A well-crafted telephone greeting is an easy way to show callers you care. We’re talking say-a-few-extra-words-and-impress-new-clients easy. A potential customer is likely to make first contact with your business over the phone, and the first words they hear on that initial call can set your company apart from competitors.

Let’s say you’re looking for a plumber. During the first call of your search, you’re met with a gruff, two-word greeting: “Bob’s Plumbing.” You ask a few questions and move on to your next prospective plumber. This time, there’s no answer — you reach voicemail, and hang up before the beep. Finally, you’re met with a greeting that gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling: “Good morning! Thank you for calling Jim’s Plumbing. How may I help you today?” Turns out Jim’s got what you need plumbing-wise, and his friendly greeting has shown he cares about customer service. Your search ends there, and Jim gains a new client in you. Well done, Jim!

If, like Bob’s Plumbing, your company greeting needs a revamp, here are three key elements to include:

  1. A warm introduction. Begin your company’s greeting with a welcoming “Hello,” or “Thank you for calling.” If most of your callers are in the same time zone, try adding “Good morning/afternoon.” Better yet, combine two or three of these friendly options in your greeting. A little courtesy goes a long way!
  2. Your company name. “Hello” is a great way to begin a greeting, but falls flat on its own. Usually, a greeting of “Hello” leads to a first-time caller to say something like “Hi! Is this ABC Company?” Instead of making callers do the work, reassure them by including your company name in your greeting.
  3. An offer of assistance. Let callers know you’re eager to lend a hand by ending your greeting with a helpful question. “How may I help you?” and “How may I assist you?” are rock solid. If your receptionist is routing calls rather than answering questions, try “How may I direct your call?” If there’s a question you need to ask of every caller, a greeting is the perfect place to ask it! (“May I have your account number please?”) A helpful question is the ideal end to a great greeting. Want to add even more warmth? Encourage your phone answering team to introduce themselves when greeting callers.

When spoken with a smile, these three easy pieces combine to create a stand-out greeting: “Good morning! Thank you for calling Ruby Receptionists. This is Phoebe. How may I help you today?” Your company will be head and shoulders above the plain “Hello” crowd when you begin every call with a great greeting!

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Photo by Jamie

If your mind has ever gone blank at the sound of a voicemail beep!, then you know fumbling to leave an awkward voicemail message isn’t fun. Leaving a rambling message on your best pal’s phone may be no biggie, but a solid message is key when calling a major client you hope to do business with.

Our clients know that Ruby® is not only a fantastic phone answering solution — our virtual receptionists can make outbound calls on behalf of our clients, too, and these pros have no fear of the beep! Here are some tips from the Ruby team for leaving a voicemail message that is sure to impress:

Plan before you dial. 

Leaving a thoughtful message can be a breeze if you envision the possibility of reaching that beep! Consider what you’d want to convey in a voicemail before making your call. Do you have a message that can be summed up shortly? Or would you rather simply ask for a return call if you reach voicemail? Many voicemail systems allow only a minute or two of recording time, so mentally mapping out a concise message can help you avoid being cut off mid-sentence.

Use the three-part voicemail start.

When you hear that beep!, begin your message with a warm, three-part introduction. First, greet the person you’re calling. Next, introduce yourself with your name, and add your company name if applicable. Finally, state your telephone number. Giving your contact information right away helps ensure that the person you’re calling can return your call even if your message is cut off. Here’s what a friendly three-part start looks like: “Hi, Denise! This is Phoebe Osborn from Ruby Receptionists. I can be reached at 866-611-7829.”

Put your plan in action.

Now it’s time to leave that message. Aren’t you glad you took a moment to plan ahead before making your call? Keep it short and sweet. If you have a lot to convey, leave the gist and politely request a follow-up call: “I have some questions about next week’s conference, and I’d love to talk to you about them. Would you please call me when you have a chance?”

End with a wave and a smile, voicemail style.

Wrap up your message by restating your name, company name, and telephone number, and be sure to add a friendly comment before signing off: “Again, this is Phoebe Osborn from Ruby Receptionists at 866-611-7829. Have a wonderful day!”

Free ebook: Grow Your Business With Ruby

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Part Four in the “Ruby Service Pyramid” series.

The Ruby Service Pyramid created by Jill Nelson

In the past few months, you’ve been introduced to the basics of the Ruby Service Pyramid: “Be Prepared with the Right Infrastructure” and “Do What You Say You’ll Do.” With this foundation in place, it’s time to get to the fun stuff – and this month’s post is on “Fostering Happiness,” the third principle of the Ruby Service Pyramid. Mastering these first three principles will put you head and shoulders above your competition and help you gain loyal customers.

