CXO

Five tips for bridging the gap between Millennials and IT

Self-reliant, tech savvy, connected: Millennials have different needs and expectations from previous generations. And that could make your job easier.

There's a notion that the Millennial generation represents a nightmare for IT support, with their tech-savvy nature and demands for the latest and greatest tools. But a recent survey conducted by GigaOM Pro and Isurus Market Research, and sponsored by Bomgar, shows that Millennials may bring more opportunities than problems to the table. This group is largely self-sufficient and collaborative when it comes to problem solving, and it's open to using more efficient communication channels.

To take advantage of those opportunities, IT professionals need to find ways to close the gaps between Millennials' expectations and what most IT support departments provide today.

1: Embrace mobility

The terms Millennial and mobile are nearly synonymous. It's no secret that this generation relies on smartphones and often uses personal devices for professional purposes. Because this unchains Millennials from their desks, they tend to work more outside the office and traditional work hours. In fact, according to the survey, 50 percent of Millennials report working after hours on a weekly basis. This means that IT needs to be able to support Millennials' devices on a 24/7 basis, no matter where they're located.

Implement multi-platform support tools that allow you to remotely connect to and fix mobile devices. Also, consider staggering your support personnel's hours or leveraging reps in different time zones to provide support coverage around the clock.

2: Pick up the pace — try chat

The gap between what Millennials believe is a reasonable amount of time to wait for a response and what IT is prepared to promise is significant. Thanks to customer service solutions such as OnStar and the ubiquity of Google, Millennials expect to get answers at the touch of a button.

A solution to this problem? Evaluate alternative communication channels, such as chat, to expedite the problem-to-resolution process. Unlike the phone, chat allows support reps to help multiple end users at once, which can significantly cut hold time. Plus, Millennials are used to and often prefer text-based communications to the phone. The survey found that six out of 10 Millennials said the telephone was not their first choice, and chat was among the top three choices for more than half of Millennials surveyed.

3: Tailor support to Millennials' problem-solving patterns

The research also shows that 61 percent of Millennials look first to sources outside the company (e.g., Google) when initially trying to solve a problem. While some may think they're just being dismissive of IT policies, Millennials are actually driven by a need to be self-sufficient and understand their technology issues. This makes them prime candidates for both self-help solutions and collaborative problem solving, which helps them learn about the issue.

Smart IT managers will engineer FAQs or self-help centers to behave more like search engines, social networks, or forums. They'll also leverage screen-sharing technology that allows end users to watch the tech fix their computer or mobile device and learn how to avoid or fix the issue in the future. This will not only reduce future help desk calls, but reduce potential damage from Millennials receiving erroneous outsider advice.

4: Educate Millennials on IT policies

While more than half of Millennials report they follow all or most of their company's IT policies, IT managers are skeptical, believing less than a third are actually compliant. But Millennials actually do want to follow the rules and understand the risks of not doing so. Improving education and communication about IT policies is the key. Go beyond just including a list of policies in the employee handbook; host a few lunch-and-learns to refresh everyone on the do's and don'ts or create a fun video. Remember to explain why the policies are in place. Millennials will be more likely to follow the rules if they understand what's behind them.

5: Collaborate to better leverage skill sets

With the introduction of new devices and applications into your IT landscape, the number and complexity of help requests will inevitably increase. Your IT support reps will need the ability to quickly leverage both internal and external SMEs to avoid a spike in escalations. With technology such as remote screen-sharing, reps can invite peers or external experts who specialize on a device into a support session, hand over the controls, and watch and learn from the experts as they fix the end users' devices. Through better collaboration behind the scenes, you can handle most of the Millennials' issues, in the resolution time they expect, without adding IT support staff.

Nathan McNeill is co-founder and chief strategy officer for Bomgar.

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