Diversity: encompasses acceptance and respect, it means understanding that customers are unique, and recognizing their uniqueness and differences. Some of these differences include the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies.
CX Strategy: it’s an actionable plan in place to deliver delightful and meaningful experiences across every interaction a customer has with your business
The role of diversity in CX strategy design is to help businesses explore the individual customer differences in a safe, positive, and nurturing environment, moving beyond simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each customer resulting in customer-centered strategies.
For years it has seemed rather easy to generalize and think of customers as one country. It also seemed like business as usual for businesses to group, stereotype, and categorize customers in what appeared to be an attempt to understand customers whilst neglecting to unpack the nuances of customers especially in diverse markets such as the township market. Generalizing to understand the complexity of the township is where businesses continue to lose ground. In South Africa the township economy is very different, it has different behaviors to overall South African customer behaviors and businesses continue to fail to embrace these differences.
We continue to see businesses stereotyping customers, even when it is their own customer for their own industry. Businesses continually apply oversimplified segmentation models rather than seek a true understanding of the customers with whom they are engaging. Looking at customers through the lens of behaviors alone is not enough, township customers like any other customer have needs and want that require a diverse CX strategy.
Let us discuss 5 reasons why the conventional approach to CX strategy design fails:
- Thinking for the customer – a CX strategy is an “actionable plan in place to deliver delightful and meaningful experiences across every interaction a customer has with your business” yet most brands think for customers rather than leveraging internal data and engaging customers to learn what they are thinking. There is a difference in how brands think customers want to feel and how customers want to feel.
- Fails to represent the customer diversity – a handful of people planning and strategizing in a meeting for weeks on end does not bring an understanding of all the factors influencing customer behaviors.
- Leaves out the voice of the customer – the customer’s voice is often missing and at times if represented, the representation is minimal. The focus is always on the market, competition, industry, financial performance and less on the customer.
- Leadership Biases – there are leadership biases that prevent critical stakeholders from being part of the strategy design process, these stakeholders are often perceived as part of the problem.
- Rigorous and Stringent – the uncompromising inflexibility of business leaders in a fast-changing world is doing great harm to customers resulting in great risks for businesses as most of the strategies prove hard to implement.
The Recommended Solution
The global pandemic has caused a spike in the number of unprecedented challenges for businesses, forcing them to consider customer needs and behaviors at every stage of decision making. The proposed solution is a framework to do just that, in a structured approach. It involves empathy, defining, ideation, prototyping and testing to strategy design. Stages like “empathize” make this methodology unique in designing diversified customer experience strategies, but it is the focus on humans and their behavior that makes it most effective. The proposed solution is applying the Design Thinking methodology to designing a diverse customer experience strategy.
Design Thinking doesn’t depend much on historical data but encourages futuristic resolutions for customers. Rethinking your CX strategy starts by taking a human-centric approach to the design process. Considering that these stages require a good amount of focus on the customer, this methodology proves to be immensely helpful in getting businesses to develop deep empathy for their customers. The South African population is made of diverse origins, cultures, and a total of 11 official spoken languages, it is, therefore, recommendable to ensure that the CX strategy reflects an in-depth understanding and care for these nuances to be effective. According to Stats SA, 80% of South Africa’s population is black South Africans, whose collective buying power is R335 billion. There is a black middle class also known as the black diamonds that emerged in 2005 with a collective buying power of R180 billion and 77% of them still live in South African townships. Businesses that seek to understand the nuances of such diverse customer markets become effective in designing diverse CX strategies.
Let us look at the attributes of each of the design thinking stages as it relates to creating a diverse CX strategy:
- Empathize: Here the business seeks to understand the customer in terms of who they are and what matters to them as a customer. Through this stage, your business will uncover emotions, seek stories in a non-judgemental manner. Businesses conduct interviews and shadow their customers with the overall objective of truly seeking to understand them. It is out of this process that the business can truly unfold the diversity in their customers and begin to use the outcomes of this process to truly know the positive and meaningful experiences their customers are seeking across every interaction.
- Define: This stage of the process allows businesses to create a point of view based on the above customer insights and needs which results in a human-centric problem statement. A diverse CX strategy is one that can identify with the tensions, pain points, and challenges customers encounter across the different interaction points. This is where the required diversity is achieved.
- Ideate: Through this stage, businesses are able to share ideas, suspend all judgments concerning what customers want and need. At this stage, all ideas are seen as worthy and begin to be prioritized before the creation of a mock-up CX strategy.
- Prototype: In this stage, businesses start creating simple mock-ups and storyboards of the CX strategy. It is important for businesses to create experiences and role-play to understand context prior to communicating it with the business and customers.
- Testing: The testing stage involves the process of testing with customers to gather additional data, gain deeper empathy, embrace failure, understand impediments, test what works and what doesn’t work with the strategy, and iterate quickly.
A customer experience strategy is often confused with a business strategy, in most cases, businesses define the CX strategy for the customer rather than co-designing with customers through the above methodology. Design thinking is anchored in understanding customers and pulling together what is desirable from a human point. It challenges assumptions, redefines problems, and encourages brands to focus on the people they are creating for, it is for this reason I recommend adapting this methodology as a key to creating a diverse CX strategy.
……. remember, customers are diverse by nature and a meaningful CX strategy is one that embraces this diversity!
Mandisa Makubalo, Unlimited Experiences SA
Founder & Principal Consultant