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Young woman who suffers from mental health diseases is sitting on the floor. Girl surrounded by symptoms of depression disorder: anxiety, crisis, tears, exhaustion, loss, overworked, tired.

It’s hard to believe quite how much has changed in the mere week since I shared my last note with you all. We have a new Prime Minister, our third in just seven weeks, and the sense of anxiety about our nation’s future feels acute. In the face of such upheaval, not to mention the impact of the soaring cost of living on our daily lives, it is inevitable that customers will be feeling anxious and frustrated. However, I was saddened to see the latest results of our ‘Service with Respect’ campaign polling reveal a worrying spike in abuse towards customer facing staff.

Whilst frustration with the current situation is understandable, directing that frustration at service staff is not. Let us all remember that our customer facing colleagues are facing the very same challenges as the people they are trying to help. They deserve to be treated with the same level of respect, in a working environment free from hostility and abuse.

Whilst reports of spiking abuse towards our frontline staff are of course shocking on a human level, they also present a real and concerning threat to our nation’s economic stability. Our polling found a staggering two in five (40%) service workers are considering or have considered leaving their roles because of the abuse they have faced. With 61% of the UK’s employees working in customer-facing roles, the potential collapse of basic service provision this threatens should not be overlooked.

As leaders, we have to see this as a stark wakeup call and find ways to protect and support our frontline employees, as well as maintaining and delivering appropriate levels of customer service, in what we all know is a very challenging environment for customers and business. This has in my mind never been more important – as customers seek greater levels of support, advice, and reassurance on everything, from cheaper alternatives to managing their payments.

Whilst we are delighted to have been successful in our call for a change of law to mean tougher sentencing for people who commit assaults “against a person providing a public service, performing a public duty or providing services to the public” – we understand that real change does not happen overnight. And real change requires real commitment. I urge you all to join us in adopting a zero-tolerance approach to abuse and ensuring the appropriate reporting mechanisms and training are in place within your organisations to safeguard our frontline colleagues, so we can all work together for a better outcome for customers, employees and our wider society.

Jo Causon

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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