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Customer Preference

An orthodox Jewish customer called at a customer advice centre and refused to deal with a female member of staff. At the time all available customer facing staff were female. The female staff were upset and felt discriminated against. What should the employer have done?

What the employer did:

The organisation hasn't fully resolved this issue. They have taken the line that they will try to accommodate the requirements of a customer's religious beliefs as far as they understand them, and as far as the business is able. But while they can do this if advised in advance, with 'cold calls' they can only aim to provide services with the staff available at that time.

EFB Comment:

The approach taken by the organisation is this instance is sensible. There are considerable challenges in managing what may appear to be conflicting pressures from different aspects of diversity, as here between gender on the one hand and religion & belief on the other.

It may be beneficial to consult employee networks, where they exist, to examine the business priorities and agree principles. Some organisations may take the view that they can not accommodate these belief based customer requirements because they are contrary to the company's value set which promotes equal respect to all employees. Other organisations may take the view that the customer's requirements must be accommodated.

Try to help all staff understand other people's views and beliefs on this - training and open discussion is essential.