Enhancing DEI in Customer Experience
- AI optimism. Study finds 72% believe generative AI will enhance customer experiences.
- DEI impact. AI can bolster diversity, equity and inclusion in products and services.
- Bias reduction. Generative AI can help eliminate inherent biases in businesses.
In a recent Adobe survey in which 13,000 consumers and 4,250 customer experience and marketing professionals were surveyed, 72% of respondents say generative AI will improve their customer experiences. Optimism for generative AI was even higher with younger consumers, with 80% of millennials and 83% of Gen Z in agreement. Generative AI also promises to improve diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in a brand’s products and services, marketing and advertising campaigns, and hiring practices. This article will look at the ways that generative AI can enhance and improve DEI as part of the customer experience.
Why Is Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Important to CX?
The integration of DEI principles into CX is not just a moral obligation, but it has proven to also be beneficial for the success and sustainability of businesses. Aaron Rafferty, CEO at StandardDAO, a community-owned, decentralized treasury, told CMSWire that generative AI has transformative potential to bolster DEI across a wide range of industries, impacting customer experiences, marketing campaigns and hiring practices.
DEI enables a brand to expand the market reach of its products and services. When a brand’s products and services are designed with inclusion in mind, brands are likely to attract customers who might have been ignored or underserved by other companies, making them accessible and relatable to a wider audience. Customers often feel more satisfied with a product or service if they feel it caters to their specific needs.
Additionally, businesses with a diverse workforce encourage a culture of creativity and innovation, contributing to unique ideas that help to facilitate the creation of innovative products and services that can better meet the needs of a diverse customer base.
In the workplace, DEI means that a brand has a much wider range of options, solutions and innovation due to having people from different genders, races, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, geographic regions and cognitive processes. “In recruitment, companies are able to empower their managers for better results by focusing on a more holistic dataset that prioritizes qualifications over personal characteristics, reducing bias,” said Rafferty.
Teams with diverse backgrounds bring different perspectives and insights into customer needs and preferences, which is essential in an increasingly global and diverse market. When employees feel that they are working in an inclusive environment, they are likely to be more engaged and committed to their employer. This can lead to better customer interactions as engaged employees are often more attentive to customer needs.
Brands that embrace diversity and inclusion are generally viewed more favorably by the public. This can translate into stronger customer loyalty and brand preference, as people are more likely to support businesses that align with their values. Embracing DEI is about being a socially responsible company. It reflects the brand’s commitment to playing a positive role in society, and customers are increasingly considering social responsibility and values as a factor in their purchasing decisions.
Related Article: 3 Ways Diversity Improves the Customer Experience
Generative AI Can Enhance Product and Service Offerings
Similar to how DEI plays a big role in enhancing a brand’s diverse and inclusive product and service offerings, generative AI will do the same. When generative AI is trained on diverse datasets, it is able to create content that is culturally adaptive and relevant to diverse audiences. “Generative AI produces representative and specific marketing content, appealing to a broader demographic but at a more personalized level,” said Rafferty.
Additionally, generative AI can be used to accurately translate product information and communications into multiple languages, making products and services more accessible to a globally diverse audience.
AI can also be used to generate designs that conform to accessibility standards. For example, generative AI can suggest design modifications to make websites or apps more usable for people with disabilities, such as adding alternative text for images or ensuring sufficient color contrast.
Many brands incorporate human imagery in marketing and digital platforms. Using generative AI, they can generate or modify images and videos to mirror audience diversity, including different races, genders and abilities, enhancing both marketing assets and web content with inclusive representation.
Related Article: Where Are Marketers on the Generative AI Adoption Curve?
Use Generative AI to Eliminate Inherent Biases
The idea of using AI to eliminate inherent biases isn’t new, but the evolution of AI has many people optimistic that this can now be achieved. A 2023 Pew Research survey revealed that 53% of those who see racial bias as a problem in hiring believe that it would get better if businesses used AI more in the hiring process.
“Biased inputs will invariably lead to biased outputs,” said Rafferty. “Thus, companies need to invest in curating broad, representative datasets and implementing robust auditing practices to ensure their AI output remains unbiased.” It’s important to train the AI on diverse datasets and actively monitor and adjust its performance to avoid these unintended biases. This will ensure that the AI genuinely contributes to enhancing diversity and inclusion in product and service offerings. “The benefits of output are intrinsically tied to the quality and diversity of the input data,” explained Rafferty.
