It is often difficult to stay calm against aggressive behaviour from a customer at work. How many times have you just been told to 'shut up?' Please let us help you better understand personal safety, what to do if a customer is being angry or abusive without letting them cause severe damage. Also, we've answered some of the most popular questions that rideshare and delivery drivers ask about facing abuse at work.
More than often drivers or riders are unable to assess when the argument becomes heated to a point of violence. There is no abrupt escape from such unsafe situations either because of payment kept due or threats of false accusations.
But there are actions you may take to avoid risk of violence:
1. Be patient and do not succumb to frustration
Most of the time a rude or degressive customer is behaving out of unrecognized frustration. If a customer is angry at your fault and not co-operating to a fruitful compensation then you must be calm as they express grievances. In case it is their own fault, never try to defend yourself or ask for a third opinion on the spot. This will agitate and move the situation further away from peace. Instead, wait until the customer calms down and apologize sincerely.
You can also offer some form of compensation in return but only after the customer agrees to accept it. It would be better to avoid any kind of confrontation altogether. You may later report the incident to officials.
2. Avoid making excuses
Sometimes a critical situation will urge you to defend yourself but never make excuses for avoiding an inconvenience. Angry customers often impulsively resort to attack you in case your version does not match theirs. Say that you understand instead of pointing out what caused the problem.
3. Stay alert
Always stay alert and aware of your surroundings. Don’t let your guard down. Make sure to maintain a safe distance of at least two hands if you suspect a customer growing irritable. observe their body language - clenching fist or impatient moving. Avoid eye contact or any confrontation involving physical contact, the situation is unpredictable so it is safer to back off
4. Use active listening
The use of this extends far beyond 'treating them calmly and kindly', especially when peaceful discussion fails. When you are listening actively, you not only remember what they say but also how they say it. This enables you to form reflexes and hold composure since you can roughly predict what their next point of argument will be, whether they might attack you. Do not use active listening to counter arguments in difficult situations. Rather use it to reduce the argument into a conversation and even use their exact words to file a legal complaint if they have shown violent behaviour, threatened you or caused damage.
These steps are proven to be effective and suggested by several organizations trying to solve the problem of 'workspace violence' increasing quite rapidly, we have resourced top information from hrcentral.com.au, mindtools.com , business.qld.gov.au.
Why is customers' aggression increasing ?
The National Retail Association has found out that 85% of retail workers have to undergo verbal or physical abuse almost daily. They suspect this behaviour to be triggered by frustrations at COVID restrictions and 'panic buying'. But what about the unreported cases of customer aggression toward independent workers? What are the grounding figures for them? In fact these numbers do not even run close to the frequent abuse faced by rideshare and delivery drivers, irrespective of the pandemic. Especially food delivery drivers have to face unjustified accusations from irate customers maybe for an extended waiting time or simply because of unrelated frustrations.
Does 400% seem like an "unreal" figure to you? Well, we are not too happy either to admit that it forms an annual national record. Several instances of customers being brutally aggressive towards retail store workers and independent workers on the frontline, have been covered by the media throughout 2020. However, cases of microaggression, verbal abuse and unjustified complaints are usually forgotten for good, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, when it is difficult to remain undisturbed.
Independent workers in Australia frequently ask these questions:
What if this is my first time facing a difficult situation?
Of course, you may have been doing gig work before and never faced an aggressive customer before, which is highly unlikely but good for you. For people who have joined platforms like Uber, Uber Eats, Doordash, Sherpa or DiDi very recently are not expected to have prior experience obviously. They are more likely to fall victim to abuse. No, you are not expected to tolerate any attacks in the name of 'customer relation'. If you have argued back in your own defense it is very usual, however you should apologize first to acknowledge grievances.
If you feel depressed regarding a violation of personal safety or exploitation you must speak up to someone you can trust and in case of visible damage, seek legal aid.
Can I prevent disruptive behaviour?
Use your own emotional intelligence to avoid difficult customer situations. Generally an unhappy customer is more likely to turn into an abusive customer as well if not met calmly. At the first meeting, try to observe their facial expressions for any non-verbal cues like 'eye rolling', glaring or pointing at you.
Where can I share my negative experiences with customers?
It is not always possible to use legal action against an abusive customer. You may wish to move on from it but still discuss the problem with a safe community or make sure that other workers on that platform don't have to face the same situation. You can share your experience with the support team of whatever platform you are working with, example - you can search for 'Deliveroo valet support'. You can even share your experience in private social media groups such as MyGigsters Rideshare and Delivery Drivers, your profile is only visible to group members who are fellow drivers and the information you share is kept discreet.
Where can I report an aggressive incident with a rude customer for immediate response?
You should report all intentional offenses caused by a rude/abusive customer as cases of 'workplace violence' at the police station nearest to the location of the incident. It is their duty of care to lodge every complaint and provide immediate response for it. They cannot deny you service, all you need to do is know the basics of reporting an incident of aggression, by WorkSafe Victoria.