Your customers are not the same. Should you treat them as if they were?

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When it comes to making your customers feel like you belong, equality isn’t always the goal. To be clear, there should be gender pay equity, people shouldn’t be discriminated against or racially profiled when shopping or living, and people shouldn’t have more trouble finding a job. jobs if their parents don’t have connections that can open doors. for them.

However, there are times when treating all of your customers the same can be detrimental to them. I did some research for a client a while ago who had a product for people with diabetes. I asked a health care provider if she had ever tailored her recommendations for her patients based on their cultural background. She looked at me dumbfounded and asked, “Why should I treat my patients differently?”

What she didn’t realize was that some of her diabetic patients with different cultural backgrounds than hers couldn’t understand her unique recommendation, especially when it came to meals. As a result, they did not act on his advice. Another physician I spoke with tailored his recommendations to the cultural backgrounds and lifestyles of his patients. She would go so far as to modify meal plans to make them culturally relevant. As a result, his patients performed better and their overall health improved.

I did another study for a client in the hospitality industry to find out when travelers felt at home when staying in a hotel, hostel, or B&B. One woman responded that she felt seen and cared for when she stayed at a hotel that reserved three floors only for women traveling alone. For added security they have adjusted it so that you can’t reach these floors via the elevator or stairwell without a key card.

In this case, treating women traveling alone differently offered greater peace of mind and security to an often vulnerable group.

Treating customers differently can also help ease their burden.

Recently when my family visited Argentina, we were delighted to be quickly directed to the priority line for immigration at the airport, as we were traveling with a toddler. I was also quickly referred to the same priority line when I was pregnant a few years earlier. Argentina does not treat pregnant women, families with young children or the elderly the same when it comes to queues, whether at the airport, the grocery store or the metro . Priority is always given to these groups.

As a business leader, take the time to proactively identify when it’s most appropriate to treat everyone the same and when it’s in the best interests of certain groups of your customers to treat them differently. .

Also, treating different groups of customers differently is nothing new in the business world. Think of loyalty programs where customers who buy more get increased access, preferred seats, upgrades and other priority benefits. People have fun when it comes to treating people differently because of certain demographics.

We need to get rid of this aversion for the sake of our customers.

Here are three steps to take to help you identify when equality for all is not the way to go.

1. Consider who you serve.

Don’t just think of your ideal clients from the perspective of the problem you’re helping them solve. Consider the different types of identities these customers have. For example, could your ideal customer be a pregnant woman, someone nursing a baby, or someone with allergies? Maybe they have a disability, a darker complexion, practice another religion, or are part of the LGBTQ+ community.

2. Practice empathy proactively.

Take the time to walk a mile in your customers’ shoes from the perspective of the identities you’ve noted. Develop a deep degree of intimacy with them by discovering how their experiences might be different or more difficult due to what makes them different from the masses.

Conversations, reviews, formal market research, and observations are all common ways to learn more about your customers’ plight. Simulations can also be useful. When I worked at a company, we made insulin pumps for people with diabetes. Those of us on the marketing team who weren’t diabetic spent a week wearing the product so we could understand what our customers’ experience was like.

3. Act on what you learn.

Create products, policies, and experiences that give people what they need, based on the aspects of their journey that make them different. Then, institutionalize your decisions, so everyone on the team knows how and why certain groups have access to resources that others don’t. The reaction of your customers will show that you did the right thing.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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