As one of our clients so eloquently put it, “Ruby® is not your father’s answering service.” So what sets our live virtual receptionists apart from traditional answering services? Our approach is really quite simple: our professional, friendly virtual receptionists use advanced technology to sound like they’re sitting right in your office. Here are a few ways we set ourselves apart:

We can transfer calls live. Many traditional answering services can only take messages. Our live virtual receptionists are able to transfer calls to you whenever, wherever you like. We’re even able to try multiple lines – say your desk phone, then your cell – at no additional cost!

Our studio is a hushed haven for your callers. As we’ve blogged in the past, we strive to keep noise to an absolute minimum. Our remote receptionists utilize state-of-the-art noise-canceling headsets to reduce noise, and our glass paneled cubicles keep our receptionists happy while blocking excess sound. Unlike with conventional call centers or answering services, your callers won’t know Ruby’s not in your office!

We hire “people people.” Our virtual receptionists are extremely friendly and helpful. They go above and beyond on a regular basis – Practicing WOWism isn’t one of our Core Values for nothing! It makes our day to make yours. Stanley Feldman, a current client and a busy attorney, recently expressed what a difference this can make, saying, “It has been a little hectic lately, but I wanted to take a minute to thank everyone for the great service. No matter what kind of mood I am in from day to day, ‘my’ Ruby is always pleasant to me and my clients or other callers.”

We provide a toll-free number that you can keep. Ruby® Receptionists furnishes each client with their own toll-free number that they are free to publish (or to forward an existing number to). If, at the end of service (provided you are in good standing) we will gladly release the number to you so that you may take it with you. This is not always the case with conventional answering services — we would like you to stay with us because you like us, not because you have to!

All of our virtual receptionists attend “Ruby University.” Our intelligent receptionists undergo an intensive and ongoing training program to provide them with the skills to field your calls with grace. We even provide training in etiquette! You can check out some of the locution techniques our receptionists employ in our ongoing Receptionist Etiquette Tips series.

Our Core Values are at the heart of everything we do. As we’ve mentioned, Ruby’s Core Values of “Innovation,” “Create Community,” “Foster Happiness,” and “Practice WOWism” are who we are. How many answering services can say the same?

These are just a few of the ways we differ from your average answering service — I actually had to make this post a series to accommodate all of the features that set us apart! Look for part two: “Even More Ways Ruby® Receptionists Differs from Answering Services” tomorrow!

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Old school virtual receptionist; aka, an in-house receptionist
Photo from the Seattle Municipal Archives

The remote receptionist team at Ruby aims to sound stellar during every call we field.  Try these three tips from our telephone answering experts, and you’re sure to make a great impression over the phone!

1. Avoid filler words such as um and like, uh-huh or mm-hm.  Using fillers can be a tough habit to break, but it’s a worthy goal to work toward.  Cutting these expressions out of your vocabulary is a surefire way to exude professionalism.

2. Pronounce words fully, and try not say anything you would not write. Here are a few guidelines to help keep you sounding superb:

     Say yes. Skip yeah and yep.

Say no. Skip nah and nope.

Enunciate going to rather than saying gonna.

Enunciate to rather than saying ta.

Enunciate supposed to rather than saying supposta.

Enunciate could have and would have rather than saying coulda and woulda.

Replace mmkay and ‘kay with okay or yes. Better yet, try absolutely or certainly.

3. Our live virtual receptionists know that being positive is a key part of being professional.  Make the most of positivity, and use expressive words when you have the opportunity. Saying wonderful, fantastic, and great shows enthusiasm and care, and as mentioned above, affirmative words like certainly and absolutely make a great impression.  Give these exuberant expressions a whirl!

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We’ve learned that Robert C. “TJ” Thurston, a Ruby fan, has written a glowing review of our live virtual receptionist service in the Illinois State Bar Association‘s Legal Technology newsletter! If you’re a member of the Illinois Bar, I highly recommend checking it out in its entirety! Here are a few of my favorite excerpts:

We’d also like to take a moment to thank the Illinois State Bar Association for running this article. It’s a privilege to be included in such an esteemed institution’s publications!

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Proper Phone Etiquette: Then and Now

Reading time:

At Ruby® Receptionists, we’re obsessed with proper telephone etiquette, and we were fascinated to read this post by Matthew Lasar at ars technica about proper phone manners during the late-19th through the early 20th-centuries. Even if you’re not a virtual receptionist or a telephone answering fanatic like us, it’s still a lot of fun to hear about the beginnings of a service so many of us take as a natural part of life.

