I remember the day I ruined TV dinners for my father. No, I did not burn his supper. I introduced him to the microwave. My dad was born in 1929, walked to school barefoot in the snow, uphill both ways in Oklahoma, and neither trusted nor enjoyed most electronics. During the summer of 1992, I stayed with him during the weeks between college graduation and the start of my job. Dad loved a Salisbury Steak Hungry-man dinner. At that time, the meal came in a tinfoil pan and was cooked for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.
At the grocery store, I picked up the “new-fangled” microwave version which would finish in about 6 minutes with a midway stir. I remember being so proud of having his favorite dinner ready in mere minutes. Dad’s opinion varied from mine drastically. His dinner process was destroyed and it ruined the experience for him. Normally, he could pop the meal in the oven, set the table, pour the milk, butter his bread (fighting with a cold stick of butter because spreadable margarine was already taboo) and organize the newspaper (an actual printed copy) before pulling it out to plate the meal (on an actual glass dish). I smile when I think back to that day and can still hear my dad grousing at me for thinking faster was better.
Like my father, we have all created series of processes that shape our life experiences. When modern technologies interrupt those processes, the experience changes and we need to evolve. Unlike previous generations, millennials grew up immersed in an instant internet world. Immediate access to information and instant feedback to their opinions caused them to create processes that look drastically different. It is not that millennials lack patience; it is simply that if you grew up nuking something for 6 minutes, you cannot understand why anyone would want the same meal to take 45 minutes. The millennial processes are created at the digital speed of life.
Take mail, for example. What routines do you have now and how do they differ from the past? Did you send letters and cards? Sit down after each paycheck to write out bills? Run out of stamps and need to stand in line at the post office? Email, fax, direct deposit, and online bill pay have changed the way we approach mail. We are more likely to send a Snap or a Bitmoji saying “wish you were here” than a postcard.
How has the digital world effected the United States Postal Service (USPS)? The drastic reduction in volume of mail caused USPS to evolve. The average stamped letter volume fell from 42.3 billion in 2007 to 19.7 billion in 2016. However, during the same time, online shopping grew to a $220 billion industry at about 20% increase each year drastically increasing the quantity of packages sent through USPS and their competitors. USPS embraced the digital world developing USPS Mobile, redesigning their systems and processes to cater to a 24/7 postal world. Efficiency and ease of use became their new bywords.
How will the millennial generation effect your business? It is likely that you have already felt the change and began the evolution. The real question is will you lead your industry or chase others in it? Step back and take a hard look at the processes your customers and employees follow as part of their experience with you. Write the steps out and see how many hoops they jump through. The secret of Uber? Quick process and excellent experience—push a button and get a ride. Done. Amazon may be the undisputed leader of online shopping, but they are still innovating. Have you seen the Amazon Dash Button? This service embodies ease of experience as you can order favorites with just a quick press—physical and virtual buttons available.
Not sure where to start with redefining your processes? Ask your millennial employees which processes drive them crazy and brace for honesty. I did this recently with our operations team and; as a result, I was introduced to new technologies. I find that I have more available time and less frustrations. All I had to do was not channel my dad during the evolution.