Businesses thrive on innovation. And often, the best new ideas come straight from your employees. They interact with customers, recognizing their pain points firsthand, and can determine patterns as well as opportunities for change. Empower your greatest resource by providing frequent and simple ways to offer feedback!

Here are just three ways your team can start fostering a culture of innovation:

  1. Consistent “One-on-One” meetings. Having biweekly or monthly one-on-ones with your employees is a great way to show support and keep the lines of communication open. Rather than calling for a special meeting or letting things pile up, smaller issues can be brought up in a casual one-on-one. They’re also a great way to foster personal connections, which strengthens trust between employees and managers.
  2. Open Meetings. Crowdsource your staff! Almost every program, benefit, or service enhancement we have at Ruby was the brainchild of one of our virtual receptionists. So we hold monthly receptionist-run meetings where anyone can participate and make suggestions. Not only do we get great ideas, but it’s also a fantastic opportunity for employees to flex their leadership skills!
  3. Anonymous feedback forms. Ample face-to-face communication is important, but a good ol’ suggestion box can make folks extra comfortable. We use the Start, Stop, Continue method at Ruby; keep a few forms on-hand and encourage employees to fill out each section when submitting an anonymous suggestion. It helps team members to take a holistic view and celebrate things we do well as a company, in addition to proposing changes.

Whatever way you foster feedback, don’t forget to follow through or follow up. When you decide not to implement an idea, let the team in on your reasoning. It shows you value and consider all ideas, and your employees will continue to keep their eyes peeled for new innovations!

 Photo via Flickr user Mary Margret

 

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Ruby Receptionists Company Culture
Monica and Ashley having fun on “Twin Day” at Ruby!

Since Ruby® was named the #1 best small company to work for in the U.S. by FORTUNE Magazine, a lot of folks have asked us, “What is Ruby doing out there in Portland?!”

Ruby Receptionists is unlike any traditional answering service; in fact, it’s unlike any other business, full stop. We have theme days every Friday (like “Twin Day,” above), “Happiness Journals,” book clubs, games, volunteer nights, and more. But our secret to an award-winning company culture is neither arcane nor magical; other businesses can apply the same principles and create unique, WOW-worthy cultures of their own. These three driving forces fuel Ruby’s dynamic culture:

Great People.

We look for people who are the right cultural fit before we even hire them. We may sacrifice some experience, but we know maintaining a healthy culture is worth it in the long run. Ruby looks for employees who genuinely delight in making other people’s days and actively cultivate connections with their coworkers and clients.

That brings us to the second part of what makes Ruby a great place to work, our…

Clear Mission and Values.

It took us a few years until we figured out what Ruby stands for, but once we did, everything else fell into place. We come to work everyday striving to make meaningful connections with every interaction. Each employee is dedicated to our Core Values — Foster Happiness, Create Community, Practice WOWism, Innovate, and Grow — which inform every decision and spark collaboration.

There are many companies out there with fantastic people and lofty missions, but if employees aren’t empowered to deliver on that mission, the culture eventually falls flat. And that brings us to the final part of the puzzle…

Consistent Systems and Training. 

Clear processes inform our hiring decisions and each employee knows from the get-go what Ruby stands for — and we don’t stop there. We hold campaigns to incentivize employees, share inspiring stories, and provide tools to empower employees to enact our mission. Best of all, though we were #1 on the small companies list this year, these scalable systems will help us stay a great place to work as we grow!

Knowing what you stand for, hiring people who stand for the same, and incenting, inspiring, and empowering your staff are key to creating a WOW-worthy company culture!

Click here to watch Ruby CEO Jill Nelson explain more about what we’re doing at Ruby!

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Volunteering at the Oregon Food BankVolunteering at the Oregon Food Bank has become one of our favorite Ruby traditions. For the past five years, Rubys have gathered around Thanksgiving to package food for families in need, and last night, almost half of our virtual receptionists and staff chose to spend their evening giving back to our local community!

Even before our arrival, the team was busy collecting donations for our food drive. We were able to pack our IT Director Keith’s truck full of nonperishable goods and ended up donating roughly 600 pounds of food this year thanks to the generosity of our team! After we dropped off the donations, we all suited up in hairnets and aprons and got to work packaging red beans. In just a few short, dance-party-filled hours, we were able to put together over 7,000 meals for needy families in our community!

The Oregon Food Bank is a cause close to our hearts, and we are thankful for all they do to fight hunger! To learn more about OFB, set up a time to volunteer, or discover other ways to give visit the OFB website here. If you live outside of Oregon, Feeding America has a Food Bank Locator to find a local food bank in your area!

