10 Rules of Mobile Etiquette for Small Businesses


As small business owners, the mobile phone is one of our most important tools. So important, that we may forget that “anywhere and everywhere” is not our office.

And as your business grows, it’s not just your own behavior with a cell phone you have to think about. You also have to make sure your employees exhibit professionalism, stay safe and present a positive public image of your business while using mobile devices.

We tapped into the expertise of Judi Hembrough of Plantronics for tips along with other advice of my own. So, hit the pause button for a few minutes to review our 10 rules of mobile etiquette for small businesses:

1. Move 10 feet away if you must take a call. If you must take a call when you are if you are face-to-face with someone, first excuse yourself politely with a brief explanation as to why the call is especially urgent and can’t wait. Then, move to a location where you can respect the personal space of others. Some recommend that you move at least 10 feet away from others.

Ideally, though, you should avoid interrupting a face-to-face conversation to take a cell phone call. Interrupting the party you are with sends a message that he or she is less important than the caller.

2. Avoid checking that smartphone in meetings. This applies to visually checking for text messages, emails and missed calls, or listening to voicemails. At best it signals that you are distracted and not giving your full attention to the meeting. At worst it says you find the people in the meeting to be boring or unimportant. If you are expecting a call from the White House at any moment — then yes, I can accept you glancing at your phone. Short of rare circumstances like that, don’t even take your mobile phone out during meetings.

3. Return calls within 24 hours. Returning calls promptly demonstrates professionalism and respect. If you will be in all-day meetings or on vacation where you can’t return calls in a timely manner, update your phone message temporarily. Just remember to revert back upon your return. You’ll sound totally out of it with a message that says you’ll be unavailable … until a week ago.

Increasingly I hear voice mail messages that request that instead of leaving a voicemail, callers send a text or an email. This is a controversial practice. It may turn off some callers, especially prospective or existing clients. To decide if it’s appropriate:

Consider the employee’s role. Most business owners I know want those in sales to be as available as possible, not hard to reach. On the other hand, for a software developer who works 90% of the time in his workspace coding, such a message may be no big deal.
Consider what’s standard in your industry. In tech businesses and online businesses, using email is far more prevalent than using the phone.

4. Know where NOT to talk. Just in case you want to provide a refresher for your team about where it’s NOT acceptable to talk, let’s go down the list:

Libraries, museums and places of worship: Shhhh… is the rule here. No talking, period.

Restaurants: avoid it. Even though there is noise in restaurants, a phone conversation stands out and disturbs others. In some restaurants you may be asked to leave – not to mention getting dirty looks from other patrons. Coffee shops, on the other hand, are noisier and more casual, and calls tend to be more acceptable in the hubbub.

Meetings, conferences and events: Make it become second nature to turn off cell phones upon entering. Set a good example. If you do this in internal meetings in your company, your staff will get used to doing it in all meetings and events.

Finally, please remember not to talk in places that involve running water and flushing. “Nuff said.

5. Speak softly and carry a big stick. This one is for people who talk loudly on their cell phones. Oops, I mean, that you should avoid talking loudly on your cell phone. How many times have you been subjected to someone nearly shouting to overcome a bad connection? Don’t be that person.

And now … a word about using the speakerphone mode of your phone. Alright, I get that you may be tired of holding your phone up to your ear. But the answer is not to use your phone’s (or tablet’s!) speakerphone mode in an open office or public place. Get a headset. Then you can carry on a long call without your arm or ear going numb, and with less disturbance to others…

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