‘The Customer Is Always Right’
– Marshall Field & Harry Gordon Selfridge, 1852
This centuries old, well worn quote still stands the test of time today.
In many ways little has changed.
A businesses raison d’être is to make customers happy.
What has changed, is that more and more companies are investing in building a strong relationship with their customers.
And for good reason, competition has never been fiercer.
Delivering an exceptional customer experience offers a sustainable competitive advantage.
In some industries such as automotive retailing, a dealers Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a key customer service metric which can attract a direct financial reward.
It’s also no longer about simply solving a customers problem; it’s about a deep understanding of their expectations and then surpassing these to delight your customers, often in unexpected ways.
But too often, it’s the basics that are overlooked, like whether customers are treated with respect and fairness.
That’s according to the findings from the report ‘Missing Out: The business case for customer diversity’ by Deloitte and the Australian Human Rights Commission, 2017.
After surveying more that 1,200 Australians, they found
All this despite the diverse community we enjoy here in Australia. Where one in five people speak a language other than English at home, 18% of people have a disability, 11% of people identify as LGBTI.
Customers Are Diverse
The authors concluded, “If organisations want to lift their (customer experience) game, it would require a greater emphasis on respect and fairness per se and particular attention to diverse customers”.
They argue stereotyping, unconscious bias, and lack of awareness are leaving customers feeling excluded. That’s bad for business.
So if companies serve a wide variety of customers across gender, ethnicity and other facets of diversity, what about their workforce?
Let’s take the Australian automotive retailing industry as a case in point. And for simplicity let’s look at the gender breakdown of customers as compared to it’s workforce.
No surprises but car driving isn’t gendered. We all drive cars.
The National licence plate holder gender breakdown (AADA presentation 2018, “How this CFO reduced HR costs” by Sharon Pask) is,
Sure car manufacturers get this, adapting their product development efforts to appeal to women, kids and families. But what about their employees?
And here’s the rub – the management of these retailers is not representative of the customer base that it serves, nor the workforce it represents.
In our example, car retailing is male-dominated or as many before have described, blokey.
This is confirmed by the WGEA 2018 ‘motor vehicle retailing’ workforce gender data set along with data from Toyota Motor Corporation Australia (2018) where,
So in summary, whilst around 52% of licence plates are held by women, only 10% of sales consultants are female.
Turning Problems Into Opportunities
An opportunity exists for the automotive industry to close this workforce diversity gap to improve the customer experience and drive much needed business performance and profitability.
The report ‘IBISWorld Industry Report X0014 Automotive Industry in Australia’explains industry profit margins have fallen over the past five years, largely due to reduced economies of scale and the poor performance of local passenger vehicle manufacturers.
“Diverse employees bring differing life experiences, cultural backgrounds, and ways of thinking that will assist their employer in relating to, understanding, and meeting the needs of their diverse customers”.
The authors of this research point out, this isn’t about employee-customer matching – assigning employees to exclusively service a customer from the same minority group.
They argue we are unique and just because we belong to a minority group doesn’t mean we are clones. One demographic characteristic can’t define us.
So simply hiring women to sell to women isn’t the goal. Instead the goal is to achieve a diverse workplace so each employee can relate to everyone of your customers.
At the same time we need to focus on hiring job-capable candidates and those who value the opinions of others.
But we don’t. The very stereotypes and biases we have towards customers also exist towards those we hire.
If we consider who applies for sales consultant roles, based on 29 car sales roles transacted through RemiPeople an online recruitment web app, attracting 604 applicants we found,
41% of applicants are female, yet only 10% women make up the workforce
So women are applying but are not getting through the process.
Because of unconscious bias, we recruit in our own image, unaware that we discount female applicants because we’re more familiar with male applicants.
Inaction, hoping your workforce will grow more diverse organically doesn’t address the issue of bias in hiring and retention.
Women will still apply for automotive car sales roles and will continue to be unfairly rejected without intervention.
Of course diversity isn’t just about gender, it’s multidimensional.
According to analysis by HR tech company Restless Bandit using 19,258,407 resumes, closing the diversity gap in white-collar jobs in the US automotive industry, would require,
- 420% increase in hiring of African-American workers
- 239% increase of hiring of Hispanic workers
Many business leaders remain ‘blissfully unaware” that hiring bias is occurring under their watch.
However ignorance was never a defence and it’s a problem that needs attention.
How To Overcome Hiring Bias
The bad news is that the recruitment process is rampant with bias.
The good news is that there’s lots you can do to mitigate bias and increase your workforce diversity.
To learn more see our blog, 25 ways to Recruit for Diversity.
If you’re looking for an automated solution to debias the recruitment process from end to end then RemiPeople is an all-in-one platform.
Upon submitting an application, candidates are anonymised and given a unique candidate identifier.
Hiring teams therefore sees no names just a candidate reference code.
Hiring teams then screen anonymised candidates via mini-work challenges, which are real-job scenarios.
Candidates are comparatively scored and ranked in a leader board based on the quality of their responses.
Top scorers are shortlisted for interview using the structured interviewing approach.
This ensures all candidates are given the same set of questions and scored using a standardised and comparative scoring tool.
This process provides the objective data hiring teams need to make their final candidate selection.