Will millennials and Gen Z kill the call centre?

Call centres are a long-standing tenet of customer service. But lately, contacting a ‘call centre’ has become a chore, a waste of time. The term is becoming synonymous with nuisance sales calls and frustrating IVR trees. Fewer people are readily picking up the phone to call when they need support. The modern trend is to blame declines such as this on millennials and Gen Z.

Indeed, millennials and Gen Z have already been accused of killing many traditions — including telephone calls. The truth behind these accusations is considerably more nuanced. But it’s undeniable that these generations are acting as a driving force for change.

And if they’ve had a hand in the decline of the landline, could the call centre be the next casualty?


The power of millennials and Gen Z

First things first, millennials and Gen Z are the two most recent generations. The point at which millennials stop and Gen Z start is somewhat undefined. In general, anyone born between 1980 and 1995/2000 is a millennial. Anyone born between 1995/2000 and 2015, meanwhile, is a member of Gen Z.

Crucially, millennials and Gen Z are huge — making up approximately 63.5% of the global population. (Millennials at 31.5% and Gen Z at 32%.) Millennials alone comprise a huge 75% of the world’s workforce. As such, the combined purchasing power of these two generations packs some serious punch.

Meanwhile, the traditional call centre is in decline. It seems customers just aren’t rushing to pick up the phone anymore. With millennials and Gen Z holding so much of the spending power, they may be killing the call centre as we know it.


The typical attitudes of millennials and Gen Z

For a start, millennials and Gen Z have different priorities compared to those their predecessors held. Typically, millennials and Generation Z value experience over things. They like to share their experiences on social media. And they’re much more ethically conscious with their spending.

This translates to a greater emphasis on customer experience when it comes to interacting with businesses. That is, millennials and Gen Z will pay more for better experiences, and they’ll leave if service isn’t satisfactory.

And when the only experience you have to offer is through a traditional call centre, the customer-centric approach that you need isn’t there. But why is this the case?


Accustomed to immediacy

Unlike the generations before them, millennials and Gen Z are digital natives. That is, they’ve grown up with the internet, smartphones and social media. Technology has always been an integrated part of their lives. In fact, Generation Z has little to no experience of the world without this functionality at their fingertips.

As a result, both are used to immediate gratification and 24/7 access to businesses. They’re used to finding answers for themselves with a quick Google search. And they’re used to instant messaging across an array of communication channels.

 As such, to cater to the majority of consumers nowadays, you need to meet the customer service need for speed. It’s suggested that millennials and Gen Z have an average attention span of about 8 seconds. They aren’t, then, going to willingly wait on hold for a call centre agent to become available.


Need for speed

Meeting this need for speed is as simple as embracing the technology that millennials and Gen Z use daily.

  • A preference for self-service

70% of millennials and 71% of Generation Z have expressed a preference for self-service over contacting an agent at all. It’s much faster for a customer to search your website or type something into Google than it is to pick up the phone and call.

  • Live chat software

Live chat software is a great tool for meeting the need for speedy service. The clue is in the name — ‘live’. Millennials and Gen Z regularly interact with people via text and online, rather than talking on the phone. Live chat software provides the real-time version of this text-based communication.

  • Chatbots and 24/7 availability

Finally, millennials and Gen Z expect 24/7 digital accessibility. If they want to access your business at 3 am, they expect to be capable of doing so online. While the call centre sleeps, a chatbot can answer late-night consumers if they have an easy question. No need to wait for the phone lines to open the next day.


Adapt or die?

All this doesn’t mean that the traditional call centre is completely dead in the water. 50% of millennials and Gen Z will call if they must. Plus, there’s still the other 36.5% of the world’s population to cater to. 

However, the shifting views have led to the need for call centres to adapt. This means embracing the new technology that’s available. For instance, offering contact options such as social media and live chat software alongside the traditional phone call.

By adapting to the changing preferences and technology, traditional call centres are evolving into contact centres. This has allowed businesses to provide the level of customer-centricity needed to unlock the favour of 63.5% of the world’s population. Without, that is, losing those that still favour the good old-fashioned phone call.


Moving on to better things

The death of the call centre is not due to an attack by millennials and Gen Z. Rather, it’s due to a shifting view favouring experience and better technology. These elements combined make the classic call centre outdated. And, with millennials and Generation Z holding such high spending power, the blame is shifted to them.

But the decline of the call centre is not a bad thing. Legacy call centres have simply had their day in the sun. Now we can move on to improved tools, experiences and strategies. In this way, call centres aren’t dying at the hands of millennials and Gen Z. Rather, they’re evolving.


Useful links

Telephone decline: the battle between calls and chat

A brief history of the age of the customer

The history of call centres (and how they became contact centres)