A great receptionist knows no matter how few words are exchanged during a call, there’s always room to make an excellent impression on a caller, even if you’re just offering to take a message. Wondering how? Here are four ways:

Pepper your offer with positivity.

If you’re offering to take a message, that usually means the person your caller is seeking isn’t available, and that can seem like a disappointment. Keeping your tone and word choice upbeat will help make callers happy even when you can’t provide exactly what they want.

Thank you for your patience. Jane is in a meeting at the moment, but I’ll be happy to take a message!

Ask for key info.

When you need to collect or confirm information, ask for it just after offering to take a message. Guiding questions will keep your call on track, leapfrog awkwardness, and help ensure every message you take is complete and accurate.

I’ll be happy to take a message! What’s the best number for a return call?

I’ll be glad to ask Jane to return your call! May I take down your email address?

Use your caller’s name.

If you know your caller’s name, say it! Uttering a caller’s name is a super simple way to show you’re listening and build instant rapport. When callers trust you, they’re more likely to be interested in leaving a message, and less likely to rebuff your offer with a reply like “Oh, I’ll just call back later.”

I’ll be happy to take a message, Mary! When would you prefer to set up a meeting?

I’ll be happy to take a message, Mary! Your last name, Addison — is that A as in Absolutely, D as in Delightful…?

Try twice when faced with hesitation.

When, despite your thoughtfully-worded offer, your caller declines to leave a message or leave a key piece of information, ask again, and explain your reason for asking.

Would you mind if I jot your number down, so Tim has it handy when he receives this message?

What if your caller still declines to leave a message? Take one anyway. Let’s say you send this message to your teammate:

Phone Tip: Messages

There’s not much to it, but it lets your teammate know that Frank may be sending an email. Better yet, it gives your teammate the opportunity to preemptively email Frank, or even call him back, and that’s when the real fun begins:

Hi, Frank! I understand you called for me this afternoon. How may I help you?

Wow — I didn’t even leave a message. You must have an awesome receptionist!

Being super friendly, and ultra thorough will impress your clients, even when you can’t give them what they want right away!

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Rubys Rocked the Shamrock Run!

Reading time:

Shamrock Run 2013Engulfed by an inspirational, sea of green! Thanks to the idea of one of our virtual receptionists, that’s how a team of over 30 Rubys and friends began their St. Patrick’s Day, at the 35th annual Shamrock Run. With over 35,000 participants, did you know that this is the largest running and walking event in Portland, Oregon? This was Ruby Receptionists’ first year participating in the run, and we had a blast! Fostering Happiness, Creating Community and a good time for all. But what do Rubys love above all these things — fostering a good cause.  Besides complimentary beer, salmon chowder and a stimulating 5k walk or run, we were delighted to support Doernbecher Children’s Hospital Foundation, the leading beneficiary of the event. We can
think of no better way to celebrate than by giving back to our community and
are thrilled to have participated.

How are you WOW-ing your community this weekend?

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TelephoneWhat impression are callers getting when they reach your business after hours? A well-crafted voicemail greeting can help you impress customers and potential clients even when you’re not able to pick up the phone.

Here are some musts-haves and additional suggestions for an excellent after-hours greeting.

  • Up the friendliness factor. A warm tone and a welcoming greeting are a key for every call, and especially important for those you’re not able to answer. If you’re not sure your company’s greeting exudes plenty of we’re-so-glad-you-called energy, ask a trusted friend to call and give an honest opinion.
  • Start with the basics. If you’re not around to answer, your caller will surely want to know when you will be, so always include your business hours just after stating your company name: Thank you for calling ABC Company! Our business hours are…
  • Ask for what you need. Who hasn’t gotten the voicemail jitters and forgotten to include a phone number (or even a name) when leaving a message? Lend your callers a hand by politely asking for their contact info, along with anything else you might need to take care of business. Try adding your friendly request just before the beep: Please leave your name, telephone number, and account number at the tone. We’ll be happy to return your call!
  • Extra credit: Offer help. If your after-hours callers commonly have the same questions or issues, consider pointing them in the direction of an immediate solution. Perhaps you have an online FAQ page that could serve as a helpful reference until you’re able to return a call. You know your callers best — think about what after-hours callers might want to know, and do them a favor by adding it to your voicemail greeting.
  • Extra credit: Include an emergency option. If there’s a potential for urgency, you may want to let your callers know how to contact you after hours or offer contact information for another company or individual who can help when your doors are closed. Your dedication to customer service doesn’t have to wane when you’re away from the phone!

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30 seconds or lessWhen I first started working at Ruby Receptionists, I remember thinking to myself, “Okay, I can answer phones all day. That will be easy!” It wasn’t until I started taking phone calls that I realized it wasn’t just about answering and routing calls, it’s about adding extra value to our clients’ businesses and brightening callers’ days. The more personal connections I can make, the happier and more fulfilled I feel, and the more fulfilled I feel, the better I perform. The way I see it, a happy receptionist equals a happy business! Luckily, Ruby prides itself in making connections, as apparent in the Ruby Service Pyramid and in our Core Values.

