Following last week’s Conservative Party Conference, the intense scrutiny on Liz Truss and her Government shows no sign of abating as both politicians and members of the public voice their concerns. Like the rest of the country, they face hefty challenges and difficult choices, with different opinions and a wide range of impacts and consequences of any decisions they make.
Widespread industrial action over pay and the rising cost of living is set to come to a head this autumn as new laws permitting the use of agency workers to break strikes come into play. As a result, both employers and employees will increasingly find themselves thrust into the frontline of entrenched and opposing worldviews.
As customer service professionals, the emotional and physical wellbeing of our colleagues must come first. Effectively evaluating the customer benefit of offering limited services must be balanced against the heightened risk of exposing less experienced staff to potential abuse. Whether managers or agency workers, those stepping into unfamiliar roles must be backed with the same level of support as those whose shoes they are temporarily filling.
Last Tuesday was Service with Respect Day, which has been an important part of National Customer Service Week for the last two years. Actions however speak louder than words, and we need to see continued commitment from leaders on the practical steps being taken to safeguard our frontline colleagues. Such steps include robust reporting procedures, training to handle demanding situations and improving recognition of the ways in which we can all play a part in protecting colleagues.
Consider potential flashpoints that you take a zero-tolerance approach to hostility and abuse against your employees. All incidents should be treated seriously and where appropriate reported as the crimes they are and make sure all potential front-line staff have received appropriate training and tools for staff to handle potential conflict as it arises.
Civil society is founded on the ability to disagree without suspending our protection and respect for others. As tensions rachet up, there is something that the role that the customer experience can play in that – for better or worse. As we pull together as a Service Nation through this winter, I sincerely hope that while disagreement sadly looks inevitable, avoiding disrespect – and its cousin, abuse – is firmly within our grasp.