The use of mobile phones on the contact centre floor is a debate that has divided the industry. We asked our readers what happens in their contact centre.
Most think mobile phones are a bad idea…
Mobile phones can have a negative impact on First Contact Resolution
When an agent is talking to a customer, their complete focus needs to be on the call as one silly (and avoidable) mistake could result in the customer having to call back.
If this is happening across your contact centre every day, you risk impacting First Contact Resolution and customer satisfaction.
With thanks to Taukeer
An outright ban stops the management team from wasting valuable time
We have a clear-cut policy that no mobile phones are allowed on the contact centre floor. Agents are supplied with lockers to store their phones during working hours, which works well for us.
We put this policy into practice originally as part of our procedures to protect customers’ personal and financial data and reduce the risk of any of this information being taken outside of the business.
Even though ‘modern’ technology now suppresses most of this information, we have kept the procedure in place as it works for us and has never been raised as an issue by our agents in staff survey outcomes etc.
I would prefer the management time to be used constructively, as opposed to being used to manage issues caused by the use of mobiles during working hours.
With thanks to Linda Davis, Head of Operations at AllClear Insurance Services
Help agents come to their own conclusion that mobile phones are bad
Mobile phones are banned in my contact centre.
I enforce this during team meetings with a classic carpenter analogy, by asking the agents “Why would a carpenter choose not to use a mobile phone while operating a power saw?”
I let the agents come to the conclusion that it is a dangerous distraction that could damage quality of their work.
I then pick off the remaining offenders during 1:1 coaching opportunities.
With thanks to Aaron
Any agent using their mobile phone on the floor risks losing their job
The use of mobile phones is prohibited in our contact centre.
We regularly do spot checks on the floor to help enforce this policy. Anyone caught using their mobile phone faces anything from a verbal warning to a formal written warning. We’ve even fired repeat offenders.
With thanks to Taukeer
Cameras in mobile phones make them a security risk
In my experience, the photo element of the mobile phone creates a security risk and should be banned.
This needs to be enforced by team leaders to be a success.
With thanks to Ian
Mobile phones can exacerbate the levels of gossip
I am absolutely against mobile phones on the contact centre floor!
In my experience, they negatively impact productivity, affect customer service (for example, when a call comes in the agent may be distracted and therefore less engaged) and exacerbate the levels of gossip!
With thanks to Hayley Plant, Contact Centre Manager at The Money Shop
Our agents are asked to store their mobile phones in a secure locker
We’ve introduced a policy whereby all personal electronic equipment and bags are to be placed in secure lockers during shifts.
These lockers are located in the break-out area for easy access at break and lunch.
With thanks to Suki
We banned them when camera phones became the norm
Since mobile phones including cameras and data storage devices became the norm, we have banned them on the call floor for data security reasons.
With thanks to Connor
The ability to record conversations would leave our business at severe risk
In regard to agents using mobile phones at their desks… it’s a definite no!
It would be a major distraction, and I believe overall customer service would suffer because of it.
The use of mobile phones could also impact client security, as most devices have the ability to record conversations and take photos, which could leave our business at severe risk.
With thanks to Nancy Parker, Director Of Operations at Office Response Ltd – Part of the Direct Response Group
The use of mobile phones leads to poor quality scores
During the core business hours, I would never allow an agent to have their mobile phone out and would not hesitate to discipline if I caught them.
I would never allow the mobile to be out at any time when on a call to a customer. The mobile is always a distraction and can lead to bad quality scores.
When it comes to a Friday evening or weekend, I usually turn a blind eye, but I never let the agents know that I have seen them with their mobile out.
With thanks to Jamie
Access to a mobile phone is not an agent’s right
Access to a mobile phone and being “connected” is not an agent’s right, especially not at work.
During any given shift, the agent’s full attention should be on their job. After all, it’s what they are paid and trained to do.
With thanks to Keith
The use of mobile phones can be a breach of PCI data protection rules
If your call centre deals with any financial transactions over the phone, even having a mobile in the same room would be in breach of PCI data protection rules.
In fact, anything where an agent can note down bank payment or debit/credit card details would be in breach of the rules and you may find the FCA knocking on your door…
We keep it straightforward and ban them from the floor completely!
With thanks to Andy
Our agents only use their mobile phones in the canteen
I work in a call centre where mobile phones are banned on the floor and can only be used in the canteen.
It is mainly due to PCI compliance, which I agree with.
With thanks to Pauline
Agents sign a document saying they understand the ban
Every single one of our agents signs a document during their induction, in which they agree that the use of mobile phones is not permitted on the contact centre floor.
