What office type is right for you?

Many of our clients use virtual offices or coworking spaces for their small businesses. Renting a shared space rather than a traditional office can save money, and it can make a lot of sense for startups and solopreneurs. It’s easy to use these spaces in combination with a live, virtual receptionist service (typically as simple as forwarding your business number), and though virtual office packages may include receptionist services, there are several benefits Ruby® offers that can’t be matched.

If you operate out of a virtual office, here are three reasons you may want to use a virtual receptionist service to answer your calls:

1. Make a stellar first impression.

Front desk receptionists at virtual office buildings have a lot on their plates: answering calls for several distinct companies, receiving and distributing mail, and greeting guests all in the same breath. Hold times may be longer for your callers, some calls may be missed entirely, and helpfulness may fall to the wayside as tasks vie for the receptionist’s attention.

A virtual receptionist service, on the other hand, focuses specifically on answering phones — and answering them well. Each Ruby virtual receptionist attends “Ruby University,” training them on the best way to help callers and clients and brighten their days. With a cheerful, attentive person answering your calls, you can make the best impression possible for your business.

2. Additional call handling options.

Many virtual office buildings only have the capability to “blind transfer” callers. Your caller’s experience might look like this:

Virtual office receptionist: “Thank you for calling ABC Company. How may I direct your call?”

Caller: “Hi! Is Bob Smith available?”

Virtual office receptionist: “Let me transfer you. One moment please.” Caller hears ringing until you pick up (without knowing who is calling)…or your caller reaches voicemail.

Since a virtual receptionist primarily focuses on answering calls, she can spend more time engaging with your caller and can take messages if the desired party is unavailable (instead of dropping them immediately into the voicemail abyss). Instead, your caller will hear something more like this:

Virtual receptionist: “Thank you for calling ABC Company. How may I help you?”

Caller: “Hi! Is Bob Smith available?”

Virtual receptionist: “I would be happy to check for you! May I say who’s calling?”

Caller: “Fantastic! It’s Sam Jones.”

Virtual receptionist: “Thank you, Sam! One moment, please.” The receptionist would then try Bob’s line. If he picks up, she’ll let him know who’s on the line, and he can accept or decline the call. If Bob’s unavailable or declines the call, she will go back to the caller and offer to take a message: “Bob’s away from the phone at the moment. May I take a message?” And then she’d immediately send the message via email or text!

While the call handling from a virtual office may be limited, virtual receptionists are not. They can ask potential clients different questions than your current clients, route calls to wherever you are, and more! You’re welcome to customize your call handling as much as you like!

3. More features.

In addition to enhanced call handling options, you can also let your virtual receptionist service know where you are. They can keep your clients informed and set great expectations on when to expect a return call: “Tim’s out of the office at the moment, but he should be back around 3:00pm. May I take a message or transfer you to his voicemail?”  At Ruby, you can update your whereabouts in a flash via email, our mobile-friendly Member Services Area, or our iPhone app!

Questions about what we can do for your business? Tweet us @callruby or give us a call at 866-611-7829 — we’d be delighted to help!

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We like to think of ourselves as the best virtual receptionist team around, and one way we show our skills is by making every caller feel comfortable. We’ve found a great way to keep callers at ease is by matching their communication style.

If you’d like to add a bit of Ruby® to your conversations, try matching your callers in these four ways:

  • Introduction. Whether it’s Doctor Smith, Ms. Smith, or Susan, refer to your caller the same way she refers to herself. When given a full name, our virtual receptionist team opts for familiarity over formality — we’d refer to Susan Smith as Susan instead of Ms. Smith. Of course, when if a client asks us to address callers formally, Ms. Smith it is! As for which route you should take, we suggest checking with your employer. And always use a caller’s name when you can — it’s an easy way to engage a caller and show you’re listening!
  • Pace. Fast-talkers may be in a hurry, so get them to where they need to be as soon as you can. If your caller asks brief, to-the-point questions, keep your replies concise. When a caller wants to chat, engage in a little friendly banter, and when you’re asked a question about yourself, always thank your caller and reciprocate after answering: “I’m having a great day! Thank you for asking! How about you?”
  • Tone. If you sense any urgency in your caller’s voice, use it as a cue to reassure your caller, and take care of business: “I’ll be happy to put you in touch with our technical support manager — we’ll make sure this gets resolved.” Acknowledge any news your caller gives, whether good (“That’s wonderful to hear! Congratulations!”) or not so good (“I’m so sorry to hear that. I’ll do everything I can to help!”). When chatting with a chipper caller, have fun with ’em, and keep your tone extra-upbeat. A caller’s a laughter is music to our ears!
  • Casualness. If you’re picking up a serious, uber-professional vibe from your caller, keep your tone and word choice the same. Meet casual callers with a more laid-back style. For example, positive words like Certainly! and Absolutely! work well in both cases, and expressions like You got it! or You bet! are great for those callers with an informal tone.

How do you engage your callers? We’d love to learn your tips! Share by Tweeting us @callruby!

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Ruby® is always innovating and always using the most advanced technology; it’s just one of the ways we aren’t your average answering service. In 2010, Ruby developed a convenient, free iPhone app that our clients can use to make the most of our virtual receptionist service — and we recently updated it to provide additional features!

With a few quick taps to the Ruby iPhone app, you can:

Let us know your availability. We call these “Whereabouts updates,” and you can quickly, easily modify the way our virtual receptionist team handles your calls. It’s perfect for anything you might’ve tapped an in-house employee on the shoulder to tell them and especially handy if you’re on-the-go!

ruby-app-on-vacation-545x363.png

Check out your call history. Talked to a prospect this morning but can’t remember their name? The iPhone app could jog your memory! Pull up the Activity tab in your Ruby iPhone app, set your Timeframe for today (or around the time you may have talked to them), select Calls, and you’ll be able to see what calls were connected this morning!iPhone app message from a virtual receptionist

View your messages (screenshot on the right). As with your call history, you can also filter your messages by Company (if you have Ruby answer for more than one of your companies) and Timeframe. Every phone number and email address is automatically a hotlink, so you can return calls straight from the app!

Save contact info to your phone’s address book. At the bottom of each call or message, there’s an option to “Save to Contacts.” Any info such as name, phone number, and email address will immediately be imported into your iPhone’s address book!

See your assists. If you’re optimizing your time by having our virtual receptionists return calls for you, you can reference the Assist option under the Activity tab. There you can view a brief description of any assists you’ve requested!

Receive push notifications showing recent activity. If a Ruby virtual receptionist has taken a message for your company since the last time you logged in, you’ll see a little number in red on the corner of your app icon.

Contact Ruby! Tap on the Ruby tab and our phone number and email address appear as hotlinks for a quick way to contact us! There’s also a link to an FAQ page on the Ruby app. Plus, if you’re ever in Portland, Oregon, our address is listed as a hotlink and will bring you straight to a Google map — feel free to stop by, and we’ll give you a tour!

If you’re an iPhone user, you can download the free Ruby iPhone app here!  And don’t worry Android and Blackberry fans, we haven’t forgotten about you! Our feature-rich Member Services Area is completely mobile-friendly!

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Offering Assistance
Photo by Andreas Johannsen

Ever been met with a less-than-eager response when offering a call to someone? It happens to our virtual receptionist team from time to time, and it goes a little something like this:

Receptionist: Hi Jim! This is Stephanie from Ruby. I have Walt Smith on the line. Would you like the call?

Jim: Oh…hmm…umm…

It doesn’t seem like Jim’s ready for Walt’s call at the moment, does it?

We’ve found that hesitation like this is often a teeny, tiny cry for help. Lucky for our clients and callers alike, the Ruby® telephone answering team is driven by a desire to help! When you’re met with a bit of hesitation in this type of situation, we suggest offering to take the next step. It’s sort of a motto at Ruby: When you think someone needs help, don’t make ’em ask for help — go ahead and offer it! In a case like this, it’s as simple as saying, “I’d be happy to take a message, or relay a message to him if you’d like.”

