Employee diversity can create an outstanding customer experience

Hiring diversity and creating psychological safety for all team members has a positive impact on customer experience

The importance of customer experience, or ‘CX’, is often discussed by marketing teams. They understand that a truly outstanding customer experience can make the difference between success and failure when it comes to attracting and retaining customers, so naturally, it becomes something they prioritise.

Something that is often overlooked, however, is the fact that customer experience isn’t something that the marketing team has complete control over. In fact, when I talk to organisations about their customer experience strategy, it is the companies who make being customer-led a core part of their culture that really stand out. The day-to-day experience of every employee can have a huge influence on the kind of experience that is delivered to the final customer. Hence, HR teams and leaders across all departments have an important role to play.

How does diversity impact CX?

Whether your organisation is in financial services, pharmaceuticals, technology or almost any other sector, the reality is that your customers are a reflection of society. That means that every day, your company is dealing with a wonderful mixture of nationalities, religions and cultures. Still, if your team doesn’t reflect the same level of diversity, you are putting yourself at a disadvantage in understanding what customers need, want and expect.

Around the world, too many companies are still biased towards hiring WEIRD profiles – that is, Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich and Democratic. This still happens even though they know society isn’t WEIRD, and their customers almost certainly aren’t either. It makes logical sense to have a team that reflects the diversity of the outside world, yet many organisations are slow to recognise this.

Hiring diversity, however, shouldn’t just be limited to cultural diversity and should also look at cognitive diversity.

Many organisations that focus on their culture fall into the trap of hiring people that comfortably “fit in” – they think and talk just like some of the great people in the team, so it makes sense, right? But, actually, hiring people who act and think “just like us” can have a detrimental impact on innovation of any kind, but especially when it comes to customer experience.

Why is psychological safety so important for CX?

One of the challenges in building a diverse workforce is creating an environment where every individual feels empowered and comfortable to bring their whole self to work. One key benefit of this kind of culture is psychological safety, which plays a vital role in creating an outstanding customer experience.

A big part of a customer-obsessed culture is the desire to experiment, test and learn to improve the customer experience. However, the nature of experiments is that inevitably, some of them will succeed, and some are going to fail – but that is ok!

At Amazon, for instance, 99% of their initiatives to improve customer experience are treated as a two-way door: a small scale experiment might fail, but they plan to be able to roll back, retrace their steps and go back ‘through the door’, without too much inconvenience for customers, cost or damage to their reputation.

What does this have to with company culture? Well, it raises an important question on how failure is viewed in your organisation. How can you expect employees to have the drive to improve customer experience if they are worried about being ridiculed or punished when things go wrong?

One of the secret ingredients that helps create an outstanding customer experience is an environment that provides the psychological safety for your diverse team to fail. Of course, the trick is to make small incremental changes so that failure will have minimum impact and maximum learnings, but you should never point the finger of blame at people who are bold enough to try something new.

So, although they may not necessarily be ‘seen’ directly by your customers, workforce diversity and an environment of psychological safety will have a huge influence on customers’ experiences. Without these things embedded in your culture, you may lose invaluable customer insights, innovation may dry up, and your customers will leave you for a competitor who does innovate to make the experience better for them as an individual.

Steven van Belleghem is one of the world’s leading thought-leaders, speakers and authors on customer experience. His new book, The Offer You Can’t Refuse (main picture), is out now. See www.stevenvanbelleghem.com

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