YOUNG people prefer communicating via electronic messaging and smartphone apps. You, along with most people on the planet, have probably suspected this for a while, but new data from Dimension Data appears to confirm it. According to the tech service company’s Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report, for Generation Y —people born between 1980 and 2000 — the phone is now the third choice of engagement after electronic messaging and smartphone apps. The report, which surveyed 817 organisations covering 11 business sectors in 79 countries across Asia-Pacific, Australia, the Middle East, Africa, the Americas and Europe, also found that the preference gaps for Generation X (anyone born between 1961 and 1989) between phone, messaging and social media is now also narrowing. Andrew McNair, Dimension Data’s head of global benchmarking, said: “While the Silent Generation [born before 1944] and the Baby Boomers [born between 1945 and 1960] prefer the phone: 55,2% and 59,5%, respectively, the pace of decline in ‘voice only’ contact centres — now down to 67,5% overall compared with 67,9% 12 months ago — demonstrates the continuing trend to multiskill telephone agents across emerging ‘non-voice’ contact channels. “Generation Y is the biggest demographic group since the Baby Boomers. Its members are demanding, vigorously social, constantly connected and blithely channel-agnostic, so for them, any conversation about channels is meaningless. “Generation Yers simply want to get things done, and will use a variety of electronic devices they have at their disposal to fulfil that need,” says McNair. “It’s surprising that almost one-third of the organisations we polled had not analysed their customers’ channel preferences by age. “While age is not the only indicator of likely customer behaviour, it is a strong one, as it provides an indicator for which channels should merit the greatest attention and investment. “The fact that so many organisations are ignoring the age factor suggests that they may be failing to measure or evaluate customer behaviour effectively. “With the majority of customer interactions in the contact centre now being handled via a plethora of self-service channels, enterprise leaders need to raise their game and address omni-channel customer journeys rather than isolated phone calls, and even e-mails,” says McNair. “If they don’t, the traditional contact centre is in danger of becoming irrelevant.” Omnichannel environments enable customers to move from one channel to another using a range of devices: from cellphones and smartphones to tablets and TV. The channels are connected in such a way that conversations and transactions that are started on one channel can be continued on another. One consequence of this, the report notes, is that call centres are no longer the main point of contact between brands and customers. It adds, however, that its skills, disciplines and processes will continue to provide the backbone required to support all other channels. “I predict companies will transform from providing a multichannel service to delivering an omnichannel customer experience that sets them apart,” says McNair. — Memeburn.