Campaign to stop abuse gets massive support

Since July 2020, the Institute of Customer Service (ICS) has been campaigning to stop the abuse of frontline workers. Their ‘Service with Respect Campaign’ has gained over 200 organisational and parliamentary supporters in that time.

The ICS has had success with one of their key campaign demands: to introduce legislation to act as a deterrent to customers who feel they can abuse customer-facing workers with impunity. On 2nd December 2021, the Government tabled an amendment to the Sentencing Bill. If passed, it would mean that assaults on those serving the public, would be treated as aggravated offences.

This will send an unequivocal signal to those who have kept the nation fed and safe through the last 18 months that such abuse is not ‘just part of the job’ and that they should feel safe and protected while serving the public.

To achieve this, the ICS asked a select group of parliamentarians and senior business leaders to co-sign our open letter. They drafted it to raise awareness of the increasing volume of incidents across all industry sectors and the impact on individuals, businesses and the economy. An abridged version of the letter was published in The Times on 8th December 2021. A copy of the letter is published below.


8 December 2021

Dear Sir/Madam,

Re: The abuse of customer-facing workers

The combined impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Brexit and widespread stock and labour shortages have placed an intolerable strain on the relationship between customers and businesses.

Customer facing employees across all industry sectors - not just retail, but train guards, those in hospitality roles or engineers and call centre staff, are dealing with an increasingly frustrated and disenfranchised public, leading to unacceptable levels of hostility and abuse. Our research reveals over 60% have faced hostility in the last 12 months - ranging from shouting and swearing to racial abuse, death threats, spitting and physical attacks.

As we approach the busy festive period - a combination of frustrations over stock shortages and late deliveries, combined with the pressures of the rising cost of living, could cause abuse and hostility to rise still further.

This behaviour is not only morally unacceptable, but damaging to our efforts to rebuild our nation’s economy. Far more than an occasional curse word - our research reveals damaging long term psychological impacts of this behaviour are leading to rising levels of sick days, resignations and a growing refusal to do vital work that directly serves the public.

The Institute of Customer Service, with the support of over 200 organisations and parliamentary champions from across the political spectrum, is calling for a new offence to address those that abuse staff in customer-facing roles. This will provide the deterrent needed to stop the worst offenders and give victims the confidence that their voice will be heard, and action will be taken.

We also urge businesses to provide adequate training to ensure employees are prepared for the increasingly demanding requirements of their role and for all customers to moderate their own behaviour.

Customer-facing workers not only played a vital role in keeping our nation running in recent times, but will also be the backbone of our economic progress. They deserve our respect - and this starts with providing a working environment free from hostility and abuse.

Yours faithfully,

Jo Causon, CEO, Institute of Customer Service


List of Signatories:

Adrian Furness, CEO, Covea Insurance

Andy Wood, CEO, Adnams Brewery

Angela Lockwood, CEO, North Star

Ant Middle, CEO, Ageas

Chris Pitt, CEO, first direct

David Done, CEO, RHP

David Wood, CEO, Wickes

Giles Hawke, CEO, Cosmos Tours

Graham Edwards, CEO, Wales and West Utilities

Heidi Mottram, CEO, Northumbrian Water

Jac Starr, CEO, Rail Delivery Group

Joanna Swash, CEO, Moneypenny

Joe Garner, CEO, Nationwide

Lindsey Rix, CEO, Canada Life

Liz Garfield, CEO, Severn Trent

Mike Lewis, CEO, Eon

Neil Jones, CEO, Bobst

Nick Read, CEO, Post Office

Paul Hudson, CEO, Cirencester Friendly

Paul Philpott, CEO, Kia

Rosemary Du Rose​, CEO, Beyond Housing

Ruth Cooke, CEO, Green Square Accord

Sarah Bentley, CEO, Thames Water

Sian Fisher, CEO, Chartered Insurance Institute

Simon Roberts, CEO, Sainsburys

Steve Rowe, CEO, Marks and Spencer

Tony Buss, CEO, Arag

Giles Hurley, CEO (UK & Ireland), Aldi

Aimee Chapell, CEO Customer Management, Capita

Andy Whatmough, MD, S&G Response

David Roberts, MD, NuHeat

Eric Leenders, MD, UK Finance

Jo Upward, MD, Platform Group

Joanne Casey, MD, Mactaggart & Mickel Homes

Paul Harris, MD, Curo

Steve Holiday, Chairman, CityFibre

Fintan Connolly, Chief Business Officer, Bidvest Noonan

Richard Pash, Chief Customer Officer, Zurich

Peter Markey, CMO, Boots UK

David MaCleod OBE, Co-Founder, EFS

Colin Jones, COO, Sky

Guy Jefferson, COO, Scottish Power Energy Networks

Jane Porter, COO, Optivo

Jonathan Cowie, COO, Vivid Housing

Matt Gore, COO, Pension Insurance Corporation

Oke Eleazu, COO, Bought By Many

Carla Thomas, Customer Experience Director, Openreach

Jamie McDonald, Customer Experience Director, VIVO Defence Services

Karen Coleman, Customer Experience Director, Wesleyan

Kathryn O’Brien, Customer Experience Director, TransPennine Express

Martyn Oakley, Customer Experience Director, Laithwaites Wine

Louise Beardmore, Customer Service Director, United Utilities

Nigel Purveur, Director, NJP Management

Peter Carter, Director, Independent Healthcare Consultant

Fran Rea, Director Customer of Service, NewDay

Mark Gait, Director Customer of Service, Virgin Media 02

Kate Webb, Director of Customer and Product Experience, Parcelhub (Part of the Whistl Group)

Ian Fielder, Director of Operations, Vanquis Bank

Trafford Wilson, Executive Director of Customer Service, The Guinness Partnership

Andy Pymer, Executive Director, Finance & Regulation, Wessex Water

Ben Fletcher, Group CFO, The Very Group

Jessie Burrows, MD - Customer Sales, Service and Claims, Direct Line Group

Tara Mullen, UK Retail Director, Octopus

Joe Gordon, VP of Customer Care, Ovo Energy

Alison Thewliss MP, SNP

Baroness Bennett, Green (Peer)

Carolyn Harris MP, Labour

Charlotte Nichols MP, Labour

Chris Evans MP, Labour

Esther McVey MP, Conservative

Martyn Day MP, SNP

Philip Davies MP, Conservative

Steven Bonnar MP, SNP

Wera Hobhouse MP, Lib Dem

Grahame Morris MP, Labour