will make up the largest portion of the workforce, so they can also tap their social network to help in recruiting efforts.

Trait 3: Require Constant Feedback or Praise

Gen Y-ers are accustomed to instant feedback, whether it is 20 likes on their new Facebook post or a reply to text message within seconds.   They were raised on standardized and electronic testing, which provides nearly instantaneous grading.  This desire for a “grade” helps to reassure millennials they are improving their skills and filling their resumes.

Adopt: Instead of saving your feedback for the dreaded annual reviews, implement ongoing incentive programs based on your business or department’s strategic objectives.  These can be something as simple as “High-Five Awards” which are awarded for positive customer or peer feedback.  (Employees get a high-five, and a company sponsored caffeine-high with a $5 Starbucks gift card).  In addition, set clearly defined, meaningful goals that align with the employee’s career objectives.

Result: This objective, continual feedback let’s your Gen Y employees know where they stand or what “grade” they have.  When it comes to review time, their entitlement tendencies will be kept at bay because they don’t feel the need to justify their job, position, or doubt their long-term growth opportunities.   They will feel appreciated throughout the year and be more willing to go the extra mile for your customers.


As customers continually demand immediate response and solutions, your ability to respond will rely on having knowledgeable, seasoned staff.  So the next time those entitled millennials require more of your time, remember they mirror your customers.

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