In a concerning continuation of a trend we’ve highlighted in previous articles, new research from the Institute of Customer Service reveals a distressing reality: nearly a third of service workers in the UK are contemplating leaving their roles due to escalating customer hostility. This alarming statistic underscores a deepening crisis in customer-service relations, with profound implications for workers’ wellbeing and economic health.
The Institute’s latest findings indicate a significant portion of these workers have been compelled to take sick leave following abusive encounters. In response, a coalition of over 55 leading businesses, including first direct, John Lewis, Sainsbury’s, and the Post Office, has stepped forward to demand action. They’ve addressed an open letter to Policing Minister Chris Philp, advocating for enhanced recording and reporting of related crimes.
Jo Causon, CEO of the Institute of Customer Service, emphasizes the gravity of the situation: “It’s disheartening to have to report again on the unacceptable levels of abuse facing the UK’s customer-facing workers.” This sentiment reflects a growing frustration among those tasked with addressing these issues.
Shockingly, the research also shows that less than half of the workers who experienced hostility and abuse reported it. Many believe reporting would be futile or feel overwhelmed by the frequency of such incidents. These statistics mirror previous reports we’ve discussed, highlighting an endemic issue within the service sector.
The broader societal impact of this trend cannot be overstated. Shoplifting offences, for instance, have surged by 25% over the past year in England and Wales, as per the Office for National Statistics. This spike has prompted government officials to take a tougher stance on shoplifting.
The open letter, endorsed by several cross-party politicians including Philip Davies, Baroness Bennet, and Olivia Blake, underlines the economic ramifications of this hostility. Causon warns that such abuse “leads to an increased number of sick days, resignations, and a consequent decline in the quality of public services and economic output of businesses big and small.”
This scenario is more than a workforce issue; it’s a societal and economic emergency. The hostile environment faced by customer-facing workers – who comprise over 60% of the UK’s workforce – isn’t just damaging to individuals but to the economy at large. Low morale, high staff turnover, and extended absences are symptomatic of a deeper malaise that needs urgent attention.
As Causon rightly points out, frontline workers across all sectors need robust protection. There is a critical need for confidence in the systems designed to support them, especially in ensuring effective police action on reported abuses.
The Workers Union Says…
“This Union echoes these concerns and underscores the need for immediate and decisive action to safeguard our service workers as we have continuously highlighted. The health of our economy and the wellbeing of a significant portion of our workforce are at stake.”