DALLASFor those tire and service businesses that have lagged behind in adapting their operations to growing groups of Generation Y workers and consumers, Jason Dorsey has a messagenow is the time to change.
In the U.S. and Canada, we're the fastest growing generation in the workplace and the fastest growing generation in your market, the co-founder and chief strategic officer for the Center for Generational Kinetics (TCGK) told a gathering of dealers at Goodyear's recent annual dealer conference in Dallas, speaking about the Gen-Yers.
And unlike every other generation, we are completely up for grabs.
Founded in 2012, the Center for Generational Kinetics uncovers generational trends through research and works to develop business strategies to help its customers solve generational challenges. The organization's findings have been featured frequently in major media outlets, including USA Today, AdWeek, the New York Times and Fortune Magazine, among others.
We get to look at massive data sets to understand what is really happening, because my generation creates more data in one hour than other generations created in their entire lifetime, and it's all trackable, said Mr. Dorsey, a Millennial himself.
The energetic, demonstrative Mr. Dorsey said there are many misconceptions about his generation.
People think we're disloyal, he said. I was just on CNBC, and they said, 'Well, you guys are disloyal. Look at your car purchasing patterns.' And I was like, 'Seriously? We're 25. We've bought one car. Our mom picked it out. You cannot prove loyalty until you've been given the same choice multiple times and the autonomy to choose whatever you personally want.'
We're the easiest generation for you to win, not the hardest, he continued. And we're the No. 1 generation most likely to refer our friends in (the automotive) category, because our friends don't know where to go, either.
Another false belief is that Millennials, as a whole, are broke.
This year we have over $1 trillion to spend, he said. There're 80 million of us. This year, we're ages 19 to 37. We have more college degrees than any previous generation.
And in very short order, Gen Y will become the leading group of spenders in the U.S. market.
In 2017, my generation outspends baby boomers, Mr. Dorsey said. And at that moment everything starts to change.
While dealers may not have much of a say when it comes to the realities of the available workforce or the marketplace, they can choose to view these changes as a challenge or an opportunity.
There's sweeping change that's coming across, and for those of us in here that choose to deal with it, you guys are going to have an advantage because there are so many that will choose to ignore it, he said.
One area where commonly held views on Gen Yers are not unfounded is in regard to life experience, Mr. Dorsey said, adding that the average 28-year-old today is about three to five years behind where baby boomers were at the same age.
When my generation shows up to work today we are on average up to...six years older when we show up for our first job than when many of you in this room started working, he told dealers.
According to Mr. Dorsey, this is a huge issue in the industry because dealers don't see the 24-year-old who walks in who's really never had a job, ever. No, you see yourself at 24you had two kids, a house and a boat. And many of you in here had a house without a cosigner, which [today] is impossible.
And the result is you are now forced to work with us and sell to us in addition to three or four other generations at the same time.
Millennials who are finishing their education, entering the workforce, getting married and having their first child are doing so older than ever before since we've been keeping records, Mr. Dorsey noted.
In addition, the more education individuals have the older they are when they finally do get married, he said. Generation Y is the first generation in U.S. history where it has become socially acceptable to get married after age 30.
And according to Mr. Dorsey, the biggest trend affecting the industry today is parenting.
How you are raised is the greatest indicator of what you are going to do in the workplace and the market place, he said, adding that baby boomers have a distinct parenting philosophy that has come back to haunt them.
Baby boomers were raised to be independent from an earlier age, Mr. Dorsey said.
You turned 18, your mom and your dad met you at the door, because they were marriedto each otherand they said, 'We love you. We are so proud of you. You have a big future ahead. But you're 18 now, so you can either get a job, get married, go to college, join the military, we don't care. Get out.'
And you wanted to leave!
Baby boomers entered a workforce not dissimilar from the recent recession, but what boomers wanted was differentcareer stability and success.
And for them, the secret to get there was to outwork the competition, which you still do to this day, Mr. Dorsey said. You get there early, you stay late, you work on weekends, you tell us on Monday and it freaks us out. We're like, 'Can you get a life? And can I have $10?'
Millennials, Mr. Dorsey said, feel entitled, which stems largely from their unique experience entering adulthood.
We turn 18, our mom and our dad meet us at the doorthey came over for the occasionand they say, 'We love you. We are so proud of you. You have a big future ahead. But you're 18 now, so as long as you're in college, we'll help you out.
...So we go to college for seven years to get an associates [degree]. And when we're forced to leavethere's no more majorswhere do most of us go upon graduation? Homeand our parents take us back.
Most baby boomers interviewed by TCGK share a similar parenting philosophy: We want it to be easier for our children than it was for us.
...As loving as that is, boomers actually grew strong and self-reliantthe skills they want in othersbecause boomers were raised the exact opposite way that they raised us. Entitlement, he added, is a behavior that is 100-percent learned. You're not born entitled, you have to be raised that way.
