Jenny B.

Today’s guest blog post is by virtual receptionist Jenny B.! We asked her what she recommends for folks who answer phones as part of their job.

My best advice for a receptionist, or even someone answering their own calls? Smile!

It sounds silly, but callers can absolutely hear that smile. It changes your whole tone of voice. Try it!

Even better? There’s plenty of evidence that suggests that smiling (even if you don’t really feel like it) increases your actual feelings of happiness. Charles Darwin wrote in 1872 that “[t]he free expression by outward signs of an emotion intensifies it.” If you feel good, and show it, you will feel even better.

My Southern deb of a grandmother always instructed me to grin until it hurt while preparing to go out for the evening. She swore that doing so would make me feel all the more excited about my plans, and the smile would stick. She was right, and it’s the best beauty advice I’ve ever received. Ruby’s got such a fantastic reputation for customer service, and I think that has a lot to do with the fact that our receptionists don’t just sound cheerful, they’re actually happy. Our smiles are genuine to begin with, and perpetuate the smiles of others, and nothing makes us happier. It’s a big cycle of grins. What could be better?

I’ve found that I have the ability to set the tone for a call. If you approach a caller with confidence and a great attitude, your callers respond exactly in kind. You can hear them smiling too. Who doesn’t want to talk to more happy people? A big grin makes for great customer service in person, of course. But smiling on the phone matters, and makes the whole day way more fun. I promise.

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Part Two in the “Ruby Service Pyramid” series.

At Ruby, every day, every call, every email is an opportunity to WOW our customers and create meaningful connections. And while providing this level of service is something we have always strived to do, it is a constant discovery of how we can be better, and it’s taken years to develop our methodology to deliver consistent yet inspiring interactions. Our Ruby Service Pyramid outlines our system:

The Ruby Service Pyramid created by Jill Nelson

Today, we’re tackling the foundation of that pyramid – Have the Right Infrastructure. It is at the bottom of the Ruby Service Pyramid for a reason; if we don’t have a solid infrastructure, providing the rest is a fruitless and uphill battle.

Elements of the Infrastructure:

Mission/Vision/Values/Direction – We stand for something and each Ruby staff member knows our Core Values by heart. But not only do they know them, they live them. Our mission, vision, and values keep everyone at Ruby aligned and working with purpose. The Jim Collins article “Building Your Company’s Vision” is the best article I’ve seen on establishing a company’s vision and values, and it is required reading for many of us at Ruby.

Ruby’s mission is to establish personal connections in this increasingly virtual world, and our Core Values of “Foster Happiness,” “Practice WOWism,” “Create Community,” and “Innovate” drive all that we do, and we look to them to inform our strategy and decision-making.

Product and Pricing – Does your product or service provide value for the cost? Does it serve your mission? Ruby loves doing whatever we can to make callers happy, but at the end of the day, we understand our value is determined by how much we can help our clients run their business and facilitate their growth, and make their lives easier and more rewarding. We also understand that value must justify the price, and that our pricing must support the ability to deliver scalable, WOW-worthy service.

Technology and Systems – Behind our personalized, live receptionist service is some pretty kick-butt technology that ensures every call is answered accurately and with the appropriate information at our fingertips to be helpful. We turn to technology to increase accuracy, make us more efficient, and keep service personalized even as we grow. Solid technology and systems frees us up to spend time on the human element of our service – making clients and callers happy and coming up with new ways to be of service.

Staffing – We can have the best staff in the world, but if it is stretched too thin, it is impossible to deliver consistent WOW-worthy service. We hire amazing individuals who are dedicated to our mission. We keep them in part by making sure their workload gives them a decent work-life balance, and ensuring they have space throughout the day to not only learn and grow, but also to take the time to get to know our clients and other staff members.

Feedback – How do we know if what we’re trying to do is working? KPIs! It may surprise you to know that we personal, community-based friendly staff are addicted to our Key Performance Indicators and we measure everything we do. We know that our average time to answer a call is 4 seconds (and we want to keep it that way), and by tracking how many prospective clients contact us on a daily basis, we can accurately predict when we should be hiring our next receptionist. By tracking the reasons our clients contact Client Services for assistance, we know what areas of service to focus training on, and have discovered things that can be automated to make our clients’ lives easier.

So there you have it – the basics of the Ruby Infrastructure. Are there elements of your company’s infrastructure you consider paramount to your success? We want to hear from you!

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Ever return to your desk after a meeting or lunch break to find a message from someone who is not in a good mood? Responding to a frustrated associate is something most of us dread, but at Ruby®, we see it as an opportunity to make a fantastic impression. For all of our telephone answering, the Ruby crew rarely encounters a frustrated caller, and when we do, our virtual receptionist team snaps into WOWing mode, doing our darndest to turn a tricky situation around.

Applying the Ruby spirit when responding to a message is easy — whether you’re a receptionist or CEO, we suggest trying these tips when a colleague, customer, or co-worker is frustrated:

  • Talk it out. Regardless of whether your associate emailed you or left a voicemail, call or talk face-to-face when emotions are running high — don’t email your associate unless it’s your only option. Conveying a positive tone in email is a lot harder than doing so with your voice. Talking to your associate gives you a better opportunity to exude calmness and kindness, and defuse a touchy situation.
  • Prepare. Before you talk it out, take a few minutes to consider the key points you’d like to address, and anticipate additional questions or concerns that might arise. Prepare for curveballs, too, and be ready to confidently offer help even when you don’t have the answer. Here’s a solid comeback to an unexpected question: “Great question! Let me look into that and follow up with you.”
  • Visualize. You can probably imagine a million ways a conversation with a frustrated colleague could go awry. But don’t — negative thinking won’t make your follow-up any easier. Instead, envision your conversation going well, and your colleague’s concerns being assuaged. Who better than you to turn a frown upside down? Go get ’em, Tiger!

