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It has been a busy week at The Institute, as we have launched the latest round of research as part of our ongoing Service with Respect campaign. Sadly, it had not painted a positive picture, with nearly half of our frontline service staff reporting having experienced hostility from customers over the past six months.

Such reports are incredibly disheartening. As the cost of living crisis continues to rage on and as some organisations struggle to meet the evolving needs of their customers, anxiety and frustration is understandable – but taking such frustrations out customer-facing staff is not. With a quarter (25%) of those service workers we polled believing their role will become even more challenging in the next six months, we as leaders have a key role to play in ensuring such abuse does not become endemic in our society.

Protecting our frontline staff is of course the right thing to do on a human level, but it also has a critical business impact. Nearly half (44%) of employees who we victims of customer hostility report they are considering, or have considered, leaving their role due to it – a record high since we began our campaign in 2020.

With organisations already struggling to attract and retain talent across all sectors; a widespread departure from customer service roles is a loss of talent we cannot afford – and poses a serious threat to our nation’s service economy.

What’s more, the way organisations treat their people has an increasing impact on how they are viewed by both customers and stakeholders. With less disposable income, customers are becoming more discerning with where they spend their money – and organisations understand that displaying a social conscience has become an ever more powerful lever for consumer spending.

For the future health of our organisations, and our society, we cannot let such treatment of our frontline staff continue – and we, as leaders, colleagues and customers have the power to stand up and support them. Whilst we have been successful in pushing for a change in the law to stiffen the penalties for offenders, it is clear there is more work to be done, and I urge you all to adopt a zero-tolerance approach to such behaviour. You should also ensure your staff are adequately trained and supported to handle challenging situations. At the Institute, we will continue to campaign to ensure our nation’s service professionals receive they deserve.

Jo joined The Institute as its CEO in 2009. She has driven membership growth by 150 percent and established the UK Customer Satisfaction Index as the country’s premier indicator of consumer satisfaction, providing organisations with an indicator of the return on their service strategy investment.

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