The service expectations of a new generation of customers and clients may change the industry landscape. In June 2015, the U.S. Census Bureau released a report noting the numbers of the so-called Millennial (or Y) Generation, born from 1982- 2000, now surpass the size of the largest previous generation in history, the Baby Boomers, born from 1946-1964. By 2017, Millennials will outnumber Baby Boomers in the workforce as well, as Boomers retire and Millennials assume their mantle as primary drivers of the economy. As Boomers did before them, Millennials will change how customer service is delivered in future parking and transportation settings. Organizations that fail to adapt may disappear as Millennials "un-friend" them. Stereotyping is always risky. However, surveys and studies indicate Millennials will increase overall societal interactions, demand more integration of technology and expect more efficient and user-friendly service delivery systems. INCREASING SOCIETAL INTERACTIONS 1. Millennials are the most sociable generation in history. Renowned business speaker, consultant and bestselling author Micah Solomon explains, “For Millennials, this sociability is expressed online as well as in real life, particularly in the many arenas where online and offline activities and circles of friends overlap. They review, blog and Tumblr, update Wikipedia entries and post YouTube, Vine and Instagram videos. This social behavior has big implications for those of us who serve customers. Often these posts concern their consumption activities, interests and aspirations. So, Millennials can be vital carriers of a business’s commercial messages.” 2. Millennials do not associate age with wisdom. Don't expect a free pass from customers or clients because you are older and in-charge. “Millennials don’t come from a generation of tenure,” says Towne Park's Steffan Sonneveldt. “They give credence to ideas, actions and thoughts. It’s not disrespectful—it’s actually very inclusive. They give the same value to an idea from a teenager as they do from a retiree.” 3. Millennials will research on the web rather than asking for help in person. More line employees may not equal better service to Millennials. “They place the same value on Internet-based data as they do from a human,” says Sonneveldt. “This makes it easier for businesses to get their message out and educate the broader public on their service offerings and products.” 4. Millennials collaborate and cooperate with each other and, when possible, with brands. “Millennials are a generation that wants to co-create the product and the brand with you,” says Micah Solomon. “Alex Castellarnau at Dropbox, the popular file transfer service, put it to me this way: With Millennials, a new brand, service or product is only started by the company; it’s finished by the customers. Companies that understand this and figure out ways to engage in this co-creation relationship with Millennials will have an edge.” 5. Millennials seek to align their values with their market choices. “Millennials are committed to staying true to who they are,” says Steffan Sonneveldt. “They look to create a holistic lifestyle where who they are is evident in where they live, where they play and which businesses they patronize. Understanding all the values of your core customer base is important to aligning the entirety of your product with the collective community.” 6. Millennials influence the rest of the customer base. “Single opinions carry greater weight than ever before,” says Towne Park's Sonneveldt. “Today, a single good or bad experience can become the base of product opinion for thousands. Enhancing the customer experience and controlling the message on social media has become critical for a business to survive.” 7. Millennials are quick to use “public shaming” to highlight bad service. Millennials don't confront, they post. “The idea of ‘let’s settle this out back in the parking lot’ has long since passed,” says Towne Park's Mike Quick. “Now, the common threat is to take it to social media. People hope to bad mouth others virtually in hopes to make their point.” Towne Park's Jeff Johnson adds that Millennials are looking for businesses to acknowledge bad behavior. “For example, if I post a negative comment on an Uber review, I will receive a credit within three to four hours of the posting. No discussion needed. They accept the feedback and correct.” 8. Millennials will share good service encounters. Sonneveldt observes, “Although we sometimes focus on just the ‘public shaming’, Millennials are just as likely to highlight great service experiences. Companies that can tap into that opportunity with Millennials can grow their customer base in an inexpensive way.” MORE TECHNOLOGY INTEGRATION 9. Your service delivery should reflect Millennials’ tech savvy. Ellis Dumont, CEO & founder of Advanced Parking Concepts notes, “Many of the technologies the parking industry is employing, especially the use of apps, are the direct result of Millennial expectations. They expect everything to be automated and non-verbal whenever possible.” 10. Millennials expect technology to simply work. “They’ve grown up with digital devices that bundle communication, entertainment, shopping, mapping and education all in one,” Micah Solomon observes. “Naturally, then, Millennials embrace and align themselves with technology. Businesses should be careful not to throw clunky, alienating devices or websites at these customers and expect patience or understanding as customers struggle to find a workaround.” 11. Use technology for Millennials’ benefit, not yours. Towne Park's Johnson observes, “Millennials say, ‘Please utilize technology to my benefit. Why do I have to wait for my valet car to come around when I can pre-request from my smartphone? It’s all about speed, convenience, efficiency, value and how it makes us feel.’ At Towne Park, we have adopted mobile applications for both our external customers, like on-line aggregators, and for our internal customers, like Workday and Concur.” 