Should sales associates use smartphones on the job?

A provocative article by fellow consultant Doug Fleener triggered a huge response on RetailWire. The question: Should sales associates be permitted to use smartphones on the job? And (if not) how does store management wrestle with this growing issue? My opinion:

Unless cellphones and other “smart” devices are being used to help customers or drive sales (e.g. calling another store, checking for inventory availability online), they should be off limits for sales associates. What Doug describes is another example of “bad manners” creeping into everyday life. All of us have fallen victim to smartphone users checking e-mail, etc. during meetings or social occasions where the unspoken messsage is, “I am more important that you are.” (Or we’ve been guilty of the same behavior ourselves.) If retailers take the position that customers or browsers are invited guests, and train their sales associates accordingly, this sort of breach of etiquette — and bad business move — can be avoided.

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