A Call for Representation in Customer Experience

by Jeannie Walters

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We Must Ask the Tough Questions.

It’s not business as usual in the United States. It hasn’t been since the May 25th police killing of George Floyd, and the resulting days of protests in America — and increasingly, across the world — from people who demand change.

Prior to these events, it had been shockingly easy to think of ourselves as empathetic to all. As CX Leaders, we had believed that we certainly weren’t helping to perpetuate systematic racism.

We are learning that we have so far to go before that’s true. 

I’ve been reading and listening a lot this past week, and I was inspired to grapple with questions that have floated around for a while:

  • When I’ve noticed evidence of ongoing inequity in CX, why haven’t I spoken up about it?
  • Why haven’t I used my platform to raise important questions around inclusion, diversity, and racism in customer experience leadership?

And one enormous question we should all be asking:

  • How can we deliver for all customers if our leadership teams lack the representation they need?

This should trouble all leaders. Customer experience is ultimately creating how people will spend their time with your brand and product. How will your customers feel about those experiences? Are all customers asked for feedback? Is that feedback heard?

Without representation, how can CX leaders get all of that right?

There are other big questions here:

  • Are we asking for the right feedback and providing space for customers to share their stories?
  • Are we addressing concerns that don’t fit neatly into our metrics?

If we claim that customer experience is about the customers, then we must accept we have a responsibility here.


We Must Listen & Learn.

Admittedly, as a white person I am not the most qualified to speak from experience. But I am trying to learn from those who are.

On LinkedIn, I was particularly struck by a set of questions posed in the article Black Lives Matter! Yes, Even in the Workplace by Siji Onabanjo. He asks:

How do your business policies affect racial equality for your employees, customers, suppliers? As a company are you non-racist or actively anti-racist?

What is the makeup of your leadership teams? Are they diverse and representative?

What are your policies around hiring? Are there unconscious biases in place that disadvantage certain people? How can those biases be removed?

Do you have an environment where people can feel comfortable enough to report or call-out discrimination without feeling ostracised afterwards?

This article, Covert Acts of Racism Have Been Happening in Grocery Stores and Restaurants Forever by Alexis Morillo, mentions the literal “tip of the iceberg” about how things like product placement in grocery stores and hiring practices in restaurants are still creating a sense of “other” among us. She writes:

Covert racism, or socially “acceptable” forms of racism, are subtle ways that bias and privilege are perpetuated every single day. But things like racial profiling, police brutality, and “All Lives Matter” rhetoric are just the tip of the chart’s proverbial iceberg, and the subtle acts still perpetuate white dominance.

The first step toward change is acknowledging the way that systems of oppression seep into activities that seem as mindless as grocery shopping or going out to eat… At the current moment, the most immediate steps that can be taken are self reflection and education.

Customer experiences are human experiences. We are customers when we shop for our groceries, use the wifi, pay our utility bill, buy those cute shoes…we’re customers in our daily lives. This means the work we do impacts people’s daily lives. We can’t forget this. This is the human experience, and CX professionals have to recognize our role in it.


We Must Use Our Voices.

I want to support all customers and the best way I know how is to give a platform to those customer stories that are underrepresented, or marginalized.

If you’re comfortable and willing to share your customer stories, I’d like to hear them and amplify them.

  • Where have you felt a lack of understanding or empathy?
  • What do you see that I and other customer experience and business leaders might not?

Email me with your stories, or send a video or audio message to share@cxrepresentation.com

Let’s use this platform to invite others to hear these stories directly.

It’s not business as usual. But hopefully we’re heading toward business as it should be.

Top Photo Credit: Matthew T Rader

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter. Learn more here.

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