customer service

Best Practices for LGBTQ Inclusive Meetings and Events

Photo by Lori Tenney

Photo by Lori Tenney

Last week I spoke at the Meeting Planners International wonderful event, World Education Congress. You can read the article here. I spoke about the increasing gender diversity within workforces, and how that can significantly impact meetings and events - even non-LGBTQ events. Every event will have some LGBTQ attendees and it's important to aware of how this can impact your event.

Here are 5 best practices to create LGBTQ-inclusive meetings and events:

Train your front line employees to understand the fluidity of gender, remove gendered language from greetings, and serve guests whose presentation might not match their ID. For some specific tips, check out this blog post, A Person Walks into a Store...

Include pronoun identification as part of the event registration process and show pronouns on name badges, or offer as stickers at the registration desk. You can see an example from a recent Google event in the image above. Singular pronouns are no longer just he or she. Many people are identifying with the pronoun, "they." Read this post for more specific tips on using "they." 

Update your forms to include ‘Other’ as a third gender option, and gender neutral honorifics (such as Mx). Many companies are now understanding that great customer service starts with great policies that provide diverse gender options on forms. Check out this post for more specifics on how to do this and this one on gender neutral honorifics.

Allow guests to choose the restroom of their actual gender identity and create at least one gender- neutral restroom in the event space. This could mean re-branding multi-stall or single stall restrooms as gender neutral. Check out this post for some creative options.

Promote your destination, property, and/or event as an LGBTQ-welcoming space by including the community in marketing images, and using inclusive language. This means showing real life photos of real life LGBTQ folks in marketing, not just cheesy stock photos. This also means showing the diversity of the LGBTQ community in imagery, not just gay men or lesbians. Ft. Lauderdale is an excellent case study in attracting transgender travelers and events to the city.

The bottom line is to lead with inclusivity and brand loyalty and repeat attendees will follow!

For more information on any of these topics, contact us today!

 

A Person Walks into a Store...

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. 

Hey Guys

"Hey Guys!"

We've all heard it and most of us probably use it. And while "guys" generally doesn't literally mean "men", it's still important to consider language when greeting groups of people.

The greetings that follow are much more "gendered" than "guys" - and can be risky if one or more of the people in the group is transgender or gender nonconforming. 

  • "Hey Girls!"
  • "What can I get for you ladies?"
  • "How are you doing tonight, gentlemen?"

Imagine a situation where a group approaches a host stand at a restaurant and the host opens with, "Good evening, ladies!" - yet one of the group is a trans man or non-binary. That guest will probably feel quite uncomfortable. In fact, one of our survey respondents shared, "As a trans man, I've been called "ma'am" or included in a greeting of 'ladies' when with my wife, and it makes me want to never return to that establishment. Using gender-neutral terms can be more comfortable for everybody."

What's a more successful approach?

The best approach is to keep language neutral. Here are some better greetings in that same scenario where a group approaches a host stand:

  • "Hi everybody!"
  • "What can I get for you folks?"
  • "How can I help you?"

Language matters, and offending guests - even accidentally - can be a costly mistake. Training employees to make a simple change to use non-gendered language can immediately create an atmosphere where everyone feels welcome - and minimize the risk to your brand.

What Would You Do?

A recent episode of the ABC show "What Would You Do?" is very illustrative of a situation that can happen anywhere. In this episode, a transgender woman is shopping at a clothing store and is mistreated by the store clerk. Both are actors. Customers (who are not actors) witness the negative attitude and behavior of the clerk and, in every single scene that is broadcast, speak up and come to the shopper's defense. It's beautiful and remarkable. You can watch the clip below.

Sadly, this is something transgender shoppers experience regularly. Sometimes it's the customers with the bad attitude and sometimes it's the clerk. Unfortunately, in 29 states, it's perfectly legal for a business to refuse services to a customer such as this trans woman (or any other person who is LGBTQ, or perceived to be). 

How have your employees been prepared to effectively serve transgender customers and resolve conflicts that may arise?