I will never forget the first personal connection I made. It was with a paralegal at a law firm and we had exchanged a couple of sentences about how our days were going. That is when it clicked, my “Aha!” moment. I was so moved by that simple exchange of a few extra sentences with a client that I was left smiling for at least 15 minutes. I was hooked.

From that point on, I made it a personal mission to make those types of friendly connections with as many clients and callers as possible. Sounds simple enough! However, it’s tougher than is seems to make a connection in the seconds it takes to transfer a caller. It is also far more challenging to comment on the weather when you are talking to someone on the other side of the country or to charm the socks off of someone who is calling to inquire about an attorney’s divorce fees.

I have come up with a few tips that can help when trying to make meaningful connections. These are simple things that we have a tendency to forget but they can make a big impact.

1. Say my name, say my name.

Ask for your caller’s name and say it at least twice during your conversation.

Turn “One moment please” into “Thank you, one moment, Jan.”

And “Thank you for holding” becomes “Thank you for holding, Brian!”

2. Actually listen.

There is a difference between hearing and listening. The moment you are able to actually process and respond to what someone is telling you is the moment that you can add some depth to your conversation. Adding conversation-specific phrases tells the caller that you are listening and trying to help.

“I am sorry to hear that. One moment while I see if she is available.”

3. Match the caller’s tone.

It is important to be mindful of the caller’s tone of voice so that you do not come off as insensitive.

4. Mind your manners!

Always say please and thank you. Good manners are universal and can go a long way!

5. Wish them well.

I almost always end my calls with some variation of “Have a good day!” It just feels right and helps to end the call on a positive note.

Extra Credit: Play along! If the caller or client starts engaging in conversation with you, don’t be afraid or too hurried to respond! Keep the conversation going until a natural pause.

These tips are not just for the phone and can be used in almost any situation. By incorporating one or a few of these into your routine, you will be able to make more meaningful connections and impact that person’s experience with your company!

Photo via Flickr user Michael

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Avoid Dead-End Statements

Providing help to customers and potential clients is important, but for some tricky customer questions, there’s just no way to respond positively, right? Not so fast! The next time you feel a negative response on the tip of your tongue, try these three alternatives to common dead-end statements:

Dead end: “She’s unavailable.” Alternative: Offer to take a message. Don’t make customers ask for help — offer it before they have the chance! When the person your customer needs to reach isn’t available, always build a positive alternative into your reply:

“Mary is in meetings this afternoon, but I’ll be happy to take a message and ask her to get in touch with you!”

Dead end: “I don’t know.” Alternative: Help find the answer. Sure, it’d be great if you knew the answer to every question, but customers are more likely to be impressed by your eagerness to help than your ability to recite information. If you don’t have an answer, don’t sweat it! Instead, assure your customer you’ll look for the answer:

“That’s a great question. I’ll be happy to find the answer for you!”

“Thank you for your question! I’d love to research an answer and get back to you later today. May I return your call this afternoon?”

Dead end: “So-and-so handles that.” Alternative: Put your customer in touch with the right person. Don’t shrug a customer off just because you aren’t the best person to help in a particular situation. Instead, tell your customer where they can find the help they need, and then help them get there:

“A member of our sales staff would be delighted to help you! I’ll connect you with sales now.”

This works even if you don’t know where your customer needs to go:

“Great question! I’ll find the best person to answer it!”

“I’ll be happy to find the best person to help you, and have that person return your call.”

Bottom line: There’s no reason to respond to a customer’s question with a dead-end statement. If you put your mind to it, you can always find a way to help!

Photo via Flickr

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“’Coming to work is like being hugged by 100 wonderful people all at once!’ said one employee…Asked how the company could improve, workers are hard pressed. ‘Water slides!’ suggests one.” There could only be one company with survey responses like these.

The crowd began to erupt into applause and peels of delight. “Ruby Receptionists is the #3 best medium-sized company to work for in Oregon!”

Ruby Receptionists is the #3 Best Medium-Sized Company to Work for in Oregon for 2013

Founder & CEO Jill Nelson led 80 overjoyed Rubys to rush the stage to collect our Oregon Business “Best Company to Work for in Oregon” award. Our fourth consecutive year on the list, and our third time in the top three in the medium business category, we couldn’t be happier! The list was generated from over 13,000 employee surveys, supplemented by a benefits report from each company, and not only are we #3 this year, Ruby ranked #1 in the category of Benefits and Compensation!

We may not have waterslides, but we did add new benefits like our “Five at Five” paid sabbatical. Ruby also grew significantly in the past year, earning the coveted Portland Business Journal Lighthouse Award for five straight years on the “Fastest Growing Companies” list, and it’s because of our unique company culture that Ruby is thriving!

We’d like to thank our fantastic clients and vendors – we love working with you, and getting to connect with you every day makes Ruby a great place to come to work!

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Ruby was in the top three among medium-sized businesses on the “100 Best Companies to Work For” list for the third year in a row, coming in at #3 and #1 in the benefits and compensation category. In the twentieth anniversary of Oregon Business’ list, over 13,000 employee surveys, supplemented by a benefits report from each company, generated this year’s rankings. Ruby grew significantly in the last year, and our employees’ passion for making personal connections and creating a happy workplace is why we’re thriving!

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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.