12. Your line employees must be tech-savvy. Towne Park's Kabbash notes, “Today, our valets need to know Zingle, Flash valet, Luxe valet, whentowork. There's an app to clock in and out. Back in the day, a valet just needed to drive safely and have great customer service. Today, you need to have computer skills to work as a valet EFFICIENT, USER-FRIENDLY SYSTEMS 13. Millennials crave a seamless, but not cold, service experience. “Advanced Parking Concepts focuses on making the parking experience as seamless as possible, but at the same time providing a high-level service experience,” says Dumont. “This might be accomplished by how the technology is presented, with or without human involvement.” 14. No need for over-the-top service experiences. “Millennials don't feel the need to be waited on ‘hand and foot’ like some of the five diamond hotels offer,” says Towne Park’s John Olinyk. “Most of them are happy to just do it themselves and not have that interaction.” 15. Millennials expect fast service. “We want things faster than you can deliver them and we want them yesterday,” says Towne Park's Mary Quinsler, a Millennial herself. “But here’s the real kicker: We want them at equal or higher quality than we would’ve gotten if we patiently waited for them.” 16. Give Millennials options, including the choice to “opt out”. Jeff Johnson says, “Millennials require many experiences to have a mobile option so they can ‘opt out’ of a human service interaction if they want. In addition, any time a technology solution is offered it has to provide an efficiency to the experience that didn’t exist with the previous model of interaction.” 17. Don't bury them with detail. Millennials only want as much info as they need right now. “Millennials are smart, and quick to make judgments,” Sonneveldt observes. “They need just enough information to validate their initial opinion. Succinct, fast, and relevant. That’s what they want.” Says Towne Park's Kabbash, “It's about efficiency. When I ask you what time it is, don't build me a watch, just tell me the dang time!” 18. “Pre-spond” to Millennials. Millennials prefer service outreach at decision points (“pre-sponding”), confirming their decision. “Technology has made it easy to keep consumers well informed,” says Sonneveldt. “Millennials want to feel a part of the experience. This includes email updates, confirmation texts and constant sharing of the process. To them, that’s making it personal.” And if you don't? “Confirmation is key,” says Towne Park's Quick. “When a text, email or call is not confirmed or responded to, Millennials quickly become frustrated.” 19. Millennials: Enemies of the Dumb and Slow “This attribute makes them challenging customers,” says Solomon, “but customers, especially Millennials, appreciate you if you do eliminate the dumb and slow parts of your operation. Anything that offers intelligent, streamlined self-service (or no service needed) as an option is going to appeal to Millennials. This is a valid approach to pursue for parking.” “After all,” says Solomon, “parking is not just parking. It is the first and last impression of the customer experience.” While the axiom of parking-as-a-front-door remains true, remember, now the Millennials are watching... And posting. Charles R. “Charlie” Munn iii, CAPP, CPP is a former commercial parking executive and is now an international parking management consultant and writer based in Latin America. Email him at c.r.munn@terra. com. Because valet parking is so often synonymous with service in the industry, Parking contacted two cutting-edge practitioners in customer satisfaction, Ellis Dumont, CEO & founder of New York City-based Advanced Parking Concepts and Chuck Heskett, CEO & president of Annapolis-based Towne Park. Towne Park further assisted by assembling a focus group, several Millennials themselves, on the topic of Millennials and customer service. The group included: ■ Jeff Johnson, senior vice president ■ Erin Kabbash, district manager ■ John Olinyk, area manager ■ Mike Quick, account manager ■ Mary Quinsler, assistant account manager ■ Steffan Sonneveldt, senior vice president of operations OBSERVATIONS ON THE MILLENNIAL CLIENT They can have unrealistic expectations. “Having a client that is a Millennial can definitely be frustrating,” said Towne Park's Mike Quick. “The professionalism that we are accustomed to with the older generations seems to be disappearing as they leave the workforce. Millennial clients want all of their expectations met without having to ask you. If everything is working and the client only contacts you if it’s for something positive… business is good!” They want cutting edge technologies applied to parking operations reporting. Ellis Dumont, CEO & founder of Advanced Parking Concepts, notes, “Millennials have forced all levels of age groups to report utilizing cutting-edge technology. I have seen examples of 'old school' values being discounted for an approach of 'cold, fact based' technology. I think sometimes rudeness is perceived; however, in reality it's their inability to be patient or tolerant of systems that have to be upgraded, but have not.” Millennials love a good story about a soft touch. Says Towne Park's Erin Kabbash, “Millennial clients of mine love dashboards, data and mobile solutions. They are also very story driven. They love to hear about how we made a guest feel. Millennial clients are done with the jerk managers. I think the days of ruling with an iron fist or managing out of fear are numbered. Many Millennial clients will replace a company if they attract too many of these managers and find a company with a better culture. Our clients are not blind to a negative manager. Culture is key.” Forgive Millennial clients if they are abrupt, but speed is not enough. “I would never represent them as rude or disrespectful,” says Towne Park's Jeff Johnson, “but they have a different style and that is one of wanting quick, accurate analysis. Speed doesn’t fully cover it, as speed without accuracy is very inefficient.” Millennials want to be seen as data-driven and progressive. “More data, yes, but only so much as it can enhance their ability to be leading edge,” says Towne Park's Steffan Sonneveldt. “Millennials as owners want to be progressive. They look for ways to deliver the newest service offering, or the next greatest use of technology. They want to offer what they themselves would like.” WANT MORE INFORMATION? Contact Micah Solomon at micahsolomon.com; Chuck heskett at firstname.lastname@example.org; ellis Dumont at email@example.com.
Published by The National Parking Association. View All Articles.