Planning on ramping up your customer experience in 2013? We’ve compiled our ten favorite customer service tips from the past year to help you hit the ground running!

  1. The Ruby Service Pyramid. This blueprint is the perfect place to start! Many businesses have great products and may even deliver on their promises, but is your company reaching customers at an emotional level? Use The Ruby Service Pyramid as a guide to gain loyal customers who tell their friends about your business.
  2. What’s the Secret to Ruby’s Award-Winning Culture? Learn about the three driving forces behind our wow-worthy virtual receptionist service.
  3. What Does Happiness Have to Do with Customer Service? Fostering happiness at work isn’t just good karma; it’s good for your customers and your bottom line.
  4. How Making Meaningful Connections Can Radically Improve Your Sales Process. Connecting with prospects on a personal level helps you enjoy your job more and impacts your sales rate as well — win-win!
  5. How Answering Your Own Phone Can Hurt Your Brand. A phone call is often the first interaction a new client will have with your business. What kind of impression are you making?
  6. Set Your Company Apart with a Great Telephone Greeting. Once you know who will be answering your phone, craft a WOW-worthy greeting that will start every conversation on the right foot!
  7. How to Create a WOW Conference Room. If you have visitors to your office, your conference room is a touchpoint that can inspire massive trust in your clients. Anticipate your guests’ needs with these four easy steps.
  8. Is Your Call Transfer Style Losing You Business? Does your receptionist give callers the third degree? Choose the best call transfer style for your business by putting yourself in your customers’ shoes.
  9. How to Be More East Coast When You’re West Coast. Pace, tone, and rhythm in speech vary by region; create national appeal with these simple tips.
  10. What Does Your Tone of Voice Say About Your Business? Sometimes it’s not what you say, but how you say it!

How are you going to WOW your clients this new year?

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We’ve all heard the saying, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it.” No one is going to listen very long if you’re speaking gibberish, so your content does count for something; however, science supports that your tone, pitch, inflection, loudness, and pacing can be as important as your words themselves. And, without body language and visual cues, these auditory signifiers can become even more crucial over the phone.

Take your basic telephone greeting, for example: “Thank you for calling ABC Company. This is Ruby. How may I help you?”

  • Said quickly and without pauses, your caller may conclude that you’re in a rush and too busy to help them. Even though you just offered to help them.
  • Uttered in a high pitch and/or very softly, your greeting could sound timid or uncertain – neither of which is exactly trust-inspiring.
  • Placing the wrong emphasis on the words in your salutation could lead to a sarcastic tone, which could confuse or offend your caller.

Already, your caller has inferred so much, and it’s only been a few seconds!

What can you do to soften your tone and create the right impression for your business every time you pick up the phone?

  1. Avoid falling flat. Using a monotone voice may convey sadness or disinterest. A melodic rhythm, on the other hand, expresses cheerfulness and warmth.
  2. Deepen your pitch. You’ll sound more confident, and you may feel more confident as well!
  3. Slow down. While some pace-matching will make callers comfortable, if they’re upset or angry, it’s best not to mirror their emotion by speaking swiftly. Articulating slowly will show that you’re composed and collected, and reassures your caller that their trust is well-placed.

Feel free to give Ruby a call at 866-611-7829 to hear firsthand how we use tone (and diction) to create stellar experiences for callers. As a client once told us, “It’s like getting cupcakes through the phone!”

Photo via the Vancouver Film School

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When you’re chatting with a potential client, you know that every word counts. But what about the words that are exchanged before you talk to that client? Whether greeting customers in person or over the phone, your receptionist has the power to pique interest in your business, or leave potential clients feeling unsure. Here are some key phrases your receptionist should avoid, and enticing alternatives:

“He/She is unavailable.” You may not be able to give your sales pitch to every potential client at the moment they seek you out, but hearing that you’re “unavailable” can lead customers to feel like you don’t care. Encourage your receptionist to use specifics instead, and make it clear that you’re excited to talk with potential clients, even if you aren’t able to right now:

She is in a meeting at the moment, but she’ll be delighted to return your call! May I take down your number?”

“I don’t know.” Even the best receptionist will be stumped by a question now and then, but saying “I don’t know” to a potential customer is a big no-no. Instead, encourage your receptionist to show eagerness with, “I’d be happy to find out!” or, “Great question! I’ll gladly look into that for you.” There are tons of ways to turn a tricky question into an opportunity to showcase a desire to help. Brainstorm a handful of replies that work for you and your receptionist, and you’ll both be armed for any question that comes your way.

“You’ll have to…” Commanding phrases like “You’ll have to”   —  as in “You’ll have to set up an appointment” or, “You’ll have to talk to Jim about that”  —  turn a receptionist from greeter to gatekeeper in the eyes of a potential client. Whatever you might prefer potential clients do, they never have to do it. They can always take their business elsewhere! Don’t be demanding with potential customers. Instead, politely ask for what you want:

I’ll be happy to ask one of our salespeople to give you a call this afternoon. What works well for you?”

“May I take down your email address? I know Jim would love to send you some information about the services we offer.”

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Do you describe your receptionist as a “gatekeeper”? It’s a common term in receptionist job descriptions these days. Highly-trained receptionists can limit interruptions by carefully screening calls and deciding which lucky few are transferred through. The intention is noble: To increase office productivity. However, by positioning clients, potential clients, and other callers as the “enemy,” your company image may ultimately suffer.

