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How to stop customer discrimination in its tracks

by , 05 March 2014
This past weekend, a female airline pilot working in Canada became the victim of one passenger's blatant sexism. After piloting a flight, she found a note from a male passenger, stating that 'the cockpit of an airliner is no place for a woman'.

Workplace discrimination isn't limited to the internal relationships between your staff. Customers too, could be guilty of discrimination against one of your employees. But should you let such an incident slide, just to keep the customer happy?

Definitely not, say the team behind the Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf. After all, as the employer, you're legally responsible for ensuring that discrimination doesn't occur in the workplace. And if your employee has been discriminated against by a customer, you have a responsibility to take action.

This is easier said than done, since you can't discipline the customer the same way you would discipline the employee! And you don't want to drive customers away.

But there are steps you can take to ensure the employee's rights are protected, while also keeping customers satisfied.

4 smart tips to tackle customer discrimination

1.       Support your employee
Nobody likes to be discriminated against and treated poorly!
If your employee feels that you're not supporting him, he'll feel that he isn't cared for. And he's less likely to be the loyal, hard-working employee you need to boost your business's bottom line.

On the other hand, if he sees that you genuinely care about his plight and will take steps to make things right, he'll be more loyal to the business.

2.       Tactfully let the customer know his comments or behaviour aren't acceptable
Keep your cool, of course, so things don't get out of hand. Explain to the customer that racist, sexist or other such discriminatory actions are not acceptable in your workplace, as it's just not a part of your workplace culture.

And hey, sometimes the customer's gotta go! If the customer has a problem being served by say, black customer service agents, and 90% of your staff is black, this customer is going to be an ongoing source of troubles for you. After all, his expectation that he'll be served by only Europeans is very unrealistic. Rather let him go.

3.       Get to the root of the problem
Find out what the customer needs or wants, and resolve his problem quickly if possible. When a customer's frustrated by a glitch with your product or service, he'll lash out at your staff out of frustration.

4.       Train your staff to deal with customer discrimination
If your employees know how to handle an inflammatory situation effectively, you'll have fewer problems with customers. For example, they should keep their cool, irrespective of the level of the customer's discrimination against them. And they should seek out a manager or supervisor who can take control of the situation with more authority than they might have.

Put these four tips into practice today to get a handle on rude and discriminatory customers, and you'll successfully protect the rights of your employees too!

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