Friday 7 July 2006

The youth of today

This isn’t going to be a typical, lengthy complaint from someone like me about our youngsters, about how terrible their music is, about how little respect they show for their elders and about how badly they dress.

On the contrary, the youngsters I meet, the younger brothers and sisters (and even the children) of my friends and colleagues and the young people we employ all seem to be respectable, presentable, polite and well-educated. A lot of them also seem genuinely to have a work ethic and ambition, in my view two of the most important attributes anyone can have.

Incidentally the music they listen to IS utter rubbish but then that’s exactly what my parents said to me and I’m now a grumpy, middle-aged man thinking just the way they did.

But that’s not my point. I’m more interested in what young people offer, the role they play and how they can help fight for the customer service revolution I think we, and especially they, deserve.

Of course any adult, regardless of age, is a consumer. Even though there may be huge differences in our purchases, our spending habits and our disposable income all of us are consumers in some way. But go to any shopping centre at a weekend you’ll see hundreds of youngsters there. Even though they are not all spending money they are there in the market place, spending what they have, absorbing brand identities, developing aspirations and planning the purchases they will make in a few years time.

My point though is that any organisation trying to make money that ignores the younger end of the community is taking a terrible risk. As hard as I try I can’t think of a single industry that can safely ignore youngsters and their custom. There are, after all, very few items that younger people don’t buy, very few items that only we oldies buy.

When I’m feeling particularly middle-aged I think that the future of any organisation doesn’t actually rest with grumpy 42-year olds like me. With a little luck and good medical cover I’ve got another 40 years of spending left in me. However any sensible organisation, whatever industry it inhabits, will recognise that although they may not have the same spending power as I do, 22-years olds can give them 20 more years of spending than they can get from me. The sooner they can hook them in, earn their loyalty, develop a brand commitment, the better for them.

Remember also that the loyalty that people develop, particularly in their younger years, can be intense. Despite the fact that they are not the best bank in the world, I remain irrationally loyal to a bank that was pretty good to me when I started work.

However we all know the dangers that youngsters currently (and probably always will) face. Their lack of experience can make some of them easy prey to the forces that school has almost certainly not prepared them for.

When you’re young, when you’re a newcomer to the world of work and a salary it’s very easy to fall into horrible debt traps. The banks aren’t silly, they know better than we do how much money we earn, where we like to shop and what we spend our money on. It’s in their interests to predict when their younger customers can just afford to start buying that flashy new car. But it’s not the banks I worry about; it’s the less scrupulous end of the market. It’s the loan sharks, the money lenders, the stores offering deceptive finance packages.

There’s good news though. I wrote a few months ago about what Stanbic have done in publishing booklets for use in schools about money matters. This is good of them and is perhaps a sign of a growing understanding of how important youngsters are to the nation and to them as a bank.

On the other hand, as well as being the customers of today and tomorrow, our younger brothers and sisters are also the service stars (or criminals) of tomorrow. If we can encourage a sense of service amongst youngsters that they can demonstrate in their jobs we can only benefit. Take a look at the remarkably young crew in places like Primi Piatti. All of them show an enormous commitment to the work they do, they help maintain the highest standards and they take huge pride in what they do. This last point is also important. They understand that there’s nothing belittling or embarrassing about working in a service industry and actually being the ones delivering the service. They understand that they aren’t “servants” but instead are highly trained employees with every right to feel very proud of what they do.

Next time you pass through Riverwalk shopping centre in Gaborone stop at Primi Piatti, look through the windows and take a few seconds to observe the waiters in action. Then take a deep breath, close your eyes and summon up your imagination. Think what it would be like to go into a bank and see staff behaving like Primi waiters. Think what being a customer could be like if all service staff had a little more youthful energy!

So which younger employee do YOU think deserves celebration?

This week’s stars!

  • Veronica from Orange for being “a fantastic service star who consistently goes out all the way to offer excellent and superb service, which is also hassle free”
  • Kgomotso in Corporate at BTC who took on a problem that was, strictly speaking, nothing to do with her but recognised that a customer needed assistance and got it fixed.

No comments: