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Third of service workers consider quitting due to abusive customers
13 November 2023

Nearly a third of service workers have considered leaving their role because of customer hostility, research shows.

New data from the Institute of Customer Service has revealed that many workers have taken sick leave after facing abuse, as a group of leading businesses has called for more police action on the issue.

In an open letter to policing minister Chris Philp signed by more than 55 leading businesses, Jo Causon, chief executive of the Institute of Customer Service, said “any level of abuse should not be tolerated”.

Signed by businesses including first direct, John Lewis, Sainsbury’s and the Post Office, the letter calls for better recording and reporting of crime statistics, and said “organisations need full confidence that, when abuse is reported to the police, they will be acted on".

Despite the “worryingly” high levels of abuse, less than half (44%) of staff who have faced hostility at work reported it, with the key reasons for not reporting it being a belief that it will not make a difference (52%), and that it happens too often to be worth reporting (33%), research shows.

Almost one in three (31%) customer-facing workers have considered leaving their role following customer hostility.

Shoplifting offences recorded by police in England and Wales rose by 25% in the past year, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.

Both Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Philp have already called on police to be tougher on shoplifting.

Alongside FTSE 100 businesses, the letter is signed by several cross-party politicians, including chairman of the Customer Service All Parliamentary Party Group Philip Davies, Green Party peer Baroness Bennet, and Labour MP Olivia Blake.

Causon said the concerns of workers could affect the UK economy.

Abuse of workers affects “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”, 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.

“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.”

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