Store workers get training on mask conflicts
Many retail workers will receive a new sort of preparation for this year’s holiday season: training on how to manage conflicts with customers who resist maskwearing, social distancing and store capacity limits.
The National Retail Federation, a trade group representing about 16,000 retailers, said Thursday that it had teamed with the Crisis Prevention Institute, a company focused on reducing workplace violence, to help retail workers learn how to prevent and deescalate shopper disputes that emerge from pandemic restrictions.
The training puts a spotlight on the unexpected challenges that store workers have been forced to grapple with during the pandemic. Most retailers were early to require masks and distancing in stores, but some shoppers have flouted the rules, putting employees in uncomfortable and sometimes frightening positions.
In the online training, “one of the major scenarios is around an employee asking a customer to wear a mask, and he reacts,” said Adam Lukoskie, vice president of the NRF Foundation, the trade group’s nonprofit arm. “There’s another scenario where a mother and child are there and are upset this gentleman is not wearing a mask so then the employee has to help make peace.”
Susan Driscoll, president of the Crisis Prevention Institute, said the online training program and accompanying COVID-19
Customer Conflict Prevention credential are “really focused on how to engage your thinking brain over your emotional brain.” It teaches employees how to recognize what stage of a crisis a consumer may be in, and what they can do to defuse the situation, she said.
“It is very practical,” Driscoll said. For example, she said, if a shopper is very distressed, the program offers tips on “how to verbally and nonverbally communicate empathy and support” while masked.
“Say, ‘Would you like to get out of the line and talk this through, or would you like to talk to a manager?’ ” she continued. “Giving them a choice puts them back in control, and you get them out of the way and out of the line from customers and help deescalate the crisis.”