I’ve often heard it said that phones are ruining our kids because they hide behind texting and avoid talking with people face to face. And I used to believe that. I remember claiming that if I wanted my kids to come up for dinner, I could try yelling…or I could just text and they would magically appear.
However, I did discover that the stereotype of millennials not liking to ask for help isn’t true.
Hey Google, Where is the Lemon Juice?
For example, when my daughter Abby was starting to drive on her own, we were having a party (probably for her), and she was sent to the store for lemon juice. Now, you all know how hard it is to find lemon juice in a grocery store. Is it with the lemons? the condiments? the baking goods? Anyway, Abby came back a while later and announced that the there was no lemon juice at the store.
You can imagine our response. I found it highly unlikely that King Soopers supermarket was suddenly in the midst of a lemon juice famine.
“Did you ask where the lemon juice was?”
“No, but I looked online to find where they keep it and I checked and it wasn’t there.”
“Well after you didn’t find it, then did you ask someone?”
She said no.
“I googled it.”
We left it at that and I drove to the store to buy lemon juice. It was the classic vignette of what’s wrong with today’s kids—thanks to Facebook, texting, and Instagram, they don’t have the social skills to ask someone in person where to find lemon juice.
Sometime later, I was hanging out with my son and his friends and they were talking and one of them asked a question. The other one, in response to the question, looked up and quipped, “What do I look like, Siri?” And sure enough, they asked Siri and got the answer.
That interaction struck me for a number of reasons. First, there was the aspect of internet fact-checking. Kids in general sniff out hypocrisy—it’s just their natural state. But now they have a tool we didn’t have. When I was a kid, if my dad it said it took this amount of time to get to the moon, there wasn’t an instant way to fact check. And that’s something that this generation does. If you throw something out there, they fact check it immediately. Now granted, they fact check it online, which is not always the purest fount of accurate information, but that’s a whole different topic.
What I also discovered was a new sort of etiquette. A social code built on the idea that when you ask another person a question, you are burdening that person with a task when you could have asked Siri yourself.
I thought back to the lemon juice moment with Abby and brought it up with her again.
“When you didn’t want to ask someone, was it because you felt like you shouldn’t have to ask them and that you were interrupting them?”
“You know,” she said, “that’s exactly it. Why should I go bother this guy stocking cans with some question that I ought to be able to ask my phone? It’s rude.”
And that’s when the light bulb went off. It’s not about whether or not they ask for help. It’s about how and where they ask.
Putting Answers Where Millennials Will Find Them
So let’s apply this to banking. When I first got a mortgage, terms like escrow and PMI were completely foreign to me—I had no clue how to guide myself through all that new territory. I wound up getting some help from the credit union, but I had to go speak to someone directly. Now we live in the days of YouTube. If you want to fix your car, you can google “How to change the water pump in a 1992 Audi A4 Turbo”, and not only will you find a video, there’ll be thousands.
Millennials expect there’ll be help for what they want to do and they expect it in the format that they’re used to. Whether it be video (quickly becoming the preferred format), audio, PDF, or podcast, they expect to find answers without having to bother someone. They may post a question to an online forum like Reddit, where someone can answer at their leisure, but their preference is to find it themselves.
How are we going to deal with that as a banking industry? A lot of our processes are cryptic—understanding IRAs, retirement programs, how a CD works—all of that is confusing. We’ve got to find a way to deliver information that demystifies these processes so that millennials find answers without having to “bother anyone”.
Now I get that it’s a little different when you have someone sitting there whose job is to answer questions, but you’ve still got to get them to come to that person. We have to get the information to the first place they check, which is their phones. Because when they’re out there looking for lemon juice, they won’t ask the dude stocking the shelves; they’re going to check their phone, and if it says look here and it isn’t there, they’ll leave.