During a recent shopping expedition I couldn't help but notice the number of store employees using cellphones while on the floor. I wondered if these companies allow their employees to use their phones at work, or if these folks were just not following company rules. I did ask one person if her company was okay with her checking email instead of paying attention to her customers. Oh, if looks could kill!
So I instead of running the risk of being hit by a flying cellphone, I decided to ask the readers of My Daily Take Five instead. Here's what they said.
1. Do you allow employees to carry their phones with them while on the floor?
Other 10% (Mostly in case of emergencies)
2. Do you allow employees to access their phones while on the floor?
Other 10% (Mostly in case of emergencies.)
3. Do you have a written policy on cellphone use at work?
4. How many locations do you have?
The size of the organization doesn't make much of a difference to whether or not cellphone use is allowed. Not surprisingly, multi-store locations are more likely to have a written policy.
Most readers are pretty firmly against cellphone use by employees.
"Cellphone use on my clock is strictly prohibited. They must be turned OFF upon arrival to work and all purses are left in the office to help prevent employee theft."
"We would like to allow the use, but invariably they end up texting, gaming, or on Facebook and customer service suffers or is ignored completely."
A few people are fine with it.
"I don't mind if my employees access their phones as long as there are no customers in the store."
"In today's world cells are an integral part of life. They are used in lieu of a watch. Kids and elderly parents need just one number for emergency contact. Quick texted messages are less disruptive than phone calls to/from the store. But phone conversations are to be taken off the floor. If phone isn't a disruption/ doesn't impede service, is ok."
One store manager even leverages the phone for good service:
"We let employees take pictures from their cell of product to email customers with new merchandise or product that they think their customer is interested in."
So what's the right answer? Should or shouldn't you allow cellphone use at work?
I'm torn on this one. Part of me says that we're all adults and we shouldn't have to have a rule. Shouldn't we be able to expect our employees to do what's best for the customer and the business? I wish it were that easy.
Here in Massachusetts, the legislature recently passed a new law prohibiting emailing or texting while driving. Not even at a stoplight or in a traffic backup. As a smartphone junkie, going cold turkey has been extremely difficult, I'll admit. I've had a few slips, but I'm doing my best!
The temptation to text, email, and Facebook is very tough to overcome.
I can't say what's right or wrong for your business, but let me share what I would do for my business. Again, it may or may not work for you.
First, I would have a written cellphone policy that is reviewed and signed by the employees annually. It would be short and to the point, spelling out specifically what is and is not allowed. I knew it was dumb and dangerous to text or read email while driving way before the state outlawed it, but my behavior only changed when the law did.
Next, I would have to go with a zero tolerance for phone use on the floor except in an emergency. I wish I could say otherwise, but I do think most people will check their phones when they shouldn't. We see it all the time in our daily experiences. Not long ago I encountered a Starbucks barista checking his phone while taking my order. The customer and his/her experience has to be our priority.
It's fine with me if people use their phones in the back on break and at lunch. As a matter of fact, I might even consider putting a computer in the break room for employees to use during break and lunches. A number of my Daily readers didn't agree with me on this one,
I would also implement a two-strike policy. Strike one, you're on probation. Strike two, you're terminated. I know that sounds harsh, but in reading my reader comments it seems that many of you are having a challenge with people following your policy. That bothers me. Either people follow the rule or they don't. Sadly, if there are no consequences for actions then some percentage of people won't follow the rules.
At the same time I would be extremely lenient when asked by an employee if they can check email. I know we live in connected world, but at the same time we can't afford to let anything distract us from winning the customer, maximizing the opportunity, and creating an incredible store experience.
Yes, we live in connected world, but the most important connection we can make is with our customer, at every opportunity. The rest can, and will have to, wait.