Etiquette disconnect?

March 1, 2002
Marjorie Brody
Marjorie Brody

Marjorie Brody is the founder of Brody Professional Development in Jenkintown, PA. She is an internationally recognized author and speaker who helps individuals achieve their potential by strengthening their professionalism, persuasiveness and presence. To book Marjorie for a presentation, call (800) 726-7936, or visit her Web site at To sign up for Marjorie’s free quarterly newsletter, go to

Pharmaceutical Representative

A guide to considerate cell phone and voice mail use.

The ability to connect almost anywhere with anyone has made cell phones an extremely popular form of communication – especially with sales reps whose offices are on the road and in their car.

For the same reason, voice mail is a key communication technology for pharmaceutical reps; many times it's the method with which they communicate with doctors and other healthcare professionals. And reps also rely on voice mail to keep their accounts up-to-date with where they are and how they can be reached.

Cell phones and voice mail are two vital communication technologies for sales reps and other professionals. So it's important to address how these technologies can be abused, and the consequences of such misuse.

Don't misuse your cell phone

Although they are an important tool for the busy rep who's always on the road, cell phones can be a nuisance, too. The proliferation of cell phones presented the biggest communication-related nuisance of the '90s: users with little or no manners. This situation is continuing into the new millennium, and will keep increasing until users start practicing some common courtesies.

Everywhere you turn, someone is speaking into a cell phone or one is ringing. It's gotten so bad that you can't even enjoy a nice evening out in a restaurant without hearing a phone ring or unintentionally overhearing another dinner patron's conversation.

There are also increasing safety-related concerns over cell phone use, as more people get into accidents when driving and talking on them. More states are considering - or have passed - legislation to ban hand-held cell phone use while driving.

It's obvious, then, that people's tolerance levels toward cell phone abuse are falling.

So what can be done? Users can be educated that the rules of communication etiquette and common sense also apply to cell phones.

Just like other modern technologies that make our lives more convenient, there are certain protocols to follow concerning the use of cell phones:

•Â Do not use a cell phone in public places where it will disturb others (doctors' offices, meetings, elevators, restaurants, theaters, buses, trains, planes, etc.), or where they can overhear your private information or confidential company statistics.

•Â Remember that cell phone lines themselves aren't always private; other cell phone users may be able to listen in on the same channels. Sensitive client or personal information should not be discussed over a cell phone.

•Â It's bad etiquette to call other people on their cell phones without permission, because they are charged for use.

The last point to remember about using cell phones is safety-related. Cell phone use while in a car can be dangerous. Country singer George Jones can attest to this. He was lucky enough to survive a bad accident that happened because he was on a cell phone and lost control of his car.

Strategies for effective voice mail use

Companies in which phones are the business lifeblood usually have voice mail systems. Voice mail is often viewed as a necessary evil – companies can't afford to hire additional employees as phone operators.

For sales reps, voice mail is also incredibly important to their daily routines. It's equally as important, then, that they use this communication technology properly. Here are some tips for effectively using voice mail.

If you get someone's voice mail and want to leave a message, remember:

•Â Never say your message is urgent unless it is.

•Â Be specific and concise when leaving a voice mail message; don't ramble.

•Â Leave your name and number, slowly, at the beginning and end of your message.

•Â Remember, as with other communication technologies, confidential or sensitive information should not be delivered using voice mail. You don't know who may have access to it.

•Â If you have the option, always listen to your message before sending it – you may want to rerecord it if it's not clear.

•Â There are times when voice mail may not be the best way to convey information. Before leaving a message, ask yourself if this information should be given in person or in writing.

If you are relying on voice mail to get your calls because you're busy or out of the office:

•Â Change your outgoing message regularly so people know when you are available. Be as specific as possible. "I'm out of the office today, but will return on Wednesday, March 3. I will be checking messages periodically."

•Â Keep your outgoing message brief.

•Â If possible, leave an alternative name for the person to contact – especially if you are on the road for a long time, on vacation or not checking your messages from a remote site.

•Â Don't use voice mail as a way of avoiding people if you are in.

•Â Don't put voice mail on speaker phone when you are checking your messages, unless you are alone in a private office.

Although modern technology makes our lives easier – cell phones included – it is never an excuse for poor manners. Perhaps the best plan here is to default to social etiquette, remembering what your parents always said: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." PR

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