Meet Your Next Generation of Customers

Yesterday was the first day I had a chance to volunteer as a Watchdog since Lauryn entered the third grade, and I got a terrific opportunity to spend the day watching a host of eight and nine year old boys and girls — so-called “post millennials” — interacting with a variety of technologies, and it was kind of eye opening to watch this next generation handling tech and try to see what their expectations are and likely would be as they grow into teenagers and adults.
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My daughter’s school is involved in a national program called Watch D.O.G.S., which stands for “Dads Of Great Students.” The goal of the program is to get more male involvement in young kids’ lives, and to have adult male volunteers at the school — ideally one every day — to not only spend time with the kids and be positive male role models but also to serve as an extra set of eyes to watch out for trouble of any sort.

Yesterday was the first day I had a chance to volunteer as a Watchdog since Lauryn entered the third grade, and I got a terrific opportunity to spend the day watching a host of eight and nine year old boys and girls — so-called “post millennials” — interacting with a variety of technologies, and it was kind of eye opening to watch this next generation handling tech and try to see what their expectations are and likely would be as they grow into teenagers and adults.

Admittedly, I sometimes take for granted how much Lauryn knows as she has been surrounded by an amazing host of different technologies in our home from literally the day she was born. At four years old, we made a video of her explaining how the Kaleidescape Kid Remote works. Once we got Control4, she quickly learned how to turn the system on and navigate to her favorite Disney channels, and then set our Hopper to record entire series of her favorite shows. And with reviews systems constantly coming and going, she often sees me unboxing, installing, configuring, testing, and then re-boxing systems on a monthly basis. And if you have any kids in your home, I’m sure they are as familiar with your tech as well. But these were all “regular” kids (presumably) not living lives inundated with technology.

The day started off with Lauryn’s teacher asking the class what the best part of their weekend was and several of them said it was watching a movie. Every class in my daughter’s school has a projector and a smart white board they watch videos on and take turns coming up and using, writing and sharing information. This is a generation that will probably embrace things like family movie night and communicating across a variety of platforms like maybe leaving digital notes on smart refrigerators or smart picture frames.

When I pulled out my phone to check a message, several of the kids asked, “Is that the new iPhone? Is that an iPhone 6?” These kids are very technologically and even brand-specifically aware. It reminded me in a way of the very first brand impression that I can remember having growing up, when I was 10 years old and desperately wanted a Sony Walkman. Likely many of them will grow up to be brand conscious, seeking out specific manufacturers or models that they have deemed superior.

A lot of learning and testing is done online, with kids going to computer labs and working on projects that fit their learning levels. Sitting in front of desktops or small Dell notebooks running Windows XP Professional, the kids all clicked the Start bar, opened up the Programs view and navigated to Google Chrome, the school’s preferred browser. Navigating and clicking and getting all of their information off a screen was a given. As was browsing and looking up information. This generation will be research savvy, unafraid to get their own information and draw their own conclusions. But they also weren’t afraid to ask for help, quickly raising their hands when they ran into some difficulty, meaning they will (hopefully) appreciate having a knowledgeable professional to reach out for when things get beyond what they understand or can figure out.

Finally, when things crashed or didn’t work, it wasn’t the end of the world; the kids seemed to take for granted that technology was an imperfect tool with its own foibles and hiccups and that when something didn’t work, you just closed, restarted and tried again, or, in some cases, just moved on to a different work station. This generation is going to have technology so entrenched in their lives that they will understand its limitations and that it “is not a perfect science” as fellow Resi blogger, Heather Sidorowicz, likes to say. This will likely make them more tolerant — and better capable of troubleshooting — the occasional device that needs a reboot.

I’ve spent about a half-dozen days volunteering at Lauryn’s school so far, starting when she was in first grade, and I can’t begin to tell you how rewarding it is. Not only is it a great way to connect with your child and to let their teacher(s) know that you’re interested and involved, you get an opportunity to join the class for lunch, play with them at recess, meet and talk with all of their friends, and spend time helping kids in other classes. If you have kids in school — or even grandkids, nieces or nephews — I can’t recommend it enough. You’ll spend the day giving high-fives and being treated like the coolest kid on campus. And maybe just get a glimpse into the future.

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