Do women behave the same way in the office as they do at home? Is their buying process the same whether they are buying products and services for their home, or products and services for their company?
Deloitte & Touche is trying to find out.
According this Wall Street Journal article, Deloitte & Touche USA LLP has implemented a new program in conjunction with Marti Barletta’s TrendSight Group, to better understand the needs of female clients and train employees on how to treat them like, well, females.
Deloitte began offering four-hour workshops on gender differences to its employees last year. Among its other suggestions:
Don’t be frustrated if female clients reevaluate or modify their initial requests; because they discover as they shop, women may be very receptive to suggestions about other services.
Women clients want to know and trust their consultants personally as well as professionally; sharing personal details can help build trust.
Women often prefer business lunches to dinners, because they tend to have more responsibilities at home. And they may be more receptive to evening social invitations if asked with sufficient time to make arrangements at home.
Body language differs by gender. Men tend to stare as they listen and nod to signify they understand. Women may nod when they don’t yet understand to encourage the speaker to keep talking. And while consultants often seat themselves beside a male client as their “right hand man,” women are more comfortable seated face to face.
There’s certainly some valuable insight here. I do believe Deloitte will see some positive results. And I applaud any company willing to spend the time and money to truly understand their customers and their customers’ needs.
One point I found particularly interesting was the suggestion that you bring “subordinates” into meetings, so your female clients can meet the people they well be working with. I agree whole heartedly. Women do want to meet the actual people who will be doing the work. But what really interested me was the use of the word “subordinates.” (Can you say “male communication style“?) That’s a loaded word. It implies hierarchy, status, and that such people are “less than.” Be very careful with your choice of words.
There are two things I hope Deloitte will be careful of:
1.) You don’t want women to feel patronized.
2.) You don’t want your employees to stereotype female clients.
This last point is very important. As I’ve found in my research, there’s no such thing as “all women want this” or “all women do that.” Automatically treating someone a specific way just because she’s a woman is dangerous.
I do think there’s some valuable insight that has come from this training program. I’ll be very interested to see the results and feedback Deloitte gets from their female clients.
In the meantime, be sure to read Tami Anderson’s perspective, and let us know what you think of Deloitte’s research in the comments.