There’s no doubt about it, Americans are dependent on their mobile phones, sometimes to the point of rudeness. It’s bad enough when we’re subjected to poor cell phone etiquette in our personal lives, but it borders on intolerable when this misbehavior extends to a business setting. That’s why small business owners should establish rules for mobile phone usage for both themselves and their employees.
Be forewarned, however, that it may not be easy since Americans have become increasingly dependent on the constant connectivity their smartphones provide. The 2012 Mobile Mindset Study by Lookout™ reports that 58 percent of users say they don’t go an hour without checking their phone (that figure rises to 68 percent in the 18 to 34 age group). Breaking simple rules of etiquette has become commonplace among many cell phone users (30 percent admit they check their phones while dining with others), as has risk taking (24 percent say they check their phones while driving). And a whopping 94 percent are concerned about losing their phone, a condition known as nomophobia.
So, where do you begin to establish mobile phone etiquette rules for your small business? Consider how you conduct business. Do you run a retail establishment or are you a service provider? Do you have frequent meetings with vendors or clients, or are you more concerned about the way your employees use (or don’t use) their phones while on the job? Establishing common sense rules that apply to your own unique situation is the best way to ensure that they are followed.
Here are 10 ideas to get you started:
1. All cell phone conversations should be brief and to the point. Use them as a business tool, not a diversion from the work at hand.
2. Silence your phone during meetings, whether they’re with clients, customers or staff. Either turn it off or use the mute/vibrate mode, and then put the phone away so it’s not a distraction.
3. Remove your hands-free headset in face-to-face situations so it’s not a distraction to others in the group and as an indication that they have your undivided attention.
4. Fight the urge to check your messages while with others. Your attention should be with them, not on your texts and emails. There are very few messages that cannot wait a few minutes for a response.
5. Don’t use your phone as a timepiece. Slap a watch on your wrist instead if knowing the time is crucial to your schedule.
6. Adopt the 10-foot rule. That is, keep at least that distance from anyone else when you’re on your phone to make it less likely that they’ll be privy to a conversation they’d rather not (or should not) hear.
7. Don’t conduct phone conversations in public spaces, particularly where quiet or privacy is expected or requested. This includes libraries, hospitals, theaters, a doctor’s waiting room, auditoriums, places of worship and restaurants.
8. Choose your ring tone carefully. Raucous, loud or annoying tunes and tones most likely do not reflect the professional persona you are hoping to project. Choose one that does and use it.
9. Do not take a call on your personal mobile during a business meeting. These are the moments for which voicemail was invented.
10. Make your workplace a “mobile phone-free” zone, if necessary. If your business is conducted in an office environment, it makes sense to expect employees to take or make personal calls in a designated area of the building or outside so as not to disturb their coworkers.
If cell phone calls have become more of a hindrance than a help on your small business jobsite, it’s time for you to take the situation in hand and rectify it. After all, it is your prerogative as the boss!
About the Author: Beth Longware Duff writes about merchant services for small businesses, including iphone credit card processing.