The Point: Why This Article Matters

  • More positive CX. Operationalizing DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) can lead to a more diverse customer base, which can help companies better understand and cater to their customers' needs and preferences. This, in turn, can lead to a more positive customer experience, as customers feel seen and valued.
  • Reflect customer base for improved loyalty. By diversifying its leadership and decision-making teams, a company can better reflect the needs and experiences of its customer base, leading to more equitable and inclusive policies and practices. This can foster a more positive and inclusive company culture, which can translate into improved customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.

A brand’s customers typically include diverse groups of people from various walks of life, each with their own unique characteristics. Brands that operationalize diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) into every aspect of their organization are in a much better position to have positive multicultural interactions with their customers.

Let's take a look at the ways that diversity and inclusion impact the customer experience.

The Population Is Increasingly Becoming More Diverse

According to a 2020 report from the Brookings Institute, since 2010, the white population share declined in all 50 states, and as of 2019, 27 of the 100 largest metropolitan areas have minority-white populations. The report also indicated that as of 2019, more than half of the nation’s population under age 16 identified as a racial or ethnic minority. Additionally, the report revealed that nearly four of 10 Americans identify with a race or ethnic group other than white.

Janet Stovall, head of DEI at the NeuroLeadership Institute, a human resource consultancy, told CMSWire that by 2065, we won’t even need the word minority to describe populations because no single ethnic or racial group will be able to claim "majority" status. “As customers diversify, so, too, the customer experience,” said Stovall, who explained that diversity and inclusion impact customer experience at three touchpoints:

  • What customers believe: Customer insight is critically important. As the world gets more diverse, more global and more connected, perspectives change. And customers’ perspectives are driven by their experiences and beliefs.
  • What customers want/need: Customer insight should drive product and service development and delivery. Increasingly diverse customers want things that fit their unique needs and they want to see them delivered by people who look like them.
  • What they hear/see: Marketing is where customers initially experience products and solutions, and there are no do-overs in first impressions. They want to see themselves reflected in what they see and hear. 

Diverse Leadership Better Understands Diverse Customers

The past few years have caused businesses to reevaluate their DEI practices, while the public has become more critical of brands that do not actively promote DEI within their organization.

Jyl Feliciano, VP of DEI and Belonging at Highspot, a leading sales enablement platform provider, told CMSWire that over the last three years, major national events such as the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement have accelerated the adoption and demand for DEI frameworks, data, research and company investments in the space. The renewed focus on diverse voices has meant that many industries have created opportunities for diverse leadership that until now, was typically dominated by a single demographic

"We’ve seen more diverse professionals (LGBTQ, BIPOC, women/non-binary gender, working parents, diverse abilities and more) move into positions with decision-making power, bringing a lens of inclusion when recruiting, onboarding and analyzing promotion progression, pay equity, talent development and more,” said Feliciano. “Although progress is slow and there is a lot more work to be done, the profound change and momentum thus far make me believe that DE&I is here to stay in the workplace.”

Feliciano said that as we enter 2023, she predicts we’ll see two key things take place. “First, we’ll see DE&I play a core role in recruiting talent and acquiring customers. For example, in my role at Highspot, I’m being pulled in more and more to the presales process because potential customers want to ensure we align with their values. Second, we’ll see greater investment in the space and transparency around it.” 

Despite economic challenges and potential budget cuts, Feliciano suggested that brands will (and should) invest in DE&I just like they would with other departments like finance, HR or security. “We'll see more companies collecting DE&I data to benchmark and continue improving their efforts with employees, partners and customers.” Feliciano predicted that we will see organizations take it a step further by sharing their DE&I data publicly to truly hold themselves accountable to better workforce standards. 

Related Article: 5 Ways Diversity and Inclusion Impact the Customer Experience

A Diverse Team Enhances the Customer Experience

A Gartner report on diversity indicated that through 2022, 75% of businesses with frontline decision-making teams reflecting a diverse and inclusive culture will have exceeded their financial targets. The report also revealed that gender-diverse and inclusive teams outperformed gender-homogeneous, less inclusive teams by 50% on average. 

It’s not just the bottom line that is impacted by a diverse and inclusive workforce. A diverse workforce, or lack thereof, sends a very strong message to customers and prospects.

