Setting Rules For Emotionally Engaging Customers

by Jeannie Walters

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Earlier, we discussed how diversity impacts the customer experience. Diversity is so tricky, right? The minute you announce “we are diverse!” is the moment you are suddenly looking at people the very way we don’t want to be viewed. We are not the deaf person or the black person or the foreign person. We are the persons who happens to be…deaf, black or foreign. But  that same person is the one who likes football but hates soccer, or cleans when she’s stressed, or adores old movies. Whatever. We are complex.

So asking companies to embrace diversity goes hand-in-hand with another tricky part of engagement strategies. More than 50% of experience is based on emotion.

Setting rules around emotion is like saying anyone can write the great American novel by following a formula. It doesn’t work. There are definitely parts of it that just ARE. Emotions are predictable only in the ways human are – that is to say, they’re not.

There are some interesting examples, however, of how certain companies are tackling this nuanced and important subject.  If there are NO expectations on how people of all types should be treated, then expect behaviors to occur which don’t treat people well.

Starbucks outlines it clearly on their web site, and I don’t think I’ve seen it done any better.

At Starbucks we define Diversity in the form of an equation.
Diversity = Inclusion + Equity + Accessibility

It’s a great way to highlight how they want everyone to be treated. They go on to define these factors in detail.

Inclusion: human connection & engagement
Equity: fairness & justice
Accessibility: ease of use & barrier free

They have boiled down a complex subject to a simple view of the world. Treat people well. Respect them. Simple.

In another example, Dell has broken this subject down by categories of customers. Some of this, I’m sure, is based on need. The products Dell sells might have to be adjusted to work differently for customers with disabilities, for example. Providing information for that segment might be extremely useful.

Interestingly, however, the Hispanic Americans page doesn’t have an easy option for Spanish translation. And the stock photos on each page give me the willies, quite frankly. (I always think of the designer searching the stock photo site using phrases like “successful-looking Hispanic guy.”) Why not showcase real people who are either customers or employees of Dell?

As we search for ourselves with our associated organizations, we want to see truth. Our emotional reaction is based on how we feel reading things like “We honor the unique combination of talents, experiences and perspectives of each partner, making Starbucks success possible.” We read that statement and think “Yes, Starbucks does treat all kinds of people well, myself included!” We believe. We feel good. We are INCLUDED.

In the Dell examples, each page includes similar language to the others in the “Diversity” section. The first subhead after “Overview” is “An Important Market Segment.” That does not feel like they are trying to include me, that feels like they are trying to sell to me. Big difference.

Dell also has a feedback mechanism on the site through a 5-star rating system. Ratings range from 1.5 (African Americans) to 3.5 (LGBT and Hispanic Americans) – telling us there is a lot to be desired from this content.

Diversity, like so many other aspects of experience, is tied to emotion. While you can’t dictate emotions of either employees or customers, you can certainly state the behavior you’d like exhibited. Starbucks achieves this through simple, yet powerful, statements. Experience should (and for the most part does) back this up. Paying diversity lip service via cheesy stock photos and some buried verbiage on the site isn’t really living the customer experience mission.

How do you set the rules? It’s an interesting challenge. Here are a few ways to bring diversity to life within your customer experience:

1. Hire diverse people.

Different backgrounds and perspectives will help you see gaps you simply don’t see because of your own background.

2. Make the customer experience part of your mission statement.

If you don’t mention customers, you are not serving them. (We discussed this a while ago regarding the airlines.)

3. Make a checklist.

We all see the world via our lens. We can’t avoid that. But if you consider other people and their lenses, it helps. When creating a user experience, consult your checklist. The ADA has a good one! Don’t forget to consider segments that may be unique to your organization, like certain neighborhoods or demographics.

4. Debrief on behaviors.

If employees are behaving a certain way towards a certain group, debrief on the behavior. Don’t fall into the “but <Group Y> is always trying to do something wrong” conversations. Ask, simply, if the brand is being represented in the best way by this behavior.

What do you think? Is this complicated or not? This has gotten me thinking on rules for my own organization as we grow. More on that later.

Photo credits: Joe Shlabotnik and rolleh via Creative Commons license



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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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