The sense of entitlement that Millennials have has led to a new life stage called delayed adulthood, or adultolescence. People in this phase want the freedom of being an adult without the responsibility.
When interviewing Millennials at his center, Mr. Dorsey said they had a surprising view on adulthood.
The No. 1 answer, most common answer, when we asked my generation at what age are you officially an adultyou pay your own bills, you pay your own health insurance, your parents aren't paying your rentthe No. 1 age was the age 30, he said.
But according to information gathered by TCGK, the Millennial generation appears to be splitting in two.
You've got one part of the generation that's doing everything right,...and then you've got a whole other part of the generation that's not creating what we call real world traction, he said. Now the group that's doing essentially all the traditional things, we're doing it laterwe're still doing it, it's just laterbut nobody wants to talk about us. Yet we're the economic driver going forward.
Then you've got another part of the generation that isn't creating real world traction, he said. For some reason, around the age of 30 you self-select into one of these two groups and you can no longer relate to the other group.
According to Mr. Dorsey, each person has a different relationship with technology, largely driven by his or her age. During his speech, he shared a story about talking to his daughter using Apple's FaceTime app.
My daughter, 31/2 years old, will never remember a time before you could look at the person on the phone while you are talking to them, he said. In her view of the world, it will always have been that way....
Here's my point: Technology is only new if you remember it the way it was before, he continued. Otherwise, it's always been that way.
While the perception is that Millennials are a tech-savvy generation, that's not actually true, Mr. Dorsey said. The reality is they're actually tech-dependent.
The critical distinction is that Millennials don't know how the technology works, but they also can't live without it.
By the time technology got to my generation, it was all about answering one question: 'How simple can you make it so that it just works?' Mr. Dorsey said.
We don't care why it works, we certainly don't care how it works. We just want it to work. That's why you see us trying to pay by text, pay by links before we get there, wanting to send you a picture.
For tire and automotive service businesses, the key to continued success is recognizing this distinction and simplifying the buying process for consumers.
When we think about the new generations coming on, the more steps and challenges you add for us to get to where we need to be, the more likely we are to go to somewhere else, he said. And you have one of the few businesses where we actually have to show up for you.
Think how awkward that is to us, he said. We're 23 years old, we have a degree in communication, we've never spoken to a human. And now you're staring at us, asking us questions about things we have no idea [about].
No other generation has an advantage in trying to win Millennial buyers, but those who cater to these customers will be better positioned moving forward, Mr. Dorsey pointed out.
In the work place, we show up to work for you, you show us how to do things a certain way, you hold us accountable and we don't do it, fire us. It's a job, it's a trade, he said. ...In the marketplace, it's completely different. Whoever adapts to us wins, because there's no incentive for us to adapt to you.
Mr. Dorsey presented dealers with several ways to better cater to Gen Y patrons. For one, they should explore communicating by textthis group's most preferred method of communication.
Real friends don't call, Mr. Dorsey said, adding that interviewed Millennials said they see phone calls as an invasion of privacy.
Who calls us? Our parents, he said. And they call, and they call, and they call, and they call, and we have to answer because they're paying for the phone.
The second most preferred method of communication is email, but all that matters at the end of the day is the subject line, Mr. Dorsey advised. My generation only reads the subject line, and then we decide if we're going to read anything else.
The third most preferred method of communication is via social media, which Mr. Dorsey said is the biggest potential area of improvement for dealers that's easy and free.
In addition, dealers should find ways to make Millennial customers feel like they're being treated to a unique customer experience.
Every millennial and Gen Yer, we think we're unique, we think we're special, he said. We have a ribbon from 12th place to prove it. You sponsored it.
When Gen Y customers come into a shop with an issue, Mr. Dorsey recommended saying things like, Wow, that's a really unique situation, we need to do something special for yousomething one of a kind. The key is to keep them from feeling like just a number.
Dealers also should make it their goal to get us to ask you questions, Mr. Dorsey said.
Our generation has the lowest confidence of any generation when it comes to buying anything for a vehicle, he said. We've never lifted up the hood. We can barely pump gas, so we need affirmation.
After Millennials ask questions, service advisers should be sure let them know that's a great question.
Going along with the lack of confidence, Millennials also are often uncomfortable making eye contact. A good sales strategy is give us something safe to look at like a tablet in order to build trust quickly and keep them in the conversation.
As long as you keep looking at the tablet, we will answer any question on earth, he said, ...because my generation has been conditioned to talk through a screen.
The worst situation is you have a computer on your desk with a screen and we have nothing, he continued. Now what are we doing? Leaning over trying to see what you're looking at. We have screen envy.
Third, Mr. Dorsey said if at all possible, dealers should introduce Gen Y customers to one or two other people who work in the shop.
Every person you introduce us to while we're in your store increases our trust in you, he said. It's like walking into a club with someone who knows everybody.
To reach this reporter: [email protected] crain.com; 330-865-6148; Twitter: @Will_Schertz