What can a business do to protect its employees from violent customers?

Both customers and employees are primary stakeholders and so when one begins to attack the other, stakeholder management becomes even more challenging. The problem of customer violence is real and appears to be growing. Although workplace homicides in the United States have declined in general, one form of workplace homicide is on the rise—assaults on employees by customers. The number is relatively low in terms of overall workplace fatalities, but the upward trend is a concern. In a recent survey of workplace violence, the Institute of Finance and Management (IOFM) found that 61 percent of the 307 organizations surveyed believe that abuse of employees by customers has become significantly worse in the past year. Sometimes the abuse is simply verbal but other times it can result in serious injury and sometimes death.

1. Business cannot refer a customer to an EAP as it can with an employee. It also is not possible to screen and select, much less train, customers as one does for employees. What can a business do to protect its employees from violent customers?

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2. Why is customer violence on the increase? Is it the fault of the customer, the organization, and/or society?

3. What do you recommend that managers do to stem this growing problem?

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