For brands that are trying to better their diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, there’s no better partner to help you than your own customers. Often a diverse group themselves, your customers are a valuable resource to help you learn what they’d like to see from your company, what you can do to ensure their happiness and how you might improve your initiatives moving forward.
To best tap into their insights, there are a number of different strategies you can use. Below, nine members of Young Entrepreneur Council discuss what companies can do to get their customer base involved in their DEI efforts and how this kind of engagement ultimately improves their relationship with their customers.
1. Incentivize Customer Feedback
Businesses could encourage customers to share their feedback and survey responses on social media, and offer incentives for doing so. For example, customers who complete the survey and share their feedback could be entered into a prize drawing or receive a discount on their next purchase. This not only increases 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, businesses can gain valuable insights on how they can 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 business and its customers, which can ultimately lead to better customer retention and growth. – Andrew Saladino, Kitchen Cabinet Kings
2. Invite Customers To Join DEI Events
Lead by example and actively show support for DEI initiatives. Brands can involve their customer base by regularly sharing their own DEI efforts, by hosting events or campaigns to raise awareness and by providing opportunities for customers to get involved and take action. By actively engaging customers in these efforts, brands show they are committed to DEI and can improve their customers’ trust and loyalty. Additionally, it will make it clear that the brand is made up of people who believe in and support DEI values and it will attract more customers who share similar values. – Abhijeet Kaldate, Astra WordPress Theme
3. Collaborate With Diverse Community Organizations
Partner with diverse 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 opportunities for you to collaborate and create products, services and experiences that meet their needs. This entire collaboration can churn out valuable insights that can be used to evaluate your DEI efforts. This kind of reverse engineering technique often proves to be fruitful if they are appropriately aligned with the communities populated by your ideal customers or segments. At the end of the day, you are creating 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 clients can communicate with each other. In the beginning, it will be about the brand, its products and the level of service. Eventually, these platforms will be where people with shared interests talk about anything under the sun, becoming a pool of information as far as customer satisfaction is concerned. 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 directly ask clients what else they would want to see from your brand. Making them part of the decision-making process will improve relationships and boost brand loyalty. – Bryce Welker, Big 4 Accounting Firms
5. Focus On Inclusive Product Design
One way to include customers is by identifying aspects of your product or service that make it difficult for certain people to use them, and then include those in your customer-facing DEI initiatives, like product design. These aspects could be affordability, utility or even messaging. Inclusive product design means providing variations that cater to all customers, creating a strong customer base. Inclusivity in product offerings is the most obvious way of capturing consumers in your DEI efforts, demonstrating an understanding and acknowledgment of different backgrounds, experiences and needs. It shows the brand is loyal to all customers and wants to make their experience with the brand as easy as possible. More than acknowledging diversity and the consumer experience, DEI is a commitment to social responsibility and values. – Tonika Bruce, Lead Nicely, Inc.
6. Reach Out To International Audiences
One method is to identify target audiences that live internationally, especially if you are an e-commerce brand, and ask them questions about their lifestyles that are relevant to the products and services you offer. People love to talk about how cultures are different and to show off the aspects of home that they love. These aspects can include food, traditions, music and the landscape. You see these discussions more often on social media than in product reviews and business-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 worldview when getting enough answers. You also get more insight into the people that engage with your business while also supporting DEI efforts. – Duran Inci, Optimum7
7. Engage Customers In The Conversation
Brands trying to better their DEI efforts can get their customer base involved by including them in conversations and actions around DEI. Social media can be the platform for you to get started. You can use it to promote and spread the word about your DEI initiative, start a conversation and involve your audience in it. 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. Leverage Your Customer Support Team
Customer service support is the best point of contact for brands to discuss DEI with their customer base. Direct interactions with customers on themes around the DEI domain can reveal areas of opportunity and practical suggestions from personal exchanges. Be a good listener and nurture sensitivity on social matters that revolve around the DEI theme. The more diverse the customer support specialists are, the better they can relate to customers calling in and interacting with the brand. Specialized training programs by brands can also make customer support specialists sensitive to the various needs of the DEI domain and provide them with a better understanding of how to reflect the brand well so as to create a better customer experience. – Brian David Crane, Spread Great Ideas
9. Genuinely Listen To Their Experiences
Authentic experience shares coupled with a genuine request for feedback is ideal. We are a woman- and minority-owned business that offers criminal defense services, so we know firsthand what it’s like for our clients who have difficulty finding jobs when they have a criminal conviction on their record. While a lot of companies offer fair chance hiring practices or claim to have DEI in their hiring practices, most candidates who are people of color or may also have a criminal background experience something different from their white male counterparts who come from a stable household and experience no criminal record. If you own a business as a white male, talk about the elephant in the room and ask for feedback from underrepresented people about what you can do to help DEI efforts in your company. – Givelle Lamano, Lamano Law Office