Why?

Because hardly anyone’s doing it, and people are craving it. Forrester Research recently declared this the “era of the customer.” No longer is price the deciding factor. People are fed up and looking for a better experience. And when they do, it’s been shown they are willing to pay 13% more on average than they would for the same product or service they get elsewhere minus the happiness.

The principle of “Fostering Happiness” in the Ruby Service Pyramid is a practice to engage in at all times, by all staff, with everyone they are in contact with – customers, of course, but first and foremost, employees. A recent article on CNN.com referenced a study that shows that happy employees are “39% better in sales, 31% more productive, and make 19% fewer mistakes than their less happy counterpart.” And to foster happiness in others, it certainly helps for you to be happy first!

Strategies to foster happiness vary depending on the opportunity you face:

Win someone over.

The opportunity to make someone happy who is clearly not can make a significant difference in their day. The first two principles of the Service Pyramid should keep these situations to a minimum, but when they arise, they create the largest opportunity to foster happiness. The most important thing when someone is frustrated is to make sure they feel heard, followed by sympathizing with them, and what you’re going to do to make things right.

Sprinkle happiness into ordinary situations.

At Ruby, we believe professionalism doesn’t mean stuffy; it should be infused with friendliness and charm. When interactions are transactional and brief, you can still turn them into day-brighteners with a healthy dose of cheerful enthusiasm and adding plenty of positive words and phrases. “Absolutely” and “It would be my pleasure” are great substitutes for the word “Yes,” and eliminating the word “No” whenever possible keeps the happiness meter redlining. Look for opportunities to infuse happiness by identifying common touch points customers have with your company.

Celebrate the good stuff.

Developing systems to recognize and celebrate the positive events in your customers and employees’ lives is a simple and effective way to deliver happiness. Personal events like birthdays, weddings, and new additions to the family can trigger a group gift or handwritten card. Staff can be on the lookout for landmark achievements such as winning a prestigious industry award or inking a deal with a big time customer and congratulate them with a gift basket or bottle of wine. At Ruby, we’re not above “cyber sleuthing,” and in addition to good old-fashioned conversation, we use Google Alerts, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to find these opportunities.

Perform random acts of happiness to delight and “WOW.”

Ahh, the really fun stuff: doing something completely out of the ordinary for no other purpose than to make someone happy. A customer unexpectedly receives a gift certificate to the restaurant you learn is both of your favorites. Another is surprised to learn that the service she asked you to perform is “on the house” today because you recognized her day was a challenging one, and you wanted to alleviate a little pressure. A coworker arrives to see an energy bar on her keyboard as a result of you overhearing the trouble she has remembering to eat breakfast. Performing these acts once? Easy as pie. Getting your entire organization to consistently find these opportunities and act on them? That requires an entire culture driven to make others happy and relentlessly dedicated to empowering, incentivizing, and rewarding these delightful acts.

Hopefully we’ve whetted your appetite to delve deeper into ways to foster happiness in your customers and employees alike. Stay tuned, as detailed articles on each of these strategies are coming soon!

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Carolyn Young with The Verity Group
Carolyn Young, President of The Verity Group

We were delighted to meet Carolyn, Jacy, and Bob from The Verity Group at the ABA TECHSHOW this year, and we immediately thought of them for our Ruby Client Spotlight series. As consultants for businesses as diverse as Fortune 50 corporations, AMLAW 100 law firms, and small, independent entities, this tech-savvy group ferrets out inefficiencies and helps their clients to make the most out of their resources.

I chatted with President Carolyn Young about The Verity Group and how entrepreneurs can best use technology to build their businesses.

Tell us about The Verity Group

The Verity Group is a hybrid consultancy specializing in blending Information Technology with best practices in legal services, records management, and document review. We help clients with Data Management, Document Review, E-discovery Workflow and Litigation Readiness, and with a focus on efficiency, we work with clients to deliver better communication, processes, people, and procedures.

How do you see the role of technology in improving entrepreneurs’ lives?

Technology makes the playing field more level for all enterprises, big and small. Often, we see clients that have grown massively and so rapidly that they have lost control of the data and technology available to them – that’s where we come in. We help businesses understand what they have and help them use it to the fullest. We advise not only on technology, but the people running it, because technology is only as good as the people behind it. It all leads to a very synergistic and holistic approach to resource optimization.

