Millennial and Gen Z customers are preferring to first turn to third-party, noncompany-owned channels—such as a subreddit, Google search or YouTube video—for their customer service issues. Gartner reports that most Millennials (62 percent) and Gen Z customers (75 percent) say they would use noncompany guidance to self-resolve their issues either all or most of the time, even when they have the option of contacting customer service. The research and advisory company’s data shows that 52 percent of Millennials and 44 percent of Gen Z customers have as much confidence in noncompany guidance as in customer service guidance.

Gartner’s findings on Millennial and Gen X preferences represent a significant difference from the 19 percent of Baby Boomers and 43 percent of Gen X customers who report they would do the same.

“This tendency among younger generations to rely on noncompany channels should not be viewed as a problem for customer service and support leaders. In fact, service leaders should embrace this trend as it helps to increase customer loyalty,” says Deborah Alvord, senior director analyst in the Gartner Customer Service and Support Practice. “Our research shows that customers who use noncompany channels report high levels of satisfaction, some even higher than customers who began their journeys on other channels.”

Alvord adds, “This trend will not disappear anytime soon. Service and support leaders need to expand the scope of their voice of the customer programs to better reflect customer behavior that includes the more frequent use of noncompany channels by younger customers.”

Gartner recommends that service and support leaders audit the entire customer service journey by researching the most common service issues solved in popular search engines, ensure that company-owned webpages dominate the first page of search engine results by investing in search engine optimization, dedicate a portion of employees to reviewing third-party content to enable customer service representatives to confidently dispel misleading or incorrect information in their service interactions with customers, and enable service and support employees to create issue resolution content on the third-party sites customers most frequently visit so they can have credible information to resolve issues themselves.