Customer experience is key in today’s business landscape, acting as a unique point of differentiation in an incredibly saturated market of products and services available. Research by Gartner found that more than two-thirds of marketers (businesses) compete mainly on the basis of customer experience (CX).
It is also a major factor in loyalty and customer retention, with research by PwC finding that 1 in 3 (32%) customers will walk away from a brand they love after just 1 bad experience. On the opposite side, a survey by Segment found that 44% of customers “will become repeat buyers after personalised experiences”.
So what is customer experience?
According to Annette Franz of CX Journey, “customer experience is the sum of all the interactions that a customer has with an organisation over the life of the relationship with that company or with that brand“.
Customer experience does not always involve a purchase, it may not even involve a conversation. Images, created environments and use of language all form the overall experience for customers interacting with your brand.
A look into customer experience:
When we say a company’s customer experience is great, what do we really mean? What are we really referring to?
Let’s ask this:
- Did the tone and language of a sales assistant change when someone came in with a wheelchair?
- Did they rush to the aid of a woman carrying a designer handbag?
- Did they look at someone in a sceptical way suggesting they would not be able to afford anything?
- Did they defer to the man when outlining the cost of an item?
- Did their website highlight diversity?
These may seem like minor occurrences, but they speak to a much deeper and scarier problem.
We all have internalised, subconscious and unintentional stereotypes and biases which impact our behaviour, sometimes without us even noticing or knowing these preconceived ideas exist.
Sometimes they cause us to overcompensate – meaning we are acting differently. Often, the examples listed above do not come from a place of malice, but rather unconscious processes that are happening and without realisation.
Maya Angelou, the American poet and activist, once said “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” The examples above all featured nuances which make the behaviour offensive or uncomfortable, but they did not say or do anything particularly shocking yet the undertones speak differently.
Doing things with thoughtlessness and oversight, can leave just as bad of an impression as intentional aggressions.
Looking at the research
A report conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission & Deloitte in 2017 found that 1 in 3 surveyed customers from an Indigenous or Non-European background, or people with a disability, and almost 1 in 2 of surveyed customers who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual or who noticably practice a Faith, say their customer needs were often left unmet, and even more than this, they usually did not provide feedback to the company or business. While a study first published in 2019 by Marc Linzmajer, Simon Brach, Gianfranco Walsh & Tilmin Wagner found that customers’ behaviour during personal interaction with service employees is subject to ethnic bias.
So how do we address this problem?
As Clare Muscutt, founder of Women in CX says, “building a good customer experience does not happen by accident. It happens by design.”
How can we design an inclusive customer experience?
1. Redesign Your Culture
Like all things in fostering healthy company cultures, leaders and managers must lead by example, fostering an inclusive and equal environment within the company. Setting the tone for the internal operations of the business will have a trickle down effect, reaching customers.
2. Hire a Diverse Staff
Having a diverse staff in terms of gender, sexuality, religion, culture, ethnicity and more, can add nuance into the business. Having people in the organisation who can relate to living with experienced biases of many kinds, can offer a more intimate perspective, in addition to being more understanding and aware of people’s treatment, and the images portrayed to the market.
3. Invest in Education and Training
Education and awareness is important. Without understanding, we cannot reveal our underlying biases, which also means we will not be able to correct them. We need to learn to understand the mechanisms that cause biased behaviour, so we can change. That which remains hidden is difficult to confront. We also must be educated on using inclusive language to create warmer and more accepting environments for our customers, this even includes written language on forms and questionnaires.
Implementing education for your staff is key in creating a more inclusive customer experience.
4. Encourage Feedback
Collecting feedback from both employees and customers to ensure things are changing is key. Monitoring, controlling and improving your inclusive customer experience is constant and very important. Making sure employees and customers know they can speak up and share their thoughts freely can go a long way in achieving authentically inclusive experiences. Honesty and transparency are huge factors.
5. Promote Self-Awareness & Reflection
Each of us taking the extra time to think properly and researching/finding out about experiences different to our own helps to question our ingrained behaviour, and coupled with education and a bit of perspective, has the power to change the way we act and speak in certain situations. Awareness goes a long way.
So we can ask ourselves:
- Is my language respectful, thoughtful and inclusive?
- Do I understand the needs of my customer?
- Do I come across as genuine?
- Does my customer look and/or sound comfortable in my presence?
This quote from activist Mahatma Gandhi, is a good one to remember: “a customer is the most important visitor on our premises, he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so.”
Our customers are the core of our business, so treat them, no matter what their beliefs, backgrounds or looks, with the respect they truly deserve.
Who are we & what do we do?
At Centre For Inclusive Design (CFID), we immerse ourselves in your projects and curate the best teams to achieve your objectives. We focus on audiences who are often overlooked in the design process to improve outcomes and value for all our customers. We work collaboratively with your team so that you can continue to use our methodology even after your project is complete.