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Unconscious Bias in Customer Service

Avoiding Assumptions So You Don’t Accidentally Offend Your Customers

Shep Hyken interviews Bernadette Smith. They discuss how inclusion and diversity training can create a better customer experience.

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Top Takeaways:

  • Unconscious bias affects the way we think about others without being fully aware of it. It causes people to make assumptions about others that may or may not be true.
  • Frontline employees must be trained to be aware of their unconscious biases. When employees act on incorrect assumptions, it can potentially offend customers.
  • In today’s digital world, anything and everything can be filmed, put on the internet and go viral. This can turn into a PR nightmare for any company.
  • There is a difference between proactive training and reactive Proactive training takes place up front in an effort to prevent negative situations from arising. Reactive training occurs after there is a problem.
  • If an incident occurs, companies absolutely need to respond with reactive training. However, too few companies take advantage of proactive training for frontline employees.
  • Mistakes will happen; this is inevitable. It’s how a company handles the aftermath that is really important.
  • The best thing to do to avoid accidentally offending customers is to ask them questions. Ask questions from a position of curiosity, rather than confrontation, to better understand the situation and avoid making incorrect assumptions.
  • Our brains process information and make connections very quickly, whether or not those connections make sense. Pause, take a breath, and think for a moment before judging a situation and reacting.
  • Becoming aware of unconscious bias and avoiding assumptions is not difficult, nor does it take too much time. Anyone and everyone can do it.
  • Diversity and inclusion training can and should be incorporated into a company’s culture, core values and existing training. View it as another way to provide excellent customer service.


“To help avoid the mistake of acting with unconscious bias, ask better questions and lead with curiosity instead of confrontation.”

“Take a breath and stop to think before you make an assumption. It really is that simple.”

“You can’t provide excellent customer service when you are making incorrect assumptions about your customers.”


Bernadette Smith is the founder, president and CEO of Equality Institute. She is also an award-winning author of three books and will release her fourth book in 2020.

Shep Hyken is a customer service and experience expert, New York Times bestselling author, award-winning keynote speaker, and your host of Amazing Business Radio.

This episode of Amazing Business Radio with Shep Hyken answers the following questions … and more:

  1. How can I avoid offending my customers?
  2. What is diversity training?
  3. What is unconscious bias?
  4. How can I make my customers feel welcome?

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