This is just a small example of what we call fulfilling unexpressed needs, one of the levels of our Ruby Hierarchy of Service Pyramid. Looking for ways to help the people we interact with is fundamental to being part of the Ruby team. By anticipating what a caller or client may need and offering it preemptively, we take that helpfulness a step further.

The next time you sense a need for help, try offering it before you’re asked. We think you’ll find fulfilling unexpressed needs is a fun, rewarding way to WOW!

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CNBC recently aired a special entitled “Customer (DIS)Service: A Maddening Look at the State of Customer Service” where they shined a spotlight on the customer service provided by outsourced call centers, waiters, retailers, recorded menu options, and a host of other industries. Not surprisingly, most of what they found left much to be desired. Man-on-the-street interviews showed an overwhelming frustration with regards to customer service, or as CNBC puts it, “customer disservice.” For all the advancements in technology — computers, databases chock-full of information, sophisticated phone systems — it seems that customer service has actually declined over the years. But why? And why is customer service so important for businesses, anyway?

To answer the first question, we think interviewee Shaun Belding, author and CEO of The Belding Group, put it best: “All the technology was designed to connect us to each other. And that’s what we did. But we lost the beauty of connecting with each other.” Since our interactions these days are often over the phone, it’s easy to become disassociated – they’re just a name and a disembodied voice, right? However, missing that opportunity to connect is missing an opportunity to make a person’s day better, maybe even your own, and certainly make a good impression for your business. You never know who that voice may be attached to: the next evangelist for your company, someone who’s having a rough day that you could cheer up, your neighbor?

In thinking about personal connections, it reminded me of a call I took when I first started at Ruby as a virtual receptionist. We take calls from businesses across North America, and this particular business happened to be on the East Coast. In the course of taking a message for the client, I learned that the caller was from my hometown of Huntington Beach, California, and not only that, he lived at the same intersection as my childhood home! What are the odds? We had a lovely chat about the area and the lively Main Street, and we both ended the call smiling. It could’ve been a very rudimentary call; I could’ve simply taken a message, and we could’ve gone our separate ways. But I wouldn’t have remembered it nearly three years later, and my caller wouldn’t have been nearly as happy.

When people make a personal connection or have an extraordinary experience with a business, they not only become loyal to that company, they’re going to want to talk about it. They’ll tell their friends, colleagues, and family about how someone went above and beyond for them or invested in them or just plain listened to them. Word of mouth – whether it’s positive or negative – can spread like wildfire.

Making meaningful connections with callers and clients isn’t something extra, a nicety; it’s something to cultivate, and it’s imperative to the success of our business. In fact, we put it at the very top of our Ruby Hierarchy of Service Pyramid. Making meaningful connections is at the crux of truly outstanding service, and as ING Direct CEO Peter Aceto said at the end of the CNBC special, “Customer service is the new marketing. It’s the only differentiator businesses have left.”

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solo-by-choice-2011-2012Carolyn Elefant’s Solo by Choice: How to Be the Lawyer You Always Wanted to Be is an incredible resource for solo attorneys, and we at Ruby® are extremely grateful to have been mentioned in her new edition! In her chapter on Office Technology, Elefant discusses the plethora of phone options out there as well as the dilemma of who will answer your phone: a live receptionist, a voicemail system, or an answering service.

If you decide to go with the latter, she suggests that you, “[s]elect a secure, reputable answering service or shared receptionist…Ruby Receptionists is a virtual receptionist/answering service used by many solos and small businesses”  (p.110). She also offers several tips on call handling, such as making sure the person who answers says the firm’s name in the greeting and that keeping them in the loop about your availability will make your practice look good.

Solo by Choice is a fantastic, beneficial read for solos and anyone thinking about striking out on their own, and she touches on everything from starting a practice to marketing and social media to how to take a vacation (a real one!). We’re delighted to be mentioned in such a comprehensive guide! If your interest is piqued and you’d like to pick up a copy, you can order one here.