How do you respond when an associate is upset? We’d love to learn from you! Tweet us @callruby.

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Photo by Robert Engmann

A while back, I wrote about alternatives to publishing your cell number as your business line. It is tempting to give out your cell number as your business phone number; after all, you want to be accessible to your clients and potential clients! But what if you grow and hire additional employees? You won’t be able to transfer their calls to them. What if your phone starts ringing off the hook? No one will be able to help you answer calls. There are a number of reasons using your cell may not be a scalable solution.

Have you printed your cell number on your business cards and your customers already know your number by heart? Don’t panic! Here are five ways you can get around it without anyone being the wiser:

  1. Get a second cell phone: Forward your original cell/business number to another number; you could get a landline where your on-site staff can help ease the phone answering burden or you could forward your calls to Ruby where your calls will be answered by a friendly virtual receptionist. Then, only give your new cell phone number to your friends, family, and anyone you’d like to call you directly. The catch: Your mobile provider may count the time involved in your forwarded calls against your minutes.
  2. Convert your cell number to a remote call forwarding line: Sometimes called a “market expansion line,” this is a number that “lives” at the phone company and forwards to wherever you point it. Then, you could get a new number for your cell that friends and family (and Ruby, if you’d like us to transfer calls to you) may call you on.
  3. Transfer your number to Google Voice: If your current provider agrees to release your phone number to a third party, you can port your number to Google Voice for a one-time fee of $20 — there’s no cost for the service itself. However, keep in mind that since it is a free service without a contract, there’s no dedicated support if there’s a service disruption, and in the future, Google could decide to close Google Voice and potentially keep your number.
  4. Add delayed call forwarding (also known as Ring Busy/No Answer call forwarding) to your plan: Your calls will ring on your cell a couple times, so you can grab it if it’s a family member or VIP client; your calls will only forward to another number if you don’t answer or are on another call. Verizon has a nice overview of what this looks like. Delayed call forwarding is usually an additional feature, and just like with traditional call forwarding, the call may continue to use your cell phone plan’s minutes even after Ruby picks up.
  5. Use one of the above and phase out your cell number: Get a new number and change it on your marketing where you can (i.e., your website, social profiles, etc.). Send out an email to your clients letting them know about the new number and ask them to call it instead. Even if you don’t combine this with one of the above, the volume of calls to your cell should be more manageable. And if you’re a Ruby client, feel free to use your Ruby toll-free number as your new number — it’s yours to keep!

Did you publish your cell phone number as your business line? What happened? How did you get around it — or did it work for you?

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To further support our unique Core Values, we are incredibly excited to launch a new paid sabbatical program at Ruby Receptionists: the “Five at Five!” For every five years at Ruby, our virtual receptionists and supporting staff members will receive five weeks paid time off to explore our Core Values and apply them to a dream that they might not otherwise have had the opportunity to realize. To help them succeed Ruby will also provide $1,000 grants and individual coaching with positive psychology experts Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener and Positive Acorn. We’re excited to see what each of our bright virtual receptionists will do with her Five at Five!

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Ruby Receptionists Paid Sabbatical

To further support our unique Core Values, we are incredibly excited to launch a new sabbatical program at Ruby Receptionists: the “Five at Five!”

In this paid sabbatical program, for every five years at Ruby, our virtual receptionists and supporting staff members will receive five weeks paid time off! During their Five at Five, Rubys are encouraged to explore our Core Values — “Foster Happiness,” “Create Community,” “Innovate,” and “Practice WOWism” – and apply them to a dream that they might not otherwise have had the opportunity to realize.

We really want our employees to succeed, so Ruby will also provide grants and coaching so that they may thrive in their Five at Five. Ruby will fund a $1,000 grant to help each employee accomplish their goal, whether that means traveling around Europe, taking a class, volunteering with a nonprofit, or anything else that would make them deeply happy. Each employee will also meet with positive psychology experts Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener and Positive Acorn in an individual coaching session to discuss his or her aspirations and strategies for making them a reality through the Five at Five program.

Traditionally, sabbaticals have been reserved for global organizations and academic institutions, and as a small business, we are thrilled to be able to offer them to our staff. In fact, when CEO Jill Nelson announced her sabbatical brainchild at our January staff meeting, many Rubys were so surprised that she had to repeat the idea. Once it sunk in, everyone got very excited and a few got a little misty. Virtual receptionist Eve T. explained, “The way Ruby genuinely cares about us and our happiness never ceases to amaze me and warm my heart. This program only furthers my love for working here, and I am already looking forward to sharing my story when I hit my fifth year!” Star Service and Receptionist Cultivator Janel Hodge will be celebrating her five year anniversary with Ruby in November, and she expressed how much this means to her, saying, “A burst of ideas came to mind immediately, and I got especially emotional when Jill announced the coaching session. I love working for Ruby, so I wouldn’t want to leave to accomplish one of my other lifelong dreams — and now I won’t have to!”

The Five at Five joins other beneficial programs at Ruby, such as our paid maternity/paternity leave, employer-matched 401k, and Alternative Transportation program. This year alone, 15% of Ruby employees will be eligible to take advantage of this new, unique paid sabbatical.

Fostering happiness is a big part of our business: when our virtual receptionists are happy, callers are happy, and our clients are happy! And when we invest in our staff’s happiness, they stay with us longer and are in turn invested in making Ruby successful; in fact, the average receptionist has been with us almost a year and a half (exceptional in a field where high turnover is the norm), and all but five of our 70 employees started out as virtual receptionists.

We are committed to living our Core Values, and we can’t wait to see what each bright, talented Ruby will do with their Five at Five!

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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 canceled 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. Some restrictions may apply.