Put Your Cellphones Down!

As promised in the last post, here is the story of why I have a very visible sign at my desk that reads: PLEASE PUT YOUR CELLPHONE DOWN, THIS IS A FUN OCCASION, ENJOY IT!

See, the service I provide is a fun one, and although a phonecall might be necessary for one of my clients to get information I need, a continued personal phone conversation is never necessary. Never.

I work in a busy office, where people are given numbers when they arrive and then they wait until an issuer is free. The wait is never that long, but there are times when we are busier than others. So this one time when we had over 10 customers waiting, I was doing my best to deliver and not make people stay in the waiting room too long, but at the same time, remain calm and fun for the people I was calling to my desk… So, one happy customer after another happy customer the afternoon went until I called this one person who came to my desk while having a personal conversation on the phone. I greeted the person as I always do and ask to see the information they had for me, she laid all the documents on the counter while talking to another person on the phone. I have a routine that when I review the documents, I ask questions to confirm the info so that there are no mistakes along the way. The first question I asked was met with a response of one finger in the air, telling me to wait a minute… huh… no.. so I asked again and then put that same finger on her lips in a way of telling me to be quiet… OH!!! OK. but… wrong desk… that could work for my colleagues but not for me… this is how it went:

Me: I’m sorry but I will need to keep asking questions and will need to get answers to continue on BUT if you’re conversation is important, I really don’t mind if you wish to continue, I will call the next customer and you can come back to my desk when you are ready.

Her: What? NO! You are being very rude right now!

Me: Hummm, I don’t think I’m being rude at all, I think the customers that are waiting to be served would agree with me that right now at this moment, you are being rude to them and to me.

Her: (to the person on the phone) I’m going to call you back in a minute, I need to deal with this here. (and then to me) There! Happy?

Me: I’m always happy, but there are questions you will need to answer and information you must confirm before we go on and finish, so I need your full attention, this legal document cannot have errors printed on it when you leave.

Her: I think you have been very rude, this was an important call.

Me: I think I was being quite polite when I gave you the option to finish your call while I serve the people waiting behind you. There’s no reason they should have to be in here any longer than they have to because someone took twice the time because of a personal conversation, as important as it must have been.

Her: I work in customer service and I can tell you that EVERYONE uses cellphones. It’s how everyone operates now.

Me: Well, I promise you that I don’t use a cellphone when I’m being served somewhere, and I appreciate that people do the same here. It’s good etiquette to pay attention to the person serving you and vice versa. Mine is always around in case of emergency but I cannot imagine interrupting a transaction by answering a call or a text. Not the way I operate, nor does this office.

Her: Can we just do this?

Me: Yes, of course, as soon as you answer the question I asked before telling me I was rude.

We did continue on after this, and I did finish the transaction with her. She did ask my name, and I pointed to the space on her document where all my information was, including my full name. I gave her the exact same spiel I give all my customers about what to expect and what needs to be done, and like all the other ones, I wished her a good day. She said I would be hearing back from her, and I told her I would be documenting our transaction directly to my supervisor. Of course, I never heard from her again. And if she did call management, I’m sure the notes I took on this transaction were precise and clear enough to not investigate any further, but my guess is that she never contacted anyone as she knew she was wrong.

The one thing I did right after she left though was type a note that read: PUT YOUR CELLPHONES DOWN, THIS IS A FUN OCCASION, ENJOY IT! and taped it to a spot where all the customer sitting at my counter can see right away. To this day, I always get positive feedback about it, proving that the great majority agrees that cellphones should be put down more often.


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