Supplier Diversity & DEI in the Contact Center: Achieving Inclusive Excellence

7 minute read, posted on 08/25/2023, by VXI Marketing

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) has become ingrained into the very fabric of our social consciousness – but that doesn’t mean companies are doing it right. Similarly, supplier diversity – promoting the inclusion of diverse suppliers within an organization – often falls by the wayside. Too often, this happens because organizations treat supplier diversity.

But an organization conducive to inclusion isn’t just adopting a fad: they are actively working to improve morale, tap into an otherwise limited talent pool, and are simply doing the right thing.

Understanding Supplier Diversity & DEI

Supplier diversity and DEI are hot topics in businesses around the world, but it’s worth taking a bird’s eye view of their definitions and purposes:

Supplier Diversity: This refers to the intentional inclusion of businesses owned by underrepresented groups within a company’s supply chain. These businesses may be minority-owned, women-owned, LGBTQ+-owned, or more. The overarching goal for supplier diversity initiatives is to promote equitable economic and growth opportunities for historically marginalized groups.

Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI): DEI works to ensure that all individuals have equal access to opportunities within their organization, regardless of their background. Diversity focuses on the presence of differences, equity works to address those differences fairly, and inclusion cultivates an environment in which those diverse voices are heard and valued.

Supplier Diversity & DEI in the Contact Center

Outsourcing is in high demand, both for brands looking to hire call center vendors for the first time and for experienced buyers. One of the many driving forces for this demand is the opportunity to access a far wider talent pool both nearshore and offshore, as well as a greater likelihood of getting the right people in the right roles.

Just as important, your customers are diverse and expect you to treat them as people, not numbers. And in the contact center industry, which both employs and supports people from all walks of life, neglecting supplier diversity and DEI can have major implications. When you get it right though, your organization will be far better suited to provide outstanding experiences while maintaining high ethical standards:

You’ll improve the customer experience. The contact center is often the first point of contact between a brand and its customers. When that contact center prioritizes a workforce that reflects its diverse customer base, continuously works to foster empathy and cultural understanding, and trains its agents to communicate more effectively, the customers they support will feel understood and valued – leading to higher customer satisfaction (CSAT).

You’ll understand cultural nuances. Supplier diversity ensures that businesses engage with partners that understand and respect the cultural nuances of different communities. That understanding translates to better training and support for contact center agents, who will be better equipped to interact with customers with sensitivity and empathy.

You’ll forge new partnerships. DEI initiatives should extend beyond your internal organization into your supplier network. Doing so creates new business opportunities with underrepresented suppliers and helps facilitate their growth as entrepreneurs. Partnering with diverse suppliers will offer fresh perspectives and a broader network of skills and talent.

You’ll enhance your brand reputation. Companies that value supplier diversity and DEI initiatives will be in a better position to navigate risks to their reputation. People are more attuned to companies’ social consciousness than ever before, and therefore take note when a brand is not committing to social responsibility. When you can clearly show your dedication to diversity, equity, and inclusion, you’ll give your image a boost and be more likely to protect yourself from negative publicity.

You’ll gain access to new markets. A broader network of partnerships and suppliers will inevitably lead to inroads with new companies, industries, and geographies. Make sure your supplier diversity and DEI priorities shine through in your bidding process – particularly with industries that incentivize or require diversity in the supply chain.

5 Steps to Implementing Supplier Diversity & DEI in the Contact Center

You can’t sit back passively and expect your supplier network and internal staff to embody DEI. It requires proactive planning, clear communication, and regular introspection. Here are a few ways to ensure you’re setting yourself up for sustainable social responsibility:

#1: Be Conscious When Choosing Suppliers

In your discovery, exploration, and contract-bidding processes, actively seek out brands that align with your internal values. Look at potential partners’ leadership teams, the makeup of their workforce, and what they are actively doing to effect social change.

#2: Work Collaboratively

Make sure your partnerships are grounded in collaboration. Encourage an open-door policy through which your suppliers can freely articulate their capabilities, the challenges they are facing, and any improvements that can be made on either side.

#3: Educate & Train

Your values mean little if you aren’t educating your employees on how to personify them. Offer consistent diversity and cultural competency training in conjunction with operations training. As a result, your workforce will be more effective at navigating diverse customer interactions.

#4: Measure the Results

Introduce metrics that track how effective your DEI initiatives truly are. These may be regular internal and public-facing surveys, customer satisfaction ratings across languages or geographies, or any number of measurement indicators. And be transparent: your employees and partners will appreciate you candidly sharing your challenges and successes.

#5: Enact Inclusive Policies

This may be obvious but should not be overlooked. Whether your DEI standards are brand new or long-standing, ensure they are reflected in your policies and procedures – including day-to-day operations, criteria for identifying new suppliers, and your code of conduct.

Challenges & Outlook

The benefits to supplier diversity and DEI are undeniable, but that doesn’t mean you won’t face growing pains along the way. You may find that identifying diverse suppliers is a challenge, especially in some industries. You may struggle to implement the right metrics to measure your efforts more effectively. And of course, you may be met with some resistance internally. But these challenges should not be an excuse not to prioritize social consciousness in your company – and the rewards will far outweigh the required efforts.

Diversity is integral to the contact center. From the worldwide operations base to the worldwide customer base it supports, the contact center relies on inclusivity and empathy as fundamental pillars. Many customer care interactions are becoming automated through chatbots, self-service solutions, and a more complete knowledge management program. This means that when customers do interact with a live agent, the ability to connect on a human level will define how successful those interactions are. When your agents are more culturally competent, they will be better suited to handle even the most difficult interactions with empathy and care.

The VXI Way  

At VXI, bridging the divide between talent and opportunity is integral to our mission and history. As a minority-owned business, we believe in offering employment and growth opportunities to underrepresented groups across the globe. By creating one job in an underserved area, it creates nearly three more – amplifying our ability to create growth and fuel opportunity for our people. This is grounded in our mission of providing high-quality, socially driven customer experiences to all.

One example of making a difference in underserved communities is embodied in our partnership with a leading U.S. healthcare provider. VXI and our client purposefully established operations in areas with high unemployment rates to create opportunities for local residents. This not only meant the creation of new jobs, but it also introduced financial literacy initiatives, credit-repair courses, and first-time home buyer assistance. Our joint efforts led to lower operating costs, improved customer satisfaction, and over 1,000 jobs over a six-year period – while generating over $100 million for those communities through the multiplier effect. Learn more about it here.

As an NMSDC-certified business process outsourcer (BPO) with more than 40,000 people employed around the world, we’re committed to being a socially conscious company, backed by our words and actions. By effecting change through a winning business model, we put people first – from our employees to the diverse range of customers they support.

Learn more about VXI’s purpose-led mission.

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