John Berry, CEO of the VA disability attorney team, Berry Law, told CMSWire that because the consumer population is made up of a diverse array of people who come from endless backgrounds and demographics, a brand’s team should reflect that diversity. "When customers work with your diverse team, they’ll feel seen, heard and understood by your business," he said. "Prioritizing DEI within your workplace establishes a more well-rounded team who can more easily relate to any and all customers."

A diverse workforce is in a much better position to understand, empathize and get on the same page with a brand’s unique customers. Andrea Henderson is the director of partner solutions and executive search at Humanity Health, a career acceleration platform for executive women and executives of color in healthcare and life sciences, so she is in a great position to understand the importance of having a diverse team. 

“Companies can improve the customer experience with DEI initiatives by ensuring that their marketing teams are diverse and understand the customers that they are serving,” Henderson explained. She told CMSWire that some of the benefits of a diverse marketing team include:

  • It creates a culture that values tough conversations.
  • Such a culture is better able to embrace differences in the employee population leading to diversity of thought, which is the real value that diversity brings.
  • It invites authentic, diverse voices to the table to join the conversation.

Brands That Operationalize DEI Create Positive Emotional Connections

Customers today have access to detailed information, news, blogs, videos, social media and feedback about almost any business. Brands that simply pose as being diverse and inclusive will be easily discovered as such, and promptly ignored or worse — canceled. Those that live the diversity they espouse will attract and retain customers who are most interested in brands that live the values they themselves believe in. 

Learning Opportunities

Stovall told CMSWire that smart companies actually leverage differences to have a positive, profitable impact on the customer journey and that it’s a three-step process:

  • Prioritize diversity by tying it directly to personal, departmental and organizational business goals.
  • Habituate inclusion by implementing learning and development solutions focused on changing behavior rather than hearts and minds.
  • Systemize equity by inspecting, interrupting and improving policies and procedures to sustain and spur behavioral change.

Fernando Lopez, marketing director of the route planning SaaS Circuit, told CMSWire that brands are going far beyond DEI tokenizing. "While inclusive marketing should feature different kinds of people that are racially, cognitively and physically diverse, those efforts can seem hollow and patronizing if they’re not followed through everywhere," Lopez explained.

Diversity should extend to every aspect of a business. A brand’s culture, employees, products, services and even suppliers should reflect that diversity. “If you’re marketing with diversity shining, your team should also be diverse, your cultural values should be DEI-focused, and your products or services should be adaptable to suit diverse needs,” said Lopez.

Lopez gave an example of Target as a brand that does this perfectly. “They don’t simply advertise diversity but design clothing that is functional, sensory-friendly and easier-to-access clothing by including hidden access to medical ports, pants you can pull up or down with one hand, magnetic closures in place of buttons, and thumbhole cuffs,” he said, adding that these are the new standards that modern brands will continually be striving to meet.

Nika White, president and CEO at Nika White Consulting, a consultancy that specializes in diversity, equity and inclusion, is in a unique position to talk about the impact of DEI on the customer experience. White told CMSWire that now more than ever, customers want to give their money to brands that align with their beliefs and views, which is not surprising to most people after the trauma of COVID and the social and racial unrest during the last two years. 

White emphasized that brands must operationalize DEI at every level, including their corporate social responsibility goals.

"A tangible commitment to address social injustices such as racial inequality can enhance the customer experience," White said. "New DEI initiatives are playing a growing role in enterprise transformation.” White believes that social justice movements pushed companies across industries to think more deeply about their role in society. “DEI initiatives can show customers that they see and care about them," White added.

Additionally, a brand that practices DEI throughout the organization helps to create an experience that leaves customers feeling emotionally connected and satisfied, knowing that they made a good decision to do business with the brand. This emotional connection helps to create an exceptional customer experience, one that will stick in customers’ minds for some time to come.

Related Article: Designing Diversity, Inclusion and Accessibility Into Web3

Final Thoughts on Diversity and CX

Today’s consumers are very rarely represented by a specific segment, culture or group of people, and typically include people from all walks of life, ethnic groups and diverse backgrounds.

Brands that are diverse and inclusive are much better equipped to understand and empathize with their customers, enhancing every aspect of the customer journey and improving the customer experience.