Inclusive Customer Service

Why and how should you deliver inclusive customer service? Customer service models frequently take a binary approach to identity that can result in trans and non-binary communities feeling excluded and discriminated against. On November 20, it is Trans Day of Remembrance and we want to highlight that this challenge exists and provide advice to overcome it. In this blog, Steven Taylor, Inclusion and Diversity Consultant, shares his top tips for delivering excellent customer service through an inclusive framework.

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From my first ever two-week work placement back when I was 16, right until the present day, all of my previous job roles have included some form of customer service. Whether that be to external customers working in the retail and cultural sector, or internal customers once I had made the transition over to HR supporting volunteers and employees. All these roles have included me providing a service to ensure each individual receives the best possible experience. 

That’s how I like to view the world; like an experience. Whether we’re customers, clients, employees, attendees, delegates (the list could go on…) we all expect a level of satisfaction. From the items we buy, to the partnerships we form, to the conferences and events we attend, all we want is to come away feeling happy. It reminds me of the quote by Maya Angelou:

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel

We work with a lot of members who are keen to put inclusion at the heart of their customer service, therefore making it a pleasant and even memorable experience. Although we are an organisation that usually focuses on internal customers, there are still overlaps that can be considered when supporting external customers and providing inclusive customer service. Here are my top tips for inclusive customer service:

Approach all customer interactions which may involve protected characteristics and vulnerability with sensitivity

If any of the protected characteristics are mentioned in conversation, these should be treated sensitively and respectively. Be mindful of vulnerable customers who, due to their personal circumstances, may be susceptible to detriment. Customer service representatives should be trained to notice consumer vulnerability.

Raise awareness of unconscious bias

Are the ways in which certain members of the team are interacting with certain customers related to unconscious bias? We may not even realise it, but we could be treating some customers more favourably than others based on individual characteristics. Why is this? Raising awareness of this through unconscious bias training may help.

Ensure you are treating all customers fairly

If you refuse to provide goods/services, stop providing goods/services or give a worse quality of service (for example, charge more or make the customer wait longer) based on any of the nine protected characteristics, this could amount to discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.

Reflect on all aspects of inclusion

Try going above and beyond to provide a high level of customer service. Use gender-neutral language and avoid using terms of endearment which could be considered offensive. Avoid making assumptions on who ordered which drink or who will be paying. For those with public spaces, provide a private space for breastfeeding/chestfeeding or prayer, or a quiet space or quiet times for those who are neurodiverse. The possibilities are endless for creating a truly inclusive environment and customer experience.

Utilise skills within the team

Ask colleagues if they can speak another language, have experience with British Sign Language (BSL) or perhaps able to notice when a customer may have a physical/mental health condition and require additional support. If not, take an expression of interest and provide training in these areas to upskill your customer service representatives.  

Consider Equality Impact Assessments (EIAs)

For certain sectors, these are a mandatory requirement, for others, a nice to have. If your organisation can get into the habit of completing EIAs for projects and how they may impact minority groups, this will enhance proactive inclusive decisions rather than reactive, (and potentially costly) changes. You can find out more about EIAs here (link).

Reach out to your staff networks

It’s often hard to consider the perspective of an underrepresented group until somebody from that group shares their own lived experience. Reach out to your staff networks to see if your customer service processes could be improved, or establish a group of customer service champions who continually look out for ways to improve. 

Always look for ways to improve

No matter your role within an organisation, if you are presented with or witness a new challenge and come across a situation which you think could be improved, be sure to make a note of this and feed this back to higher management.

Listen to the customer

Lived experiences and sharing feedback are ways in which we all learn and unfortunately, we just may not know what a barrier for customers will be until they experience the situation first-hand and provide feedback. Actively listen with empathy, collate the feedback with possible suggestions of improvement from the customer, and consider implementing these changes moving forward.

With a little extra thought and consideration, putting inclusion at the centre of the customer experience can make a huge difference to your customers, colleagues and organisation.  

If you would like further support with inclusive customer service our factsheet, Trans Inclusion for Customer Facing Colleagues is free to download for members. Non-members, please get in touch to access your own copy.

Resources:

Consumer Vulnerability:

https://www.tradingstandards.uk/media/documents/news–policy/consultation-responses/consumer-vulnerability-guidance.pdf

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/consumer-vulnerability-challenges-and-potential-solutions/consumer-vulnerability-challenges-and-potential-solutions

https://www.fca.org.uk/publication/occasional-papers/occasional-paper-8-exec-summary.pdf

Discrimination in the provision of goods and services:

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/discrimination-in-the-provision-of-goods-and-services/discrimination-in-the-provision-of-goods-and-services1/

Public Sector Equality Duty:

https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/advice-and-guidance/public-sector-equality-duty

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/public-sector-equality-duty

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/law-and-courts/discrimination/public-sector-equality-duty/what-s-the-public-sector-equality-duty/