Along with eliminating biases, AI can be used to assist the disadvantaged to earn a living. Bars Juhasz, co-founder, AI programmer and designer at Undetectable AI, an AI writing tool, told CMSWire that generative AI will help with inclusiveness and diversity by creating jobs for people who are disadvantaged. “People who suffer from disabilities, and people who have not been fortunate enough to receive privileged higher education will be able to supercharge their productivity, learning, communication, and creative capabilities with the help of AI,” said Juhasz.
Terri Hatcher, chief diversity and inclusion officer at NTT DATA Services, an end-to-end digital transformation services provider, told CMSWire that for AI, DEI needs to be a factor at the idea and design stage, not the testing stage. “That means including diverse perspectives during development and new product brainstorms,” said Hatcher. “If you don’t have diverse product developers from the start, there will almost certainly be biases baked into the product design.” Hatcher suggested that this has implications far beyond just the tech industry, as AI becomes more a part of our everyday personal lives — in healthcare, in court cases, in facial recognition software, etc. “In each of those scenarios, accidental biases in the programming and design could be incredibly harmful to marginalized groups of people.”
Related Article: Dealing With AI Biases, Part 1: Acknowledging the Bias
The Challenges of Generative AI for DEI
An AI model is only as good as the data that it has been trained on, so when it comes to DEI, it must be baked into the mix from the beginning.
Janelle James, a tech-focused DEI specialist and senior VP at Ipsos, a multinational market research and consulting firm, told CMSWire that the teams that build products using AI must be cross-cultural, and the data that trains the models must be cross-cultural in order for the output or the experience to be inclusive or cater to a broad variety of audiences.
“AI can only make a customer service experience more inclusive, or equitable, or more accessible to a broader group of people if the needs and experiences of those excluded and underrepresented people are accounted for in the AI models,” explained James.
Most marketers are familiar with the 2018 fiasco that Amazon created by using AI to prescreen prospective employees, where the AI selected people based on biases that were present in the data that was used to train the AI. Amazon stopped using AI for prescreening at that point and went back to using human agents.
In the five years since the Amazon AI blunder, AI, and particularly generative AI, has evolved to the point where it can actually play a positive role in hiring practices. Casey Jones, founder and head of marketing and finance at CJ&CO, told CMSWire that he believes that generative AI can be instrumental in reducing biases. “Generative AI can ensure that candidates are evaluated based on their skills and qualifications rather than their race, gender, or other irrelevant factors,” suggested Jones, adding that this leads to a more diverse and inclusive workforce, which can lead to more diverse and inclusive products and services.
“Generative AI can help eliminate unconscious bias in marketing and advertising campaigns,” said Jones. “By analyzing past campaigns and identifying patterns of bias, AI can guide the creation of more inclusive content. This promotes diversity and resonates with a broader audience, enhancing the overall customer experience.”
With its ability to analyze and learn from vast amounts of data, Jones said that generative AI is revolutionizing how CJ&CO approaches DEI in the customer experience. “It’s not just about better understanding our diverse customer base; it’s about creating a more personalized, inclusive, and equitable experience for every customer,” said Jones.
Jones said that his firm is using AI to create more inclusive and equitable experiences for their client’s customers. “One of our most successful applications of generative AI was when we were tasked with creating a brand campaign for a client targeting a demographic in a region we had little prior experience with,” said Jones. “Instead of relying on traditional research methods, we turned to AI.” The AI analyzed a wealth of data from various sources, and was able to provide CJ&CO with detailed insights into the demographics and psychographics of the target audience. “It then suggested the most effective ad strategies, audience targeting parameters, and optimal times for ad placements.”
Final Thoughts on DEI and Generative AI
When it is responsibly developed and implemented, generative AI holds immense potential to improve and enhance DEI in customer experiences by tailoring products, services, and marketing to a diverse audience. Ensuring unbiased and representative datasets, hiring diverse development teams, and continually monitoring AI for unintended biases are crucial. Brands must embrace this intersection of generative AI and DEI as essential, as it not only enhances customer satisfaction but also reflects a commitment to social responsibility and inclusivity.