UXBRIDGE -- Despite the fact that the vast majority of UK business executives recognise that workforce entrants interact with technology differently to previous generations, few companies have adopted emerging peer-to-peer communications that promise to transform consumer and supplier networks, according to Xerox-commissioned research from Forrester Consulting.
The Forrester Consulting study, ‘Is Europe Ready for the Millennials?’, shows that although many companies in the UK and across Europe have the basics, such as a website, a high proportion have no plans to monitor or contribute to community and other external sites, discussion boards or blogs, as part of how they do business. Indeed the study, which was carried out among more than 1,600 business executives across 16 European countries with more that 260 responses from the UK, reveals a kind of “digital dyslexia” when it comes to adopting so-called social computing technologies.
According to the study, the lack of knowledge regarding the power of peer-to-peer and online communication networks will leave some companies out of touch with the technology-literate graduates coming into the workforce, identified as “The Millennials” by Forrester Consulting. Workers from this group are defined by a number of workplace characteristics: they are used to receiving information from multiple sources and processing it quickly; they find multitasking easy; are flexible in their approach; like collaborative work spaces; demand instant access to information, and like to work in non-hierarchical peer groups.
When it comes to communicating with end users the study reveals 63 percent of UK companies currently have a website to provide support to their customers, 47 percent automatically request customer feedback and 43 percent allow their customers to purchase products via phone or the company website. However, only 24 percent say they have an online portal to rate and discuss products, as few as 23 percent monitor online discussions such as blogs and just 19 percent of businesses offer extra-value content to enhance the customer experience online. According to the study, these are among the social computing elements that Millennials will expect, and will play a vital role in attracting them to companies as employees, customers and partners.
Furthermore, it seems that if companies have not yet engaged with social computing networks, they are unlikely to do so in the future. 54 percent said that they have no plans to offer extra-value content, 41 percent have no plans to monitor blogs, 40 percent won’t provide an online discussion portal, and 12 percent have no plans to provide even a company website that provides customer support.
Russell Peacock, Managing Director, Xerox UK says: “The Millennials cannot remember when the world wasn’t digitally connected. Conversing with peers in social computing networks, with the promise of instantaneous information sharing comes as second nature to them. They like to express their opinions about the products they love or hate, which will have a massive impact on how brands and businesses are perceived and therefore on how we do business. To simply ignore peer-networks is to ignore the views of a growing proportion of the working population.”
The study also reveals a comparable picture when it comes to companies communicating with suppliers. Although 53 percent of UK executives say they currently use an extranet to work with partners and suppliers, 20 percent have no future plans to do so. Just 34 percent say they currently select suppliers based on peer-network recommendations, while 37 percent don’t intend to in the future. Further illustrating the lack of understanding about social computing, just 14 percent say they currently post information about suppliers on community sites or blogs, while more than half (59 percent) have no plans to do so.
The report warns: “Your Millennial customers’ loyalty will certainly be driven by their online experience. The concept of working outside of a company’s own website on the internet, outside of the controlled enterprise environment – particularly from a B2B point of view – will continue apace among your workers, whether it is supported by the company or not.”
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