4 ways to make DEI a key component of customer service and culture

Truly effective customer service is rooted in empathy, because it’s people who reach other people, and customers crave that kind of authenticity in their interactions with brands.

A customer service representative sets the tone for how a customer will perceive and engage with the company going forward. The more diverse your people are, the more they can relate to a diverse customer base.

Companies that not only embrace — but champion — grassroots diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives are typically well positioned to deliver outstanding customer and employee experiences at every level and touch point. In order to do so, businesses must first focus on creating and preserving a happy, safe and healthy company culture that stems from nurturing a diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce.

Companies that deliver the best customer experiences tap into empathy powered by the human element.

When working to fine-tune company culture, start from the bottom up. Don’t first dictate what the company’s culture will be and then create programs or initiatives around it. Instead, connect with employees from diverse backgrounds with varied perspectives and priorities to learn what they think and what differences they want to make in the workplace and in their communities.

From there, create the support, forums and opportunities for them to put forward solutions. But remember, program leaders should be careful to not assume or try to educate the masses, as social matters are localized by community.

Outlined below are four key ways to help diversity, equity and inclusion take root as core elements of your company’s culture:

Start with an inclusive onboarding process

Regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, appearance or ability, customer service teams must be provided with the training and tools needed for their own success. Not every representative’s onboarding experience should look or feel the same. Accordingly, you should design programs that take into account individual learning styles, physical accommodations and cultural considerations.

Navigate each training experience so they are flexible and nimble to widen the talent pool as well as minimize stressors associated with onboarding. For example, deploy microlearning tactics where millennial and Gen Z employees can learn in short and visual video clips rather than through traditional manuals or lecture formats. Or provide screen readers for employees who are visually impaired and noise-cancelling headphones for those with hearing challenges.

Also set clear intentions on the front end to welcome and absorb employee feedback throughout their tenure. This could include regularly scheduled check-ins with each customer service rep at every phase — day 1, 30, 60, 90, etc. — alongside a “confidence meter” to gauge how they’re feeling about their progress.