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The real deal with millennials, Gen Z and their phones

Contrary to popular belief, the younger generations don’t hate voice. They just want to keep their customer service experience in the digital realm.


It’s a common misconception that millennials and Gen Z hate talking on the phone. What these segments actually have disdain for is being forced to dial a phone number that is disconnected from their digital experience.

Phone and voice aren’t the same thing, and the quicker banks realize this and act upon it, the sooner they will start to build loyalty with the younger generations they need for long-term profitability. Leading banks have started to replace phone numbers with on-screen voice as part of their digital customer service strategy.

The demand for digital self-service has skyrocketed over the years, but institutions have tended to simply layer communication options like email and chat on top of a pre-existing, phone-based service platform. This “bolted-on” approach has led to disparate service and support, with different channels often having entirely separate support teams.

The past 18 months during the pandemic prompted an unprecedented surge in digital usage, with many customers leveraging these channels for the first time. Such expanded usage inevitably lends itself to questions or situations where support is needed. This typically involves the customer disengaging from the digital experience to dial a phone number for additional assistance, which requires reauthenticating, explaining the issue and trying to verbally relay where they are in the digital banking experience.

It’s time for banks to meet customers where they are on their screens for every part of the service interaction, including virtual service and automated elements (like chatbots) and live assistance. If there’s a need to verbally communicate with an agent, it should happen where the interaction began – on the customer’s phone, tablet or laptop.

Poor customer service experiences put revenue at risk. A BAI Banking Outlook report found that in 2020, three-quarters of millennials said they would switch banks for a better mobile experience. That’s 28% more than the year before.

Going all-in on on-screen voice

While the terms “phone” and “voice” are often used interchangeably, they are, in fact, two very different things. An off-screen phone call (an interaction that starts by dialing the digits of a phone number) requires the agent to gather information about the customer, authenticate them verbally and ask questions to understand their problem before starting to work toward a resolution.

On-screen voice is an interaction that launches through a website, portal or app. The customer has already been authenticated, which allows the agent to immediately transition to a personalized interaction. On-screen voice seamlessly becomes part of the customer’s digital session that’s already in progress. Leading institutions also provide the option to upgrade the voice interaction to video chat, enabling a deeper connection.

On-screen voice also opens the door for banks to leverage additional collaboration tools, which allow an agent to see what the customer is seeing in real time. This is the digital equivalent of “standing side-by-side” with a customer while they are on the bank’s website or mobile app.

Perhaps one of the most beneficial types of collaboration is co-browsing, which is the ability to collaborate with the customer using dual cursors. Not only can agents instantly understand the issue or question at hand, they can also show the customer how to resolve the issue. This empowers the customer with the knowledge needed to self-serve the next time around.

Such communication and collaboration is not possible during a verbal phone call. Even if the customer thinks they are following the agent’s directions precisely, they very well may not be – and the agent has no way to correct or verify. On-screen collaboration can not only decrease effort for the customer, it can also make them feel better about the overall interaction.

Digitizing customer service means meeting customers where they are – wherever they first engage, where they are in their resolution journey at that moment and where they are psychologically in the evolution of their digital-first lifestyle. Banks that can effectively transform how they serve customers in a digital world will be well-positioned to reduce costs, improve employee productivity and increase the experience for customers and employees alike.

Rick DeLisi is lead research analyst at Glia.

Download “Banking Attitudes, Generation-by-Generation,” a BAI Banking Outlook report.