Phones 4U puts the breaks on email

Sep 18 2003 by Brian Amble Print This Article

UK mobile phone retailer Phones 4u has banned its staff from using internal email to deal with customer queries.

After the company’s management discovered that the length of time taken to deal with customers had increased dramatically as its use of email increased, boss John Cauldwell- who does not use email - told his 2,500 employees to swap the ‘send’ button for the telephone or face-to-face.

The company estimates the ban will save staff three hours a day and at least £1 million a month in saved time.

"I saw that email was insidiously invading Phones 4u so I banned it immediately,” said Cauldwell

"Management and staff at HQ and in the stores were beginning to show signs of being constrained by email proliferation - the ban brought an instant, dramatic and positive effect."

While Cauldwell’s initiative may appear extreme, his view that email is as much a curse as a blessing is one borne out by independent research.

Earlier this year, a study found that some of the UK's biggest companies spend an average of £10,000 per person per year paying employees to read and write unnecessary emails. One FTSE 100 firm estimated that email costs it £39 million per annum.

Meanwhile, the American Management Association has estimated that the average American employee spends about a quarter of their working day (around one and three quarter hours) dealing with email. Three out of ten spend more than two hours and almost one in ten (8 per cent) spend an astonishing four hours or more a day pouring over their inboxes.

The Phones 4U ban, however, is informal and is “a matter of commonsense on the part of the employee,” the company said today.

”Simple exchanges are allowed, it is all the to-ing and fro-ing that we want to stamp out. When it is taking staff hours to do a 10-minute job then something has to be done, and there is a lot of buy-in from the staff.”

Customers will still be able to contact the company by email because only internal mail has been affected by the decision.

Cauldwell added that he believed the biggest benefit would be increased customer loyalty as staff focused on providing a better service.

"Service par excellence needs 100 per cent focus, and email was showing the potential to get in the way - but not in my business.”