Use Some Cell Phone Etiquette With Customers

November 22, 2010
Butch Welsch

A hot topic around HVAC blogs has to do with the issue of “Rules for Cell Phone Use” and by extension, the use of regular land line phones as well. In the first place, isn’t it a shame that we need to have a set of rules for the use of cell phones? Whatever happened to common courtesy and etiquette? Are they not being taught any more? Before I go on, let me say that these views may not necessarily be those of this publication, but they really are my viewpoints.

Given that we must have some rules, I think the important thing to remember is this: The most important person in your life at any one point in time is the person you are with. In other words, when you are with someone your phone should be off or in the vibrate position. And if it vibrates, let it vibrate and don’t look at it until you have terminated your meeting with that individual.

I know some of you will say; “What if it is an emergency?” To that I have two responses; in reality, how many times is it really an emergency? While the issue may be important in the eyes of the caller, think about it, and I think you will find that 99 percent of the time it wasn’t really so important that it wouldn’t have waited until you had an opportunity to call at your convenience. Secondly, for the 1 percent that really may be an emergency, how would it have been dealt with 10-plus years ago before everyone had a cell phone?

I believe this rule is absolutely necessary to show common respect and courtesy for an individual with whom you are meeting. A district manager for an equipment brand we handled, with whom I was meeting frequently, was guilty on this count every time I met with him. We were his largest residential customer which was the reason for the frequent meetings. When we would be meeting, his phone would vibrate either in his pocket, or worse, he would set it on the conference table for all to hear. He would stop the meeting and look at who had sent the message. I was always belittled by this action. If I am meeting with a large customer (or in his case his largest customer) who could possibly be more important than that person with whom I am meeting? Coincidently, or maybe not, we quit doing business with that company.

We frequently send our sales personnel leads and other information on their cell phone. However, they have strict instructions that if they are with a customer, they should not look at their phone or acknowledge any call to them until they are completely finished and in their vehicle following the call. That includes any calls from me. At the time they are on a sales call, that customer is the most important person to our company, including a sales manager or even the boss.

Notice I said they shouldn’t look at their phone until in their vehicle. I believe it is discourteous to walk out of a person’s home and immediately reach for your phone to see who has called.


I believe that common sense and courtesy will solve most issues regarding cell phones and even regular calls. When in your office meeting with an employee, it is rude and improper to respond to a call and make that individual wait. If your receptionist attempts to send a call your way, just explain that you are busy and the caller may leave a message or call back. Again, this goes back to the fact that the most important person to you should be the person you are with.

I realize I haven’t addressed some of the major questions today such as cell phone and text messaging while driving. I know sometimes cell phones are necessary while driving - just remember your life is at risk and you need to make sure that you are paying a lot of attention to the driving function. As far as texting, I believe it doesn’t need to be said that you shouldn’t text and drive.

There are many other questions and issues regarding cell phone use. In the end I believe nearly all can be answered by using common sense, by showing courtesy to the individual you are with, and remembering that the customer will always be the most important person to your company.

Publication date: 11/22/2010
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