Cell phones are wondrous tools. Cell phones can also become magnets for our eyes, consuming our attention in the wrong direction, as in… away from precious customers.

It may not be possible or sensible to ban our employees from using their cell phones. In fact, in some scenarios phones can be used productively as a communication tool between colleagues or managers and staff. For example, think of a very large store where the manager needs to communicate with floor staff. Or, a landscape or building contractor keeping in touch with their crew out on the road.

However, often times I’ve witnessed service providers in stores, restaurants or cafes, with their nose in their phone oblivious to waiting customers. Have you ever seen this?

The key is to ensure “cell phone use” guidelines are in place and clearly communicated to all staff. This should be part of the employee orientation plan.

You could, for instance, implement a “phone glance” policy.  Employees should only infrequently glance at their phones to check for important messages from co-workers or managers, but not for using social networks. Social networking can be deferred to off-time such as breaks, lunch, etc.

Staff training consisting of role playing games is an approach worth investigating to help staff grasp your expectations and their reasons.  Such games, when delivered appropriately, can help synthesize such policies in an organization in a fun way.

As business owners and managers, it’s our job to make staff understand that a customer can not be effectively tended to when the focused on his/her phone. And if no customers are waiting or present? Some other tasks that benefit the business or future customers can always be identified and tackled.

Again, the key is in the culture owners create.

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