Yesterday, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill gained Royal Assent and will pass into law. It included the amendment we have been campaigning for, which introduces harsher sentencing for assaults against public-facing workers. This is a landmark moment for not only the Institute, but also the wider Customer Service profession, and has been made possible through the perseverance and dogged determination of so many.
As something we’ve been campaigning for over the 18 months as part of our Service with Respect campaign, we’re delighted that Government has shown its commitment to this important topic. But the issue isn’t going to go away overnight.
In fact, our latest research suggests that a quarter of customer-facing professionals believe that customers will become more challenging over the next six months – with two-thirds highlighting the escalating cost of living crisis as one of the reasons for this. Whilst frustration with the current situation is understandable, directing that frustration at customer service staff is not. We must take the Government’s amendment as precisely what it is – a step in the right direction – and continue to call on employers, the police and CPS to do their utmost to protect essential frontline staff from ongoing hostility.
Sadly, the reality is that abuse against customer service staff remains high and is still underreported. Our latest research showed that half of customer-facing staff consistently do not report incidents of abuse and hostility, mainly because they don’t believe it would make a difference and because it happens too regularly to be worth reporting. I hope the law change may go some way to reduce these numbers, but note that this is just the first step to change.
The new law has the potential to empower customer service staff and alleviate some of their biggest apprehensions about the industry as a whole – abuse and hostility.
I would like to take this moment to thank the Institute’s members and campaign supporters. Without your support, this amendment would not have been possible.
However, this is just the beginning. As these changes come into force, we will need to publicise the new protections amongst staff and customers. We will work with the Home Office to monitor the impact of these changes as well as our ongoing research with customer service professionals. We encourage the police, CPS to take action where appropriate and the judiciary to use their new powers. Employers also need to continue adopting a zero-tolerance approach to hostility, and ensure their employees are adequately trained to handle difficult situations when they arise and supported in reporting these incidents.
To ensure customer service professionals are properly respected, we all have a part to play – as customers, employers, the judiciary and the Government.