Customer diversity: One size doesn’t fit all

by Stavroula Kitsanou, Social Media Coordinator |Workathlon

A key to success in today’s ultracompetitive business world is offering customers many choices of products or services and making selection simple and pleasant. Take a menu for example. It’s just a simple list of goods on offer from which a customer might select at leisure. The idea of menu is so simple and inherently convenient that it has become ubiquitous even in the world of computing as a way of navigating quickly and easily among thousands of information.

Communities, cities, and nations are becoming more similar and increasingly sharing an international culture. As a result, consumers hunger for something different – for opportunities to enjoy experiences that are individualized and designed just for them. How can mass offerings ever be truly customized?

If you are the team leader the answer you are looking for is found in the empowerment of front – line employees to devise ad hoc solutions to your clientele’s problems instead of merely following preordained policies. This philosophy is built into the operations of today’s best hospitality businesses, including Loews Hotels, where every housekeeper, bellman, desk clerk is permitted – no, expected – to go outside the standard procedures when necessary to satisfy an unhappy guest.

But honestly, how can my company bring all these to life?

Companies and organizations that recognize the phenomenon of today’s fragmented world are finding ways to address the need for human connections while pursuing their own corporate or social missions. Just as a party host wants his guests to know one another and become friends, organizations are encouraging their clients to interact with one another, forming communities of interest that make life richer and more enjoyable. Customers benefit from the chance to connect with like-minded individuals and organizations reap awards that include intensified customer loyalty, the opportunity to learn more about customers and their needs.

First, you must start building your future with your existing customers. The latter represent a base that is easy to reach and probably ready to buy new offerings from you, provided you appeal to the same qualities that attracted them in the first place. Second, don’t just sell to the community members – provide them with rewards that will increase their loyalty and encourage them to invite others into the magic circle.

What are the modern forms of diversity?

Do you imagine how much easier it would be if all your customers were the same? How very comfortable, convenient and profitable this would be? And, in the end, how excruciatingly boring? If you reach out only to people who are the same as you, the chances are good that your clientele will end up being disappointingly narrow. Thus, effective leadership today requires that you inspire your organization with a spirit of openness and respect for all customers, no matter how they vary.

Reaching out to diverse customer groups around the world is a key to success in the years to come. The new forms of diversity that every organization must recognize include gender, age, sexual orientation, physical status, religious and cultural variation and linguistic diversity. Respecting diversity doesn’t happen automatically; it requires thought, training and commitment. As one diversity expert has pointed out “treating everyone the same” may sound fair. But if a blind customer walks into your hotel, would you simply hand him a brochure to read and walk away?

Is respecting diversity feasible?

What happens though when a company makes a conscious effort to think about their target customer and to make key business decisions with that image in mind?  It is indeed a natural and useful tactic. Whether you recognize it or not, you too are probably training your front-lines employees to focus on the target customer. You do this through clues as subtle yet obvious as the pictures in your brochure or website. Such targeting, however, may lead your sales and service staff, probably unconsciously, to ignore or mistreat customers who don’t fit the target customer world.

In a recent study, 68 percent of customers who reported choosing to avoid a sales or service establishment said they did so “not because of negative treatment, but because they were treated with ambivalence”. That is why we have to follow the example of some of today’s best-run companies that do transform a diverse customer base into an asset instead of liability:

  • Diversity operates along many dimensions: Your customers are becoming sensitized to differences of many kinds – not only race.
  • Changing customer attributes create selling challenges – as well as opportunities: Adjustments in how you sell may be necessary – next Workathlon’s blogpost will guide you through!
  • Respecting customer diversity is more than simple good manners: Employees charged with customer service may need training by an expert in the special characteristics of their out-of-the-mainstream customers to avoid inadvertently signaling that your company is less than welcome.
  • Targeted marketing and service efforts aimed at diverse customer groups can pay big dividends: Your organization may be able to build a significant new business base among once-neglected customer groups.

To sum up, diversity means getting past the tendency to look at your customers and your organization from your own point of view and learning to see the world through other people’s eyes. It’s not easy, but it’s an essential discipline for anyone managing an organization in today’s complicated world.

Inspo from Jonathan Tisch’s book “Chocolates on the pillow aren’t enough”

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