We are becoming increasingly more aware how verbally abusive customers are creating toxic work environments for front line service staff. One that we do not often look at is our call centre employees who are paid minimum wage, often part-time with little or no benefits.
How do you as a safety professional interact with this group in your company, and ensure they are protected from the mental stress they often endure by abusive and harassing customers?
I read several articles to learn more, what it brought to light the magnitude of the abuse they can under go. The examples included racist comments, screaming angry and aggressive calls, threats of viloence to callers engaging in "lewd acts" while on the phone.
During my reading I learned the USW, which represents 10,000 call centre workers in Canada, has launched a national campaign with a dedicated website (www.HangUpOnAbuse.ca). They also have an online petition calling on employers to introduce policies to allow call centre workers to hang up on abusive callers, which many employers currently prohibit.
We maynot be able to control these abusive and aggressive customers, what we can do as EHS Professionals is advocate for our companies to adopt policies that empower workers to end abusive calls.
If your interested in learning more, please follow the "Hang Up On Abuse" website that supports the campaign. They also have examples of the verbal abuse and harassment that some call centre workers have suffered.
Health and safety regulations and worker rights should be part of all workplaces across Canada, call centres should not be excluded. The campaign is calling on employers to:
- Give call centre workers the right to hang up on abusive calls.
- Train managers on how to support workers who are verbally abused.
- Issue a warning and flag callers who have a history of harassing workers.
- Deny repeat abusers use of their service.
- Establish a zero tolerance of verbal abuse policy that includes reporting all violent and/or sexual threats to the police.
- Ensure no retribution against or disciplining of call centre workers who report abuse.