Vice President of Global Sales TELUS International
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Rethink gender

Why it's time to rethink gender for more inclusive customer experiences

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Customer experience is about trust. One of the best ways to engender trust is to make your customers feel welcome no matter what their identity or orientation.

2nd Jun 2021
Vice President of Global Sales TELUS International
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Deprioritising the customer experience during a global health crisis is understandable, but according to Forrester:

“The pandemic will affect customer experiences in 2021 even more than it did in 2020, especially in terms of trust, safety, and inclusion."

It’s time to make the customer experience front and centre again, and one of the best ways to engender trust and safety is to make your customers feel welcome no matter what their identity or orientation.

Mr./Ms./Mx? -- Are your customer interactions alienating instead of engaging?

How can the customer experience be tailored to individual needs and priorities if your scripts, web forms and social media communications are putting your prospects and customers into a box?

Gender in CX

Categorisation of titles/gender on forms is one of the most obvious areas where gender data is collected. However, there are other ways gender may show up in your customer interactions that you’re not thinking about. And these “transgressions” may have the potential to turn off consumers who would otherwise want to buy your products. Here are some areas you may want to review:

  • Agent scripts/training:  Are your agents instructed to address everyone as Mr./Ms over the phone and in their email and chat? Are they basing someone’s identity on their voice?
     
  • Web forms/surveys: Do potential customers have more options than Mr., Ms., or Mrs.; male, or female — or not able to proceed with submission of the form or survey?
     
  • Name changes: Do your Customers have the ability to change details about their name or gender in your systems? Are members of staff who use these systems aware of this and do they have sensitivity training to do make these changes without asking unnecessary or personal questions?
     
  • Automated responses for email, website chatbot, IVR: How are your automated systems addressing/responding to your prospects and customers? Does your chatbot have a gender? Have you evaluated its direct and indirect gender attributions to determine if you are broadcasting stereotypes?
     
  • Social media communications: Is your social team using terms like: “mankind”, “ladies,” or “Hey guys!” instead of “everyone”, “shopper”, and” folks”?

Understanding gender as a spectrum and approaching your customer interactions with this in mind will open new possibilities for all your customers and employees as well.

Brands leading the charge in gender neutrality

I recently used the password reset for my United Mileage Plus Account and found a list of Title options included “Mx” in addition to the more traditional options.

Gender in CX

“Mx” for those of you not familiar is defined by Merriam-Webster as “as a gender-neutral title of courtesy” or for people who simply don't want to be identified by gender,”.  Nonbinary refers to "relating to or being a person who identifies with or expresses a gender identity that is neither entirely male nor entirely female".

Companies are starting to realise that this shift towards utilizing gender neutrality is no longer something they can ignore.

The following are some examples of companies leading the charge in providing an inclusive gender-neutral customer experience.

- Mastercard’s “True Name” feature allows transgender and nonbinary persons to have their true names on their cards without having to go through a legal name change.

- Facebook offers 50 different choices for gender in the U.S. and 71 in the U.K., where the social network worked with two groups, and allows its users to change their gender and pronoun very easily. 

- Since March 2017, HSBC allowed its transgender customers to choose from 10 gender-neutral titles, including” Mre”, (mystery), “Msr.” (a combination of Miss and Sir) and “Pr”(person).

- United implemented its gender inclusion changes back in 2018. Since then they have worked with the Human Rights Campaign and The Trevor Project on employee training initiatives to make United an inclusive space for both customers and employees.

- BBVA (Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentina) has taken a step to eliminate gender bias in business by deliberately building and launching a gender-neutral chatbot. Known as "Blue" to answer customers' questions about BBVA's financial services.

- Netflix now has recruiters share their pronouns in introductions, as well as ask candidates about theirs in initial phone calls, one of several practices to accommodate non-binary employees/applicants.

Why you should you consider moving towards gender neutrality in your CX

Now more than ever, authentically connecting with your customers is essential to grow your business.

According to a 2019 study, 34% of all Americans disagreed with the statement that “there are only two genders — male and female — and not a range of gender identities.

Inclusive language and options are especially important to Millennials and Generation Z. Pew Research Center findings in 2018 show almost 60% of those aged 13 to 21 (“Gen Z”) believe forms that ask about gender should include options besides “male” or “female.”

That same research study notes that 35% of Gen Z and 25% of Millennials know someone who prefers gender-neutral pronouns. And according to a study by McKinsey, "48% of Gen Zers said they value brands that don’t classify items as male or female".

These generations have substantial spending power, and as a business, you don’t want to alienate possible consumers (or employees) with non-inclusive language and options.

How can your brand’s customer experience be more relevant to the changing needs of consumers?

Regardless of your industry or business, this statement by Steve Jobs will always hold true:

You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology, not the other way around.

Great customer experience is about harnessing the intelligence of data and analytics to create customer interactions that address the unique and individual needs of customers, no matter what their identity or orientation.

A more inclusive customer experience will build trust and safety and create loyalty to your brand. Here are some resources to assist in you in incorporating gender neutrality into your customer experience:

https://www.un.org/en/gender-inclusive-language/guidelines.shtml
https://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/marketing-beyond-the-gender-binary/
https://www.braze.com/perspectives/article/pride-personalization
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5444783/
https://uxdesign.cc/beyond-the-binary-5-steps-to-designing-gender-inclus...
https://www.brookings.edu/research/how-ai-bots-and-voice-assistants-rein...
https://hbr.org/2020/04/companies-cant-ignore-shifting-gender-norms
https://www.stonewall.org.uk/about-us/news/10-ways-step-ally-non-binary-...
https://www.wiley.com/network/instructors-students/education-trends/im-n...
https://www.5wpr.com/new/research/5wpr-2020-consumer-culture-report/

MyCustomer and its parent company, Sift, have proudly partnered with Bristol Pride to celebrate Pride Month 2021. More info here

This post was originally published on LinkedIn here

 

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