Where Have all the Millennials Gone? Adapting the Customer Experience

My wife and I recently stopped at the local branch of a chain restaurant that was a regular family eating spot when our girls still lived at home. The food was just as good as we remembered it, and reasonably priced. The staff were engaged, fun, and friendly. But, there was something missing – other customers. The restaurant was about quarter-full during prime dining hours. We remembered the place as always being full of families and having a bustling atmosphere, but those days seemed to have passed.

As it happens, we had both independently read a couple of articles earlier in the day about how Millennials were abandoning the traditional family-dining restaurants their parents had taken them to. Although neither article had mentioned this particular chain, it definitely fit the description, and what we were seeing seemed to confirm the articles’ supposition. We spent a fair amount of time over our meal discussing the articles, and why we thought the change had happened. Was it bad customer experience?

As far as my wife and I were concerned nothing had changed, the in-restaurant experience and service was just as we expected, and in fact I’d say it had improved slightly. So we asked our own “millennials” – our eldest daughter (a small business owner), and her husband (a copywriter) if they ever ate out at our former family favorite.

The answer was an interesting one.

They don’t eat out the way we did (or still do). They don’t go out just for a meal anymore. They, and most of their friends, eat out as part of an overall evening when they will grab something to eat before heading to a concert or event. They prefer to eat at places close to the venue that will be their final destination for the evening, and they prefer to be able to eat quickly and move on. When they do want a restaurant style meal, they prefer to have a date at home and have the food delivered. Their first choice will be restaurants affiliated with delivery services like UberEATS, where they can look at menus, create meals, order and pay online and have it turn up at their doorstep.

So it was a customer experience issue, but not a tactical micro-experience one, such as the level of service in the restaurant itself, but more of a strategic macro-level one. The behaviors of a sector of the customer demographics has changed, and any restaurant that isn’t either physically located near other entertainment venues, or offers a delivery service, isn’t even considered.

Within Customer Experience Management we use tools such as website optimization, analytics, surveys, and more to capture the voice of the customers so we can deliver better more engaging experiences. However, these are based on the activities and experiences of the customers we have.

Can we use these same tools to capture information about the experiences we don’t supply that potential customers may be looking for? How do we track the changes in behavior for a target demographic and how do we use that to make strategic decisions about the evolving customer experience?

I don’t have any immediate answers, but it makes for an interesting discussion; and it’s a topic I’ll be returning to during my session on “Ten Trends in Customer Experience for 2017” at the upcoming OpenText™ Enterprise World conference.


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