The article focuses on the book America Calling: A Social History of the Telephone to 1940 by Claude S. Fischer, which discusses the history of the telephone and the debate over its use and practices not unlike the debate surrounding cellphones and social media today. Here are a few fun takeaways:

• In a push to win over middle-class Americans in the 1930’s, AT&T publicized the respectability of the telephone as a mode of communication. They even went so far as to send out a card entitled “The Telephone Pledge:”

“I believe in the Golden Rule and will try to be as Courteous and Considerate over the Telephone as if Face to Face.”

  • Another helpful suggestion from AT&T was to “speak directly into the mouthpiece, keeping mustache out of the opening.”
  • From the telephone’s inception in the 1870s and then up through the late 1940s, etiquette experts disagreed on an appropriate greeting when answering the phone — many considered the now commonplace “Hello” to be somewhat rude! However, telephone users continued to use the greeting regardless, and now it’s the norm. As writer Margary Wilson (no relation, I swear!) put it, “the experiment shows that any other words [besides “Hello”] sound funnier still.”

So if you’re ever in doubt about how to answer your phone, you can rest assured that our polite, knowledgeable, live virtual receptionists are up to speed on the proper etiquette and will make you look good!

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Ruby's Core Values help keep our live virtual receptionist company tip-top!
Ruby Receptionists’ Core Values

We’ve blogged previously about how much our Core Values mean to us. They are at the center of everything we do. Or more accurately, they are at the base of everything we do. You see, we’re strong believers in the Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish, aka “The Growth Guy,” (and a loyal client to boot!). In this insightful book, Verne sets up a framework for how to organize your business, and he places Core Values at the base, a reference point for every action your company takes. And how do you keep your Core Values top of mind for every employee? One way is by storytelling. Telling stories creates “Legends” and illustrates the different ways that your Core Values can be carried out throughout your daily routine.

For example, once a quarter, Ruby® Receptionists holds a staff meeting where our virtual receptionists get to learn about how things are going with the company while socializing and chowing down on some delicious HotLips pizza. It’s also an opportunity to take a moment to recognize those who have really taken the Ruby Core Values to heart and put them into practice in the day-to-day – our “Legends,” if you will. Throughout the quarter, Rubys can nominate coworkers for “outstanding achievement” in one of our Core Values: “Practice WOWism,” “Create Community,” “Foster Happiness,” or “Innovation.” Then, we select 4 stories (one for each value) to share with everyone at the company and celebrate the special people who make us who we are! Here are the standout stories from our last meeting:

Practice WOWism

Virtual receptionist Kris R. noticed that the desk where new hires sit during training was looking a little plain Jane. She took it upon herself to donate a few knickknacks, including an awesome robot, turning a drab seat into a welcoming space that WOWs each new employee!

Create Community

It’s no secret that virtual receptionist Lauren O. loves animals. But she went above and beyond by organizing a group visit to the Oregon Humane Society. She saw a need in our community and coordinated a day to volunteer helping homeless animals. She even took time out of her weekend to lead 7 Rubys in reaching out to animals in need!

Foster Happiness

One day, virtual receptionist Sara-Lee B. was strolling through the grocery store down the street from Ruby on her break, when an ice cream craving hit. Instead of picking out a little something for herself, she bought enough for the whole office! Her random act of happiness brightened everyone’s day!

Innovation

This one is truly inspiring. Virtual receptionist Monica P. noticed that there were a couple very important holidays that we may be overlooking – Mother’s Day and Father’s Day! With a little help from Ruby Client Services, she collected a list of clients that we knew to be parents, and she handwrote the cards herself! She saw something that would warm our clients’ hearts, and she saw it through personally – a truly great Ruby moment that we won’t soon forget!

Do you have any legendary examples of your own “Core Values in Action” that you’d like to share? Keep the warm and fuzzies coming with a comment below!

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Receptionist etiquette: phone tips and language

Receptionist phone etiquette tips for the stellar receptionist.

Ah, the art of the phone call. In the world of business, how your company says “hello” can set the tone for your customer experience — and Ruby’s live virtual receptionists are brilliant artists, to say the least.

Through our years of answering calls remotely, we’ve learned a lot about which phrases work on the phone and which fall flat. For example, mastering some great answers to common caller questions is a surefire way to step up your answering game, while improving your customer experience!

Here are a few of the questions we hear most, paired with our favorite responses:

Is she in? or Is she available?

Questions like these are usually a caller’s polite way of asking “will she talk to me?” 

Sure, you may know whether someone is in the office, but that doesn’t mean you know whether that person will want to accept a particular call. Rather than answering common caller questions about someone’s availability with a yes or no or I’m not sure, try saying Let me try her line for you. Then, try the requested party’s line.

If the person you’re trying to reach is unavailable or declines the call, return to your caller and segue politely into message territory with this Ruby standard:

She is away from the phone at the moment, but I would be happy take a message. May I have your telephone number?”


The ROI of personal connections.

Discover the impact receptionist etiquette and real, meaningful connections can have on your bottom line!

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When will he be in or When will he return my call?

If you don’t know the answer and your crystal ball is out of commission, this type of question can throw you off your game. Fear not, phone call fielders! We Rubys have found a reply that works in most cases.

It goes a little something like this:

He keeps his own schedule, but I will be sure to let him know you called. What is the best number for a return call? 

Next, you might make your reply extra helpful by offering to have the call returned at a convenient time. Sure, there’s no way to guarantee that your co-worker will return the call at the specified time, but there’s always a way to say it better! The extra information will be helpful to your co-worker, and the extra question will show the caller you care about giving them a standout customer experience.

Anything else? These replies work every time.

Even the best receptionists face common caller questions that they’re unsure how to answer. Fortunately, this doesn’t preclude you from being helpful and sounding confident! 

When you find yourself faced with a confounding question, try one of these rock-solid responses:

Let me find out for you.

I’d be happy to look into that for you.

Great question! Let me put you in touch with the best person to answer it.

Great question! Let me have a member of our team return your call with the answer. May I have your telephone number?

Without a doubt, replies beginning in Let me and I’d be happy to are essential to the Ruby toolbox. Adding a Great question! is another handy trick. We’ve found it’s the perfect way to add some extra friendliness to an already great response while helping your customer experience reign supreme.

Looking for more call handling tips? We’re here to help!

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Team Ruby
Team Ruby in our custom “Rubys for Boobies” shirts

On Sunday, September 19th, our team of outstanding virtual receptionists took to the streets of downtown Portland to raise funds and awareness for the fight against breast cancer. The Ruby team was 25 strong and walked proudly alongside thousands of fellow Oregonians to support the Susan G. Komen Foundation. According to Komen Oregon, 40,000 runners, walkers and volunteers attended the event, which is the largest Komen Race on the West Coast! This was the 5th consecutive year that our virtual reception company has walked in the race, and we are proud to be part of such a wonderful event and cause!

Our very own Hilary P. is not only your virtual receptionist extraordinaire, but she is also a woman who has seen firsthand what effect breast cancer can have on a family. This past Sunday, Hilary walked to honor 3 of her aunts who are survivors and to honor the memory of her grandmother. Even though the reality of this disease is devastating, Hilary walked with her head held high and a positive note in her heart — she was proud to walk in the event, because it’s more about a brighter future than a dark past for her. Hilary said, “Having seen what it can do to families, it’s really important to me that I try and contribute to an end to that suffering.”

The Race for the Cure is about hope, and we at Ruby want thank each and every person who took the time to spend the day with us and walk for such a worthwhile cause!

Here are a few photos from the event:

If you are interested in learning more about the Oregon Race for the Cure or making a donation, please visit the official website.

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When answering phones, match your caller's tone for best results
Photo by Willy D.

The telephone answering team at Ruby® Receptionists fields calls from all types of folks with all types of personalities, and we do our best to make each of them feel special. We’ve learned that it’s easy to size up a caller’s preferred communication style within a few words — just listen! Matching a caller’s style is an great way to ensure you’re delivering information in a manner that is comfortable for the caller.

When answering phones, mirroring a caller’s pace is particularly important, especially if the caller talks quickly. A fast-talking caller may be in a rush and will likely appreciate a quick response. If your caller is brief and to-the-point, provide concise answers and avoid chitchat. On the other hand, fast talking can sound unpleasant or intimidating to a naturally slower-talking caller.  If you know yourself to be a fast talker, take special care to slow down when your caller’s pace does.  A chatty caller is a great opportunity to make a great impression — reciprocate with a bit of friendly conversation, and you’re sure to improve your caller’s day.

Matching a caller’s tone can be helpful, too, as long as that tone is positive. If a caller seems frustrated or distressed, it’s best to project the opposite. Reassure upset callers by acknowledging their frustration and offering help, but do so in a calm tone. If you seem frustrated, your caller is likely to become more frustrated, and that’s no fun for anyone.

Friendliness and professionalism are key to every call our virtual receptionists answer, and the rest depends on the caller’s pace, tone, style, and needs. Have you had any memorable experiences with matching a caller’s pace or tone? We’d love to hear what you think about this tip!

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Reducing noise in an open office
The Ruby Receptionists studio in Portland, OR

Open floor plans are a great way to increase productivity and communication while encouraging a cohesive team. Plus, they just look cool.

