Hostility to many customer-facing staff and its effects on mental health is “deeply concerning”, the chief executive of the Institute of Customer Service (ICS) has said.
CEO Jo Causon said that the institute was calling for assault of customer-facing workers to be made a new standalone offence.
While many organisations had worker wellbeing policies, Causon said in a statement on the ICS website, research carried out as part of the institute’s ‘Service With Respect’ campaign had shown that many customer-facing staff continued to regularly face hostility.
“Worryingly, such instances have led to many reporting having suffered mental health issues, with reports ranging from loss of sleep and motivation through to anxious thoughts and vivid flashbacks,” she said.
In the statement Causon welcomed the initiatives by many organisations to promote mental wellbeing in their workforce, but that added they needed to be more than just one-off activities.
Sustained support of worker mental and physical wellbeing would increase employee engagement, satisfaction, and productivity, as well improve staff retention and help recruitment. Hybrid working means businesses must ensure they regularly check in with workers in a way that was not just a box-ticking exercise.
Causon said that hostility to customer-facing staff was “deeply troubling on a human level” and that protecting the mental wellbeing of service professionals was also key to business success.
According to the research, many victims of customer hostility had either left their job or were looking for a new one. This was costing UK businesses an estimated £1 billion in recruitment costs.
“If we are to successfully rebuild our economy, both government and business leaders must stand up, take notice and do more to protect our frontline staff,” said Causon.
This should include businesses offering mental health support programmes for staff and more training to help employees handle difficult situations.
She added: “We are calling on the government to create a new, standalone offence for those who assault customer-facing employees, to provide a clear deterrent to such behaviour and give our frontline service workers the safe and respectful working environment they deserve.”