“Get off the phone and Pay Attention to Me,” Say Your Customers!

stop employees talking on cell phones

Have you ever sat in a restaurant and waited for your server to walk over and check on you?

Then you notice the server is standing in the corner texting or playing on his/her cell phone? If so, I am confident that you were frustrated to some degree, and maybe you were so frustrated that you reduced the servers tip or changed your attitude toward your server. Your expectations were set to a certain level since you were going to a restaurant and paying for service, right?

Do you think that your customers feel the same way about the service they receive in your practice? Is it fair that they sit in a room alone while you are checking your text messages or posting on Facebook? Often people blame the employer for not enforcing a “cell phone policy.”

stop employees talking on cell phones

Moving into the digital world does not mean we should lose our manners! Technological advances in our workplace are meant to free us up, expand our world, and allow us to spend more time with customers, not to create free time to surf the web or chat with friends.

It is difficult to imagine conducting business or navigating throughout the day, without a cell phone attached to us. Although we are aware of the office policy, we choose to not only jeopardize our job but also put our patients at risk each day due to our cell phone distractions.

I am confident that we all can identify with each other in some way by sharing our personal emergency stories that happened during the workday. However, we must admit that cell phones have created problems in the workplace, not only dental practices.

Cell phones have created theft in the workplace by stealing time and reducing productivity. The average employee checks their cell phone between 10-20 times, usually more, per eight-hour workday. Being extremely conservative in our calculations, let’s say an employee spends 10 minutes a day on their cell phone. I suspect that the employer would position these numbers closer to 30 minutes a day. Most of us would think 10 minutes a day while on the employer’s clock is not that bad. Keep in mind, this does not consider time spent using a cell phone during unpaid lunches or mandatory breaks. Let us do the math for a year and see how it looks. If you multiply 10 minutes by 260 workdays, it produces 2,600 minutes a year. Divide that total by 60 minutes and the result is 43.3 hours per employee. At $12 an hour, plus other expenses such as payroll taxes (FICA), and such, that is $575 in overpaid wages. If you calculate that for five employees over the course of a year, it totals to $2,875.

These calculations do not include the lost production that the employer absorbed due to cell phone use. Can you image what the practice could achieve with 216 more working hours? How many customer calls, treatment discussions, or how much could your customer service improve with all that extra time?

Have you ever heard a team member say, “We are short-handed,” “We need to hire more help,” or even “I am behind and did not have time to do it?” Then I suggest you take the first step and require team members to put their cell phone away. See if this helps free up time for them to focus on customers. As they focus more on customers, watch as money pushes back into your bottom line. It is time to require that your team members turn off their cell phones during working hours and spend more time caring about their customers. They can give out the practice phone number to family members for emergency purposes only and use their cell phones during breaks and lunch. I have visited practices that make cell phone use an offense as grounds to dismiss an employee if cell phones are used while on the employer’s clock. That is not a bad idea after studying the bottom line and seeing what the business absorbs. If a team member were ever caught stealing $1,000 from your practice, they would likely be fired on the spot, right? Think about it, isn’t stealing time the same thing as stealing money?

Employers worry about the consequence from an employee that lashes out over the cell phone policy, throws a fit in front of other team members, or even quits. First of all, if their cell phone is more important than their job, then they need to quit and go home to spend more time on their cell phone. Work was obviously creating issues for their cell phone addiction. Second, tell employees the truth, show them the math and they will understand and should respect your decision as long as you enforce across the board, show no favoritism or relaxed policies. It is not common that team members want to lose their jobs or desire the practice they work in to go out of business. Many team members undoubtedly haven’t considered the real costs of abusing time. Also, if they do not care, you do not need them on your team. In other words, part ways, mark it up as a bad hire, and move on. They are probably poisoning your team in many other areas as well.

As the workplace changes, employers will adapt or fail. Often employers think this is a tough decision but when logic kicks in and as you observe other successful businesses, how many of these businesses have employees that are talking on or checking their cell phones constantly? At a minimum, employers should evaluate the cost and do their best to eliminate losses related to cell phone use. This evaluation will not only create a more effective and productive workplace but will also improve your customer service. At the end of the day, we need our customers, and we need to serve them well. It is time to put the cell phones away and ramp up our service!

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