Ruby® Receptionists has always favored an open layout, but when we expanded last year to accommodate our growing size, we knew that the open floor plan could have its challenges. As a receptionist service that prides itself on its remote receptionists sounding like they’re answering phones right in their clients’ offices, noise control is definitely something we keep a close eye on. Managing noise level is a challenge many businesses face, so we’d like to offer some tips that might help you control noise in your office, no matter what your industry.

open office noise reduction
Glass panels keep friendly faces near and noise at bay

As we’ve mentioned before, one of Ruby’s core values is to create community — and an open floor plan is the key to helping us foster that sense of closeness and teamwork. It’s true that our virtual receptionists could technically work from home, but then we wouldn’t get to see each other face-to-face and feel that team spirit every day! To boost Ruby camaraderie even more, we’ve opted to have four-foot cubicle walls that feature glass panels on top. The height is perfect to block sound between each virtual receptionist, but the glass panel allows each receptionist to feel less isolated. It maintains the aesthetic flow of our open floor plan, and our virtual receptionists love it, because they can send notes of support to each other through the glass.

Staying productive in a noisy office
The Plantronics SupraPlus Monaural Noise Canceling Headset

Another way to control noise — and probably some of the best advice I can offer anyone whose job includes telephone answering — is to invest in a noise-canceling headset. This style of headset reduces up to 75% of background noise! We’ve chosen to use Plantronics headsets because they have an excellent reputation, and we’ve found them to have the best sound quality and capability for noise reduction. The microphone is also flexible, so we can bend it to fit our faces. By simply making sure the mic is in the right place, it helps cut background noise. We order our headsets through T3E, because they offer excellent customer service — and it’s always nice to support a local company.

One more tip from our phone answering pros: speak as if you are 6 inches away from your listener — because, technically, you are! If he or she is having trouble hearing you, be kind to your neighbor and simply wrap your hand around the mic to reduce any residual background noise and focus your voice onto the mic.

Do you have any tips for keeping the noise level down in an open office? Feel free to post your suggestions in the comment section below!

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Ruby Gems: September Anniversaries!

Reading time:

Just look at all of the wonderful Rubys celebrating anniversaries this month! We have three whip-smart virtual receptionists, Kristen C., Kris R., and Lauren A., one quirky Sales and Marketing Associate, Katie Wilson, and one multi-talented part-time Client Services Associate, part-time virtual receptionist, Christina Messinger, all of whom are celebrating anniversaries at Ruby this month! What better way to commemorate the occasion than with a look at why we love having these ladies on our team? Way to go, gals!

What’s your favorite part about working at Ruby?

Christina: Ruby truly cares for its employees. We’re all a big family here; everyone is so supportive, and we all acknowledge each other’s accomplishments every day. It’s amazing!

Kristen: I love learning about all the interesting types of law, businesses, and ways companies operate; as receptionists we get a back-window perspective on our clients’ companies.

Katie: Definitely the positivity and the way people are quick to lend a helping hand. I don’t know that I’ve ever met so many genuine, bright, helpful people in my life — and I get to see them every day!

What’s your favorite part about living in Portland?

Kris: Sometimes I find it hard to believe I’ve been in Portland for over 6 years already. What they say about time flying when you’re having fun is certainly true here. Portland is just the right size — a big enough city that there’s plenty to do but still has a laid-back small town feel.

Lauren: Not only is Portland beautiful but it is also full of awesome people. I have made so many good friends in this city. Also, I couldn’t gush about Portland without mentioning Powell’s Books! It’s my favorite bookstore!

Christina: The trees! I moved here from Arizona, so the landscape here just astonishes me. I love all the gorgeous sights — Forest Park, Multnomah Falls, the Gorge…it’s all pretty incredible.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not at Ruby?

Kris: I design cross-stitch patterns of robots. No, really. I even sell my patterns online and have been featured in a prominent international cross-stitch magazine. It’s kind of a niche market, I guess, but I have a lot of fun with it!

Kristen: I like to learn new things; this summer I practiced making cheese, raised chickens in my backyard and took up kayaking.

Lauren: I spend my time studying for classes at Portland State University, reading books, watching movies, having too much fun with friends, and cuddling with my wonderful feline, Norman.

Katie: Anything involving dogs would be ideal. I’m a huge animal lover, and I’m looking forward to getting my own puppy soon!

Christina: Plan my wedding!

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*Ruby is delighted to offer a money-back guarantee to first time users of both our virtual receptionist service and our chat service. To cancel your service and obtain a full refund for the cancelled service (less any multi-service discount), please notify us of the service you wish to cancel either within 21 days of your purchase of that service or before your usage exceeds 500 receptionist minutes/50 billable chats, as applicable, whichever occurs sooner.