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PORTER: Millennials in business go after right customers

With Millennials on pace to start some 200,000 businesses in 2015, I’ve been doing research lately into their attitudes and concerns, especially related to customer service.

About 66 percent of millennials say they want to start their own business at some point. Add to this enterprising spirit the fact they will make up 50 percent of the U.S. workforce by 2020, and they’re the first generation of “digital natives.”

Their views on business issues may surprise you.

 

Finding 1

Millennials running businesses say their top concern is finding the right customers.

Not cash flow. Not finding space to rent. Not company mission. But finding the “right customer.” Not just a customer. The right customer. There’s a difference.

These young business owners are on to something here, and customer expert Fred Reichheld in his book “The Loyalty Effect” comes out early on this, saying major companies these days now lose — and have to replace — half their customers in five years.

He writes that some customers are more loyal than others and want long-term stable relationships. It seems millenials want to find more of them like that.

I reached similar conclusions in my own book “Quest for Loyalty,” finding that, while the right customers see product or service benefits early (and usually buy again), some customers never seem to be happy and are poor references.

 

Finding 2

Next on the millennials’ list is hiring the right employees.

And, as we all know, happy employees inevitably mean happy customers.

Tony Hsieh is all over great employees and a great company culture in his new book “Delivering Happiness.” He emphasizes the importance of hiring people you’d want to hang out with. You don’t need to be a millenial to share that belief.

Hiring the right people. Hiring the right staff. I hear this a lot from young business owners today. And as the Disney folks so aptly put it in their best seller “Be Our Guest,” you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

 

Finding 3

Marketing rounds out the top challenges for Millennials today.

Getting customers to find me. Reaching the right people. Cutting through the overload. All feedback from young company owners at a recent workshop I gave.

Tony Hsieh swears word-of-mouth does the best job of getting to customers. Howard Schultz, meanwhile, tries to advertise global but think local as he tries to get the word out to a range of different groups about Starbucks’ mission of enriching everyday moments.

Doesn’t really matter. Getting customers to find you and engage your business is what it’s all about.

So, while things like finding space to rent or cash flow might seem like the only real things that matter to business owners today, millennials say customers are their number one concern. And as everyone knows, without a customer, there is no business. These millennials have got it figured out.

Next time, we’ll talk about the value of good customers. How to think about what they’re worth. How to get a sense of their loyalty.

 

William Porter has published books on customer experience and employee engagement and speaks regularly at business schools. Porter, who has moved from Atlanta to the Lowcountry, can be contacted at bpwilliamaporter@gmail.com.

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