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Holly and virtual receptionist Jenny
Staff Cultivator Holly and receptionist Jenny S. going through the Ruby training guidebook!

The virtual receptionist training program at Ruby® is ever-changing and ever-improving. However, one thing that stays the same is our goal to equip our phone answering team with the tools they need to field calls efficiently while putting smiles on callers’ faces. And it all starts on the first day of training. As Joseph A. Michelli outlines in The New Gold Standard, focusing on outcomes rather than individual tasks can create memorable moments of customer service, and we’ve taken that philosophy to heart.

In line with our Ruby Hierarchy of Service Pyramid, Ruby training begins with basics. In initial training, our virtual receptionists gain the skills they’ll need to thrive as members of the Ruby team. We show them how to use our unique software: what button answers a call; where to find the client’s custom greeting; what to say when introducing the call; and how to transfer it to the client, take a message, or transfer it to voicemail.

We also introduce our Core Values right from the start, because once a groundwork of basic skills has been established, we come back to them to work our way up the pyramid. Trainees then focus on the outcomes of fostering happiness, creating experiences (showing how tone and phrasing can make even the briefest exchange an uplifting one), fulfilling unexpressed needs, and making meaningful connections.

Achieving these outcomes is all part of what we call  “practicing WOWism.” (It’s so important to us that Practice WOWism is one of our Core Values!) Our concept of WOWism was captured perfectly in a

Our concept of WOWism was captured perfectly in a recent post:

The WOWism that we hold so dear is really a commitment to listening, always looking for ways to help without being asked, and most importantly, making a personal connection.” When we hear a “Wow!” from a caller, we know it’s working!

How do you train your employees to inspire excellent customer service? We’d love to hear from you on Twitter @callruby!

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The Ruby Service Pyramid

Reading time:

The Ruby Service Pyramid created by Jill Nelson

If there’s one thing Ruby is passionate about, it’s our knock-your-socks-off service, for our clients and their customers alike. “Good customer service” is table stakes for us. At Ruby, if we aren’t hearing “WOW!” every day from our clients, we’re not hitting the mark.

Here is a little of what goes on behind the scenes to ensure the best experience possible:

About the Ruby Service Pyramid

  • The Ruby Pyramid lists fundamentals at the bottom, and introduces the finer practices of Ruby service at the top. Receiving a card congratulating you on your son’s college graduation isn’t going to win any points if we aren’t consistently answering your phones — that’s why Be Prepared with the Right Infrastructure is our foundation, and Make Meaningful Connections is our peak.
  • While the higher levels are dependent on the lower levels, they are all equally important, and improvement at all levels is a constant endeavor.
  • Mastering each level is a balancing act of empowering people and adhering to consistent processes. When we’re looking for new ideas, we rely on the creativity of our staff. When something is broken, we look to our process to see where we can improve.

The Levels of the Ruby Service Pyramid

Be Prepared With the Right Infrastructure. At the base are the systems and technology that enable us to provide our service: our communications platform and our proprietary software and databases. But it also includes our staffing models and metrics to deliver an average answer time of four seconds.

Do What We Say We’ll Do. This concept speaks for itself. However, we’ve found it takes an amazing amount of attention to ensure consistent delivery. Our training programs, feedback systems, and performance monitoring help us know if we’re on track.

Foster Happiness. Again, a pretty straightforward concept: be nice and make others happy. But when you can do this with every phone call, you stand out. Ruby’s strategy? Hire the nicest people on the planet and do everything we can to make sure they’re happy and stay happy.

Create Experiences. Have you ever ended a conversation with someone and found yourself in a better mood than before you called? That’s Ruby’s aim with every interaction. Our receptionists strive to engage each caller with friendliness and professionalism. Grammar, tone, word choice, and confidence all come together to create that mood-changing experience.