You’re a Relativity Certified Admin, and both you and Bob are Relativity Certified Sales Pros. What is Relativity?

Relativity is the leader in document review platforms and is primarily used in the discovery phases of litigation. Relativity allows law firms and corporations to quickly gather information about a case and find key documents to support their efforts. Features like file review, coding options, flexible workflow capabilities, and integrated productions make for a significantly efficient document review process.

How has having Ruby’s virtual receptionist service affected your business day-to-day?

Simply put, Ruby has helped us stay in touch with our clients, no matter where we are or what we are doing. Communication efficiency is required to meet our clients’ time-sensitive needs. Ruby is always professional and that helps us ensure the right image for our small but growing consultancy.

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The Ruby Doggie Dash team!
The Ruby Doggie Dash team!

This weekend, a team of Rubys descended on Portland’s Waterfront Park to take in some sunshine, hang out with some cute dogs, and most importantly raise funds and awareness for a cause that is very near and dear to my heart: the Oregon Humane Society. This was the 4th year our “Ruby Rascals” team has participated in the OHS Doggie Dash, and this year was just as fun and adorable as ever!

Rubys at the starting line!
Rubys at the starting line!

Virtual receptionists Stephanie C and Erin B
Stephanie and Erin are excited to show off their new Doggie Dash shirts!

Leading up to the dash, we put on a bake sale in the office to help our team raise funds and support the cause. With the help of some of our amazing bakers and generous teammates, we raised enough to feed all the animals in the shelter for one day and enjoyed some sweet treats in the process! We’d like to think we are saving puppies, one cupcake at a time!

Ellie
My dog, Ellie, got a little tired and ended up spending the last half of the dash in my Ruby laptop bag!

Thank you to everyone who participated and contributed to our team! And special thanks to Barbara Nelson with Successfully Solo who contributed all the way from New Jersey! We already can’t wait for next year!

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Virtual receptionist Erin B. greeting callers and visitors at Ruby

Our virtual receptionist team is dedicated to making the most of each interaction with a caller, from great greetings to friendly goodbyes. Our clients trust us to make standout first impressions for potential customers and provide returning callers with a warm welcome every time. That’s a big responsibility of course, and it might seem like a major stressor, but we’ve learned that showing kindness and positivity never fails.

Whether greeting folks over the phone, in person, or both, a receptionist has the power to shape a potential customer’s view of a business. A receptionist is a tone-setter, a connection-maker, an ambassador. (It’s no wonder the title of “Director of First Impressions” is catching on!)

If you’re a receptionist, here are three easy ways can help your company stand out from the start:

  • Make the most of “yes” opportunities. We Rubys love the chance for a friendly chat, but often, our exchanges with callers are brief, so we like to make our words count. Everyone likes hearing a “yes,” but why not amp that “yes” up and really show your enthusiasm? Absolutely and Certainly are favorite Ruby replies, along with I’d be happy to! and I’d love to! A receptionist’s enthusiasm can be an important gauge to potential clients. “Hmmm, this receptionist is clearly happy to be here — must be a pretty great company!”
  • Mind your manners. Do you ever get tired of being treated with respect? I didn’t think so! Good old-fashioned politeness never goes out of style. Conversations peppered with please and thank you are memorable in our fast-paced world. Great receptionists always request information (rather than demanding it) and ask nicely. May I is a standby, as in “May I please have your name?”  Drop “I need your name” and this I’m-too-busy-to-form-a-complete-sentence doozy: “Your name?”
  • Mean it. Niceties fall flat when there’s no feeling behind them. In order to make a great impression, you have to want to make a great impression. True enthusiasm shows in tone of voice, and one failsafe way to keep an upbeat tone is to smile while talking (this one’s an absolute must for face-to-face interactions). Now don’t get me wrong — I know we all have bad days. But one of the easiest ways to ditch a gloomy mood is by putting on a happy face, and reaching out to another person with warmth and kindness. Our virtual receptionist team knows that making someone’s day is an instant mood-booster. Give it a try — we know you’ll be impressed with the results!

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Real human vs automation

I stumbled upon an article on Inc. magazine the other day about chatbots — avatars you can put on your website to answer questions and help customers (not to be confused with Autobots). While virtual receptionists are real people who work out of a remote office, chatbots reside on websites and are typically cartoons or photos of people that have been programmed to automatically respond to common questions.

It got us thinking…who would win in a fight to provide the best customer service for your business? Let’s get ready to rumble!

