Whose problem is customer harassment?
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Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of and other employment laws, employers must create and maintain a harassment-free workplace, and that obligation extends to nonemployees and customers. To transform the situation into an issue for HR, the employer must have knowledge of the harassment. Typically, you will learn about a problem when an employee complains or reports it.
22 things you should never say to customers
As with employee complaints about coworkers or supervisors, you should listen to employee complaints about a customer and take them seriously. You must avoid that reflex and listen carefully to determine if the employee is making a routine complaint or a protected complaint that invokes your legal obligations.
As a result, you should carefully analyze complaints about customers to look for connections to the workplace.
The employee may not report it if she feels her supervisor will gloss over the situation even after witnessing it. Investigate After you become aware of customer harassment, either through a direct report or when a supervisor or manager has witnessed an incident, you have an obligation to investigate.
You should treat allegations of harassment by a customer the same way you would treat allegations of harassment by a coworker or supervisor, and interview any witnesses in a timely and fair manner.
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Make sure you document your findings and inform the complaining employee of your conclusions. Depending on the results of the investigation, you may then have an obligation to take prompt remedial action.
If you take reasonable steps to put an end to the situation, but they are unsuccessful, then a court will judge your liability based on the reasonableness of your actions. If the employee is agreeable, you could reassign her to another job or area of the workplace so she can avoid interacting with the customer. However, if you could have easily controlled a harasser—for example, by banning him from your premises—then you failed to uphold your obligations to the employee.
Depending on the situation, you may need to encourage or help the employee take other action, such as involving security or law enforcement officials.
As a result, you must refrain from retaliating or otherwise making any adverse employment decisions based on her complaint. You should reassign or transfer a complaining employee only if she expressly consents to the transfer or reassignment. Repeat the problem back. Once you see where the complaint is coming from, repeat it back in your own words so the person knows you've grasped her position. She might correct you on a few points, but keep parroting her position back to her until she acknowledges that you've gotten it right.
Empathize and assure that something will be done. Without admitting any fault on the part of the company or placing blame on anyone, say this: The way you've described this, I'd be unhappy, too, if I were in your shoes. Let me see what I can do. I'll check this out and get right back to you as soon as possible. Showing your sincere empathy will help neutralize any anger the person feels. In the vast majority of cases, you'll be amazed by how quickly this assurance calms the person.
As soon as possible, follow up with a report on what went wrong and the steps you plan to take to rectify the situation and prevent it from happening again.
22 things you should never say to customers | Customer Experience Insight
In some cases, you may even wish to send a small gift as a token of thanks for the person's help in improving your business. The goal of this process is to show the customer that you truly care about his patronage or the employee about her work on behalf of the company. Make sure all your employees know to use this process with their customers and that all managers know to use it with employees.