The Customer Service industry has faced a tumultuous year in 2020. In April national unemployment reached an unprecedented rate in the US of 14.7%⁽¹⁾, with hardship engulfing the customer service industry.
Now, however, there is a different challenge, with the slow return to work, customer service industry workers are finding themselves suddenly face to face with customers again. With the issue of health and safety in the workplace paramount, the hot topic for employers, employees and customers is the wearing of masks.
At Canity, we wanted to know more about this new, complex reality the customer service industry is facing.
if it was being adhered to and how they felt about serving customers who were not wearing masks.
Before we dig into the data it’s important to note that not all customers are able to wear a mask, there may be legitimate reasons for this which should be carefully considered. It’s worth working through our step by step guide on how to encourage customers to wear a mask and how to handle customers who refuse to do so.
Which you can access here
The first question we asked was “Does your organisation have a policy on customers wearing masks?”
90% of respondents indicated their organisations did indeed have a policy on customers wearing masks, leaving 10% (see graph) working in organisations where the issue has gone unaddressed.
It is worrying for the sector that in this current climate, 1 in 10 workers have stated that their employer has not dealt with the issue of mask wearing. Whilst it’s possible that some employers may have a policy but have not communicated this to workers, it none the less indicates that 1 in 10 Californian workers have no clear guidance from their employers on if their customers should even be wearing masks.
This is 1 in 10 wokers who are dealing with customers face to face. Potentially this leaves employers exposed to issues around having adequate health and safety procedures in place to protect employees.
Our follow on question was “Do your customers follow this policy?”
Only 50% of respondents indicated that their customers followed this policy of mask wearing 100% of the time This indicates that 50% of workers in California are having to deal with customers who do not, for whatever reason, follow their organisations mask wearing policy.
Depending on your expectation of Californian customers this may be an encouraging or discouraging figure however it raises an important issue for employer which led into our next question:
“Does your organisation have a policy on customers who refuse to wear a mask?”
The results here were very surprising with 3 in 10 (see graph) stating that the company does not have a policy. So whilst 9 in 10 responded that their employer had implemented a policy regarding customers wearing masks, only 3 in 10 had gone further and implemented a policy regarding what to do when customers refused to wear a mask. Which, according to our survey, is a situation 50% of workers find themselves in.
“This potentially leaves employers exposed to issues around having adequate health and safety procedures in place to protect workers” says Canity Founder and CEO, Kym Illman. “It’s a given that some customers will become upset and frustrated when asked to wear a mask and as such it’s vital organisations train their customer facing teams on how to handle these situations” said Illman.
In keeping with the above questions when we asked “Have you been offered training on how to handle customer who won’t wear a mask?”
Results showed a 50/50 split indicating that whilst 7 in 10 have a policy on this issue only 1 in 2 have been given training on how to implement it.
As any experienced employer, supervisor or customer facing worker will know, it’s one thing to have a policy, it’s another to have training on how to actually implement that policy. We wanted to know if this lack of training was causing concern to workers so we asked:
“Do you feel comfortable serving customers who refuse to wear a mask?” to which 58% indicated they did not.
There is the potential to extrapolate that some workers (42%) appear unconcerned about mask wearing and this may be feeding into some employers lack of policy and training around this issue however with 58% feeling uncomfortable it would seem that Californian employers have to address this issue quickly.
In these unprecedented times, customer facing workers are facing unprecedented challenges.
Survey results indicate:
1 Though many Californian employers have thought through the implications and developed policies around mask wearing 1 in 10 workers are still working for organisations that have not.
2 50% of Californian workers are confronted with customers who refuse to wear masks.
3 3 in 10 workers do not have clear guidance from their employer on what to do when a customer refuses to wear a mask.
4 Only 1 in 2 have been actively provided with any training on what to do in this situation.
5 The majority of workers feel uncomfortable serving customers who refuse to wear a mask
“Employers would do well to think through duty of care obligations to both customers and employees in relation to their policy on mask wearing” said Kym Illman, Canity Founder & CEO.
Survey summary graphs