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Workplace Violence & Customer Service

September 9th, 2011

What does workplace violence prevention have to do with customer service?

Do you have customer service personnel that work for your company? Do they occasionally have to deal with angry customers? Do they have to do it in person? If the answer to these any of these questions is yes, then the customer service personnel could absolutely benefit from workplace violence prevention training. When the topic of workplace violence is mentioned, most people think about the disgruntled or terminated employee acting out violently. True, those occurrences get all the media attention when they happen. However, the fact is that any physical altercation, intimidation, or even a threat of an altercation is considered workplace violence. That brings a responsibility for the employer.

The concept of “reasonable foreseeability” is the deciding factor when determining liability for the consequences of an act of aggression or otherwise violent incident. What conditions that lead to an act of aggression or violence could have been deemed reasonable to expect by a reasonable person? That is the question to consider because that is how your company will be judged after an incident has occurred.

Now think again about the customer service personnel that occasionally deal with angry people. Might it be reasonable to expect, or foresee the possibility, that one of them could encounter an abusive, irate customer? Might a judge one day ask whether the victimized employee had been given training on verbal de-escalation techniques for example? Were they aware of the emergency procedures for discretely summoning help in the face of such an altercation? Are there notification and emergency response procedures in place for that work area? Workplace violence policies should not only pertain to employee relations amongst each other, but they should also include relations between employees and visitors and/or customers.

Your business should consider courses in nonviolent conflict management for those customer service personnel. These courses can give them the verbal de-escalation tools that might prevent a tense situation from getting out of hand. The training will also teach them tactics which will help keep the employee safe, confident, and more able to regain control of the situation. Other measures for emergency notification and response should be defined and implemented. Furthermore, all of the employees should understand their individual part in combating what might happen in these situations and not just consider it another employee’s problem. Don’t wait for an incident to happen before you do the right thing for your team. It’s not just about liability. It is about caring enough for your employees who might be subject to this and doing what you can to protect them.

Please check out the workplace violence series courses at www.imac-training.com, specifically, “Nonviolent Confrontation Management” and “Crisis Negotiation – Dealing with Difficult People in Difficult Situations.”

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