KISS your telephone greeting hello.

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Are you crafting your company’s telephone greeting, or thinking of giving your old greeting an upgrade? We recommend the KISS method: Keep It Simple, Silly! Your telephone greeting is an important touchpoint for customers, and an opportunity to make a great (or not-so-great) impression. How much do you need to tell callers about your business in a greeting? Let’s examine this information-packed greeting:

You’ve reached Paulsen Brothers Pickles, home of Cincinnati’s favorite crunchy dill, and three-time winner of the Gold Gherkin Award for Pickling Excellence.

Wow! The folks at Paulsen Brothers sure are proud of their pickles — and with good reason! But is this an effective greeting?

In fielding calls for our many clients, we’ve found that a solid telephone greeting includes three key elements: Welcoming words to greet the caller, the company name, and an offer of assistance. The Paulsen Brothers greeting nails the company name piece, but falls flat otherwise.

The trouble with greetings that include lots of extras is that they often skimp on the basics. The Paulsen Brothers greeting lets callers know they’ve reached an excellent pickling company, but it doesn’t necessarily make callers feel taken care of. Let’s face it: If someone is taking the time to call your company, they probably already think you’re pretty great, or at least you’ve already piqued their interest. Bragging about your company’s expertise in a greeting might be overkill. Imagine calling this company frequently; it’ll probably start to leave a bad taste in your mouth!

Share your company’s accolades and accomplishments on your website, newsletter, and advertisements instead. Your company’s telephone greeting, on the other hand, is an opportunity to thank customers for taking the time to call, and showcase your appreciation and eagerness to help:

Good afternoon! Thank you for calling Paulsen Brothers Pickles. How may I help you today?

A simple greeting like the above is simply perfect!

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Paging Dr. Ruby

How much information should a receptionist gather from callers before transferring them? Collecting detailed information from a caller can be helpful, but asking too many questions often leads to unhappy callers. What’s the perfect balance?

One of our fantastic readers, Laurie, addressed this subject in a comment earlier today:

I’d like to keep [my call screening style] simple. However, some of the office staff want to know “everything” before they will take a call, and then will either refuse it or have it go to voicemail.  How do I handle this without upsetting the caller?
If you’re in a situation like Laurie’s, it may be helpful to check in with your coworkers and ask if there are a few pieces of information you can gather from callers up front that would encourage them to accept more calls. Although asking a lot of questions can annoy a caller, callers are also likely to be annoyed if they’re repeatedly transferred to voicemail. In some cases, being prepared with a little insight into the caller’s query can help your coworkers WOW clients when they do connect.
It might be as easy as adding a question like “May I ask what this is regarding?” to your call screening process. With a little collaboration, you and your team can likely come up with one or two additional questions to ask during the screening process. Here are some examples:

May I ask who is calling? Wonderful! And may I say what this is regarding?

May I have your name? Thank you! And which case are you calling about today?

May I ask who is calling? Fantastic! Have you met with a member of our staff before? Thank you! And how did you hear about our firm?

Regardless of how wonderful a receptionist you are, there will always be calls your coworkers choose not to accept. They may know that a particular client is talkative, and to give them the best experience, they choose to return their call when they have more time to chat. Or they may be coming up against a deadline and know that this caller’s question can wait a few minutes while the project cannot. Whatever the reason, I’ve found the key to keeping callers happy has more to do with a friendly tone and helpful, encouraging words than with being able to do exactly what a caller wants.

When your coworker declines a call — and especially when the caller has tried to reach that coworker repeatedly — focus on what you can do (however limited that may be) when you return to the caller. Here’s an example:

Thank you for your patience! Mr. Smith is away from the phone at the moment, but I’ll be sure to remind him that you’ve been patiently awaiting his call. I have your number from your last message as 503-445-6900; is that still the best number to reach you? Thank you! I will ask him to get in touch with you as soon as possible.

Many thanks to Laurie for her thoughtful question! If you’re looking for call-handling advice, we’d love to help  — ask away in the comment section below!

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What image comes to mind when you hear the word, “professional”? A buttoned-up, unemotional approach to service perhaps? The thing is, professionalism doesn’t have to be stuffy! In fact, adding some warmth and friendliness to your professional interactions  can work wonders to make your customers feel comfortable.  Here are a few quick and easy tips to soften a hard professional line:

Client Compliment

Here are a few quick and easy tips to soften a hard professional line:

  • Freshen up your email. Skip impersonal, antiquated phrases like Dear and Sincerely when corresponding via email. Instead, try friendlier openers like Good Morning Susan or Hello Jason. Best wishes and Kind regards are excellent closings because they are both professional and kind, but not overly personal, like Love or Yours truly.
  • Address customers the way they address themselves. Unless a customer introduces themselves as Mr. or Mrs. so and so, it’s generally safe to assume that they’re comfortable being on a first name basis with you. Addressing people by first name adds a touch of familiarity, and feels lot more personal too.
  • Put a face to a name. Even if most of your business takes place over the phone, email, or the Internet, you can still find ways to show that you are indeed a real human being! At Ruby we welcome new clients with a handwritten notecard and a photo of a few of the smiling faces who take their calls every day. Also, when a Ruby has a memorable experience with a client, they’ll send a short, one minute video of themselves to highlight the interaction using a fun service called Vsnap. It’s like a video notecard, and clients love seeing the person they just connected with face to face.
  • Recall past conversations. Speaking of connections! If you listen closely, you’ll find that people offhandedly share all kinds of information about their lives. When your customer mentions an upcoming vacation or their kid’s basketball game, jot it down and ask how it went the next time you chat. They’ll surely be delighted that you remembered, and you’ll show that you’re there for them, even from many miles away.

There’s no better path to likability than by putting your most professional foot forward while also being personable and approachable. How do you balance friendly professionalism? Tell us @callruby on Twitter!

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The free Ruby iPhone app has a sleek new look: Version 2.8 has a cheery updated color scheme and retina-friendly graphics, all optimized for iOS7. Same handy features, bright new interface.

Whereabouts update

Update your Whereabouts. Let us know your availability on-the-fly! Quickly tell us when you’re stepping into a meeting, out to lunch, or that you’d like us to reach you on your cell today. These updates help us sound like we’re right in your office!

Message Detail

View your messages. All your messages in one convenient spot. The detail screen shows the caller’s name, phone number, company name (if applicable), and message as well as the date and time, caller ID name and number, the Ruby receptionist’s name, the total call duration, and how long the receptionist was involved in the call. (Note: Ruby only bills for the time the receptionist is on the line.)

Review your call history. Just spoke with a potential client and can’t remember her name? Good thing you have your entire call history at your fingertips!

See your Assist history. If you’ve requested that our virtual receptionist team place a call on your behalf to relay information or confirm an appointment, you can view a brief description of the call here.

Add-to-Contacts

Save callers’ contact info. Import callers’ information into your phone’s Contacts with the “Save to Contacts” button. Because there’s nothing worse than trying to copy and paste a phone number that’s also a hotlink.

Account

Update your credit card information and view past invoices. New expiration date? Want to look up last month’s bill? Simply tap on the “Account” tab. You can also see your company’s Ruby forwarding number here — no memorization required.

We hope you’re liking the new look! But we’re not done yet. We’re working on some new features for both our iPhone and Android apps, so stayed tuned in the coming months!

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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 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.