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Carol L Schroeder

Smart Phones=Smart Staff?

December 3, 2012

smart phones, smart staffWe all see our customers using their phones while shopping to get more information about a product, to find out which color Aunt Mary likes best, and even sometimes (much to our dismay) to order the item they're looking at from an online source. But how do we feel about our sales associates using smart phones while they're at work?

According to Internet Retailer, retail employees want to use mobile technology too. The article quotes the results of research conducted by Motorola Solutions Inc. as showing that 71% of the retail respondents said they would use store-provided mobile devices to check inventory for shoppers, while nearly 67% would do price checks, with 34% going onto the Internet to access product information.

I think that mobile devices -- especially smart phones -- are unlikely to be provided to employees by most independent retailers due to the cost. But of course many of our staff members have their own phones, and they're often carrying them in their pockets. We were in a store recently looking at jewelry made from real butterfly wings. When the question came up as to how long most butterflies live, there was a race to the finish to see who could find the answer* faster: the shoppers or the sales staff.

Having your employees use their own smart phones to can be a real asset to your customer service, if you have an agreement as to how it is to be used. You will of course need to limit personal phone calls and especially texting while on the sale floor. It has unfortunately become a common sight to see an employee standing at the cash register focused on reading and writing texts instead of greeting customers. Not as dangerous as texting while driving, but still not a good idea.

A British web site points out that using a mobile phone actually increases the safety of retail employees, because a person can call for help from anywhere in the store. This is especially important if you have employees working alone.

You might make some suggestions to your staff as to the types of information that they might find online that would be useful to your customers. If you're using QR codes in the store, for example, sales associates can offer to scan them for shoppers who don't have their own smart phone. When used wisely, smart phones should help your shop achieve an even higher level of customer service.