It is then up to our supervisors to make sure that everyone is doing their job properly – and not using mobile phones.
With thanks to Juan
However, other managers are far more accommodating…
Generation Y are more engaged if they feel connected 24/7
We allow the use of mobile phones on the contact centre floor, as we believe this helps us to engage with our Generation Y employees.
Generation Y (who from a demographic perspective are more likely to be working in a call-centre-type environment) feel the need to be connected – and it seems to me that many don’t understand and appreciate that.
With thanks to Joe
Overreacting to security risks stops agents delivering great service
In a contact centre I once worked in, we did not have an issue with personal usage of mobile phones.
In some very high risk environments, security is a factor, but too many companies overreact to security and put crazy rules in place that in the end stop the agent delivering great service.
Perhaps the policy should be defined by the agents, as they will likely self-impose high standards anyway. Most people actually do want to do the right thing and perform well. It is only the minority that interfere with that premise.
With thanks to Simon
We allow the use of mobile phones if one of our agent’s children is sick
We do not allow mobile phones to be out on our agents’ desks or in view where they may be tempted to look at them. We also don’t allow our agents to use them at their desks if they are on break, as it can become a distraction for other agents who are still working.
The only reason they would have them on their desks is due to a sick child or elderly parent. In this situation, they would advise their supervisor of the problem.
This was implemented a few years back and works well in my contact centre, although every so often you have to remind a few.
With thanks to Joy
We trust our agents to keep their phones in their pockets during a shift
We don’t allow mobile phones to be used during a shift, mainly because they are a distraction and a security risk. However, we trust our agents to keep them out of sight – and most just leave them in their bags or pockets, turned off.
Staff are told of this policy during their induction and we have never had to deal with a staff member using their phone during working hours.
If a staff member needs it for a sick child or some other emergency, they know to give friends and family the incoming line number for the call centre which is always manned.
I am strictly against the idea of taking mobile phones off staff at the beginning of a shift. Your staff are your best assets, so you need to be able to trust them – and not treat them like naughty children.
With thanks to Linda
It depends on how much downtime your agents have
I think it depends on what type of call centre you are operating.
If there is down time between incoming calls and it is not a “full on” environment, mobile phones might not be such an issue.
However, we are a telemarketing call centre so there is no downtime. In this case, I don’t think it is appropriate for mobile phones to be used, as they can distract the staff from doing their job of generating leads.
With thanks to Linda
Agents should at least be allowed to charge their phones at their desks
I think agents should have to turn their phones off during a shift, but be allowed to have them on their desks, so at least they can charge them if they need to.
With thanks to John
Engaged employees make their own decision to focus on the customer
I have worked in a few different contact centres and have learnt that if you treat people like adults, they will behave like them. I hate all this speak of ‘zero tolerance’ and ‘warnings’.
If your people are engaged, motivated and respected, why would they disrespect a consumer, play with their mobile phone and not focus?
With thanks to Sara
Our agents are allowed to have their mobiles on their desks
I allow all of my staff to use their phones at work and to have them on their desks.
I think there is an awful lot to be said about staff engagement and treating staff like adults. If your performance management is sufficiently robust and you have the right group of team leaders it shouldn’t cause a problem.
The security aspect is a very limited risk. If people really wanted to steal data there are a million and one ways – and I’m not sure allowing staff to use their mobiles is the issue.
With thanks to Joe
Agents should not be treated like children when banning mobile phones
I fully support the idea of having a no mobile phone policy and implement it myself. However, I believe it starts with the leadership team and instilling the right culture.
Agents should never be treated like children or micro-managed on this issue.
With thanks to Andrew
A few simple rules have helped enforce appropriate behaviour
We removed the “no mobile phones” rule a little over three years ago. It had been in place from the old analogue days when mobiles interfered with the telephony.
A few simple usage rules (for example, don’t make mobile voice calls from your desk and don’t let it interfere with customer service) have been sufficient to keep mobile phone usage in check.
Respecting agents enough to let them manage their usage appropriately and managing the rare examples of people choosing to do the wrong thing has been a positive experience in our company’s culture.
With thanks to Michael
Security is not a good enough reason to ban mobile phones on the floor
Security alone is not a good enough reason to ban mobile phones.
The act of an agent writing down card or personal details would be considered a possible breach of security, but I’d imagine very few centres have banned paper and pens.
On that basis, taking a photo of such details would be an issue a disciplinary process can cover.
