A Crisis in Customer Service
- 22 May 2023
A report issued on 18th May 2023, from the Institute of Customer Service has highlighted that "mounting abuse directed at customer-facing staff is causing a retention crisis, with a record 44% of employees contemplating leaving their roles.*"
Over 40% of customers are reported as increasingly venting their frustrations at front-line staff through verbal harassment, insults, threats and in some cases physical violence.
What won't be a surprise to anyone is that the report highlights that the change in consumer behaviour is related to the cost-of-living crisis with rising energy and living costs (including mortgages, rent and food costs) acting as key triggers for the increase in frustration. Many more customers are experiencing financial vulnerability as shown by the stats released by the Financial Conduct Authority's Financial Lives 2022 survey results published late last year which identified that "2.2 million more UK adults had low financial resilience in May 2022 than did in February 2020**".
Firms don't want their staff to suffer abuse, and customers very rarely set out to be abusive so it's imperative that firms look closely at how they are supporting and servicing their customers whilst also putting in place safeguarding measures to support and protect their teams. This is not the time to bury heads in the sand and think that everything is ok, and it'll all work out in the end.
The report from the ICS tells us that customer-facing staff are nearing the end of their tethers with taking persistent abuse and handling contacts (calls, live chat, emails, and letters) from frustrated customers. Losing 44% of the team handling those contacts would be devastating so it's time to act. Our training guide explains how you can improve recognising customers or staff members in vulnerable circumstances to be able to offer reasonable adjustments to better support their needs. Clients who have completed our training sessions tell us that their customer facing teams feel more confident and better equipped to handle contacts from frustrated customers. They also report that their customers feel better supported and listened to.
* Service With Respect survey: Institute of Customer Service
** Financial Lives 2022 survey: insights on vulnerability and financial resilience relevant to the rising cost of living, Financial Conduct Authority
Image credit : The Institute of Customer Service