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Employees Facing Increased Customer Hostility As Lockdown Eases
  • New research reveals more than half of customer-facing employees have experienced increased hostility from customers during the coronavirus crisis
  • Two-thirds of customer facing staff feel under greater pressure as they’re being asked to perform extra duties, some of which may carry increased risk of conflict
  • Research comes as the Home Secretary unveils plans to crack down on abuse and violence by customers against shop workers
  • Institute of Customer Service warns these measures do not go far enough – and calls on the government to create a new offence for people who abuse customer service workers

As COVID-19 lockdown measures ease and more businesses open their doors, new research reveals customer-facing staff have been subject to increasing levels of hostility, with more than half (56%) having experienced abuse from customers during the pandemic.

According to research of 1,000 customer service workers and 1,000 members of the public, customer-facing employees are under increased pressure as a result of the crisis. 71% feel the requirements of their role have changed – with additional responsibility for things that may increase the risk of conflict, such as ensuring social distancing measures are adhered to (51%) and dealing with concerns from frustrated customers (30%).

The findings show that customer priorities are overwhelming about the health and safety of both customers (74%) and staff (71%). The next most important issue for customers was providing support for vulnerable customers (45%).

The research comes as Home Secretary, Priti Patel unveils plans to crack down on abuse and violence by customers against shop workers. However, the Institute of Customer Service warns these plans do not go far enough – and is calling on the Government to create a new offence for those who abuse/threaten/assault customer service professionals workers in-person or on the phone. The campaign also encourages businesses to ensure investment is in place to equip staff with the necessary training and tools to handle the increased requirements of their role, as well as urging customers to adjust their expectations and consider the impact of their behaviour during the ongoing crisis.

Jo Causon, CEO of The Institute of Customer Service, comments, “The critical role of customer-facing employees has been thrust into the forefront during the recent pandemic. They have, quite literally, been keeping the lights on, feeding the nation and keeping our transport systems running. It is important that we do all we can to support and protect these essential workers, through adopting a zero tolerance approach to any hostility and abuse and equipping them with the skills they need to handle the increasingly challenging duties they are being asked to perform.

There is a real opportunity for organisations and government to ‘build back better’ by protecting and supporting employees – and for us as consumers to recognise and appreciate the great job that the majority of customer-facing staff do.’’

Please see our ‘Service with Respect’ campaign page for more information.

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