A Case of Inclusion Illiteracy
As much as diversity is incomplete without a culture of inclusiveness, so inclusion is incomplete without encompassing employees as well as customers of an organisation. Customers desire to be inclusively treated by organisations as much as employees do. And like employees they will be extremely sensitive as to how inclusive they perceive a company’s behaviour to be. Many businesses have not accepted this principle and almost every day we see how they are beginning to suffer for it.
Empathising With the Customer
Customers can no longer be seen as the passive recipients of goods and services
A Bain and Company survey of 362 leading firms found that 80% of the surveyed companies believed they were delivering a “superior experience” to customers. But the same survey of customers revealed only 8% would have agreed. Obviously, it is the assessment of the client that matters since he or she will take their business elsewhere if dissatisfied.
Customers in the current environment want to be respected, treated fairly, have a sense of connectedness with the businesses they buy from and sense that their unique value is known and appreciated. In short, the way they experience the transaction is as important as what they actually buy. And just as with employees, if they feel excluded rather than included by an organisation their loyalty will soon evaporate.
Customer inclusion implies a profound understanding of the customer’s needs derived through relationship building rather than direct sales efforts. It involves endeavours to see the world through the eyes of the customer so that the organisation is positioned to cater for the ever-evolving nuances of the customer’s needs and expectations.
A Momentous Failure of Inclusivity
An example of elementary failure to appreciate the need for customer inclusiveness which hit the headlines recently was provided by the Swedish clothing retailer H & M. Here was a classic illustration of how being tone-deaf to diversity and racial and cultural issues could exact a severe reputational as well as financial penalty. As most people know H & M published an advert depicting a young Black boy wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with the words “the coolest monkey in the jungle”.