Power Up Your Customer Experience with Diversity & Inclusion

I am about to tell you a true story. If you believe me, you will be well rewarded, if you don’t believe me, let’s just say I will make it worth your while to change your mind. Let me explain.

Jessica is a friend of mine who is a young professional African woman aged 31. The other day she called excited about her first black embossed bank card. “It’s so classy,” she said, “as I’m holding it in my hand, I am in complete disbelief that I, Jessica own a black card.” “What will I see, when I look at it?” I asked. “What could be so classy about a card?”

Jessica continued, “It’s personalized, my name is written in gold on the face of the card, to top it all I now have my own private banker, could it get any better than this?” And it’s not in my imagination. I just want you to see it for yourself.”


 When I met Jessica, she took out her card with such great excitement, I could see she was beyond herself. She kept on putting the card back in her new leather purse and taking it out. She said, “I had to get a new leather purse to match my new black card, my old purse wouldn’t do any justice to my new status.” Jessica further explained how impressed she was with the service rendered by her private banker, “I felt like a millionaire leaving the bank after collecting my card, Jessica said.” “The personalized service and the personalized card, what a memorable experience, Jessica continued.”


 6 months later Jessica found herself displeased with the service rendered by the financial institution. “Mandisa, you cannot believe the despicable service I’ve been receiving from my bank over the last few months, Jessica said.” “I had no idea that for me to fully enjoy the benefits of being a private client I would have to visit a branch that has a relationship banking section, the ordinary branches would mean that I have to be subjected to long queues with all the gold and silver account holders. Surely my private banker knows that I live in the township and I’m sure I am not their only private client living in my township, yet the branch located at the local shopping center does not have a relationship banking section.” The inquiry desk is always under-resourced, the automated machines always have long queues, to reduce the queues you are always advised to make use of the inhouse telephone to speak to the contact centers only to be re-directed to the branch because not all transactions can be performed online some can only perform inside the bank, I am beyond appalled, if only all this was explained to me, the only response I get from my private banker when raising my concerns is “I apologize for this inconvenience, let me see what I can do for you”, really, Jessica said.”

In this article, we highlight the challenges facing township-based customers in South Africa, coupled with the diversity and inclusion actions companies can take to reliably deliver experiences to township-based customers across the country.

Let us re-visit the definition of diversity and inclusion. “Diversity is about understanding that each individual (employees & customers) are unique and recognizing their individual differences which can be in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs or other ideologies and Inclusion is not just about including individuals with specific differences but a basic right of everyone and its objective should be to embrace everyone regardless their individual differences.  True inclusion is when we have removed all barriers, discrimination, and intolerance making everyone feel included and supported.

Given the above definition, how can organizations imbed diversity and inclusion to power up the experience of township-based customers?

Here’s my recommendation of a proven methodology that allows brands to unlock the power behind diversity and inclusion leading to customer-centric improvements.

Design Thinking is a methodology that is useful in tackling problems that are either ill-defined or unknown allowing brands to understand the human needs involved, by re-framing the problem in human-centric ways, creating many ideas in brainstorming sessions, adopting a hands-on approach in prototyping and testing. Developing solutions that are all-inclusive requires the ability to deeply connect and appreciate local knowledge and systems. The biggest philosophy underpinning design thinking is that diversity and inclusion are vital for addressing the complex challenges faced by contemporary society.

In the South African context there is a proverb called “Ubuntu”, meaning “I am because we are”, this defines who we are and how we relate to others. It is our belief that one’s humanity is affirmed when one recognizes and affirms the humanity of others by embracing diversity and inclusion, empathy, and deferring judgment.

The 5 design thinking stages are representative of the following CX principles:

  • Empathy = Customer Understanding (VOC, research methods, collect)
  • Define = CX Strategy (analyze and define)
  • Ideate = Shaping customer journey / personalising the experience
  • Prototype = Innovate
  • Test = Improve Prevent / Optimizing customer experience

You might be asking yourself, how does this relate to Jessica’s problem and powering up CX. Let me take you out of your misery. In South Africa, there is a culture where large organizations integrate their services and products into the township’s economy without showing due care of the dynamics and nuances of the township economy resulting in poor customer experiences.      Customers are left with no option but to use the services and products without the accompanying experiences.

In Jessica’s case, we see a clear case of lack of diversity and inclusion in that the financial institution hasn’t shown true understanding of Jessica as a private client living in the township, true inclusion is when all barriers, discrimination and intolerances are removed making Jessica feel included and supported throughout her journey with the financial institution.

Powering up your CX in the South African context!

Written by Mandisa Makubalo

Principal Consultant – Unlimited Experiences SA (Pty) Ltd

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