With thanks to Robert
Blaming mobiles phones for negative behaviour is short-sighted
Believing that mobile phone usage is the cause of negative outcomes with customers is short-sighted.
Banning and control is also an old-fashioned concept that has been proven to increase turnover.
Commitment to the job and motivating staff to do their best is the only way to get exception outcomes with your customers.
With thanks to Heidi
We allow the use of our mobile phones – it is 2015 – if you recruit the correct staff and manage effectively there should be no issue at all. We use social media every day – use our phones to emulate the customers experience and allow our staff to take photos/post online. Our staff are trusted and not treated like kids – hence our low attrition and high engagement.
We do not allow mobile phone in our Contact Centre.Phones are kept in a secure locker room. It is a major distraction and affects quality and Productivity. Especially with the emergence of Twitter and Whatapp.
I allow on days when there is a celebration e.g. birthdays,awards etc
You cannot expect your agents to put their mobile phones away, when managers have got their phones out with the reason of family needs – or even when perhaps their family lives overseas. In 2015, when the way of communication is through social media and email, it would be necessary for other departments to have their phones out – why discriminate against Customer Services? They already have an extremely hard job.
it is wrong to not allow the phones, this policy is right for only smart phones but these are not for old model phones which has not any facility to connect to the PC, not take any photo etc. such a these companies which are follows these policy such companies are not the standard. because companies can avoid to misuse of the data like do not gives the usb port, cd or dvd drive to the pc. and if they restrict smart phones then its automatically prevent such situation. i think, these companies are break the human rights i think all companies employee should be raise there voice against such stupid policy. this is there human rights violation.
I cannot believe some of the comments I’ve seen certain management post here, such as the fact that they provide lockers to secure phones. I’m sorry, but a mobile phone is private property, not company property. And in today’s age, it is crucial to have as most people use their phones for calendars, their watch is usually the phone as fewer people have traditional watches, and it is a useful tool to not be late to meetings and/or coming back from lunches and breaks. This concept of having to go to a locker to pull your property out is extreme.
I think any decent call centre worker should have the right to do as they wish, as long as they meet good quality, can notate calls appropriately, and customers like their performance and it is reflected in the work, what is in the pocket or hand of an agent is of no concern to managers. You hire workers for a reason, you hire their professional attribute to perform the job. You owe it to them to respect their ability to separate work from personal life and do the job. If job performance suffers, okay, but otherwise, all these fire-on-demand rules are precisely why more unions are needed to protect worker rights in the workplace. Job performance shouldn’t be tied to such nonsense and over-reach. And any good management team should realise it.
In addition to the above comments, workers are not just productivity numbers on a page. Workers are human beings and in order to be productive they need to have room to do what they want while they perform on the job. Motivating workers, by not treating them like numbers on a sheet of paper, usually works better and allows for better customer service. Your agents aren’t going to be as effective if they sit at the desk steaming mad at managers who micro-manage all day than if they are allowed leisure – and treated like adults – to manage their own time appropriately.
This is *especially* true when most managers have mobile devices they use. I’ve seen it in virtually any job I’ve had in the past where there is some asinine rule that workers can’t have cell phones, yet managers are pecking away all the time on their phones. Double standards reduce trust between employers and employees.
This is why management sometimes can’t see the forest for all the trees in the way, they need to start thinking outside the box. If you want to motivate employees, you need to treat them as professionals, not treat them like children who need to be taught every little move and every little choice they make. Call centre jobs are some of the toughest jobs out there, between the verbal abuse they face, the non-stop nature most call centres have (there’s *always* a call in queue in most environments, because managers are directed not to hire too many workers to keep costs down), these cell phone policies don’t give the worker any license to feel in control of anything. It makes turnover higher, for sure.
Cell phone use is out of control at our company. We have a formal policy that personal cell phones are not allowed on the call centre floor but everybody (including managers) seem to ignore it. I am a customer service trainer and so many of our phone agents use cell phones on the floor but I can’t chastise them because they see managers using cell phones.
I don’t want to treat them like children but they miss half of the things I say and I’m constantly repeating myself. If they don’t respect me, I don’t see how they respect our callers. I was hoping treating our employees like adults means they will act as adults but what if they still continue to act like children?
I agree with the comment above me. I want to believe that treating the employees like adults will make them act like adults, however, after I saw agents shopping and using apps like Snapchat on their cell phones during a call with a customer, we had to implement the no cell phone policy. If our quality scores were amazing, maybe we wouldn’t care. However, it is not rare to receive complaints about incorrect information being provided.