A customer walks into your business and your customer service associate offers a warm, "Good afternoon! How can I help you, sir?"
The customer speaks, "I'm here to...." but, in that moment, the associate realizes that the guest is transgender and quickly responds, "I mean, ma'am. I'm sorry! I didn't mean any offense. I'm new here and not used to..." and perhaps goes on and on.
Awkward. For everyone.
The guest may feel like an alien, further embarrassed by the associate's over-apology. The associate may feel like a fool and fear for their job. No one wins and the guest may be reluctant to return to that establishment.
Face it, this is going to happen -- but it doesn't have to be so damn awkward. The associate should take a simple approach and apologize quickly and move on. Over-apologies drag out the drama when both parties would rather discuss something else. You are exposing your brand when your front line team isn't trained or aware of their own unconscious bias.
What is unconscious bias? Well, the associate certainly didn't intend to offend. Most people don't. But it happens because of the way our brains have been programmed by years of stimuli, in this case, placing others in boxes of either "male" or "female". An unconscious bias training will increase your employees awareness of these situations and give them tools to effectively communicate with their guests and team.