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Workplace Violence Prevention for Customer Service

August 23rd, 2013

Do your customer service employees occasionally have to deal with angry customers in person? If the answer is yes, then the customer service employee could become a victim of aggression or violence. Workplace violence is often given a limited scope definition in most company policies. However, any physical altercation, intimidation, or even a threat of an altercation should be considered workplace violence. The employer has a responsibility to prepare these employees. They should have the benefit of workplace violence prevention training and good security measures.

The concept of “reasonable foreseeability” will be considered when determining liability for the consequences of an act of aggression or violent incident. What conditions leading to an act of aggression or violence could have been deemed reasonable to expect by a reasonable person? Now think again about the customer service personnel that occasionally deal with angry people. Might it be reasonable to foresee the possibility, that they could encounter an abusive, irate customer who could turn violent? A judge might one day ask whether the victimized employee had been given training on methods for defusing angry, potentially violent customers. Were they aware of emergency procedures for discretely summoning help in the face of such an altercation? 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 training in nonviolent confrontation management for these customer service personnel. This training can give them the following tools:

  • Verbal and nonverbal de-escalation tools that might prevent a tense situation from getting out of hand
  • Positioning tactics that will help keep the employee safe, confident, and more able to regain control of the situation
  • Discrete duress signals to other employees for immediate assistance
  • Methods for redirecting the customer to feel they are being heard and action is being taken

Physical security measures should be implemented such as:

  • Measures for emergency notification and discretely summoning help
  • Designing customer service areas that afford a certain level of physical security
  • Removing items that could be used as weapons from customer service areas
  • Having areas designated which will remove the aggressor from any ‘audience’

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, “Non-Violent Confrontation Management” and “Crisis Negotiation – Dealing with Difficult People in Difficult Situations.”

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