Politicians and CEOs call for better recording of crime statistics in the fight against customer abuse
Politicians, CEOs, and senior executives of leading UK companies have signed an open letter calling for better recording and reporting of crime statistics relating to attacks on service workers, after new research from The Institute of Customer Service reveals almost one in three (31%) customer-facing workers have considered leaving their role following customer hostility.
The letter, signed by over 55 leading businesses, MPs and Peers, calls on the policing minister to ensure assaults on public service workers are recorded separately in police statistics.
It follows a successful pan-sector campaign last year, led by the Institute under the banner of Service with Respect which resulted in the abuse of public-facing workers becoming an aggravated offence.
However, hostility towards staff remains worryingly high with new data from The Institute showing more than a third (36%) experiencing hostility in the last six months. Only 44% of those impacted reported the incident, with the main reasons for not reporting being that they didn’t think it would make a difference (52%), and that it happens too regularly to be worth reporting (33%).
In the letter, Jo Causon, CEO of the Institute of Customer Service also highlights the cost of abuse to the UK economy, saying that it impacts “productivity, 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”. Causon is calling for better awareness of the change in the law which took place last year, and improvements in the recording of police data to help understand the scale of the problem and what impact the change in the law and other initiatives might have. Speaking on today’s open letter, she said:
“It’s disheartening to have to report again on the unacceptable levels of abuse facing the UK’s customer-facing workers – who make up more than 60% of the workforce. While this number has dropped slightly in the past year, it has not fallen by nearly enough, and any level of abuse should not be tolerated. We are grateful, therefore, for the backing and support of leading UK businesses and parliamentarians in calling for more action to be taken.
“Customer hostility is demonstrably leading to low staff morale, extended staff absences, and increased churn – so it’s hurting not just the individual, but the economy too. Frontline workers across all sectors need protecting and organisations need full confidence that when abuse is reported to the police, they will be acted on. Separate reporting is a crucial part of this, as it will shed light on the problem and allow us to monitor what changes have the greatest impact on dealing with it.”
Alongside FTSE100 businesses, the letter is signed by several cross-party politicians, including the Chair of the Customer Service All Parliamentary Party Group, Philip Davies MP, Green Party Peer Baroness Bennet, and Labour’s Olivia Blake MP.
The new data also reveals that staff see body cameras and CCTV as only part of the solution. The top three initiatives workers feel are most effective in tackling abuse are a mix of prevention techniques – facial recognition cameras (34%) and bodycams (25%) – and clearer guidance on how to deal with hostile customers from their employer (30%). It comes as many high street retailers have instituted body cameras to help catch shoplifters, which has seen a 25% increase in the last year.
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