News National Abuse towards retail staff reduced through training course on how to calm cranky customers

Abuse towards retail staff reduced through training course on how to calm cranky customers

Most retail workers have experienced abuse from customers, from yelling to physical attacks. Photo: ABC News/Bindi Bryce
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As shoppers flock to the Boxing Day sales, retail assistants have a new tool for dealing with angry or abusive customers.

A training course on how to calm down cranky customers has helped cut down cases of shouting and even violence towards workers by half at one shop.

Shop assistant Chris Cassar said he used to dread angry customers, like one man who demanded a refund on some plastic containers, well after the 28 day return policy.

“We told him very calmly that we couldn’t do the refund. He couldn’t accept no for an answer,” Mr Cassar recalled.

“Eventually he got a bit aggressive and started throwing things and it could’ve escalated.”

Mr Cassar, who works at a Reject Shop store in Sydney’s west, said such incidents are a regular occurrence.

He said retail rage can get worse at this time of year, but “thankfully it hasn’t happened:, after he took part in the training program.

The two-day training course taught techniques for keeping themselves calm, when confronting customers in a rage.

“It helped just being prepared to be calm in case the customer starts to get overboard with their emotions,” Mr Cassar said.

“I have felt a lot more safe on the job.”

Employees kept diaries of their interactions with customers for two weeks before and after taking part in the Respect and Resilience Workshops.

The initial trial led to a 48 per cent drop in the number of confrontations where customers became abusive.

The course was developed by insurance company iCare.

Retail workers who have received training on how to deal with abusive customers say they feel safer at work. Photo; ABC News/Bindi Bryce

Spokesperson Sara Kahlau said it was created with younger, inexperienced workers in mind.

“A lot of fast food and retail workers are young people so this might be their first job, and they’re not quite equipped to deal with escalated situations,” she said.

“The results are amazing, but they also go to the bottom line — so they are reducing absenteeism, workers compensation claims and other commercial impacts for various retailers as well.”

Reject Shop Divisional Manager for NSW and the ACT, Geoff Garlick said the company plans to expand the program to all its staff.

“Physical confrontation is a real part of the risk we face every day,” he said.

“In worst case scenario, we do involve security and in some cases police, but the goal is really to avoid that at all costs.”

-ABC