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5 benefits of developing diversity in customer service

Creating an environment of diversity and inclusion within customer service teams is essential in today's market. Here are some ways that businesses can benefit.

Employing and developing a workforce that is hyper-focused on both customer service and diversity is no longer a luxury in today's climate; it's a necessity to be successful. 

There are four types of diversity: abilities, skills, experiences and cultural backgrounds. Because customer service teams interact with a wide range of people every day, being aware of and sensitive to these diversities is a must. Businesses must understand how diversity factors into delivering an exceptional customer experience.

Here are five benefits of developing diversity in customer service teams.

1. Diversity creates a value-based framework 

Diversity and inclusion are core values that organizations must not only define but make a permanent part of the internal employee experience and external customer experience. 

Businesses need to address diversity and inclusion from the top down. Organizations need to build a framework in this fashion, so it has a trickle-down effect into all departments, including customer service.

Companies also shouldn't label diversity and inclusion as programs, concepts or even projects to complete. Diversity can't be something businesses focus on or read about in a book club one month, only to set it aside for the latest fad next month.

Creating a culture of inclusion at an employee level is essential to providing exceptional CX, as there is a trickle-down effect to customers.

Businesses must define diversity and inclusion as core values that permeate an organization.

Examples of core values that foster diversity include:

  • embracing cultural differences;
  • seeking to understand first and respond second;
  • insisting on respect and taking action against anyone not following core values;
  • and encouraging freedom of speech and ideas.

Organizations can use this framework to create updated job descriptions, mentoring programs and ongoing professional development. This framework becomes the standard that businesses can use as part of customer experience, employee experience and quality programs.

2. Diversity improves the customer experience

Creating a culture of inclusion at an employee level is essential to providing exceptional CX, as there is a trickle-down effect to customers. Satisfied employees who understand the importance of inclusivity are able to understand and better serve the public, as they value cultural differences, diverse perspectives and the ability to continuously learn and engage with a variety of cultures.

Approximately 48% of employees believe that respect is the most essential factor for a culture of inclusion, according to a study completed by Quantum Workplace. Respect, empathy and valuing the customer perspective are all skills that drive the customer experience and areas that customer service teams need to focus on.

Customer service teams can build respect by focusing on active listening -- teaching agents how to listen with patience and without interruption or judgment. Allowing customers time and space to share their situation, thoughts and opinions is crucial to demonstrating respect.

Empathy is a universal skill that crosses all barriers and something that businesses should show to everyone as a key component of the customer experience. Empathy must be purposeful and sincere, not simply a statement an agent is reading to receive full points on a quality score card. Empathy requires an understanding of the situation, respect for the customer and a simple expression of empathy. Empathy statements are "I" oriented to take ownership, focusing on aligning with the customer and projecting an action statement.

Last but not least, building customer personas and understanding the customer journey via journey mapping is a great tool to foster diversity and inclusion. When customer service teams understand who their customers are, the types of situations they are facing and the journey they take to enter the customer service organization -- such as via the website, through the interactive voice response (IVR) or via chat -- they value the customer perspective because they actually understand, respect and empathize with the customer.

3. Diversity achieves superior financial results

Achieving superior customer experience results can include not only customer and employee experience gains, but also financial gains.

By 2022, 75% of organizations with front-line decision-making teams that have diverse talent and embrace inclusive strategies will exceed financial targets, according to Gartner. And companies in the top quartile for gender, racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians, according to a report by McKinsey & Company.

Inclusive strategies include fostering customer loyalty and retention by customer journey mapping, and showing respect and empathy. These strategies help the bottom line by focusing on reducing attrition, retaining top talent, and enhancing and improving the employee experience, which ultimately affects revenue and profitability.

4. Diversity drives innovation and employee experience

Creating customer service teams that value diversity of thought where employees challenge each other reaps benefits for not only the organization but also for the employee experience.

Cognitive diversity can enhance team innovation by up to 20%, according to a study by Deloitte. Deloitte defines cognitive diversity as diversity of thought, values and personalities -- essential for a thriving and innovative workplace.

Cognitive diversity drives faster problem-solving and better decision-making, leading to a more agile and high-performing business. Cognitive diversity can also enhance the employee experience, improving employee productivity, employee morale and employee turnover.

Customer service teams can foster cognitive diversity by recruiting diverse talent and creating teams that are purposefully diverse in skills and areas of expertise. Organizations should create virtual and physical space and allow time for teams to work on innovation, and create a leadership team that supports these efforts across the board.

By focusing on these metrics, businesses focus on what benefits employees the most, including:

  • productivity and innovation;
  • employee engagement and happiness; and
  • employee retention.

5. Diversity develops action with reflection

Praxis is a Greek word that means "action with reflection." Action with reflection is an adult learning technique that organizations can use to teach new skills, attitudes and concepts and allow time to practice and reflect on what has just been taught.

Praxis is an ongoing process and benefits organizations when focusing on diversity and inclusion. Praxis for customer service can include hosting internal focus groups, knowledge sharing and reviewing customer contacts -- chats, calls and other documentation -- with a focus on diversity and inclusion. The goal is to provide opportunities for those who work in customer service to reflect on concepts and practice techniques that either improve or elevate the experience with a diverse customer base.

Many organizations have mentors and coaches conduct one-on-one sessions with time for team members to reflect on diversity and ask questions, which provides a more personalized experience to foster individual diversity and inclusion.

Customer service teams need to define what quality assurance means to them and communicate to agents what is expected of them. The quality definitions should also be noted on quality and performance scorecards to clearly spell out to agents how they are doing vs. department expectations. This provides the ability to define, teach, observe, reflect and improve in a continuous manner.

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