How to Promote Equality and Diversity in Customer Service
If you work in customer service, then you’ll come across all sorts of people: people of different ages, different races and different genders just to name a few. Equality and diversity are therefore highly relevant factors when it comes to customer service, whether you meet with people face-to-face or deal with them over the phone or on social media.
Equality and diversity are covered by the Equality Act 2010 and require everyone to be treated fairly and with respect. Compliance with the law should be straightforward – a person’s age, sex, disability or race, for example, shouldn’t impact the level of customer service you provide them with.
In this article, we’ll explain what is meant by customer diversity, along with examples and tips, and show why it is so important to the customer service you provide.
What is Customer Diversity?
Diversity is a term that encompasses a wide range of factors – people can be diverse in the way they look or where they come from, but also diverse in their abilities, beliefs and life experiences. In today’s world, where technology and travel enable business to be done all over the globe, it’s even more likely that you’ll come across a diverse customer base.
Equality and diversity are relevant to all customers and mean treating everyone equally and with respect. This means not making assumptions about, harassing or stereotyping people and not discriminating against people based on who they are.
In the UK, the Equality Act 2010 gives people legal protection against discrimination, harassment and victimisation based on their diversity. Under the law, there are nine specific personal characteristics, known as protected characteristics, that you cannot discriminate against.
- Gender reassignment.
- Marriage and civil partnership.
- Pregnancy and maternity.
- Religion and belief.
- Sexual orientation.
The Equality Act gives equal weight to each of the nine protected characteristics, so no single characteristic is considered more significant than another. Furthermore, discrimination can be against either a single characteristic, or multiple characteristics.
Examples of Diverse Customer Needs
The nine protected characteristics show just how diverse people can be. You may experience customers with any one or more of these characteristics, and so should be aware of how to cater to their individual needs.
For example, you may experience a customer that has a disability. By law, traders and service providers must ensure everyone can access and is able to use their goods and services in the same way, as far as possible. In terms of disability, there are ways that you could ensure everyone is included in your service, for example:
- Provide written customer information and signage in alternative formats, such as Braille, large font and/or an easy-to-read format.
- Ensure you take the time to explain things slowly and clearly, without frustration, to customers who need extra support to understand.
- Have a ramp or lift available for easy access to your premises.
- Reserve parking spaces near the entrance of your premises for disabled customers.
Equally, you may experience a customer who is breastfeeding. It’s unlawful for a trader or service provider to treat anyone unfairly because of this. For example, you can’t refuse a table in a restaurant to someone who is breastfeeding, or ask them to go to the toilets. This would count as pregnancy and maternity discrimination. You must make sure that women you’re providing services to are allowed to breastfeed on your premises if they want to.
You may also encounter customers who wear clothes for a religious purpose – i.e., head coverings or body cover ups. It could be classed as indirect discrimination if, for example, your place of work doesn’t allow customers to cover their heads, meaning that people who cover their heads for religious reasons can’t enter.
Indirect discrimination can, however, be lawful if the trader has a good reason for the policy. For example, if a rock-climbing centre states that customers must wear protective helmets or clothing if participating in the climbing. This could disadvantage people who wear religious clothing, but the policy can be justified as it only exists for health and safety reasons.
You also need to be careful around indirect discrimination, which means discriminating against someone without being aware that you’re doing so. For example, only allowing payment by an online service like PayPal may discriminate against older customers who don’t access the internet. This could be classed as age discrimination.
Need a Course?
To learn more, take a look at our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion training course, which explains what the law expects of you in terms of preventing discrimination and harassment based on the nine protected characteristics.
Why is Equality & Diversity Important in Customer Service?
Embracing people’s diversity is important in customer service because it shows that your business truly reflects and welcomes the society we live in, and understands its needs. Appreciating people’s differences, treating all your customers equally and respecting each person’s uniqueness is vital if you want to retain clients and encourage repeat business.
Promoting equality and diversity in customer service brings many benefits for both your customers and your workforce. For example:
- It improves customer loyalty. Embracing equality and diversity shows to your customers that your company and your brand share the same values as they do. Being fair and equal with your diverse customers will improve their perception of your brand and encourage them to return.
- It shows that you respect your customers. Active listening, empathy and giving your customers time to give their views are powerful actions and show that you value your customers’ opinions, no matter who they are, which enhances the customer experience.
- Promoting diversity in the workplace is proven to attract top talent. If customers can see that you embrace equality and diversity, then they’re more likely to apply for a job role when one comes up, as they can see that you’re a fair and inclusive employer. Find out more about how equality and diversity improves the workplace in our article, here.
Need a Course?
Our Customer Service Skills training course is designed for anyone working in a customer service role who wishes to improve their service skills in order to ensure that customers have the best possible experience.
How to Support Equality & Diversity in Customer Service
If you work in a customer service role, then the following tips and advice will help you to support equality and diversity more actively and effectively.
Have an inclusive work culture
A work culture that supports and encourages equality and diversity starts with your workforce. By having staff that understand the importance of treating every customer (and colleague) with care and respect, you can create an environment that enables each individual to flourish, no matter their background or according to particular characteristics.
Have an equality, diversity and inclusion policy
An equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) policy is a written document that solidifies your commitment to promoting EDI in your workplace by setting out your obligations in areas such as recruitment, training, and pay.
Having an EDI policy in place indicates that you value every individual, that you are willing and prepared to fulfil their needs, and that you will stand by them and combat discrimination. EDI policies aim to uproot prejudice and discrimination.
For more information and a free, downloadable policy template, check out our article: Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Policies in the Workplace: Free Template.
Active listening is a simple but effective skill that everyone should have. It means you listen for meaning in what the person speaking to you is saying, rather than interrupting or waiting for a gap in the conversation to make your own point.
Active listening also means you listen to someone without preconceived ideas, and that you use positive body language and facial expressions to show they have your full attention. This allows you to listen to customers with focused intent and build respect. Check out our article on improving active listening in communication to learn more.
Develop emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognise, understand and manage emotions. This is an important trait to have in order to sustain a connection with your customers and work towards positive solutions to their problems. It also enables you to recognise people’s emotions so you can help them with what they really need and communicate with them more effectively.
Having emotional intelligence means that you show empathy, and are able to understand where someone is coming from, are sensitive to their needs and understand how they feel about a situation. It also helps you to understand how other people’s reactions differ from your own and value these differences.
Check out our article for more information: A Guide to Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace.
We hope you’ve found this article on how to promote equality and diversity in customer service both informative and helpful. If you have any further questions, or wish to find out more information on the topics covered in this article, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at High Speed Training!
- Online Customer Service Training Course
- How Equality & Diversity Improves Your Workplace: Examining the Benefits
- What Defines Good Customer Service in Retail?
- Equality & Diversity Quiz
- Disabled Access Requirements for Restaurants
- How to Help Others Promote Diversity, Equality and Inclusion
- How to Promote Inclusive Communication in the Workplace