Manage Diversity through Customer Service

“Diversity in the world is a basic characteristic of human society, and also the key condition for a lively and dynamic world as we see today.”- Jinato Hu

The world we live in is geographically large but is shrinking! Owing to the rapidly changing technologically advancements, a decision to buy is no longer governed by distance. Customers can buy from anywhere, pay from anywhere and even get support anywhere. However, as rapidly as the world seems to be shrinking it is also becoming more diverse. Customers from all around the globe are able to buy and receive service. It is becoming imperative for companies therefore to manage diversity through customer service, since products maybe the same but when customers can perceive a differentiation in customer service, they are more likely to buy.

To manage diversity through customer service, the agents and their companies must respect and acknowledge this diversity. Respecting diversity means being aware of defining demographics such as cultures, age, gender, language and product preferences. When the representatives are aware and respectful, it would easier for them to manage diversity through customer service and provide better support and this empathy would increase customer satisfaction levels.

It is never a pleasant experience to witness or overhear conversations that deride a customer or a group of customers. It is vexing and frustrating to hear comments that sound discriminatory and debasing especially when based on religion, origin, race, gender, disabilities or any other such factors that represent diversity. These comments are downright hurtful but also have the potential to cause serious harm to the reputation of the company and even get the company embroiled in litigation. Such comments arise from the employee’s own beliefs, education and or even personal experiences and values. These comments tell poorly on the education and mindset of the persons involved and ultimately reflects on the company irrespective of whether the company upholds such beliefs. The negative impact of such comments, as discussed, can be far-reaching and even cause irreparable damage to the company.

To manage diversity through customer service would involve proper knowledge, training and coaching. Customer Service agents must not only know how to respect this diversity, but also understand that their personal beliefs and opinions do not matter when serving the customer. If a company wants to be known as a global company, managing diversity at all levels is an absolute essential. In India for example it would be highly disrespectful to make fun of people who worship animals and plants since this is part of the major religion practiced there. Being aware of cultural differences and other such differences, would make it so much easier on the agents to manage diversity through customer service. Using the right words, tone and phrases would tell the customer that your company cares enough to train its staff in dealing with diversity. Just like all instances of great customer service, this too translates in to customer satisfaction and ultimately loyalty. Customers belonging to different races and backgrounds would be more at ease in speaking with such agents since they would know that nothing derogatory would be said and no one would poke fun at their beliefs.

Companies that refuse to embrace diversity and still harbor all kinds of prejudices will soon find themselves scrambling to even remain in business. Customers and companies can be connected from anywhere given the culture of ‘mobility’ and ‘business from anywhere’ increasing the number of options customers have and translating to added competition for companies. Only those companies that can successfully manage communication via various channels without committing any faux pas with regard to diverse factors will be the ones to remain in business on a sustained basis. Those who cannot or will not are guaranteeing the failure of their business and market reputation.

To manage diversity through customer means being able to first acknowledge diversity and thereby build a rapport with current customers and prospective ones. It is an established fact that building a rapport is a vital and indispensable step in delivering customer service. If the customer feels comfortable while interacting with your company and its agents, it means that you are displaying a genuine commitment to the customer’s needs and expectations and puts the customer’s mind at rest. Even if customers belong to the same ethnic group or religious beliefs, they are still diverse when it comes to personalities and or personal values. Every aspect points towards diversity and customer service agents must be aware of these distinctions and unique factors so as to provide tailor made customer service. The manner of interaction has to suit the individual customer being serviced. So what are the best ways for customer service agents to become aware of and acknowledge diversity thereby building a bond with customers?

– Be patient and listen to understand. In an earlier exposition, we determined that hearing and listening are not the same. For agents to actually get an understanding of what is being said, they must listen beyond the words. Doing so will allow them to pay attention not just to the use of words but also the tone of voice, manner and accent while speaking and other such clues. Good listening skills for customer service agents then become imperative for them to be able to gauge the diversity they are dealing with. They would find it easier to get their point across to the customer as well.

– Mirror the customer’s communication style. This does not mean copying the customer to the extent that they feel as though they are being made fun of. Matching the speed to the customer’s rate of speech, using similar words as the customer and maybe using words similar to that used normally in the customer’s race or ethnic group would enable the customer to form a connection more rapidly with the agent. A relaxed customer is more likely to be more open in their communication making it easier to identify the exact problem and or need.

– Ensure that your tone of voice conveys genuine empathy and lets the customer know that their problem or request is being taken seriously. An agent must repeating correctly their understanding of the customer’s issue letting the customer know that they were heard correctly the first time and thus their issue will be dealt with promptly.

Customization in customer service is possible on when the customer service agent is able to correctly understand the customer’s requirement. Understanding and acknowledging diversity will ensure that the agent is able to grasp the requirement. This is vital factor in providing customer service excellence and also constantly raising the bar on customer service levels. To manage diversity through customer service, equips the company with armoury to combat service lapses and give rise to customer loyalty.

Like all walks of life the realm of customer service is constantly laced with all kinds of people. There are people who are – elderly, harried middle class, varied ethnic cultures, from across countries and other such diversity. The fact remains that each one needs to be treated with respect and provided a uniform high customer service standard. In many cases, a slight deviation or prejudice is not taken lightly and customers can become severely irate and even seek to take revenge. Negative comments with regard to discrimination would surely sound the death knell for the company. Even in normal circumstances, customer service as it is today is highly complex and demanding. Customer service agents must realize that judging customers based on any factor is imprudent – their needs and expectations must be understood and delivered on. Equal and fair treatment must be meted out to every customer without bias and your limitations. Customer service agents are the face of the organization and must remember this at all times and develop the right skills and knowledge to get customer service right every time. Customer service is not about mouthing words like ‘first in class service’ or ‘customers are number one’ or any such clichés which are not reflected in the outward behavior of each person in the company. Customer demographics and diversity will never cease to change and only those companies who are able to manage diversity through customer service can hope to remain in business and or succeed.

Learn about a new approach to better customer service!

Interactive Guides for Superior Customer Service

Create interactive decision trees for customer service management, cold call scripts or self-service. Improve sales performance metrics and customer delight across your call centers.

Interactive Decision Tree