The Customer is Always Safe: How Health and Safety Can Improve Customer Service

Andrew Jones, a local DJ and musician, was convicted of putting 60 people in serious danger after he held an extremely unsafe warehouse rave. All but one of the exits were locked, the electricity had been tampered with, and the entire venue was filled with potential fire hazards. During the court hearing, the judge condemned Jones for his dangerous naivety and wilful ignorance, but he also made a point of reading character references for the artist from people who admired his contribution to the local music scene.
The lesson from all of this is that, even though Jones was praised as a shrewd businessman through his character reference, health and safety was where he failed. A good business should be determined to treat their customer with the utmost care and attention. What many businesses often fail to recognise is that safety is key to this. The fact is that if Jones was a safer event organiser, he’d be a better event organiser and he’d have happier customers. With safety comes cleanliness, tidiness, and efficiency: all things which customers love.

This is especially important in an era where customers have less and less reason to walk into a physical building for a given service. High-street sales have been battling with online sales for years, so no-one is going to walk into your shop, building, stand, cafe, or kiosk if they think it’s unsafe. They can either go online or go elsewhere.

Bad health and Safety can costa’ lotta’ customers

Costa, the popular British coffee chain, landed themselves in hot water after a customer found blood in their latte. This may have been just one mistake, in one cafe, at one time, but it’s pretty extreme.

On the other end of the spectrum, Costa has been known to make a mockery out of health and safety by using it to explain some entirely unrelated issues. One Costa in Sheffield refused to mix skimmed milk and whole milk at a customer’s request. Rather than explaining that this was a trading standards issue, management dealt with the situation in the worst possible way: claiming that it was for health and safety reasons.

Predictably and quite rightly, the customer was not at all satisfied with this explanation. Neither was HSE chair Judith Hackett who claims that health and safety is being “trivialised” and “trotted out to justify all sorts of ridiculous decisions”.

Costa are not the only company at fault here. There are countless other examples of businesses using health and safety as a sort of “Get out of Jail Free Card” when they want to explain their reason for denying certain services for customers. These same businesses may also wind up in situations where customers are in danger because health and safety has been so entirely misunderstood. For these businesses, well implemented health and safety carried out by knowledgeable staff who respect and understand their company’s rules, as well as the reasons for them, is the solution to their problems.

Blood in a latte is clearly a safety hazard and mixing milk is clearly not. Staff who are given the appropriate safety training by a company which cares about health and safety will understand this. In big businesses, the message of health and safety, and its connection with customer service, is far too often lost. Both big businesses and small businesses need decent and a consistent safety training, without it staff may learn to dislike health and safety. They can end up blaming it for all sorts of unconnected problems and then not adhering to it when they definitely should be.

Health and safety is the backbone of customer service, but only when used appropriately. It should not be ignored for the sake of profit, nor should it be used to to give a simple explanation to complicated problems. Health and safety protocol is what a business puts into it. It is system with the potential to be shaped and, when shaped properly, can ensure a safe and steady flow of good business and glowing customer service reviews.

Author Bio Justin O’Sullivan is the owner of Storage Equipment Experts, a B2B enterprise which provides expert pallet rack inspections across the country.