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Yes, Millennials Are ‘Killing’ the Economy; Transparency Is Your Lifesaver

If you believe what you read, Millennials like myself are responsible for ‘killing’ a number of industries—quick-service dining, hotels, autos, and more.

Witness this image that was widely shared last month on Twitter :

Yes, Millennials Are ‘Killing’ the Economy. Transparency Is Your Lifesaver

What exactly is behind all of these (very real) headlines? Clearly, painting Millennials as a threat drives clicks.

Yet there’s also a deep-seated anxiety about the future of many different areas of the economy. After all, Millennials becoming the largest generation both in absolute terms and in the workforce.

And, as we’ve talked about with respect to customer service, Millennials are different from other generations.

We’re true digital natives. We thrive on social connections (and even use communication as a form of entertainment). We’re glued to our smartphones. Only a quarter of us trust advertising and other forms of branded content.

But we don’t want to “kill” any industries. What we do want is for brands to make us feel good. We want our preferences validated by our peers, a phenomenon called social proof. We want to spend money on experiences, not things.

And we ourselves are anxious —about the future and our role in it.

The industries that we Millennials are putting “at risk” aren’t necessarily going to die off, but they do need to be responsive to our needs. Next year, we will have more spending power globally than any other generation.

So in this changing, confusing, anxiety-ridden landscape, what should brands be doing to better connect with Millennials?

Yes, Millennials Are ‘Killing’ the Economy. Transparency Is Your Lifesaver

There’s no silver bullet (sorry!). Yet if there’s one thing that threatens all of those industries that Millennials are “killing,” it’s an inability to recognize what we Millennials value.

And that, more than ever before, is transparency.

Why does transparency matter so much to Millennial citizens and consumers? The internet certainly has had a role to play. Today, any purchase, large or small, can be researched extensively on the web.

What may be even more significant is the erosion of trust in established institutions.

People are less religious than ever before. They are less involved with civic organizations—the “Bowling Alone”phenomenon.

At the same time, trust in government is near an all-time low. Some pundits have suggested this is what propelled Donald Trump to victory in last year’s election.

It’s not just government that we trust less, but also companies. Millions of people lost their jobs in the 2000s, after having spent years or decades with their employers. This lack of loyalty, if you can call it that, goes both ways: Millennial workers cycle through more jobs than earlier generations.

With this erosion of trust, it should come as little surprise that we—who came of age in a time of terrorism and financial crisis—are skeptical that companies will act in our best interest.

The good news is, this lack of trust isn’t endemic. Trust can be rebuilt and regained.

A great place to start is with your customer communications. Communication is essential to building trust, in both personal and business relationships.

This means sharing not only the good news, like new products or your latest quarterly results, but the bad— without a PR filter.

One compelling example is T-Mobile NL, which used its customer community to share news of a BlackBerry Messenger outage (back in the days when BlackBerry phones were popular).

That one community post, by being relevant, timely, and helpful, was viewed more than 50,000 times during the outage, even by those who weren’t T-Mobile customers.

Of course, many of these people were non-Millennials. That illustrates an important point: Authentic communication will enhance the relationships you have with all of your customers, not just the 35-and-under set.

For this reason, the value of transparency can’t be overstated. How you respond to the transparency challenge—and how well you infuse it into your customer experience—could well be the difference between the survival of your brand and its decline.