Customer interactions are part of the daily routine for most businesses. And customer service is no longer a one-way street. In addition to receiving important news, young customers also expect to be able to talk to brands 24/7 to get information and sort out issues.

We spoke with five young people to get their perspective on several topics related to corporate communications to get an impression of where business are succeeding, and where they still have room to grow.

Justin Tutt, 26, is a technical systems engineer from Washington, D.C. who loves travel and snowboarding.

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Pascal Terrazoni, 23, is a design manager from Paris, France and is passionate about fashion.

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Hannah-Lee Grothaus, 24, is a musician from Johannesburg, South Africa who enjoys spending time with friends.

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Ruben Mendez, 25, is an investment banker from San Juan, Puerto Rico and loves film and music.

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Staci Webber, 19, is a dancer from Los Angeles, California and likes to hike and go kayaking.

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We asked Justin, Pascal, Hannah-Lee, Ruben, and Staci exactly what they expect when they communicate with businesses.

What is your preferred method to communicate with a business you use?

Justin: Text messaging, honestly. It’s how I already talk to everyone else in my life. WhatsApp is great if the company supports it.

Pascal: I prefer messaging apps like WhatsApp. It’s easy.

Hannah-Lee: Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I still prefer email. Messaging is too personal, too invasive. That’s my private life, right there.

Ruben: I kind of like chat bots. If the code is strong enough to support them, and they do what they should, then perfect. I don’t want to talk to a person, anyway.

Staci: I prefer social media channels, like Twitter and Facebook. I’m on there already, and if the company tries to pull a fast one on me, all my friends can see our interaction.

I love messaging apps for communicating with companies. It's native to me; I get it. - Highlight to share -

Let’s start with messaging apps. Do you like when companies use them?

Justin: I love messaging apps for communicating with companies. It’s native to me; I get it. Usually, you can get answers just as easily as texting a friend.

Pascal: Yes, they’re great. They are my preference. They’re simple for me to use.

Hannah-Lee: Eh, not really. The technology still isn’t quite there where I actually believe I’m messaging a real person. Instead, it just feels clunky. Plus, I don’t want companies texting me; that’s what my friends do. Keep it professional.

Ruben: It’s just okay. I can’t tell if I’m talking to a real person or not, so I don’t know how much to standardise the words I use, and so forth. It’s still more trouble than it’s worth for me.

Staci: No way. A company messaging you is like click-bait. “Oh boy, I got a text!” Nope, it’s just some bank, asking if you want to open another account. No thank you. Lose my number.

What about chat bots, do you like using them?

Justin: They never work right. It’s like we’re speaking different languages.

Pascal: I do not like them. It is bad technology right now.

Hannah-Lee: They’re so frustrating. I can never get the information I need the first try, and I feel stupid using them.

Ruben: When they work right, they’re my favourite. A simple interface, and anything a person can tell me, a bot can if it’s designed correctly. A good bot is my best friend.

Staci: They feel lazy; like the company didn’t want to waste its time actually talking to me, their customer.

And how do you feel about companies using email or social media for customer interactions?

Justin: Email feels old and slow, too inefficient. I like social media, because it’s a public forum and the company is sort of bound to what it says, because other people can see it.

Pascal: Social media is good. It’s public, so the company cannot screw you and get away with it. Email is very secret.

Hannah-Lee: I prefer email. It’s what I’m used to, and feels very professional. I like being able to gather all my thoughts, and receive an answer that has also had time to gather its thoughts. I would never interact with a company on social media. Why would I want my shopping habits displayed all over my private life?

Ruben: I like using email, even if it’s slower. It just feels professional. Social media is too “new wave,” for me, too much like the company is trying to “connect with young people,” or something.

Staci: I love social media to talk to companies. Everyone can see how they treat you, so they usually treat you better! I wish all companies used social media.

Which is more important to you when communicating with a business: efficiency, or familiarity?

Justin: On the customer end, they’re usually the same: I’m most efficient on the platform I’m most familiar with. But if the company is not efficient on their end, it doesn’t really matter. I want to use the simplest platform for me that still gets me quick, accurate answers.

Pascal: I will use whatever method gets me information most efficiently. If that’s email, great. If that’s messaging apps, good. I don’t really care if I am familiar with it, I will learn it. Usually, companies don’t learn.

Hannah-Lee: I like things I’m familiar with, but I like efficiency better. That’s what most companies get wrong. Don’t try to be my friend, just communicate clearly!

Ruben: Oh, efficiency, by far. I don’t want to have a nice, familiar chat. If a company could guarantee accurate, efficient communications by using smoke signals, I would learn to use smoke signals.

Staci: I like familiarity. I’m better at using things I’m familiar with, and usually I can use them faster and more efficiently. So long as the company is familiar with the platforms it offers, I prefer the ways I’m already used to.

Would you give preference to a company that communicates the way you prefer, over another?

Justin: Eh, not really. Other factors like price and reputation are much more important.

Pascal: Yes, I would.

Hannah-Lee: If it’s a big difference, yes. Communication is important.

Ruben: No, it’s not a big deal to me.

Staci: Definitely! It shows that you understand your customers better, which usually translates into other areas of business, too. It’s about the message it sends.

When it comes to customer interactions, young people have varying opinions, but a few things are clear: efficiency is king and everything else is secondary.

Young people want companies to stand by their communications. Some young people are put off by the rush to new channels of communication as being too pandering, while others appreciate the ability to communicate on their “native” platforms. 

So remember – you’re talking to the generation who have never lined up outside a post office; the idea of a company getting back to them the next day is completely foreign. Not only do you have to be fast, you have to be human. And transparent. And helpful. And intuitive.

Good luck!

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We ask 5 young people how they like to talk to companies