The 21st Century Economy has Forever Changed Work—and Customer Service

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Connectivity. Flexibility. “Services” jobs over “goods producing” jobs. Supplemental work on your schedule. These are just some of the changes that have come to the working world. We are well into the 21st century economy and it is worlds away from the way work was done even one generation ago.

Working remotely is normal, even expected. So is being connected 24/7 and working a flex job on the side. So much is constantly changing that keeping up is a challenge. And that’s one of the reasons that Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report is so valuable. If you aren’t familiar with it, I encourage you to check it out. It is chock full of trend and forward-looking information on technology, work, connectivity, the Internet, emerging markets, worldwide demographics and statistics and much more. There are quite a few trends included in the 2015 report that apply to customer service.

Millennials in the Lead

One of the trends discussed is that millennials are now the largest generation in the workforce. Millennials are already “driving” the new workplace and they are a major contributing factor to the differences we are seeing today and will continue to see in the future. They are tech-savvy and expect flexibility in nearly everything, especially work. Millennials are used to working remotely and during non-standard business hours. And they are helping shift our economy. For example, “services” jobs now make up 86 percent of all work, while “goods producing” jobs are at 14 percent. That’s a huge change from the peak of 44 percent “goods producing” jobs in 1943.

Flexible Work

The types of work being done are different too. There are more freelancers, independent contractors, diversified workers and moonlighters in addition to “regular” workers. People can work on demand, when and where they desire, with things like ride-sharing, reselling, creating custom-made items, knowledge work and more. The Internet has opened so many possibilities for people to make and sell things (eBay, etsy); make connections (ride-sharing); work from home for companies that are headquartered in a distant location; and market their knowledge and soft skills. The sky is the limit.


That’s almost all you need to say and people get it. Smartphones have forever changed life as we know it. With more apps, communication tools, games and productivity tools being introduced daily, people are connected 24/7. Shopping, commenting, chatting, playing, trialing, reserving, watching, listening…the opportunities for what we can do on and with mobile devices are nearly endless. Tying trends together, millennials are now creating the bulk of the tools and the content as well as providing the customer support.

How Can We Help You?

So what does all of this mean for brands and customer support? It’s a lot to digest. The most important things are that brands must keep up with the trends, to stay relevant, and engage with their customers, to keep them happy and learn what they want/need next. Because millennials are both producers and consumers (of content, services, etc.), they are a great resource for how to engage effectively with their peers. Listen and implement.

It’s clear that online customer service is a must-have—through live chat, texting, email, social media and whatever is developed next. Phone is still important but multichannel contact centers, especially those based in the cloud, will be the best way to engage with customers. Flexible, on-demand availability of service and support, on whatever channel the customer prefers, will be expected even more in the coming months and years. Brands must be willing to add communication channels and adapt.

It’s clear from this trends report that our economy is forever changed and that people and brands must change as well—or risk being left behind. Outstanding customer support will still be expected, no matter the channel. Benefits abound in this 21st century economy…be ready to embrace the changes!

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