How can VoCoVo improve colleague safety?

Article by Olivia Robinson | 22nd July 2021

Colleague safety matters to customers

Along with other essential workers, retail colleagues have been instrumental in keeping the nation afloat during one of the hardest times in living memory. 

Their contribution will not be forgotten. A recent survey by the Co-op found that 90% of the UK population believe that retail colleagues provided an essential service during the pandemic. Our own survey of UK and US customers also shows that gratitude for their work is at an all time high:

  • 52% of customers say that their appreciation for retail colleagues has increased
  • 56% think that colleagues improved their experience during the pandemic

The post-COVID consumer will favour retailers who look after their colleagues. This ties in with a general shift towards ethical consumerism in recent years:

  • Ethical spending in the UK has quadrupled since 1999
  • 55% of UK consumers favour brands that are perceived as ethical
  • 75% of customers thought that retailers should prioritise employee health during the pandemic

Consumers are sending a clear message- look after your colleagues and we will look after you. 

Colleague abuse is on the rise

Sadly, there appears to be a gulf between customer sentiment and customer behaviour. Admiration for retail colleagues may have grown during the pandemic, but so did their abuse at the hands of customers. Confusion over safety regulations and frustration at increased waiting times led to a shocking upsurge in abusive behaviour :

  • 90% of retail colleagues suffered verbal abuse during the pandemic
  • 10% were physically assaulted

As you might expect, this has taken a serious toll on the mental health of those working in retail:

  • 84% of colleagues say that their mental health has deteriorated as a result of customer abuse
  • 50% have taken time off to recover from an abusive incident

Colleagues are increasingly isolated

As well as increasing customer frustration, the pandemic has also caused extensive job losses in the retail sector. Over 190,000 retail colleagues have been made redundant since the first lockdown, and this number is likely to grow. John Lewis and Waitrose recently announced that they would be cutting 1,000 jobs in their stores in the coming months. 

This isn’t just a tragedy for those who are made redundant. It also threatens the safety of those left on the shop floor. Fewer colleagues per shift means a greater chance of being left alone with an abusive customer. For colleagues in isolated retail parks, or those working night shifts, this can be extremely threatening:

  • 75% of retail colleagues sometimes fear for their physical safety at work
  • 33% feel that working alone is the biggest risk 

This makes it doubly important to focus on safety. You need to show the majority of ethically-minded customers that you care about colleague wellbeing, while also protecting colleagues from an increasingly abusive minority.

This may sound like a lot to ask, but VoCoVo can help.  

Communication is the key to safety

Abusive customers will take advantage of colleagues who appear vulnerable. Our system means that, even if you’re working alone, help is never far away:

  • Shop floor colleagues can contact security teams at the push of a button
  • Unlike a tannoy system, headsets allow colleagues to call for help discreetly
  • Headsets can be integrated with your phone system, allowing colleagues to contact emergency services from anywhere in store
  • Keypads let checkout colleagues call for backup without leaving their position

Headsets act as a visible deterrent

Our system doesn’t just help you to deal with abusive incidents. It also prevents them from happening in the first place. VoCoVo headsets are immediately recogniseable, making it clear that colleagues are connected and ready to respond.  

Customers will see this and think twice before behaving in an abusive way. They have no way of knowing if headsets are connected to other colleagues, off-site security, or even the police. This uncertainty is a powerful deterrent.

The results speak for themselves

We are always keen to hear feedback from our customers. It’s the best way to find out what is working and what needs improvement. When it comes to colleague safety, it’s clear that our system is a huge help:

  • Colleagues feel 54% safer when wearing a headset
  • Teams are more confident working across all store areas

VoCoVo has improved colleague safety at many big name superstores. One Service Support and Operations Manager sums up the benefits:

It’s given teams confidence that something can be done to avoid a situation and protect colleagues

Everyone should feel secure at work. Our system puts safety first so that colleagues can do their jobs without fear.

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