We are a small office (15 people). The telephone is our ONLY link to our clients and it is busy ALL the time. My problem is our employees are bringing their cell phones and pagers to work and besides our phones ringing we also have these private phones and pagers going off ALL day long. Consequently, personal calls are being taken first. What kind of a policy can I put in place to remove these cell phones and pagers?
Karen Miller, Office Manager, Chessie Lists, Inc., Silver Spring, MDA
The phones here at Workforce.com were ringing while you asked this, so we asked Nancy Friedman, the "Telephone Doctor"® , to respond. She did:
How to Control Personal Phone Calls at Your Office
Are personal phone calls allowed at your office? Is the privilege being abused? Here are some Telephone Doctor ® tips on how to help control personal calls at the office (P.S.: Some might even work for you personally, at home....)
1. NEVER let an "in person" customer wait while an employee is on a personal call. If you're talking on a business call...be sure you acknowledge the customer when they're standing by your area. If even only by eye contact...and a smile, indicating you recognize they're standing there.
2. Sometimes employees just don't know how to tactfully tell a friend or relative they're at work and unable to talk (they probably haven't ever been shown). They may be embarrassed to tell them. Here's a good response to that problem:
"Aunt Mary...I'd like to hear more about your trip…but I'm at work now and need to get something done for the boss. Let me call you later tonight, when we can talk more in depth. Thanks for calling…talk with you later."
3. If you are approached by your supervisor or other internal staff, and you're on a personal call, immediately put that personal call on hold...or better yet, conclude the call right away. Personal calls can and should wait. Office personnel shouldn't. Remember: "we are customers to each other."
4. When you are on a business call…and a co-worker or supervisor comes to your area: Learn to use the client's name in the call and when a co-worker comes to your area…use it as soon as you can. This makes them aware it's a business call…and not a personal one. (There's not an intelligent manager around who would interrupt you on a business call). Besides...using names in a phone call is a great rapport building tip.
5. Companies need to have policies on cell phones and personal calls. Those that get abused should surrender the privilege of personal calls. Guidelines should be set as new hires come on. No employee should be surprised that personal calls or cell phones aren't welcome. It should be in your Company Handbook.
SOURCE: Nancy Friedman, President of Telephone Doctor ® and a writer, author, and speaker on customer service and telephone skills, February 7, 2000. Friedman can be reached in St. Louis at 314/291-1012.
E-mail your Dear Workforce questions to Online Editor Todd Raphael at email@example.com, along with your name, title, organization and location. Unless you state otherwise, your identifying info may be used on Workforce.com and in Workforce magazine. We can't guarantee we'll be able to answer every question.