If Your Brand’s Future Is in the Hands of Millennials, You Should Be Worried

As marketers, we spend an inordinate amount of time developing strategies and executing campaigns to increase leads into the sales funnel, nurture leads, upsell, cross-sell and retain customers. But as any experienced marketer also knows, a monthly churn rate can often outstrip the acquisition rate — effectively losing customers faster than you’re gaining them. Want to know why?

Group using mobile phonesAs marketers, we spend an inordinate amount of time developing strategies and executing campaigns to increase leads into the sales funnel, nurture leads, upsell, cross-sell and retain customers through elaborate loyalty programs. But as any experienced marketer also knows, a monthly churn rate can often outstrip the acquisition rate — effectively losing customers faster than you’re gaining them.

Want to know why?

Forget the ridiculous phone research surveys (those alone make me want to leave my new automobile manufacturer). Or the online survey interrupters that pop up in the middle of searching for that beautiful little, black dress (“We’d love your feedback!” — um … stop bugging me while I’m still shopping, for starters…).

Nope. I’m here to tell you the problem is what’s going on at the retail level. And, if my colleague’s recent experience at a Comcast/XFINITY store is any indication of our future generation of customer service reps, then all brands are in trouble.

If your brand’s future is in the hands of millennials, you should be worried.

It seems that most customers are in a store on their way home from work because when she entered at 5:30 pm, she was not surprised that there were 20 people ahead of her. So why was there only ONE person servicing the floor?

Every so often she’d see someone (yes, a millennial) come out from the “back,” take a look around at the hoard of customers waiting, and scurry back from whence they came.

When she boldly inquired why the rep was working alone, she was told there were 5 – 6 others working in the back counting cash (… um, can you say “hold up?” Apparently this gal missed the training module ‘What not to say to a customer’).

After my colleague got home and the brand new remote she just picked up didn’t pair with the brand new XFINITY box (that’s a customer service/retention story for another day), she had to return to the store the next day — and wait with the rest of the unwashed masses that were being serviced by one cashier.

No wonder DIRECTV is gaining market share.

And then there’s my local Safeway — another example of how not to let the kids run the asylum.

After spending nearly 45 minutes strolling the aisles and loading $200 worth of groceries in my cart, you’d think the cashier and bagger would do everything in their power to ensure a pleasant check-out experience so that I’d come back again. The cashier (a little older, wiser and a lot more savvy) was trying to get me through the line efficiently, but the millennial bagger found his cell phone far more fascinating than my groceries piling up at the end of the runway.

I finally caught the cashier’s eye and murmured “tell him to put his phone away.” Her response was barely a whisper: “YOU tell him to put it away. No one listens to me.”

So I did.

And he did.

And I filled out the survey at the website at the bottom of my receipt, suggesting it be a store-wide policy that workers leave their cell phones in their lockers. Shouldn’t that be an obvious “rule” in 2016?

When I repeat this story to others, I hear equally challenging experiences from clothing boutiques to shoe stores, cafés to bookstores. Young, entry-level workers choosing to keep their heads down, eyes focused on a tiny screen instead of looking at customers and offering help.

Retail stores, while declining in total traffic as compared to websites, are still the brand face for many businesses. So instead of pouring millions into automating back-end, online, shopping tools and sending me daily emails with specials, invest in some in-store customer service training. My experience with your brand is in their hands. And for the folks at Comcast/XFINITY and Safeway, that should be a scary thought.

Author: Carolyn Goodman

A blog that challenges B-to-B marketers to learn, share, question, and focus on getting it right—the first time. Carolyn Goodman is President/Creative Director of Goodman Marketing Partners. An award-winning creative director, writer and in-demand speaker, Carolyn has spent her 30-year career helping both B-to-B and B-to-C clients cut through business challenges in order to deliver strategically sound, creatively brilliant marketing solutions that deliver on program objectives. To keep her mind sharp, Carolyn can be found most evenings in the boxing ring, practicing various combinations. You can find her at the Goodman Marketing website, on LinkedIn, or on Twitter @CarolynGoodman.

12 thoughts on “If Your Brand’s Future Is in the Hands of Millennials, You Should Be Worried”

  1. Carolyn,

    Not all millennials are screen staring zombies..You are only focusing on the bad eggs. From working at bars and retail stores growing up there are many, many, many millennials that work harder than their managers.. Those who came from nothing and are working to pay off their expenses. I’ve seen my fair share of co-workers who have “found [their] cell phone far more fascinating” than actually doing the work they are hired to do, but this is no reason to say “we should be worried”. Those are simply the spoiled brats who have it all. Most likely you are shopping in heavily populated areas. Go out to the boonies and you’ll see millennials working 12+ hour shifts everyday doing construction.

  2. My almost 14 years old lives INSIDE her smartph. She has lost the interest in school, doesn’t want to go shopping with us, prefers to stay in bed, “connected”, and all the times she quarrels for everything. So, defenders of connectivity, what is the future for young people like her? Addiction, yeah, sounds hard, but it is real

    1. Your 14 year old daughter would be doing all of those things with or without a smart phone…. that is what 14 year old daughters do. I did the same, listening to music or reading books. It has been this way ever since 14 year old girls weren’t already married off and pregnant with their first child by that age.

  3. This is really unfortunate. I was hoping for an article of substance but this appears to be a rant about about poor customer service and people you’ve most likely over categorized as millennials. You’ve basically outlined an issue of improper job training and hiring practices. You don’t have to go to the “boonies” to see millennials working hard, just to your right and left. I have work to do so this millennial is signing off. #unsubscribe

    1. L.Burton I couldn’t agree with you more.. Such a bold title and nothing to back it up. I can’t believe Target Marketing would allow this article to even be posted.

  4. I seem have struck a chord with my post. And many are right — it is probably an issue of training, but that was exactly my point (sorry if you missed it).

    Most companies hire junior staff as their front line customer service reps. Since these are entry-level positions, many of those hired are millenials, and when comparing notes with colleagues and friends, we have all witnessed the problem I discussed: heads down and trolling their phones, instead of focusing on their paid job (whatever that might be). Yes, this does not describe EVERY millenial, but unfortunately, it does describe those that I encountered in the two examples I provided.

    Sorry if I offended any millenial (or their parent or boss) who does not fall into this trap. But these are my experiences and those of my colleagues. And my point, therefore, was that brands need to be cognizant that it is a very real and potential issue and a brand needs to be ready by setting up training programs and guidelines to deal with it.

  5. There’s a lot to talk about here. Including, that every older generation looks at the younger generation as lazy and feckless with no respect. (Literally, back to Socrates).

    I remember vividly the mid 90s research about Gen X being lazy slackers who just wanted to lay around all day, not work, get high or hammered, had no respect, and how they were going to ruin their lives and all of society. It was the same thing The Greatest Generation said about the Baby Boomers: Lazy hippies who didn’t want to do anything but get high and make love, had no respect, and would destroy their lives and all of society.

    Here’s 15 more complaints from older older generations, if you don’t believe me:

    The phones are a new component of it, but that’s just a direction. Hippies hitchhiked to California to escape, Millennials have access to California on a super computer they carry with them.

    I don’t really think it’s fair to blame the current younger generation for what looks like bad management (plus an 18 year-old today may not even be Millennial, they might be Gen Z, no one’s completely defined that boundary yet). And I’ve had some very good experiences with Millennials in the workplace.

    So my next blog post will be: “Why Millennials Are the Best Generation of Marketers.”

    Seriously. Tune in for it on Wednesday.


  6. Then, it seems, the issue is not with these millenials you’ve encountered but the Baby Boomer leaders that cheaply hire them. Also, it is indeed unfortunate that older generations continue to judge and patronize my generation versus dedicating their time to assist in training and/ or mentoring those seemingly unprepared young professionals.

    1. FYI, I spend a lot of my time training and mentoring young people. In fact, my alma mater just awarded me volunteer of the year for all of my efforts. So while I can only help a few young people at a time, I do try and do my share. Bottom line, if you’re on an employer’s payroll, put down your phone… look for ways to help their business help their customers. Your career will go a lot farther, a lot faster.

      1. Their careers would go a lot farther? From bagging groceries? What planet do you live on? We are educated for “serious” careers that – after 10’s of thousands in student loan debt – we discover have either no opportunities, 500 applicants for each position, or the companies are recruiting from overseas (because they can pay those people – unburdened by student loan debt – much less). We are told we have to outlive our grandparents by 6 years just to retire. We can’t save to buy homes (see loan debt). Many of us are feeling that even marriage and children are not economically feasible. One of my friends was talking about how to save the money to freeze her eggs, because it will take until she is well beyond her natural fertility to afford a child. We can’t even afford health care. But you will write an entire post about how the whole generation is useless to your profit motives…. because of a few bad customer service experiences?

        1. The point of my article (which it seems you may have missed) was that new, young workers, need training on how to deliver good customer service. Why? Because good customer service leads to a good employee review. A good Employee review leads to a good recommendation. A good recommendation leads to a better job. And so on… And that’s how you can progress in the food chain called life.

          Glad to know you’re educated for a “serious” career, but everyone has to start somewhere.

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