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Call Handling

How many questions are your customers asked when they call your company? Does your receptionist have a checklist of queries for each caller? The first few moments of a phone call can create an impression for a first-time callers, and make a longtime client feel appreciated…or slighted. Your receptionist’s call screening style is an important customer touchpoint. Here are a few things to consider about different screening options:

Ask several questions of every caller.

Although it can be tempting to have your receptionist collect specific information from every caller before offering calls to you, this screening style is likely to backfire. Your receptionist might not recognize all of your frequent callers by name, but those callers know you well, and if they’re asked the same three questions each time they try to reach you, the forecast calls for annoyance: “I’ve given you my email address seven times; why do you need it again? Can’t I just talk to Kevin?”

Ask specific questions for specific types of callers.

With this option, your receptionist may, for example, gather certain information from current clients and other information from potential new customers. But when a call is ultimately going to be transferred to an expert — salespeople, teach team members for support concerns, etc. — it might be worth it to have the pros ask the bulk of the questions rather than your receptionist. Consider this: Do you need all of the information up front in order to best serve your callers? If not, ask your receptionist to skip screening questions. Getting callers to the right place pronto lets them know how important they are to your company:

Caller: Hello! I’m fighting a traffic ticket and am looking for representation.

Receptionist: I would be happy to see if the attorney is available to speak with you about your ticket. May I have your name?

Caller: My name is Tim Calhoun.

Receptionist: Thank you, Tim! One moment, please.

If the other party isn’t available, you can always have your receptionist ask additional screening questions in the message. That way, your potential client will still feel invested in your business.

Keep it simple.

The beauty of using one simple screening question like “May I ask who is calling?” is that callers will typically give your receptionist all the information you’ll need. First-time callers or folks who don’t call often will generally volunteer a bit more info (“This is Jane with XYZ Company. I met him last week at the seminar.”), while frequent callers or family members might identify themselves succinctly to your receptionist, knowing you’ll recognize them (“This is his brother,” “This is Kelly,” etc.). If you find the info a caller volunteers isn’t sufficient, your receptionist can always bounce back and gather a bit more information before connecting a call to you: “Thank you for your patience, Kelly! May I ask what this is regarding?”

Bottom line: less is usually more when it comes to screening questions. When possible, keep your screening style simple and familiar, and this touchpoint is sure to be a pleasant one for your callers!

Free ebook: Grow Your Business With Ruby

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Ruby’s in three places at once today! Our friendly virtual receptionist team is holding down the fort here in Portland, Oregon, but our Founder & CEO Jill Nelson and General Manager Diana Stepleton are in Orlando, Florida, for MILOfest. On Saturday, Jill is delighted to be presenting on how using processes, checklists & systems can foster error-proof customer service. We’re excited to see some of our clients in person and meet new folks!

Ashley and Lauren at Booth 317 at the Small Business Expo

Sales Associates Ashley Fisher and Lauren O’Neill also made their way down to Los Angeles for the Small Business Expo at the California Market Center. It’s free to attend, so if you’re in the area, feel free to stop by and say hello at Booth 317!

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When your receptionist transfers a call to you, what kind of experience is your caller having?

Your company’s call-handling style can make a big impact on your clients and potential new customers. Whether you’re deciding how to handle your calls or already have a system in place, this customer touchpoint holds a lot of sway over the impression your clients have of your business.

Below is one common practice that may be off-putting and potentially lose you business:

Your receptionist connects calls to your ringing line rather than staying on the line to introduce the call.

This can be helpful to a receptionist who is balancing a number of duties, as so-called “blind” transfers are quick and easy. But this transfer style can lead to dissatisfied callers if you’re not careful — there’s always a risk of important calls going to voicemail if you’re away from your phone. Are some potential clients calling your competitor instead of leaving a voicemail message?

Instead: Have your receptionist let you know who’s on the line before connecting calls.

Regardless of whether you’re available at the moment, your caller will receive quality customer service. If you are at your desk, you’ll be able to make an informed decision about whether you’d like to take a call right now. And if you’re able to take the call, you’ll have a few seconds to prepare by pulling up their account or finishing that bite of sandwich.

If now’s not opportune, your receptionist can return to your caller and take a message, or simply relay a message to the caller for you (“Jim is stepping into a meeting at the moment, but would it be convenient for him to return your call around 1:30?”). After being cared for by your receptionist, your potential clients will have excellent expectations and will feel more invested in your company.

Put yourself in your callers’ shoes — what would impress you?

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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 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.