Sometimes when I'm talking to my friend Ben, I quickly have to check it's not my friend Alice. Why? Because we members of so-called Generation Z are identical clones, with goldfish brains and no life beyond our screens.
When I read about what older people tell me I should be like, backed up by the findings of their research, it makes me wonder if everything I know about everyone I know is true or not.
These older people have us neatly packaged, labelled and described. They have a list of ingredients we apparently need to make everything right and, more importantly, to encourage us to give our hard-won cash to them.
Some of the things they say resonate; many don't. And these self-labelled Gen Xers need to get the message - there is no Gen Z. We're not a set of clones waiting to be sold to, we're a group of individuals with very different behaviours and thoughts. We're the 'me' generation, not the zee generation.
Firstly, think about it. There is no agreement over when Gen Z starts. By some counts I'm a young Gen Y; by others I'm an old Gen Z. Do you really believe that friends who are 2 years older than me are so radically different that it's worth writing hundreds of white papers about? Can I be two generations simultaneously? (The Schrodinger's Cat of Demographics)
Look people don't suddenly change - it's a continuum, not a hard line. It's not as though after the stroke of midnight in 1995 something strange happened and everyone born afterwards was different, though remarkably the same as one another.
It's true that teens see things differently to people in their 30s or 40s; that we're coming into the market with fresh eyes and fresh perspectives. But we're not an alien life form. We have many of the same traits, likes and dislikes, changeability and variation that our parents have. We may use technology somewhat differently, but you soon find that our parents are either copying us or complaining about it (mainly copying these days).
So you want to sell to us and you want to know what the secret sauce is? Well listen up. You're trying to sell to (Schrodinger's) cats. We don't want to talk to you; we don't want you to sell to us. We like to wander around and we'll chat to you if we need to. We'll wander somewhere else. Eventually if we decide to buy, we'll wander up to the company whose product or ethos seemed best, or who makes it easiest for us to buy from them. We don't want to talk to them at this point - we just want to buy.
It's not that we don't talk - of course we do. We're a pretty noisy, chatty group of people. We just talk when we want to and to whom we want to. We don't like it when you force us to chat before we buy, try and advise us when we don't need your advice, or insert yourself in our lives when we didn't invite you in. DO NOT FORCE ME TO TALK TO YOU!
Why do you think we like the self-service option at McDonalds? You don't need to speak to someone to order, you don't have to remove your headphones and you have full control over your order. You don't have to deal with someone misunderstanding you, or with them hurrying you along to adhere to their pace not yours. I need 30 seconds to consider what topping I want on my McFlurry, stop tapping your foot, sighing and looking at the queue behind me.
Which brings me to ads. We hate them. We block them. We've been fast-forwarding through them for years. And we're adept at filtering them out. Your expensive communication is our background noise.
Now don't get me wrong, there are some ads we like, but these are ads-as-entertainment. More akin to memes. We share them, laugh about them and change them. Then we get bored of them. Not because we're goldfish but because even we're not sufficiently goldfish-like to suffer repetition after invariable repetition. Congratulations to those companies who worked out we like to laugh by the way. But incidentally the ads that make me laugh tend to drive my mother crazy - there is no universal sense of humour.
It's simple to sell to us actually. Make your product visible, easy to find, explain the benefits (without talking to me), let me see the reviews, and then I might buy it unless you push it at me. I trust other people's opinion online, taken as an average. I know there's always going to be one awkward customer so I can filter that out - perfection is suspicious.
Amazon is the state of the art - easy to find things, 3 clicks to buy, no hastle with delivery, no need to talk to anyone and all the specifications and comparisons are onsite. And the problem for CSPs is that we trust Amazon more than a telco. Why? Because they are more reliable and take customer service to heart.
What do I hate about telcos? Product variability is one. You do this deliberately so I can't compare things. You try and blur things into a bundle. This just confuses me, wastes my time and makes me not want to buy from you. You just don't have a clear thing to sell. You'd rather spend hours convincing me to buy what I don't want and don't understand (wasting my time), than sell me a simple product I do want with a simple price attached to it. Contracts are good as a baseline, but I want to be able to pay-now for additional products as I need them - offer me the option to buy them as a one-off or recurring item.
Sell me gigabytes like beans. Sell me pepper or cheese to put on the beans. The beans come with several ingredients combined in the tin (I don't need to know what they are), but let me add the extra elements I need depending on how I feel.
Look at the Domino's App - it's great. I can reorder what I had before. They offer me standard deals, or I can 'unbundle' the pizza. If I swap out elements I get the same deal but a unique pizza. Or I can design my pizza from scratch. I know my delivery person's name and when the pizza is made, cooked and on its way. At no point have I spoken to anyone.
That is how to sell to cats.
Morgan ap Darran is an analyst at Telesperience whose current focus is the needs and wants of Generation Z and what they expect from service providers.
Published as part of BossFest16