by Lauren Brousell

Millennials skip traditional customer service for online troubleshooting

Jul 08, 2015
Retail Industry

Waiting on hold for customer service is mostly a thing of the past. Millennials are increasingly looking to online searches, live chat and social media to troubleshoot technical issues, and both Gen X-ers and Boomers are following suit.

When millennials encounter problems with products or services they typically try to solve issues on their own, but if they need customer service or technical support they want a rapid response via online chat or social media, according to a recent survey performed by Kelton Global for Salesforce’s These self-service, on-demand expectations are beginning to rub off on Gen X-ers and Boomers, as well, and they’re resulting in wake-up calls for many companies.

“It’s a reminder that as an organization you have to look at what you’re doing today and see where holes are,” says Leyla Seka, senior vice president and general manager of, a Salesforce platform that helps companies organize their customer service channels. “A big part of that is knowing who you’re supporting.”

Millennials say forget the phone

Eighty percent of the more than 2,000 Americans ages 18 to 65 surveyed said calling traditional customer service phone lines is inconvenient. Using the phone for customer service is especially unpopular with millennials: 26 percent say they never look forward to it, compared to the 19 percent of Gen X-ers and 18 percent of Boomers who say the same. And 41 percent of survey respondents turn to the FAQ section of a company’s website before doing anything else.

Sam Abbott, a millennial and senior pricing analyst at UPS, says he always tries to solve problems on his own before reaching out to customer service, via a Google search to find the company’s FAQ page, user forums or YouTube videos. “If I am unable to correct it myself and the need arises to contact customer service, I favor using live chat or email rather than calling the company,” Abbott says.

[Related: Attracting millennials starts with digital tech]

Millennials use online customer service methods most frequently, but the other, older generations aren’t far behind. Twenty-four percent of millennials use live chat versus 17 percent of Gen X-ers and Boomers. For tech support, 35 percent of millennials would look to live chat, versus 29 percent of Gen X-ers and Boomers. (The report groups together the Gen X and Boomer generations in some cases.)

Customer service gets social

Not surprisingly, social media is also a significant source of customer service information for millennials; 81 percent say they would contact brands through social channels. And again, the other generations are also getting in on the action; 63 percent of Gen X-ers and 44 percent of Boomers would use social media for customer service. Facebook is the most popular social media site across the board (82 percent of all respondents use the site). Surprisingly more Boomers (86 percent) say Facebook would be their top choice for customer service information than millennials and Gen X-ers (81 percent). However millennials go to a larger variety of social media sites, such as Twitter, Intstagram and Yelp, than other generations.

When it comes to sharing their customer service experiences online, Boomers are more likely to tell a brand about their negative experiences (43 percent) than both Gen X-ers and millennials (36 percent). Though 82 percent of all respondents would abandon a brand based on negative experiences, 27 percent of Boomers would end a relationship with a brand after a single bad experience, as opposed to 22 percent of Gen-Xers and millennials.

[Related: Millennials bring consumer shopping tactics to corporate buying]

The use of social media, live chat and other self-service methods appears to be growing across all generations, but it’s important for companies to consider their specific customer bases when allocating resources to customer service channels. “Figure out who you’re serving and how they like to be served,” Seka says.

IT departments should also pay attention to the survey findings, whether they serve internal or external customers. “For something like tech support, from the millennials’ perspective, they are more comfortable getting on online chat and using digital technologies,” she says. “An IT organization has customers and they can apply this in the same fashion from employee perspective.”