  • Round I: Understanding. While a bot can hazard a guess at a person’s intent, a live virtual receptionist will be able to interpret it better. If a chatbot misinterprets something, it could be frustrating for the customer to have to rephrase their question. And a live person can always ask a quick qualifying question if necessary so that customers won’t have to repeat themselves (“Were you looking for car insurance or life insurance?”). Point: Virtual receptionists.
  • Round II: Tone. Sometimes it’s not what a person says, but how they say it. A live person can pick up on inflections in the caller’s voice and tailor responses to their mood. Someone in a hurry may type the same question as someone who has oodles of time; a live virtual receptionist can differentiate between the two by their tone and match each caller’s communication style. Point: Virtual receptionists.
  • Round III: Price. Both chatbots and virtual receptionist services are a fraction of the price of having a full-time employee in the office, but if you have a small business, a chatbot may be cheaper. Though sites with large numbers of queries may cost around the same amount per month as a live virtual receptionist, we’ll call this round in favor of the robots. Point: Robots.
  • Round IV: Going above and beyond. A chatbot won’t be able to make the same judgment calls a live person will, no matter how smart the programming. A human can anticipate a caller’s needs and offer to help before they even have to ask. Point: Virtual receptionists.
  • Round V: Personal connection. While a cartoon or photo of a human may be smiling, there is no substitute for an actual human who will crack a joke and share a laugh with your customers. People do business with people they like — and that’s the K.O. for the bots in this battle!

Winner: Virtual receptionists!

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Phone Tip: FYI MessagesFYI messages: Our virtual receptionist team takes them when callers decline to leave a message, and they’re just one of the many little ways we show our callers and clients Ruby® is more than an answering service. If telephone answering is part of your work routine, you know it’s not uncommon for a caller to reply to the question “May I take a message?” with an “Oh, that’s okay — I’ll just call back.” 

We’ve learned that when this happens, sending a brief message with any info we’ve collected can be a big help to everyone involved. Here’s why:

FYI messages are an easy way to WOW your callers.

Let’s say a fellow named Stan calls for your teammate but declines to leave a message — Stan will try your teammate on her cell phone. Let’s also say that your teammate just happened to lose her cell that morning. The messages Stan leaves on her cell voicemail won’t help him get a return call, but an FYI message might. Sending a quick note like this one could be a big help to Stan and your teammate: “Stan called for you. He declined to leave a message, and said he’d call you on your cell. Just an FYI.” (Note: When composing an FYI message, we Rubys always indicate that the caller declined to leave a message, and include the phrase “Just an FYI,” because it explains why the message may contain less information than most.)

FYI messages are an easy way to WOW your teammates.

Remember Stan from the example above? Well Stan just happens to be your teammate’s attorney, and his call was pretty important. Your FYI message took just a few seconds to send, and because of it, your teammate knew Stan was looking for her, and she was able to return his call and take care of business. Looks like you just saved the day!

Remember Stan from the example above? Well Stan just happens to be your teammate’s attorney, and his call was pretty important. Your FYI message took just a few seconds to send, and because of it, your teammate knew Stan was looking for her, and she was able to return his call and take care of business. Looks like you just saved the day!

FYI messages are an easy way to cover your back.

So your caller doesn’t want to leave a message — no problem, right? Not so fast. When the caller gets in touch with the person he’s seeking, he might just throw out one of these: “I called earlier. Didn’t your receptionist tell you?” Zing! You may not have much information about a caller who declines to leave a message, but the Ruby team knows a little information is better than no information. If you have the caller’s first name, company name, or caller ID, send it along. You’ll be glad you did!

Do you send FYI messages? Have you and your teammates found them helpful? We’d love your feedback! Tweet us at @callruby and tell us what you think.

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Small Business Tips

Inclusive marketing—with Michelle Ngome (pt. 1)

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Stop robocalls for good.

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Small Business Tips

Mashups & peanut butter cups: how to bridge the paid/organic data divide to spend smarter search ad dollars

Small Business Tips

Which chat service is right for your business?

Small Business Tips

High-end clients, projects, and service—with Melissa Barker

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About Ruby

Arizona, here we come!

Reflections on fallout

Square title card with circular-cropped head shot: The art and challenge of business services, Justin Dunham, ércule
Small Business Tips

The art and challenge of business services—with Justin Dunham of ércule

Customer Feature

Ruby customer feature: Rapid resourcefulness with Ashton Taylor

Small Business Tips

Forced changes and success with Loren Feldman

Small Business Tips

Get more clients like that one. You know the one.

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The Secret to Successful Law Firms

The inside scoop on Clio’s latest legal trends report.

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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.