Skip to main content

Why We Don’t Get Millennials … But Have To …

By January 24, 2019September 10th, 2021Michael's Operatory

I’m a Gen X-er

I consider myself a Gen X-er most days. I wasn’t born with an iPad in my hand.  I didn’t have a computer until I was in my teens.  And it was used for looking up cheat codes for my favourite video games (Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo). I never had a work cell phone handed to me until I started DMC (and I handed myself one).  It was considered rude for a long time to pull out your cell phone at dinner or when having conversations with people.  Now, it seems to be fine in most places to whip out your phone if it’s important enough or if you just want to show someone something cool..  I believe in hard work and hard play (work-life balance).  I’d say I’m tech savvy, but not really a Social Media buff.  I’m not really on Facebook and stopped Twitter years ago.  I don’t have an Instagram account.  I don’t post videos on Youtube.  I believe in myself and I’m adaptable.  All traits of a Gen X-er.  And for a long time, I never considered myself a Millennial, despite being only a few years technically within that co-hort.

But Could I Also Be a Millennial

But sometimes, when I’m glued to the Internet on my phone (more so nowadays than on my computer), ordering things on Amazon, or following what people are up to on my wife’s social media accounts, I start to think of myself as a Millennial.  I got used to Amazon being able to deliver things the day I ordered them.  So why can’t I have it GOOD, CHEAP, and FAST?  I can have all three now, thanks to Amazon!  I’ve always been a negotiator (starting with my trips to Cuba and trying to drive a hard bargain on a humidor in the Havana marketplace), but it seems like everyone is negotiating everywhere for me and my business.  I like saving a buck.   I’ve noticed that I’m watching reviews on technology (cameras, drones, laptops, phones, etc.) more and more and making buying decisions based on the reviews and the social media influencers.  As opposed to going into a store and asking the “expert”.  I become the expert.  I’m loyal to some brands, but easily NOT loyal to others – especially if they give me ONE BAD EXPERIENCE.  I now demand positively outrageous customer service, whereas before I’d be OK with waiting a days for someone to get back to me on my problem.

For business purposes, it’s important that we understand Millennials:

  • Millennials expect everything when you hire them (high pay, benefits, 9-5, constant feedback, social life, fun, etc.).  They don’t usually last long at their jobs when compared to Gen X or Baby Boomers because they can find a new job fast.
  • Millennials are very demanding patients: they’re smart, want things fast, negotiate everything, live online and through social media, and want it cheap. For Millennials, they want it all and they typically get it all (think Amazon).
  • Millennials don’t want to be sold on anything.  Salespeople need to be invisible until visible.  Be invisible until you’re asked a question and then give the answer instantly.  You need to support them in buying, but don’t sell them.  They’re more interested in the ethics / values / story of the firm they’re buying from, the emotions they feel when buying, and the practical benefits (instead of features).
  • Millennials want customized solutions, unbundled services, and they are extremely impatient on delivery.
  • Millennials want to be surprised, laugh, have fun, be treated right (when things go wrong).
  • Millennials are teaching Gen Xers and Baby Boomers (their siblings and parents) about their values when it comes to using technology and being online all the time.

So What’s the Take-Away?

Dentists who have practices may consider themselves Baby Boomers, Gen X-Ers, or Millennials.  The natural inclination is for the older generations to scoff at and look down upon the newer ones.  “They’re lazy!”  “They’re Not Loyal!”  “They Don’t Value Quality”  “They’re Cheap!”

And as a business owner within a certain co-hort, you’ll be faced with team members who may be in different co-horts and patients in different co-horts as well. Example: Baby Boomers tend to value hard work, long hours, etc.  They value quality and service and are willing to pay for it.  They buy Harleys to reward themselves when it’s all done.  That’s typical for them.  But in a few decades, a significant portion of your Baby-Boomer team members and patients will be replaced by Gen X ers and Millennials.

I’ve heard lots of complaints by Baby Boomers hiring Gen X-ers saying, “They don’t put in a hard day’s work! They want work-life balance”.  And I’ve also heard Gen X-ers complaining about Millennials, saying “They have a sense of entitlement and they haven’t proven themselves!”

Bottom line: as a business owner who is always seeking out new patients of all types, you need to be adaptable to the different co-horts.  You can’t simply dismiss one co-hort because of traits that you don’t understand or value.  We all grew up in different times.  And empathizing with and accommodating each co-hort will help your practice survive and thrive in future years, within an ever more competitive environment.

Looking forward, if you want to attract and maintain Millennial team members and patients:

  • Develop a brand for your practice (something that is still very important, but slightly less so to Millennials – as they care about practice benefits).
  • Establish a robust online presence (Website, Social Media and Online Reviews?  This is where Millennials live!).
  • Engage with your prospective patients through various communication methods (phone, in-person, text, email, social media).
  • Invest in your equipment and skillset to show that you care about offering the latest / greatest technology and services.
  • Train Team members on how to deliver positively outrageous customer service to patients.
  • Tell your story (it can’t just be that you’re owning / operating a dental practice).  Millennials value the story, the ethics, etc.  That is part of your brand and will help your practice grow.