ALMOST nine in ten (86%) UK tradespeople have been abused by customers, new research has revealed.
The study, conducted by IronmongeryDirect, quizzed 500 tradespeople in the UK on their experiences with customers whilst at work.
Bricklayers were found to be most susceptible to abuse, with 56% stating they have experienced it whilst at work. Next is builders (24%), plumbers (22%), plasterers (20%) and joiners (20%).
Swearing and insults was the most common form of abuse reported. However, shockingly, one in ten (10%) said they had been physically attacked by a client, and one in 14 (7%) reported being sexually harassed.
One in five (20%) reported experiencing abuse on every single working day, with more than a third (34%) being berated every week. Further to this, one in seven (14%) reported receiving aggressive text messages and/or calls after they have left a job.
While both male and female tradespeople are victimised, the type of abuse they receive varies. Women are more likely to be sworn at or insulted (37%) and receive threatening messages (18%), but men are more commonly on the end of physical attacks (10%) and sexual harassment (8%).
Overall, tradeswomen are abused by customers more regularly, with almost a quarter (23%) being mistreated every day, compared to 19% of men.
Age was also found to be a factor, with younger workers generally most likely to be targeted. Gen Z (18-24 year olds) and millennial (25-34s) tradespeople receive the most insults, threats and sexual remarks. However, customers are most likely to threaten to withhold payment when it is an older tradesperson (over 65) in their home (16%).
With the scale of the problem revealed, IronmongeryDirect has partnered with experienced psychological therapist, Michael Padraig Acton, who has provided advice for tradespeople dealing with confrontational customers:
1) Ask for specifics
“Make sure you are hearing and understanding everything the person is complaining about. Don’t assume anything and double check that you know what they are referring to. Be genuine and make note of their sense of the problem.”
2) Stay calm
“Don’t raise your voice or antagonise the customer. It’s the worst mistake you can make as you will just escalate the situation. Sometimes staying calm is enough to diffuse the situation as the customer might back down after having their say.”
3) Check your involvement
“It is always helpful to reflect on your involvement and consider how you did or didn’t manage something. You can also ask your employer or company for training and support.”
Dominick Sandford, director and head of merchandising & marketing at IronmongeryDirect, said, “It’s horrific to see how widespread the problem of customer abuse is in the industry, with many tradespeople experiencing it every single shift.
“It’s so important that tradespeople look after themselves and don’t just put up with hostility, as it can have a detrimental effect on their mental health. Our research found that one in eight workers have walked away from jobs because of abuse and that is a really sensible action to take.”
The UK trades most likely to receive daily customer abuse are:
1) Bricklayer – 56%
2) Builder – 24%
3) Plumber – 22%
4) Plasterer – 20%
5) Joiner – 20%
6) Building surveyor – 19%
7) Electrician – 19%
8) Carpenter – 16%
9) Painter decorator – 14%
10) Landscaper – 7%