Dealer to Dealer: Cell Phones on the Sales Floor

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I've got to get a handle on cell phone use; it’s become ridiculous, with even key employees texting girlfriends, checking on their cat’s GPS location or taking calls from their kids. What happened to the days where, if a call was important enough, you called on the landline? And when someone on the sales floor has a loud ring tone, how can they even rationalize that as OK?
We’re in a very tight market, to say the least, and have to tolerate some things I’d never consider, but this has become the norm for people who really should know better. Is it just me? Are there others who can relate, and have found a way to fix it? 
—Mike Jacoubowsky, Chain Reaction Bicycles, Redwood City, California

We pay based on performance. If you want to perform better, there are things you can do to improve that. Money is not a great motivator, so we focus on the things that can be done with that money. My #1 salesperson gets to race cyclocross each fall, because he knows that hitting his goals gives him the money he needs to take time off this time of year. The conversation is about what can be done to improve performance. The answer may be putting your phone down, and arriving 10 minutes earlier to create a plan for the day. Each employee can change (if she wants) her behaviors to improve himself /her pay.
—Chad Pickard, Spoke-N-Sport Bikes, Sioux Falls and Brookings, South Dakota

I tend to take more of a “can’t we all just get along?” path. Early on, I was draconian about cell phone use: they got one warning, sent home after a second time and, if it happened a third time, they were dismissed. Fast forward to today: I use my phone on the sales floor, as do my staff, from time to time. We show folks pics from websites, at times it is faster to send a text than getting onto the computer to send an email, and often they come out to take a pic of a problem with a bike, a new bike purchase to be posted on social media or the like.
If an employee abuses the use of the phone, then there is a discussion. This rarely occurs. I explain our policy this way: “If you’re serving my customer with your cell phone, I consider that acceptable use on the floor. If you’re texting friends, playing games, or engaging in any other self-serving endeavor, that is not an acceptable use.” It does require my managers and me to police the staff in an ongoing manner, but that’s just part of the job, as I see it. As a manager, my job is not to lay out a policy, inform the staff of that policy, and then assume I never need to readdress it. I have said it before that management is much like parenting: you need to set the parameters, then continually monitor to make sure they’re being followed.
Cell phones are ubiquitous in today’s world. Fighting the wave is not only exhausting, it can be counterproductive. Youth today see it as both entertainment and a tool to manage their lives. I simply set the rules to say the entertainment side of the equation is not acceptable when on the job, but the tool side is.
—Jeff Selzer, Palo Alto Bicycles, Palo Alto, California 

Phones are a PITA but a necessary evil. Are you ready to have a basket full of $1,000 phones in the back room? I'm low-tech, but whip mine out to show pictures to customers, or to look something up. I've got an iPad too, but that’s blasting out music I want to listen to.
—Mac McCabe, Mac's Harpeth Bikes, Franklin, Tennessee

I encourage my customers to take a picture of their bike or broken part, and text it to me or my employees for quick analysis of the problem. This saves time, and helps us and the customers. We also email about 30% of sales receipts. My sales guys use their phones to post new products on Instagram and Facebook, which is totally natural for them. I do, however, have to supervise and remind them of the chores that need to be done before they can play on their phones.
—Ralph Ruffolo, The BikeShop at Southport Rigging, Kenosha, Wisconsin


These posts have been edited for clarity and length. The NBDA Dealer Forum is where independent bicycle retailers can share news, opinions and advice about their businesses. It is open exclusively to NBDA dealer members, any of whom may join. To subscribe, go to nbda.com.