Companies 'missing out' by failing to embrace customer diversity

A new report by Australia’s Human Rights Commission has found that ignoring customer diversity is bad for business.

Customer diversity report

Companies are being told to embrace the diversity of its customers. Source: SBS

New research focused on improving the customer experience found consumers from diverse backgrounds are at times not being treated respectfully.

‘Missing Out: The business case for customer diversity’ has urged companies to have “a greater focus on diversity and inclusion”, finding that a lack of focus is causing companies to lose sales.

Commissioned by the Australian Human Rights Commission and undertaken by Deloitte, the report was released in Sydney by AHRC president Gillian Triggs and the heads of SBS, Qantas, Westpac and a representative from QBE.

Research was conducted via an online survey of 1200 people and focus groups of staff from two of the aforementioned organisations. Researchers aimed to “compare and contrast the experiences and expectations of people based on specific demographic characteristics, namely gender, cultural background, age, sexual orientation, disability and noticeable faith”.

Among the key findings, the report said only 41 per cent surveyed believed that “organisations treat customers respectfully, regardless of their personal characteristics”.

“Diverse customer groups are more likely to represent a lost sale, with far too many reporting that organisations do not provide the products or services they need,” the report said.

“Ensuring all customers are treated with basic levels of respect and fairness is not viewed as high a strategic priority as expected.”

'Unconscious bias'

The report added there was “unconscious bias”, causing customers with a diverse background to be “misunderstood or misserviced”. Only half believed that ensuring customers were treated respectfully was a priority for businesses.

“One in three surveyed customers from Indigenous or non-European backgrounds and people with a disability, and nearly one in two LGBTI customers and people who practice a noticeable faith (42 per cent), say their customer needs were often unmet over the past 12 months,” authors found. 

One in five of those surveyed ceased a transaction within the past year because they were not treated respectfully or fairly.

“That number shortened to 1 in 3 for customers from Indigenous backgrounds, LGBTI, with a disability or who practice a noticeable faith,” the report said.

Provide feedback?

But most people - 80 per cent of those surveyed - did not provide feedback.

“If diverse customers are not treated respectfully or fairly as a person, they are much more likely to just walk away.”

Managers and organisations have been told there is a long term impact if diverse customers are not treated well.

Organisations have been encouraged to integrate diversity practices to prevent such impact.

3 min read
Published 27 February 2017 at 1:14pm
By Omar Dabbagh