Baby boomers entered a workforce not dissimilar from the recent recession, but what boomers wanted was different — career 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 door — they came over for the occasion — and 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 leave — there's no more majors — where do most of us go upon graduation? Home — and 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-reliant — the skills they want in others — because 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 adult — you pay your own bills, you pay your own health insurance, your parents aren't paying your rent — the 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 later — we're still doing it, it's just later — but 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.”
Gen Y as consumers
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, 3½ 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 text—this 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 you — something 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]; 330-865-6148; Twitter: @Will_Schertz