Australia: Scientifically identified measures reduce abusive customer behaviour


Australia: Scientifically identified measures reduce abusive customer behaviour

In 2019, SDA Union of Australia, icare (a government safety agency) and Griffith University issued a joint report on dysfunctional customer behaviour and how it can be reduced. The preventive measures identified by the report were tested in practice with a pilot study in New South Wales and proved to be remarkably effective in reducing cases of abusive customer behaviour in retail and fast-food stores.

Four strategic directions were identified to reduce dysfunctional customer behaviour and its impact on employees:

· modifications to the customer-service environment,

· increased workplace support,

· specialised customer-service training and

· emotional regulation training for customer facing employees.

For each strategic direction following potential solutions were offered:

1. Workplace modifications

• Wider aisles

• Fewer bottlenecks

• Intuitive layouts to avoid confusion

• Well-marked queues

• Highly visible security cameras

• Sound and lighting

2. Workplace support

· Employee empowerment and supporting employee autonomy

· Formalised support and social sharing of incidents

· Rejection of a “customer is always right” ideology

· Strategies to communicate a ‘zero’ tolerance culture

3. Specialized-customer service training


• Active listening

• Interpersonal skills

• Help-seeking skills

Problem solving skills

• Managing customer anger

• De-escalation

• Negotiation

4. Emotional regulation training for customer facing employees

Training should embrace a prosocial approach to customers and focus on equipping employees with the skills to master and change their emotional reaction to dysfunctional customer behaviour, including:

• Identifying when customers are struggling to communicate their needs;

• Recognising when customer displays are not personally directed;

• Recognising and responding to emotional displays in themselves and others effectively;

• Identifying cognitive rumination in self and how to disrupt this behaviour.

The full report “Respect & resilience in retail & fast-food” is available on this link.