Give Them What They Don’t Even Know They Want. Also known as “Practicing WOWism” here at Ruby. A hesitation in your voice when we ask you if you want to speak with “Joe from Warehouse Unlimited” is a cue for us to offer to handle the call for you. A status update mentioning an unexpected trip to school to pick up a sick child might prompt our receptionists to offer to call and cancel your afternoon appointments.

Make Meaningful Connections. Getting to know our clients isn’t just a fun, rewarding part of the job — it’s integral to our success. We train on it, measure it, create incentive campaigns around it, and develop technology to support it. We know we’ve succeeded when we are no longer viewed as a service, but a team member in your growing business.

How can the pyramid work in your business?

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Happiness
Photo by Caleb Roenigk

2012: A new year, a fresh start for your business! Great customer service can be an incredible boost to your company; happy customers will stay with you longer and word-of-mouth buzz can grow your client base exponentially. But how can you make your customer service wow-worthy?

Here at Ruby, Fostering Happiness is one of our Core Values, and we aim to make our clients’ and their callers’ days brighter. Besides doing a crackerjack job at answering phones, we’ve developed quite a few ways to accomplish this. Here are five ways we make our clients smile – you may find that they’d be just what the doctor ordered for your customers, too!

1. Handwritten notecards.

These days, most of the snail mail people get is junk mail and bills — who doesn’t like to receive a bit of personal mail in the bunch? Just about anything can be an occasion to write — delight your customers by dropping a surprise note in the mail!

2. Following up calls with an email.

Like our virtual receptionists, our Client Services department is incredibly helpful and always looking for ways to make our clients’ lives easier.

Like our virtual receptionists, our Client Services department is incredibly helpful and always looking for ways to make our clients’ lives easier. One way they do this is by following every call from a client with an email. It’s a great way to summarize or confirm the information you discussed, especially if it was complicated or may be useful to have on-hand in the future. If you don’t have much to relay, it’s also a great way to create a personal connection; a simple “It was wonderful talking to you” may make their day!

3. Be flexible.

At Ruby, we empower our virtual receptionists and staff to make judgment calls on based on our Core Values. Rather than sticking to policy, we believe that not all situations are one-size-fits-all. For example, if one of our clients has instructions to take messages only, of course the majority of the time we’ll only take messages. However, if a family member calls with an emergency, we’ll try to put them in touch with them right away.

In fact, virtual receptionist Kristen C. has experienced exactly that scenario. An extended family member called one of our clients’ lines, and Kristen was able to connect him to the client’s cell phone.

4. Listen.

This one’s pretty basic, but it bears repeating: listen to your customers. Sometimes all it takes to make your client happy is to make them feel heard. If a caller sounds emotional, rather than interrupting them, our receptionists will take a moment to listen and let them vent. Try also repeating what your client says back to them to reassure them that you’ve understood their concerns and reassure them that you’ll make things right. Being compassionate and responsive can make a big impact.

5. Check back in.

Making a big change to a client’s account? Don’t stop there! When our Client Services department revamps one of our clients’ call handling instructions, they always check back in with them to make sure everything’s working out correctly. Our Sales department also follows up with potential clients after a few days just to see if they thought of anymore questions or they can do more to help. Just knowing that your company is thinking of them and values them enough to take that time will make for some happy campers!

In addition to making your customers happier, resolve to make yourself happier! Happiness is good for you, and it’s contagious. If you’re smiling, relaxed, and have more time to focus on your work and yourself, your clients will notice. And as always, the virtual receptionist team at Ruby would be delighted to help you become more productive and foster happiness with your callers.

We wish you and your business the very best in 2012! Happy New Year!

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At Ruby Receptionists, clients know they can count on the warm, friendly voices of our virtual assistant team to graciously greet their callers. Visitors to our offices are treated to an added bonus: friendly faces to match! In Portland, OR, Ruby’s front desk receptionists Mercedes and Sara Lee field our clients’ calls just like their fellow Rubys. But they also greet office visitors, and take care of all sorts of tasks that keep our offices running smoothly! How do they do it all? Naturally, with a smile.

