A joint report by the Australian Human Rights Commission and Deloitte, titled Missing out: The business case for customer diversity, found that one in three customers from a diverse background had walked away from a purchase because they felt the business had not treated them fairly or respectfully.
Additionally, the report found that customer loyalty is also suffering because of a lack of inclusiveness.
“Equality, fairness and respect are fundamental values in our community. This report now shows us how important they are to businesses and their bottom line, especially in our increasingly empowered marketplace,” says Professor Gillian Triggs, president of the Australian Human Rights Commission.
Marketing campaigns that promoted equality and diversity, such as the Tiffany rings campaign for marriage equality and Audi’s Super Bowl advertisement promoting gender equality, were lauded as generating positive publicity for those respective businesses.
“The old advertising mantra was ’sex sells’. Now, it’s ‘equality sells’,” says Deloitte human capital partner and co-author of the report, Juliet Bourke.
“Two forces are at play. First, in a diverse and globally accessible marketplace, customers have choices. Unfortunately, organisations often imagine customers come in one shape and size. Our diversity has been overlooked. And that’s a huge opportunity.
“Second, many customers feel alienated by political messages of disrespect. We want to express our humanity and we can do that with our buying choices and the brands we support.”
Highlighting the diversity of our society, the report demonstrated that Australia comprises:
• An equal mix of males and females
• 11 per cent identify as LGBT
• 18 per cent live with a disability
• 3 per cent are indigenous Australians
• 11 per cent are from a non-European background
Key facts on what consumers say about equality and diversity:
• 41 per cent of those surveyed feel that businesses treat customers respectfully regardless of personal characteristics.
• One in five respondents ceased a transaction in the previous 12 months due to a feeling of being treated with disrespect. This increased to one in three among customers who identified as being indigenous, living with a disability, practicing a noticeable faith or because of their sexuality.
• Negative customer stories included a mixture of active exclusion and subconscious biases.
• Almost half of the respondents identifying as gay, lesbian or bisexual, and 42 per cent of those who practice a noticeable faith said their needs were often unmet in the previous 12 months.
• The majority of affected businesses may not even realise they are doing anything wrong, given that 80 per cent of aggrieved customers regularly do not provide any feedback to the concerned business.
• Both positive and negative perceptions of a business and its promotion of diversity directly influenced a customer’s buying decisions.