Opinion: How digitally disruptive teens will shape the telcos of the future

By Vincent Rousselet, VP Strategy & Market Insights at Amdocs

The attitudes and digital behaviours of younger consumers has made for an interesting debate over the years but what about the upcoming next generation of paying customers - teenagers born in or close to 2000?

What kind of digital services do they use and expect today and what kind of customers will they develop into in the next five years?

In the quest to properly understand this segment’s perceptions of digital services and service providers, Amdocs recently engaged one of the world’s top experts on generational theory, Dr Paul Redmond, and Vanson Bourne, a market research firm.

In a global study, we surveyed 4,250 teenagers aged 15-18 from the UK, USA, Canada, Brazil, India, Germany, Russia, Mexico, the Philippines and Singapore about their “digital DNA,” behaviours and expectations.

As a father of two “connected” teenage girls, the research confirmed just how deeply digital is part of a teenager lives and thinks today.

And I would argue that this may well be a cause for greater optimism for service providers than might first have been expected.

Dr Redmond believes this is a generation that has no experience, let alone understanding, of the ‘BC’ – Before Computers – era.

These youngsters’ lives have been and are continually being shaped by technological change.

For them, the first wave of digital services such as email is seen as ‘prehistoric’.

When we asked them how they prefer to communicate, they say they favour visual forms of communications: globally, nearly half prefer to use emojis (47 percent) and to post photos (45 percent), as those methods express the way they feel more strongly than email.

In fact, over half have never even used a public telephone (55 percent) and 29 percent have never hand written a letter.

Like us but different

The research shows us just how defined by digital activities and services this generation is – and demonstrates clear commonalities across the globe.

Forty three percent believe their smartphone makes them smarter and cooler with nearly a third saying they think it’s unlikely they would meet someone again if they didn’t have a Facebook or WhatsApp account since over half check those first thing every morning as part of their daily routines.

So where do service providers sit within the digital teenager’s world view?

The answer is that although teens are already customers, either through their parents or directly, the relationship between them and their service provider is fragile, at best.

Only 12 percent of teens feel service providers understand their lifestyle and offer services that support it.

Worse, only 2 percent believe service providers look after them as customers better than companies in other industries.

A major cause for concern is that 30 percent have experienced poor customer service in the past year.

Nearly half (46 percent) said they will not use that service provider again and a third went on to share the experience with family and friends – demonstrating how important customer experience and word of mouth is for the customers of the future.

Service provider ties cannot be broken but try a little tenderness

Nonetheless, no one can deny that service providers play a pivotal and essential role in teenagers’ lives with the research confirming that globally, the teen generation requires and desires constant internet connectivity – something they must turn to service providers for.

Teenagers state they’re more likely to feel anxious and alone if separated from the internet (56 percent) than when separated from family (52 percent).

The value of internet access was so significant that a majority (55 percent globally; higher in Russia – 59 percent, Brazil – 64 percent and India 75 percent) strongly believe that fast internet access should be a Human Right.

Digital empowerment also boosts confidence and identity, with 27 percent reporting that nothing could be hidden from them because they can always find the truth on the internet.

It’s clear teenagers know their service providers and the needs they can address with a majority (82 percent) of teens being able to cite the name of their service provider.

Despite this, members of this generation are highly likely to perceive other companies – such as over-the-top (OTT) players – as their “real service provider”.

In fact, 51 percent view Google as a communications service provider, followed by WhatsApp (42 percent), Facebook and Apple (both 38 percent).

When asked which companies they love, they ranked Google top at 60 percent, with Facebook (48 percent) and WhatsApp (42 percent) not far behind.

Meanwhile, only 36 percent of respondents said they loved their service provider - a gap in the relationship where some tender loving care is needed.

As today’s teen generation matures into the next generation of young adult customers, they will undoubtedly continue to challenge service providers to find ways to become more digital than ever before to meet their needs and create brand loyalty.

The good news is the high value that teenagers place on high quality connectivity and service.

For those service providers already undergoing digital transformations, with aspirations to offer superbly designed, customer-centric services, their plans are set to come to fruition at an optimum time.

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