5 Ways to Connect with Callers

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Telephone

Think you can’t make a real connection during a short phone call? Think again! Whether you’re talking with a longtime customer or a potential client, creating a personal bond is a snap when you set your mind to it. Here are five connection-making tips to keep in mind during your next call:

Take an interest. When a caller reveals any tidbit of personal information, don’t let the opportunity for conversation pass you by. A caller’s offhanded mention of upcoming weekend plans, a child’s sporting event, a recent car repair, or, well, anything personal is a wonderful chance to show your interest and learn a bit more. It’s just this easy:

Next Tuesday won’t work for me — my son has a game that afternoon.

Oh, how fun! What kind of game?

He’s playing soccer. This season he’s the goalie…

Boring phone call, 0; Conversation and connection, Score!

Share a laugh. When you notice a caller chuckle, join in! If something tickles your funnybone during a call, don’t keep it to yourself! Laughter is the perfect way to create a bond with your caller, and results in all sorts of wonderful effects besides.

Ask specific questions. When you know a little about your caller, trade in basic questions (like “How are you?”) for more personal stuff: How was your vacation? Are you settling in to your new apartment? Did you catch the Ducks game last weekend? Specific questions show you care enough to pay attention to your callers, and that means a lot.

Skip the “hold” button. When you need a moment to look up information, treat callers to the lovely sound of your voice instead of placing them on hold. Not sure how to pass the time? If you can think of a personal question, ask away, and if not, go with a friendly standard like “How’s your Monday going?” Listening to 30 seconds of Canon in D might be nice for your caller, but a bit of friendly chitchat is sure to be music to a caller’s ears.

Give a compliment. When something about a caller strikes a chord with you, mention it, and use it as a jumping-off point to get to know that caller better.

You’re in Austin? That’s one of my favorite cities! How long have you lived there?

What a cool company name. How did you come up with it?

Giving a compliment is a great way to learn more about your caller and share a bit about yourself, and that’s just the kind of exchange that’s sure to make you and your company stand out.

Photo by Calil Souza

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Telephone Wire

As a business owner, you probably spend a lot of time improving your product, winning new customers, or looking for ways to WOW your existing clientbase. It’s easy to overlook your hold music, but the fact is, most of us will spend over a 40 days on hold in our lifetime. That means your clients, too! What are you doing to make their experience better?

  • Silence is not always golden! Dead silence can actually make the wait seem longer, and at worst, your customers may think you’ve hung up on them. Music, on the other hand, can make the time seem to go by faster — if, it’s the right music.
  • Different strokes for different folks. Think about your industry, your audience, and your brand. Suit-and-tie attorneys and wealth management advisors with older clients might choose traditional classical music. Cutting-edge creative agencies and those in the entertainment industry might prefer something less formal. Still others may want a mix of music and on-hold messaging. Since every business is different, Ruby clients can choose between six professional-level options or use their own to deliver a uniquely personalized customer experience.
  • Remember: Use the hold button sparingly. Even if your hold music is fantastic, human interactions will win out every time. If you need a moment to look up an address or find their electronic file, take the opportunity to chat with them instead of pressing “hold.” You’ll deepen your connection and make a lasting impression!
  • Photo by Linh Ngan

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Talking with the occasionally frustrated caller can be intimidating, stressful, and even a bit scary. But with the right skills, a difficult call can be turned around, and improving a caller’s mood might be easier than you think.

The next time you’ve got a less-than-happy caller on the line, try these tips:

Allow some venting room. One nice thing about frustrated callers is that they’ll let you know what’s wrong. Give callers the room to explain, complain, and tell you why they’re upset. Don’t interrupt, and when it’s your turn to speak…

Acknowledge the caller’s frustration, and explain how you’ll help. A little empathy goes a long way. But don’t fake it — frustrated callers are like bloodhounds when it comes to sniffing out insincerity, and a lackluster “I understand” might make your caller even more upset. If you’re empathetic to a caller’s strife, show it! If not, thank them for their time or input, and then move on to explain how you’ll help:

“I can certainly understand why you’re upset! I’m going to do everything I can to help get this resolved.”

“Thank you for taking the time to contact us! Our attorney is the best person to help you. Let me gather a bit of information, and I’ll put you in touch with the attorney.”

When applicable, frame your role. Here’s a tough part about frustrated callers: They’re often frustrated because they’re not able to connect with the person they’re seeking. Instead, they’re talking to you…and that can seem less than satisfying. If you’re not the expert your caller is looking for, framing your role can be a big help. Explain what you do, and assure the caller that you will do everything in your power to help. You may not be able to offer exactly what your caller wants at the moment, but your dedication to customer service will still shine through:

“I can certainly understand why you’re upset! As the receptionist, I can alert everyone on our tech support team to your issue, and ask that they return your call to set up a repair appointment as soon as possible. I’m going to do everything I can to help get this resolved!”

