Employees and staff receive rights and protections from their company for many different things, including:
- Safe and healthy working conditions
- Disability accommodations
- Religious accommodations
While this is great protection, most of the time employees are only protected from other employees within the company, not from customers. And some customers are the biggest abusers of all.
In a recent Skift article about tackling abuse in the hospitality industry, they discuss how staff have to “just deal with it, diffuse it and go on. But the mental damage can and does take its toll.”
Hospitality workers tend to receive a large brunt of the abuse. In one article, it state that “49 percent of hotel workers reported incidents in which guests "exposed themselves, flashed them or answered the door naked," but even though so many employees received this type of abuse, only 1 in 3 of the workers who had such experiences reported it to a boss. The workers who did not report the event said that it was mainly because “they knew someone who tried to report misconduct, but nothing changed as a result or things got worse for staff who reported misconduct”.
Frontline employees can receive a lot of verbal and even physical abuse from customers, and the customer service job is spreading into all parts of the company. As service becomes more important, and the users’ experience takes place at every junction, many of your staff members may not only be the face of service for the company, but subject to similar abuses.
It is no longer a face-to-face only issue. You will most likely see more of your employees exposed to this risk. Customer service, email marketing, online chat, social media, servers, cleaners, security, hostesses, attendants, sales, cashiers, maintenance, cooks, etc. all have the potential to receive bullying, discrimination, and harassment from customers.
You want your employees to know you have their back, and you’re willing to give up a sale for their health and well-being. But that may be easier said than done. Most employees feel that every customer gets red carpet treatment. And while the adage “the customer is always right” likes to be toted by those who like to get their way, abuse is not right, no matter who deals it out.
There are ways you can improve the business process, break down silos and help cut down on customer friction. When you have a TITE team, it can help alleviate some of the customer frustration and diffuse the situation before it escalates.
Train and evaluate. Every employee that deals with customers, no matter what the medium, should be trained on all avenues of the customer experience. They should understand your brand, know the voice of the company, be able to react in similar ways to comparable situations and understand clearly what should be done in each circumstance. Depending on their job, they should also receive training on customer experience, verbal communication, non-verbal communication, technology platforms, writing and grammar. A clear training program will put employees on the right path for success so they can represent your brand in the best light.
Install advanced customer communication technology. Today’s customer wants to have the freedom to contact you anyway at any time; and they expect a reasonable turnaround for service. They also expect that at each turn, the new person they are dealing with will know the background of their story. So, a customer’s experience is only as good as the information entered, contained, and consumed about them. When you have a strong customer information management system, strong training and a thorough process of information entry, it will help your team stay on top of everything they need to know, so they can deal with customers quickly and efficiently.
Take action when it’s needed. Your employees will only think that you are on their side if you show them that you are willing to act. First, you must listen. Your frontline employees are experts on your customers and processes, so they will be able to give you insight. Once you know what is going well and what is not, then take action to correct things. If training needs to be updated, ask employees what needs to happen and work on fixing it. If communication needs improvement, discuss avenues that will help employees better relate with one another and the company. If employees feel they were abused by customers, create an escalation procedure for those difficult customers. Make sure there is a decision system that can be applied when a customer becomes more effort than they are worth and apply it when needed.
Empower employees. You employ these people because they are smart, driven and their values align well with the company. You should give them the skills and power to be more valuable to your organization and its goals. Most employees want to become better employees, and this will allow you to put the power in the hands of those that are closest to your customers. They will also be able to take care of issues that arise with customers without having to escalate problems, and that makes your customers happier because problems are settled correctly, quickly and efficiently.
In the end, you will have a dedicated, intelligent, and well-rounded workforce – and THAT is a great asset.