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By Jo Causon, CEO, The Institute of Customer Service

It is now ten weeks since we launched our Service with Respect campaign in response to the worrying rise in instances of hostility being faced by customer service staff throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. It is therefore both gratifying and concerning to me, that this week we have hit the milestone of 100 organisations backing our call for a change in the law. Gratifying to see such widespread support, and concerning that so many of Britain’s leading companies share our concerns over the level of hostility faced daily by our nation’s service workers.

I have a similar sense of ambivalence toward the new three-tier system of local lockdown measures for England to help keep the spread of coronavirus under control. I feel a sense of pride that the essential workers we represent remain at the front line regardless of whether their region is at “medium”, “high” or “very high” alert. Yet I also feel a sense of discomfort that while many of us are working from home, we continue to ask ever more from those whose in a frontline roles – whether physical or remote -to sustain our service nation.

Those enduring working with face coverings, and dealing with an increasingly frustrated and disenfranchised public are continuing to face unacceptable levels of abuse that cannot be tolerated. Our customer service professionals deserve respect and protection from abuse, they also deserve our gratitude. As the country moves to a tiered system relying on frontline employees such as train and bus drivers, retail and restaurant workers to continue to travel to work, we should ensure they receive the protection and respect they deserve to safely carry out their crucial roles.

We will not pause in our call for the government to do more to protect these vital workers. We will continue to work with our members and campaign supporters to celebrate those stepping up to ensure their colleagues have the support and training to see us through the next phase of this pandemic.

None of this, of course, exonerates an organisation from failing to provide adequate levels of service. As we approach Christmas, and the furlough scheme draws to a close, household finances will come under ever greater pressure. It is key, that those in the frontline for financial service providers, utility firms and retailers continue to act with sympathy and understanding while they themselves are under immense pressure. Excellent customer service matters not only because it delivers better financial results, but because it helps us draw together as a nation and builds trust between us.

While we may each hold our own opinions on the efficacy and approach of government in tackling the invidious situation in which we find ourselves, I hope that we continue to remain of one mind as to the importance of customer service professionals in the frontline of tackling the pandemic.

If you would like to support our campaign – and your organisation doesn’t have to be a member to do so – please let us know here.

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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