Showcase your listening skills. A caller’s frustration might stem from feelings of being ignored or unheard, so taking notes and listening closely is very important. Let callers know you’ve heard their concerns by paraphrasing them back:

“The order was placed on June 21, but you didn’t receive it until August, correct?”

Most importantly, keep calm and kind. This is the biggie. If you keep your cool, remain professional and friendly, and show your understanding and appreciation, you’re likely to improve even the most upset caller’s mood, even if you aren’t able to solve an issue right away.

Want proof that the kind approach really works? Look no further than the Ruby front lines! Our virtual receptionists are often complimented on their courtesy and kindness, and because we love celebrating accomplishments, we share these compliments with our team. Fresh from the Ruby compliment files, here are a few recent quotes from initially-frustrated callers:

“I know this is not your fault. You have been great!”

“I am not upset with you. You have been very kind! I really appreciate you listening to me so well and taking notes.”

“Even though I am frustrated, it was nice to have a lovely receptionist do what she could to help me. Not very many people do that anymore!”

These steps are simple, but following them can make a big impact on a frustrated caller, and help keep your mood bright in the face of occasional negativity to boot!

Bottom line: Do what you can and do it with a smile, and you’re sure to brighten any caller’s day.

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Get More Done This Year

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Productivity Tips: Get More Done This Year
Photo by Courtney Dirks

The year started out with a roar! But we’re a few weeks in, you may already be losing steam. Fear not! Here are three ways you can increase your productivity:

  1. Find ways to use your strengths. Injecting your passion into your day-to-day can make you more energized and engaged at work — and avoid burnout. Read how virtual receptionist Whitney M. borrows from her theater days to make the most of every phone call.
  2. Schedule time to focus. An interruption may increase the time it takes you to finish a task by a whopping 25%. That includes checking your email and answering the phone! When you’re working on a project, let your receptionist know to hold your calls and resist the urge to open your Outlook. If you use Ruby, feel free to update your Whereabouts at any time, and our virtual receptionists will take messages while you concentrate.
  3. Foster happiness. Boost your mood by keeping a happiness journal or adding exercise or a few moments of meditation to your routine. Research shows that happy people are more productive, better at sales, and more accurate on tasks. As if we needed another reason!

How do you maximize your time at work? Weigh in by Tweeting us @callruby!

 Photo by Courtney Dirks

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Your telephone greeting sets the tone for the call and can leave a lasting impression. The best phone greetings include a friendly salutation, your company name, and an offer of assistance. However, Watercooler reader Kisha brought up an interesting question: How do you phrase your greeting when your business is undergoing a merger? She writes:

Our company was just purchased by a larger company. We are trying to write a greeting that uses both the new company name and the former name for a transitional phase. Calling the company solely by the old name is inaccurate but using just the new name is scary since many callers haven’t received the “merge” letter notifying them of the change. How would you suggest doing this?

Going through a merger, re-branding, or other name change can be exciting — even Ruby started out ten years ago as “Worksource, Inc.,” a name that didn’t quite fit us. But it can also be confusing to customers or, as Kisha put it, downright scary.

Preserve customer confidence by easing them into the switch. Try including both company names in your telephone greeting:

Hello! Thank you for calling ABC Company and XYZ Industries. This is Ruby. How may I help you?

After a few months, once your customers are familiar and comfortable with the new name, feel free to drop the old name entirely!

Questions about how your company can make the best first impression over the phone? Ask away @callruby on Twitter!

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How to Break Down Silos in Your Business

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Unless your company produces grain, no growing business wants silos. Insulated departments can unknowingly double their efforts by working on similar projects and cause a host of other issues.

How can your company stay on the same page?

Share the Big Picture at Staff Meetings.

Company-wide staff meetings are a great time to celebrate how far you’ve come and what you’d like to accomplish! We hold quarterly staff meetings where everyone gets an opportunity to connect face-to-face over some piping-hot pizza and hear about our roadmap to achieving our company goals. Our CEO gives an inspiring presentation each and every meeting where she shares our Strategic Planning Pyramid (straight from one of our favorite books, Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish). Armed with this big-picture knowledge, our staff is able to work in the same direction.

Keep Coworkers in the Loop with Daily Huddles.

Staff meetings every few months will remind your team of the company’s long-term goals and build connections, but it’s just as important to keep the lines of communication open on a daily basis. Daily huddles (also borrowed from the Rockefeller Habits) help fill in the gaps. When employees announce what they’re working on, it can spark others to offer assistance or suggest combining their efforts when projects overlap.

