When it comes to communicating with their consumers, many small businesses don't know the best way to go about it. Millennials are an even tougher nut to crack. You might assume that millennials prefer to communicate via social media. After all, they’re addicted to Snapchat and Instagram, right?

At LendEDU, we licensed Whatsgoodly survey data to find out how millennials preferred to communicate with small businesses. We kept the reason for communicating with the business broad so that it could include things like making an appointment, providing feedback, or reaching out for help and support. The poll received over 3,200 responses and the results were surprising.

Survey Says…

According to the survey, millennials’ first choice for communicating with businesses is email, with around 51% of respondents claiming that they would prefer to get an email from a company over any other communication method.

millennial communication preferences

After that, 28% of respondents said a phone call was the best way to connect with a company, and around 13% of respondents claimed that a text message would be the ideal way to talk to a company. Surprisingly, just 4% said they would prefer to communicate via private social media messages and only 2% believed public social media posts would be the ideal way to connect.

So, what do these numbers mean for small businesses eager to provide great customer service to millennials? Here are three tips to help you ensure that your small business is engaging with your millennial customers effectively.

Tip 1: Start Using Texts

To text or not to text, that is the question.

Who knew that 13% of millennials would want to communicate with companies via text message? Setting up systems that allow you to deal with customer complaints, answer questions, or book appointments via text message could be costly initially, but could provide cost savings over the long run and help you retain customer.

Many small businesses use texts in order to confirm appointments. For example, a doctor’s office can text a patient to remind him or her that an appointment is coming up. The patient confirms their appointment by texting back a given response – saving both the office and the patient time.

Tip 2: Incorporate Email with Phone Calls

The fact that such a large percentage of millennials prefer email as a method of connecting with businesses is a particularly important take away from this study since many businesses are set up to primarily communicate with customers by phone.

But small business owners should see these statistics as a wakeup call that they might need to transform their customer service operations to include email.

Unfortunately, e-mail isn’t an ideal solution for many industries. Companies that provide any kind of technical support might find that adding email as an option complicates their work. Not knowing a customers’ level of tech savviness could result in the support provided being too technically advanced or simple for the customer.

In industries where phone calls are more efficient, improving phone-based customer service could help deal with any frustration that millennials might have with phone calls. That could include booking appointments for call times, or using call-back technology that doesn’t require customers to wait on hold.

Tip 3: Focus Less on Social Media (for Customer Service)

When it comes to communicating with millennials, social media doesn't seem to be as important as most might think. While social media plays a vital role in marketing, it's not the best place for small business to provide customer service.

While many consumers will go to social media to vent frustrations with a company, they have usually tried to connect with the company in other ways before they post. If small business owners want to keep millennial customers – you’re better off investing in alternative methods of communication.

Some larger companies are currently testing out a form of artificial intelligence known as chat bots to talk to their customers. While these have limitations, they can be effective for very specific applications.

For example, Sephora has a chat bot in Facebook Messenger called Sephora Reservation Assistant which helps users book or change a makeover appointment with the company. Another Sephora chat bot allows users to upload photos and the bot then provides suggestions for lip colors to match.

Technology like bots is relegated to the upper echelon of businesses right now, but could very well become substantially more accessible for small businesses in the near future.

Millennials’ Preferences Will Continue to Evolve

As millennials get older and technology changes, their methods of interacting with small business will also continue to evolve. Rather than immediately poking or snapping back, it's critical that small business owners routinely engage with their customers to understand how they prefer connecting with them.

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