For brands striving to improve their diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, there’s no better partner to help you than your own customers. Your customers themselves are often a diverse group and are a valuable resource to help you learn what they would like to see from your company, what you can do to ensure their happiness, and how to improve your initiatives in the future.
To make the most of their insights, there are a number of different strategies you can use. Below nine members of Council for Young Entrepreneurs discuss what companies can do to engage their customer base in their DEI efforts and how this type of engagement ultimately improves their relationship with their customers.
1. Encourage customer feedback
Companies could encourage customers to share their feedback and survey responses on social media and provide incentives to do so. For example, customers who complete the survey and share their feedback can enter a prize draw or receive a discount on their next purchase. Not only does this increase customer engagement, but it also helps to amplify the voices and opinions of the customers, which is beneficial to the company in terms of improving their DEI efforts. From this data, companies can gain valuable insights on how to improve their DEI initiatives and make the customer feel heard and valued. This can lead to a stronger sense of trust and loyalty between the company and its customers, which can ultimately lead to better customer retention and growth. – Andrew Saladino, Kitchen cabinet kings
2. Invite customers to participate in DEI events
Lead by example and actively support DEI initiatives. Brands can engage their customer base by regularly sharing their own DEI efforts, organizing events or campaigns to raise awareness, and providing opportunities for customers to get involved and take action. By actively engaging customers in these efforts, brands demonstrate their commitment to DEI and can improve customer trust and loyalty. In addition, it will communicate that the brand is made up of people who believe in and support DEI values, and will attract more customers who share similar values. – Abhijeet Kaldate, Astra WordPress theme
3. Collaborate with various community organizations
Work with various organizations that serve the communities you want to reach, such as advocacy groups, community organizations, or cultural centers. This can help you better understand the needs and perspectives of these communities and provide you with opportunities to collaborate and create products, services and experiences that meet their needs. This whole collaboration can yield valuable insights that can be used to evaluate your DEI efforts. This kind of reverse engineering technique often proves fruitful when properly aligned with the communities populated by your ideal customers or segments. At the end of the day you create something like a customer advisory board. – Kelly Richardson, Infobrandz
4. Build a forum where customers can interact
All brands should build communities where customers have the opportunity to share their experiences, thoughts and opinions. For example, you can set up an online forum where customers can communicate with each other. In the beginning it is about the brand, the products and the service level. Ultimately, these platforms will be where people with shared interests talk about everything under the sun and become a source of information regarding customer satisfaction. You can learn more about your diverse customers, which could shape your brand in the future. The forum or community space is also your chance to ask customers directly what else they would like to see from your brand. Involving them in the decision-making process will improve relationships and increase brand loyalty. – Bryce Welker, Big 4 accounting firms
5. Focus on inclusive product design
One way to engage customers is to identify aspects of your product or service that make it difficult for certain people to use them, and then incorporate them into your customer-facing DEI initiatives, such as product design. These aspects can be affordability, usability or even messages. Inclusive product design means offering variations that cater to all customers, creating a strong customer base. Inclusion in product offerings is the most obvious way to engage consumers in your DEI efforts by demonstrating understanding and acknowledgment of different backgrounds, experiences and needs. It shows that the brand is loyal to all customers and wants to make their experience with the brand as easy as possible. More than recognizing diversity and the consumer experience, DEI is a commitment to social responsibility and values. – Tonya Bruce, Lead Beautiful, Inc.
6. Reach international audiences
One method is to identify audiences who live internationally, especially if you’re an e-commerce brand, and ask them questions about their lifestyle that are relevant to the products and services you offer. People love to talk about how cultures differ and show off the aspects of home they love. These aspects can include food, traditions, music and the landscape. You’ll see these discussions more often on social media than in product reviews and company-moderated forums, but you can create them within moderated online communities in different spaces. A question has a lot of power and you can expand a world view if you get enough answers. You’ll also gain greater insight into the people involved in your business while supporting DEI efforts. – Duran Inc, Optimal7
7. Engage customers in the conversation
Brands trying to improve their DEI efforts can engage their customer base by involving them in conversations and actions around DEI. Social media can be the platform to get started with. You can use it to promote and spread your DEI initiative, start a conversation and engage your audience. This will help you understand their views on the matter, which you can implement in your DEI efforts. It’s a good way to build stronger relationships with your audience because when you use them in your DEI program, your audience will feel heard and valued. They will also know that your interest in DEI improvements is genuine. – Andrew Munro, AffiliateWP
8. Make use of your customer service team
Customer Service is the best point of contact for brands to discuss DEI with their customers. Direct interactions with clients on topics surrounding the DEI domain can reveal opportunities and practical suggestions from face-to-face exchanges. Be a good listener and nurture sensitivity to social issues that revolve around the DEI theme. The more diverse the customer service specialists are, the better they can relate to customers calling and interacting with the brand. Specialized brand training programs can also sensitize customer support specialists to the different needs of the DEI domain and give them a better understanding of how to properly reflect the brand to create a better customer experience. – Brian David Crane, Spread great ideas
9. Listen sincerely to their experiences
Sharing authentic experiences in combination with a sincere request for feedback is ideal. We’re a women’s and minority-owned company that provides criminal defense services, so we know firsthand what it’s like for our clients who struggle to find employment if they have a criminal conviction on their record. While many companies offer fair hiring practices or claim to have DEI in their hiring practices, most candidates who are people of color or may also have criminal backgrounds experience something different than their white male counterparts who come from stable households and have no prior criminal record. If you run a business as a white male, talk about the elephant in the room and get feedback from underrepresented people on what you can do to help DEI efforts in your business. – Givelle Lamano, Lamano Law Firm