Should You Answer Your Own Phone?You’ve found the perfect office and are on your way to building a fantastic team — success, here you come! But here’s something thing to consider before opening for business: Who’ll be answering your phone? If you’re a business owner, think twice before picking up the receiver.

Whether it means hiring an in-house receptionist or using a live virtual receptionist service, here are three reasons why you might not want to answer your own phone:

You might give yourself away as an upstart.

New businesses are fantastic, but when it’s clear that you as a business owner are taking on all sorts of tasks, potential clients might wonder how much time you’ll have to dedicate to their needs. A greeting like “Law firm of Kevin Davidson, Kevin speaking” can cause callers to think twice. No matter how big or small your company, answering your own phones might lead potential clients to question your reputability.

Callers might not want to talk to the head honcho right away.

When you’re running the show, you’d think callers would be thrilled to speak with your right off the bat! But that isn’t always the case. Potential customers often feel more at ease when they’re able to bounce initial questions off a receptionist first. As a bonus, when a client is transferred to you, it seems more special. (“I talked to the owner of Precision Consulting today. She is great! I am definitely going with their firm.”)

Your time might be better spent elsewhere.

Staying in touch with clients and prospects is hugely important, but fielding every incoming call isn’t the best way to do it. You’ve received a phone call when you’re in the middle of an important task or thought before, right? Admit it — it threw you off a bit. Phone calls can be disruptive, and not every call needs your immediate attention. Ask yourself this: What do your clients need most from you? Do they need you to be at-the-ready any time they call? Or do they want you to have the time, space, and creative freedom to make quality decisions about their accounts? You and your clients can probably agree in favor of the second choice.

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Photo by Logan Ingalls

When you’re looking to expand your customer base, the last thing you want to say to a potential new client is “No,” as in “No, we don’t do that…” When a prospect makes the effort to contact you, you naturally want to WOW them with a “You bet we can!” or “Certainly — we’re great at that!” and if you don’t offer what a potential client is seeking, such ebullient responses may seem out of reach. But you don’t have to say “Yes!” to impress customers.

Here are three ways “No” can be a positive thing:

“No” can be an opportunity to help a customer work through a problem.

You may not offer the specific service a potential client has in mind, but perhaps you can provide something similar, or even more impressive. Consider the result your prospect is seeking. Can you help them get there? Share a story about how your product or service has made a positive impact on current customers, and chat about the creative ways you’ve helped your clients. Saying “No” is also an opportunity to show confidence in your business: “We don’t do that specifically, and here’s why…Instead, we offer something better! Let me tell you about it!”

“No” is an opportunity to show some love to fellow businesses.

Maybe your company doesn’t offer an ideal solution for a potential client, but do you know someone who might be able to help? If so, name drop — you’ll be glad you did! Everyone loves a referral, and when you send business to another company, they’re likely to return the favor. Who doesn’t like having friends?

A thoughtful “No” might mean a future customer.

Never pass up an opportunity for a friendly chat — show an interest in every potential customer’s needs, even if your business isn’t the best fit. If you’re helpful to a potential client who is seeking something you don’t offer, chances are they’ll return to you in the future when they do need your help or when a friend of theirs could use your services. Chatting with potential clients can also be a great way to make decisions about future business choices.

Are lots of potential customers clamoring for something in particular? If so, maybe it’s time to expand your services!

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How to Keep Phone Conversation from Being Awkward

My first pet was a desert tortoise named Freddy. He just wandered into our Southern Californian backyard one day when I was about three years old and set up shop. I remember one day, my father propped up a little plank of wood against our fence so that he could get out of the hot sun, and curious Freddy slowly started to climb on the plank of wood, lost his footing, and came to rest, square on his back. He rocked back and forth, but it was no use; he was stuck. Of course, we rushed over to help him up and the little guy was okay, if somewhat embarrassed.

Nowadays, I can relate to Freddy; I’ve often squirmed in my seat when calling a business and been left hanging. Have you ever had this conversation:

“Hi! Is John available?”

Receptionist: “He’s in a meeting.”

(pause)

“…May I leave a message for him?”

It puts the caller in an uncomfortable spot. Thankfully, there are lots of ways to keep the conversation flowing and have your calls go so smooth, Jif would be impressed. Here are a few things you can do to make sure you never leave your callers flailing:

  1. Offer help before your caller has to ask. A quick fix to the above situation is to tack on an offer of assistance at the end: “John’s away from the phone at the moment, but I would be happy to take a message or offer you his voicemail!” Crisis averted!
  2. A thorough greeting is a fantastic way to get things off on the right foot. A plain ole “Hello” is too generic and is so brief a caller could miss it and be met with awkward silence. Include a salutation, your company name, and cap things off with “How may I help you?” or “How may I direct your call?” It’ll open the door for your caller to explain what or whom they’re looking for and set the call up for success!
  3. If you hear a long pause or sense hesitation, propose an alternative. Even, if they don’t take you up on your offer, they’ll appreciate that you’re attentive, empathetic, and genuinely want to help them. Best of all, this simple action will inspire a trust they won’t soon forget.

Awkward exchanges make a bad impression and may hurt your brand. So lend a hand — a smooth call is just the ticket to build trust with your customers and set your business apart from the rest!

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You Know You’re a Ruby When…

Reading time:

Without even glancing at our name tags, folks will come up to us at events and ask, “Are you with Ruby?!” It’s a quality that sticks with you, even when you’re not on the clock. In today’s post, our team tries to put the feeling into words!

You know you’re a Ruby when…

…you wish people a good day as often as possible and make eye contact, smile, and easily strike up conversations. — Annie, virtual receptionist

…you say “May I” in everyday conversation and “One moment please” when a friend asks you to do something. — Domonique, virtual receptionist

…you smile so much that multiple people on the bus ride home have actually asked you, “Why are you smiling so much?” — Michael Boardman, Level 10 Desktop Wizard

…you’ve overheard this sparkling conversation outside the Ruby office more than once:

Random person: Hey, can you tell me how to get to Safeway?

Receptionist: Absolutely! If you take a left at the corner, it will be right at the end of the block!

Random person: Thanks!

Receptionist: You’re welcome! Have a great day!

— Stephanie S., Receptionist Team Captain

…you send an email to a family friend visiting your old college town with a detailed list of where to visit, eat, and shop with hyperlinks to each place. Then, you call your old boss at a restaurant you recommended to ask him to take care of them when they come in. — Ashley Fisher, Sales Associate

…words like “lovely!” are now part of your everyday vocabulary. — Stephanie Christ, Problem Solver & Happiness Maker

…you see confused customers and jump in to answer their questions at a store you don’t even work at! — Heather Q, System Analyst

…you answer to “Ruby” as if it were your own name!

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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.