Not all calls need to be handled right away, but every call is an opportunity to create a lasting impression. Add these three maneuvers to your receptionist training to turn a “gatekeeper” into a brand ambassador:

  • Treat each caller like an influencer. Every caller’s experience has the potential to go viral. Whenever possible, keep screening questions simple, and use a familiar style and friendly tone to put callers at ease and show them you care about their call.
  • Smile. Callers can hear a smile in your voice — even through thousands of miles of telephone wire. Whether their call is connected or not, folks will appreciate being able to relay their message to a cheerful person.
  • Err on the side of caution. Did your caller mispronounce the CEO’s name? It could be a solicitation call, or it could be a potential new client who had been browsing your company website and is ready to sign up. It may take a few extra seconds to correctly identify an unwanted call, but the time will be well worth it if your professionalism secures a big new account!

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The Ruby team on Jimmy Buffet Day“Making Friday Hawaiian shirt day doesn’t make it a culture of ownership.” — Tim Miles, The Daily Blur

A while ago, our friend Tim Miles wrote a fantastic post on The Daily Blur, advocating for a “culture of ownership” as the best way to help employees (and ultimately, the business itself) succeed. Transparency, listening, inspiration, and empowerment motivate more than any top-down, seemingly-random perk. I’ve certainly seen that concept at work at Ruby, and it called to mind one of our traditions.

At the end of each week, we pick a different theme for “Not-So-Casual Friday.” We’ve had a zombie day, a Star Wars day, a mustache day, a Mad Men day…even a Hawaiian shirt day (truth be told, it was more of a Jimmy Buffet day, complete with prop parrots and empty coconut glasses). They’ve become wildly popular, have huge participation, and our clients tell us they can’t wait to find out on Facebook what quirky theme we’ll have next.

It made me wonder, What makes Ruby’s Not-So-Casual Fridays different than Hawaiian shirt day at Initech?

Well, the idea did not come from our CEO. It didn’t even come from our Culture Champion. It came from our virtual receptionists themselves.

When we first moved into our new space, our upfront receptionists Sara Lee and Mercedes greeted visitors in casual business attire. It wasn’t long before Mercedes suggested having a dress up day, rather than the ubiquitous casual Friday. Jill, our CEO, agreed under one condition: We go all out. Challenge accepted, and thus, our epic Not-So-Casual Fridays were born!

Now the whole office is encouraged to suggest themes, and we love taking a moment to appreciate one another’s creativity. We were empowered to create our own, more meaningful traditions, and the fun definitely shows in our work; our smiles can be heard on every call!

What traditions have you started at your workplace? We’d love to hear about how your team creates community!

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What’s Your Career Superpower?

Reading time:
Whitney M.: Virtual receptionist and actress
Whitney in her virtual receptionist role and playing Lucy in You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown

Virtual receptionist Whitney M. shares how using your strengths can help you find fulfillment in the workplace.

We’ve all been asked that worn-out question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Maybe it was a cowboy, or even a superhero! Do you remember? Mine was always a tossup: Doctor or Circus Performer. As life progresses, goals change. (And that’s ok.) I’m now Whitney: Virtual receptionist by day, actress by night — never a dull moment. But how? Because in my job, I have found what brings me joy.

As an actress, I love connecting with people and the spontaneity of each moment you create. At Ruby, I have found the ability to integrate that passion into my day job. In fact, I have so many opportunities to create that spark — one with every call. I’ve sung to clients, told countless stories and even humored callers with quick repartee or puns.

Once, not so long ago, I had a somewhat dejected-sounding man call in. When I asked him what the call was regarding, he merely replied, “Life.” A little surprised by the one-word answer, I couldn’t help but try and break the silence with a smile or laugh. I pressed on…

“…Life, liberty…and the pursuit of happiness?” I said in the most stoic tone I could muster.

The caller began laughing very hard, “Yup. Exactly. ‘Happyness’ with a ‘y.’”

I began laughing as well. “The Pursuit of Happyness — that’s a great film. Anything else you’d like me to include in the message?”

“Nope. You made me smile. You did a good job.”

I thanked him for the compliment and wished him well. And as I hung up the phone, I had a swelling sense of pride.

Identifying your strengths is a crucial skill in life, but utilizing them is even more important. At Ruby, our management team uses strength-spotting to help Rubys grow into new roles that they’re well-suited to. As leading positive psychologist Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener says, using your strengths “leads you to feel energized and engaged, and you perform at your best.” When you perform at your best, happiness is a happy side effect. And when you’re happy, you do better work – it’s a cycle of constant improvement.

So whether your superhero ability to fly never showed up, or you’ve just refocused your skills, it’s time to put the spotlight on what you do best. You’re all grown up. So I ask you, “How do you use your strengths and passions to find fulfillment in your job?”

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Monica D., Ruby CEO Jill Nelson, Buffy, and Diana

2012 has been quite a year for Ruby: We earned a Lighthouse Award for our 5-year rapid growth, launched the “Five at Five” paid sabbatical program, and designed new employee happiness initiatives. Our CEO Jill Nelson was recognized for her commitment to customer-centricity and had the pleasure of sharing our culture with other businesses across the nation. Of the many amazing happenings this year, we’re definitely most proud of being named the #1 Best Small Workplace in the U.S.!

Last Saturday, we took a moment to thank our team for all their hard work and celebrate a truly momentous year with a 1920s-themed bash! It was a wonderful night, filled with laughter, good friends, dancing, and all that jazz. Feel free to check out the Ruby Facebook page for more photos from the event!

Special thanks to the Melody Ballroom, Portland Photobooth, and The Stolen Sweets for the swell tunes!

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Ask the right questions and rate virtual reception services with our handy guide and scorecard!

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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.