It’s 9pm and Jennifer is in her dorm room screaming at her laptop. Her favorite clothing store isn’t processing her online order, and she needs those shoes by Friday. She’s tried three times already, and the site just gives her some stupid error message.
She finds the number for customer service and calls it, progressing three levels down into the automated menu before giving up and swearing at her phone. There’s also an email contact form, so she types out a hasty message and sends it. Twenty minutes later, after watching part of a show on YouTube, she checks her email — still no response. She Googles the retailer’s Twitter account and sends an angry public tweet. She goes to their Instagram, sends a message, and leaves a comment on their latest post. Finally, she decides to open Snapchat. Holding the record button, twisting her face into a deeply pained expression, she implores all of her friends to contact the company right away to complain about the problem.
Jennifer is a typical representative of Generation Z, and she has single-handedly launched an all-out assault on the IT incident management system at Xenaya Shoes.
Gen Z’s Attention Deficit
Hot on the heels of the Millennials, born between the years 1996 and 2010, Generation Z is steadily advancing into the coveted 18-35 consumer demographic, expected to account for about 40% of all U.S. consumers by 2020. Retailers and service providers everywhere had best be prepared for what some have called the most impatient generation in human history.
When it comes to Gen Z’s stark impatience with IT service providers, in particular, some researchers believe there’s a second factor at play: namely, the IT service managers who are helping modern businesses to deliver such consistently smooth customer experiences that they’re raising the bar for everyone else.
While Gen Z may not really have shorter attention spans than goldfish (contrary to a popular myth), there can be little doubt that the Z in their name does not stand for Zen — especially when it comes to tech support and customer service.
A little over a year ago a study conducted by Marchex using data from 2.3 million consumer-to-business phone calls found that, compared to Boomers, Gen X’ers and Millennials, Gen Z’ers are “60% more likely than the average consumer to hang up if the phone is not answered within 45 seconds” and “30% more likely to curse over the phone at a business than the average consumer when they feel their needs aren’t being met.” To clarify how they arrived at that second stat, they noted that “Marchex Call Analytics technology analyzed consumers’ usage and frequency of the most common curse words in the English language…”
Those results are part of a growing body of research exploring Gen Z’s apparent attention deficit. “One study installed a program on college students’ laptops that took a screenshot every five seconds,” reports San Diego State University psychology professor Jean Twenge in her latest book, iGen. “The researchers found that students switched between tasks every nineteen seconds on average. More than 75% of the students’ computer windows were open less than one minute.”
Having grown up in a world of rampant digital distraction, such manic multitasking and fickle attention spans may be inevitable. But when it comes to Gen Z’s stark impatience with IT service providers, in particular, some researchers believe there’s a second factor at play: namely, the IT service managers who are helping modern businesses to deliver such consistently smooth customer experiences that they’re raising the bar for everyone else.
Impatient Youth and the Amazon Effect
“Today’s modern consumer, and particularly younger consumers, are heavily influenced by the ‘Amazon Effect,’” says Jeff Fromm, President of FutureCast and coauthor of Marketing to Gen Z. “That is to say, their customer experience better be very seamless, or frictionless. Amazon has set the bar, and other brands have met the bar, from Uber to Netflix.”
While exactly what qualifies as “frictionless” will vary by type of business — ranging from restaurants to digital streaming services — Fromm tells us the same basic trend is evident across all categories. “The younger the person,” he says, “the shorter the attention span.”
Twenge agrees, pointing out that “iGen’ers have never known a world before Amazon.com; they are used to getting instant results online.”
Just imagine never having known a world before the Amazon Effect began — a world that was rife with delays, pointless waiting, service glitches, and regularly scheduled website downtime. That’s a world the rest of us got used to as the Internet and its e-commerce companies evolved, but Gen Z never witnessed those early stages of growth. Thinking about that, one can begin to see why the slightest delay might irritate them so.
Because Gen Z happens to be even more “digitally native” than their elder Millennial counterparts, they may also end up using more devices and apps, with even greater frequency, than previous generations. That means even more potential technical problems to notice, report, and be infuriated by. And if their IT support tickets don’t get responded to quickly enough, well, that’s just adding insult to injury.
Looking ahead, the smartest business leaders and IT service managers will be those who aspire to emulate the Amazon Effect by finding new ways to address IT incidents faster, honing their network uptime monitoring tools, and paying rapt attention to the needs of Generation Z.
Otherwise, the kids won’t be paying attention to them for very long at all.
About the author Matt Harper
Matthew Harper is VP of Corporate Marketing at Moogsoft. Previously, Matt held senior leadership roles at Glassdoor, Sony (PlayStation), and EQ Magazine.