If you’re a front desk receptionist looking for a few tricks of the trade, look no further. Our telephone answering champs are here to help!

Our front desk receptionists know how to graciously greet!

So what’s the best way to graciously greet an office guest when you’re on a call?

According to our front desk Rubys, it’s all about prompt, friendly acknowledgment. Says Mercedes, “When I’m on a call and a visitor arrives, I continue speaking with my caller, but make eye contact with the visitor, smile, and hold my hand up to show I’ll be with them in a moment. If I have a chance to place the caller on hold, I make sure my call notes are clear, then check in with the guest.”

Sara Lee agrees that the eyes have it: “The most important thing is making eye contact right away so the guest feels acknowledged and welcomed.”

Mercedes brings up a great point in saying, “Office guests don’t get angry and hang up.” But if they’re not acknowledged quickly, they might feel neglected, and that’s no good. As Sara Lee wisely says, “There’s nothing worse than stepping into an office and wondering ‘Does she see me? Maybe I should clear my throat or something.'” Customer experience is all about a great first impression, and that extends to when a customer walks through your doors. “If I am on the phone, I make sure to catch the visitor’s eye, smile, and nod to them,” she adds. “I may even give them the ‘One moment, please’ index finger up that says ‘I’ll be with you in a moment.'”

A final note from Sara Lee: “My advice to receptionists who are balancing walk-in guests and phone calls would be to smile, make eye contact, and be their charming selves. It’s a winning combination!”

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What does an answering service do?Eureka! You’ve got a fabulous idea for a new company and can’t wait to get things up and running. As a virtual receptionist service for small businesses, we know that there’s a lot of work that goes into building one from scratch, even before you open your doors; not least among them is choosing your phone service. Hearing your phone ring with potential clients will be a thrill but telephony may not be your specialty. To take some of the headache out of picking a phone system, we put together a few questions you may want to mull over when considering which out of the myriad of options is right for your budding business.

Do you need a local number, a toll-free number, or both?

If your customers are locally based, or are based in a certain area code, you may want a local number. If you deal with customers nationally, a toll-free number may be more appealing. Ruby clients are welcome to publish the toll-free number we assign them; we cover any charges associated with the number, and at the end of service you may take it with you.

Do you need a physical phone installed?

You may not need a landline if you will be maintaining a virtual office. Remote call forwarding lines or number hosting services may suffice.

Will you have more than one employee?

You may be flying solo to start, but looking to the future couldn’t hurt. It’s handy to have a central, published number that your customers can call to reach anyone in your business. If you have a physical phone line installed, you will most likely be able to add lines through your service provider in the future. However, if you’ve opted not to have a landline and end up hiring additional employees, you could set up an auto attendant to route calls or step up your customer service by forwarding your number to a live virtual receptionist service like Ruby. That way, your new employees don’t have to give out their direct number which could lead to problems if they’re out on vacation or someone else takes over their responsibilities. With a centralized number, your callers will always reach someone who can direct them to the most appropriate person.

Who will answer your phone?

Many soloprenuers answer their own phones, but perhaps it won’t set your company up for success. You may be in meetings or away from your desk and calls will have to go to an impersonal voicemail system. And when potential clients do reach you, they may wonder why the CEO is playing double duty as receptionist. Every phone call is an opportunity: an opportunity to set a great first impression for your business, an opportunity to WOW a current client, an opportunity to make a meaningful connection. Whether you answer your calls yourself, have in-house staff to help, or hire a service like Ruby, being prompt, friendly, and professional will always make a splash.

There are lots of factors to consider when choosing a phone service, and we would be happy to help in any way we can. Do you have other questions? Tweet us @callruby!

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Ready to turn more callers into customers?

Missed connections translate to lost revenue. With Ruby, you have a partner in gaining and retaining customers. Plus, we’re so confident you’ll love our service, we offer a 21 day money-back guarantee*.

*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.