Other Projects & Case Studies

Managing Workplace Responses to Disrespectful, Aggressive or Abusive Customer Behaviour

Customer Abuse
Following the approval of SIRXCEG008 Manage disrespectful, aggressive or abusive customers, the Wholesale and Retail IRC is developing a new Unit of Competency to equip supervisors of customer-facing front-line workers, particularly in the retail sector, with the skills and knowledge to manage workplace responses to disrespectful, aggressive or abusive customers. This proposal was approved by the AISC Sub-Committee to be developed as a cross-sectoral Unit and Skill Set and is now being progressed by the IRC.
Following the approval of SIRXCEG008 Manage disrespectful, aggressive or abusive customers, the Wholesale and Retail IRC is developing a new Unit of Competency to equip supervisors of customer-facing front-line workers, particularly in the retail sector, with the skills and knowledge to manage workplace responses to disrespectful, aggressive or abusive customers. This proposal was approved by the AISC Sub-Committee to be developed as a cross-sectoral Unit and Skill Set and is now being progressed by the IRC.

Background

AISC Emergency Response Sub-Committee

In April 2020, the AISC formed an Emergency Response Sub-Committee (the AISC Sub-Committee) to enable fast tracked adjustments and training package products specifically to respond to areas of critical workforce and skills needs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The scope of the sub-committee was extended by Skills Ministers on 15 May 2020 to enable it to continue its role in fast tracking national training products to meet longer term critical skills needs beyond the COVID-19 health crisis period to support economic recovery.

The sub-committee agreed at its meeting on 2 July 2020 to focus its efforts on supporting achievement of the following objectives:

  • supporting displaced workers and those at risk of displacement to urgently obtain the necessary skills to take advantage of opportunities that exist in the labour market, either through existing training products or the rapid creation of new products where required
  • supporting urgent and unmet skills needs of businesses as they seek to adjust to the significantly altered economic environment and transition to new opportunities, particularly in industries undergoing significant structural change as a result of COVID-19.  
  • The sub-committee also agreed these objectives should be achieved through the creation of short courses or skill sets wherever possible.

    In July 2020 the Wholesale and Retail IRC put forward a proposal to develop a new Unit of Competency to equip customer-facing workers, particularly in the retail sector, with the skills and knowledge to manage disrespectful, aggressive or abusive customers. This unit, SIRXCEG008 Manage disrespectful, aggressive or abusive customers was approved and is now available on training.gov.au.

    Subsequently, the IRC put forward a proposal in November 2020 to develop a unit to equip supervisors of front-line customer service staff with the skills and knowledge to manage situations of customer misbehaviour at a supervisory level, as well as managing staff responses and wellbeing. This proposal was approved by the AISC Sub-Committee in December 2020 and is now being progressed by the IRC for consideration at the February 2021 AISC meeting. The proposed unit SIRXCEG009 Manage workplace responses to disrespectful, aggressive or abusive customer behaviour is now open for public consultation.

    Managing disrespectful, aggressive or abusive customers


    During the COVID-19 pandemic, many consumers have engaged in ‘panic buying’ creating sudden and unexpected demand for a number of products in supermarkets, pharmacies and other retail outlets. This demand has made it difficult for retailers to maintain stock levels in stores, and has led to increased instances of inappropriate and potentially aggressive behaviour from customers.*

    As recently as April 2020, the Public Health Act 2010 was amended to include penalties for people who intentionally spit at or cough on a worker in a way that would be likely to cause fear about the spread of COVID-19. The fact that this measure has been required is an indication of the severity of the risk to customer-facing workers.

    Icare has recently released an evaluation of the pilot they conducted of their Respect and Resilience Program, which sought to address the issue of customer misbehaviour in the retail and fast food sectors. This pilot included delivery of training modules to both front-line workers and supervisors and managers in relation to management of customer misbehaviour, including incidents of aggression and abuse. The pilot saw positive outcomes, particularly in relation to the delivery of the training for supervisors and managers, with feedback indicating that the implementation of this training had a positive impact in the workplace. It was noted in the report that:

    Participants reported a greater sense of support, with participants reporting a subjective feeling of being cared for, and “not alone”. Changes in supervisor support were also suggested, with participants reporting supervisors to be using more active listening, showing more care and time given to staff.**

    While there exists a range of units of competency that cover areas such as supervision and management, along with coaching and mentoring, there is not currently any national training package product that covers the issue of aggressive customers and the mental health and wellbeing of customer-facing frontline workers and the role of the supervisor or manager in supporting these workers.

    The proposed unit is able to be contextualised for supervisory staff in a range of other customer-facing sectors and job roles.

    The proposed unit of competency looks to cover key topic areas including:

    • Identifying and implementing environmental strategies to reduce risk of customer misbehaviour
    • Responding to incidences of customer misbehaviour when escalated by front-line staff
    • Supporting the wellbeing of staff who are exposed to incidences of customer disrespect, aggression or abuse
    • Promoting staff morale, motivation and empowerment.
    The resulting training should be able to be delivered online to existing and new workers, both as a standalone Skill Set or short course and within relevant qualifications.

      Proposed Training Package Products

      New Unit of Competency

      Unit Code

      Unit Title

      Prerequisite

      SIRXCEG009

      Manage workplace responses to disrespectful, aggressive or abusive customer behaviour

      SIRXCEG008 Manage disrespectful, aggressive or abusive customers

      New Skill Set

      SIRSS00032 – Manage Workplace Responses to Disrespectful, Aggressive or Abusive Customer Behaviour

      Unit Code

      Unit Name                                                               

                Prerequisites

      SIRXCEG008

      Manage disrespectful, aggressive or abusive customers

      Nil

      SIRXCEG009
      Manage workplace responses to disrespectful, aggressive or abusive customer behaviour SIRXCEG008 Manage disrespectful, aggressive or abusive customers

        Consultation Timelines

        National consultation for the proposed new Unit of Competency and Skill Set was open from Monday 25 January to Friday 29 January 2021. During this period input was sought on the draft Unit and Skill Set and their appropriateness in enabling the target group to achieve the stated aims, as outlined above.

        SkillsIQ distributed the draft Training Package Products to key industry stakeholders and VET professionals, in order to ensure the opportunity for broad national feedback. State and Territory Training Authorities were also provided with the opportunity to make comment during this period. 

        Following the close of the consultation period, all feedback received will be collated and evaluated by the IRC to develop the final draft for submission and consideration by the AISC at its February 2021 meeting.

        Contact details

        For more information please contact:
        Melinda Brown
        P: 0417 766 372

        Sources

        https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/safe-workplaces/employers/managing-violence-and-aggression - accessed 13 July 2020.

        ** Bradley, G., Davis, M., Ferguson, S., Buys, N., & Ellery, A. (2019). Respect & Resilience: Development, Implementation and Program Evaluation. Southport, Queensland: Griffith University.