Contact Center Trends

A Call Center Cell Phone Policy That Actually Works

By Christina Gates

0 min read

I used to be a bit of a Harry Potter fangirl. When the third book in the series launched, you better believe I was at the midnight release party waiting in line for my pre-ordered copy. I stayed up long hours that summer, voraciously flipping through the pages. When it came time to go to work, I even brought my book with me, reasoning I could squeeze in some reading during the post-lunch lull. I worked as a hostess at a popular chain restaurant and kept the book propped open and tucked into a shelf on the hostess stand. Though it wasn’t visible to arriving customers, it was visible to my manager — and he did not approve! What seemed to me like a bit of clever multitasking at the time, was clearly a distraction. I wasn’t able to anticipate patrons coming and going in order to hold the door for them. I wasn’t poised and ready with a warm smile and a greeting. These are the kinds of details that add up to the difference in simply getting a table at a restaurant and having a positive dining experience.

Unfortunately, these days we’re more distracted than ever. We take our smartphones everywhere. (Yes — everywhere.) It’s a bad habit that’s hard to break. The temptation to check a social feed, browse an online store, or read the news is a constant siren’s call. While a few swipes on a cell phone during an agent’s idle time may seem innocuous, that distraction can negatively impact speed of answer, productivity and agent empathy. With less disciplined agents, you run the risk of personal cell phone use happening while a customer interaction is taking place. Add in security concerns and there is much to consider when creating a cell phone policy for agents in the contact center.

Acknowledge the issue

There are two approaches that likely won’t work.

  1. Do nothing — It’s akin to not having a sick leave policy. When no guidelines are given, it can be hard to identify a problem and even harder to control it.
  2. Ban personal devices — Companies that value their employees recognize that a certain degree of flexibility and trust is critical to creating an attractive company culture and retaining workforce.

Instead, establish a plan that accepts personal cell phones as a reality of a modern workplace, puts guidelines in place for their use, has consequences if abused, and can be enforced. It’s often best to start with a moderate policy, then assess behavior and tighten the rules if needed.

Set limits

• Define when it’s acceptable to use personal phones during the workday and when it’s not.

Consider mapping these rules against agent status (eg, when they’re available and waiting for an interaction, when they’re on an active interaction, when they’re in training or on a break). Depending on the structure of your contact center, you may consider setting more granular limits (eg, when they’re handling a voice interaction as opposed to handling email interactions).

• Define the length of time personal cell phone use is permitted, as well as the type of use.

How frequently can agents be on personal devices, and for how long each time? Will cell phones be permitted for phone calls, text messages, browsing, games, or any other activity? What is your stance on cameras in the workplace?

• Instruct where personal devices should be stored.

Consider when and where you prefer cell phones to be stored. Is it okay for agents to keep personal devices on their desks or in their pocket? If so, at what intervals?

Establish etiquette

• Set expectations for whether cell phones should be silenced.

The rules you set for cell phone storage may impact whether they need to be silenced. You should also consider whether cell phones should ever be turned completely off, and what occasion might call for that.

• If personal phone calls are permitted, define guidelines around where these should take place.

Is cell phone use permitted when agents are at their desks or restricted to when they’re away from the contact center floor? It’s also a good idea to document that offensive language won’t be tolerated.

Determine the consequences

While mutual trust and respect go a long way in engaging employees and motivating desired behavior, it’s important to create an accountability loop by defining disciplinary actions that will take place in the event that policy terms are violated. Regardless of how aggressive you wish to be, consider structuring these with increasing levels of consequence. For example:

  • First violation merits a warning
  • Second violation merits a temporary cell phone ban
  • Repeat offenders may face a permanent cell phone ban and/or termination

Document and disseminate the policy

As with any policy, you should ensure that the rules you establish are clearly written out and accessible for employees. Incorporate the policy into employee communications, training and new hire procedures. Consider building reminders into the workplace — either automatically through email or corporate messaging applications, or traditionally printed and posted in the break room.

Enforce the rules

Of course, as managers walk the call center floor, they’ll be able to monitor cell phone use. This type of vigilance can also help deter unwanted or excessive device usage. But, be wary of coming off as a watchdog which has the potential to hurt employee morale. Above all, be sure that rules are enforced consistently and that every team member is held to the same standard.

For more ideas about how to boost agent morale in your contact center, tune into our on-demand webinar 5 Ways Contact Center Work-Life Balance Improves Customer Experience.

5 Ways Contact Center Work-Life Balance Improves Customer Experience

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Christina Gates

Christina Gates has spent 7 years in the contact center industry, helping companies move to the cloud, embrace new technologies and deliver better experiences one customer conversation at a time.