Build Trust Through Incentive Campaigns.

Trust is the foundation of any good working relationship; when you trust your coworker, you’re more likely to talk to them openly and honestly and look for ways to help each other. At Ruby, every quarter we have a fun, engaging incentive campaign to foster trust and communication between employees. We play games like bingo, earn ruby gems as points, or use scratch-off tickets to spice things up. There’s never a dull moment, and our teammates get to know each other better and build trust at the same time!

How do you avoid silos at your company? Share your strategies in the comment section below!

Photo by Doc Searls

 

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Chatting with a client over the phone can be a fun, easy way to create a connection. But there are less opportune moments than others, and holding a less-then-present conversation won’t impress anyone.

Make your chats mean something; the next time your caller has more to say than you have time to spare, try these tips:

Plan your next move.

When your caller enters extreme chat mode, think ahead. What do you need to move your call along? If you’re a receptionist, you’re probably looking for an opportunity to gather the caller’s name or other important info before transferring them to someone with specialized knowledge and/or can further assist them. Maybe you need some specific information to address a tech support concern. Perhaps you want to ask a few intake questions to determine if a potential client is a good fit. Whatever you need from your caller, be prepared to ask for it as soon as the opportunity arises.

May I have your name?

May I have your account number?

Use those little pauses.

Long conversational pauses are a rarity with chatty callers, so keep your pause-hunting ears open. You know those teenytiny breaks you might typically use to utter a supportive mmm hmm to show you’re listening? Trade ’em in for a chance to make some conversational headway! When you find a pause, tiny or otherwise, always start by acknowledging what your caller has said. Then, ask that question you’ve been dying to ask, and keep your call a-movin’!

These are great questions, and I know one of our product specialists will be happy to answer them. I’ll connect you with a specialist now! May I have your name?

This certainly sounds like a frustrating situation! What was the date of the car accident?

I might have just the thing to solve this problem! What operating system does your Mac use?

Know how (and when) to interrupt.

If a pause is nowhere in sight, politely interrupting your caller may be the best option. A gentle interruption is especially helpful when you aren’t the ideal person to address a caller’s concerns. By politely interrupting, you spare your caller the trouble of having to repeat his or her story again:

I apologize for interrupting you — our attorney is the best person to help you, and I’d love to put you in touch with her. I’d hate for you to have to explain your situation twice! I’ll try her line for you now. May I have your name?

When a chatty caller is obviously upset, wait for that pause! While an interruption is likely to exacerbate an already foul mood, listening for an extra couple of beats can help mollify your caller’s frustration. And when that pause finally arrives, acknowledge, acknowledge, acknowledge — then offer assistance:

I am so sorry for this mix-up! I’ll put you in touch with a member of our shipping department. Your business is important to us, and I want to make sure this get this taken care of! May I have your account number?

If you’re the receptionist, rescue your caller from broken-recordville by relaying their full story to the appropriate party. Your once-unhappy caller will be delighted that you’ve listened diligently and want to save them time!

Above all, be nice.

You may not have time to chat at the moment, but addressing the situation with kindness and honesty will leave you and your caller feeling great:

I’m so excited for you! I’d love to hear all about this when I have a bit more time. Can I call you back in a couple of hours?

Your callers will appreciate that you want to give them your full attention, leading to more meaningful conversations!

Photo by Tim Green 

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Ruby Receptionists Resolutions for 2013

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Photo by Virtual Receptionist Erin B.
Photo by Virtual Receptionist Erin B.

In the spirit of the New Year, we asked our virtual receptionist team what they’d like to accomplish in 2013! Here’s what our team has planned:

Virtual Receptionist Erin: My mom got me an amazing grateful book, and my resolution is to write in it every day for a year!

Virtual Receptionist Jessica M.: I’m looking forward to saving to buy a new house!

Office Champion Claire LaRocca: To keep a list of every book I read this year.

Sales Associate Ashley Fisher: To be able to do a pushup while in a handstand!

Virtual Receptionist LeAnna: To live by this quote: “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” The first thing I’m doing is training for Portland’s half marathon this October!

Virtual Receptionist Emily M.: Buy less! Experience more! Be a better housekeeper!

Executive Assistant Mercedes Salles: Same resolution as last year: to cook more at home!

Virtual Receptionist Holly S.: To become a superhero, saving Portland from anything too normal. I will have a cape and a mask, of course!

What are your resolutions for 2013? Share in the comment section below!

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10 Questions to Ask a Virtual Reception Provider

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

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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.