Why Should D&I Be At The Heart Of All Things CX?

2021-08-20 |  Asha Sanderson

The focus on D&I has increased massively in 2021, with many companies embedding practices in their recruitment processes, employee experience and culture to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace. However, there are few examples of the same D&I considerations being applied to the customer experience.

There are widely shared statistics showing that less diverse companies experience higher churn as well as lower productivity and poorer decision-making within teams. And yet, this link is rarely made in terms of CX. There are key moments in the customer journey where taking into account D&I factors will heavily impact the experience - so it's critical we address this, or it won't be long until similar statistics emerge echoing lower customer retention and satisfaction rates, when inclusive experiences aren't delivered. 

This shift in focus is coming, and there are three key reasons why:

1. The rise of Gen Z

This growing consumer group [born between 1997 and 2012] was practically born with phones in their hands, hyper-aware and constantly connected. With that comes a greater concern for personal image, stronger opinions and higher expectations. They care about the brands they love and what they say about them - and they expect these brands to care about them as individuals in return. D&I is high on the agenda for Gen Z. For example, many have boycotted companies who discriminate against sexuality and race in their advertisements.

Hence why many companies now have brand promises to contribute to social good. However, not all promises are being truly felt by the consumer. For example, a company might use non-binary models in their marketing campaigns to be more gender-inclusive, but still only have 'male or female' options when you sign up online.

Gen Z will quickly determine whether a brand promise is only as good as the web browser they read it in, and will be more loyal to companies who take meaningful action. But if these actions aren't carried out consistently, they’ll be the first to find out, judge (publicly) and move on.

2. Shared experiences spurring change

The customer's voice has been growing louder, with new ways to draw widespread attention being created all the time. Twitter retweets, Instagram hashtags, Clubhouse rooms, trending TikToks, celebrity endorsements, blogger accounts… the list is actually endless. And in the current political climate, rife with social unrest, matters of diversity and inclusion are high on the list of things to discuss. Customers' reactions to movements like #MeToo, Black Lives Matter, or Stop Asian Hate are taking over conversations across social media - and these same customers expect their favourite brands to have a say too.

Most companies have been quick to make statements standing in support of these movements, but few have made meaningful changes that trickle right down to customer touchpoints. Take L'Oreal Paris, for example. After sharing their commitment to stand in solidarity with the black community and support NAACP in the "fight for justice" in 2020, a mixed-race model, Munroe Bergdorf, spoke out about her experience of working with the brand some years earlier. Aside from being dropped from a campaign for speaking out against racism and white supremacy, she also pointed out that the product she was seen modelling didn’t actually come in a shade that matched her skin-tone. As a result of D&I factors not being considered within L'Oreal's processes, customers who saw themselves in Bergdorf weren't able to use the product advertised.

With the help of the internet and social media, the customer voice can make or "cancel" a brand.

No company is safe from "cancel culture" and, as in the case of Bergdorf, even past actions can be called into question. If empty commitments are made, there could be a PR crisis waiting right around the corner.

3. Empathy will prevail

One silver lining from the recent pandemic is that people have become more empathetic than ever. Through collective suffering, customers have shown more willingness to help friends and strangers who haven't been able to cope. Many companies have chosen to be a force of good for their customers too, with initiatives like payment holidays, credit support and interest waivers providing welcome relief to those in need. Although restrictions are starting to lift, this heightened sense of empathy will remain. And this new level of empathy will be a minimum standard expected by customers from companies they engage with.

There are several key moments in the customer journey that are important to get right, and if not done well, it can be very difficult for the customer. For example, calling an insurer to make a life insurance claim. This scenario is one most people can empathise with, as we expect customer service colleagues  do as a minimum, supported by scripts and training. However, in addition to dealing with a loss, many other factors may be contributing to how a customer feels and the services they need. When a customer makes this call they may also be dealing with: cultural expectations around their response to loss; carer responsibilities; a lack of higher education and mental health issues. To provide the right level of empathy in these moments, companies need to consider factors that could be impacting diverse groups of people, not just the majority.

Shifting a company's culture will be key in building a broader awareness and empathy, in helping off-script conversations, and in embedding processes that drive the right behaviours in each customer interaction. There are also tools that can help colleagues put themselves in the customer's shoes. However, these methods in building diversity of thought can only go so far on their own - working towards a critical mass of employees who represent all customers in parallel will drive significant, long-lasting change. 

In conclusion…

With social movements driving change and empathy, and a new generation seeking transparency and equality, D&I is high on the customer agenda. Most companies have been responding with efforts to improve their employee experience, but these efforts alone will not result in meaningful changes to the customer experience. Customers will be loyal to brands that practice what they preach, and meet their individual needs in the moments that matter. There are tools, training programs, frameworks and processes that can be embedded into an organisation to ensure D&I factors are considered throughout the customer experience. The time to establish these is now. The customer voice is louder than ever, and if you don’t listen to it, it won't be long before you're "cancelled".

Please reach out to Asha Sanderson for more information on this topic and discuss ways in which PEN can help you make meaningful change for your customers.

Contact Asha Sanderson:

Email: asha.sanderson@penpartnership.com

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