A virtual receptionist service can help a small business run efficiently. But can it enrich your relationships with customers and potential clients? You bet! Here’s how:

By making a great impression every time (even when you’re on vacation). A virtual receptionist greets your every caller with a warm voice, and that’s a heck of a lot better than hearing, “Please leave a message at the beep,” or worse (much worse!) endless ringing. A live, bright person on the end of the line is an opportunity for callers to build a relationship with your business—voicemail isn’t. With a virtual receptionist, repeat callers know they’ll always reach a helpful person, and first-time callers are impressed by your dedication to customer service. When you aren’t able to assist callers personally, a virtual receptionist lets them know they’ve been heard, and assures them action will be taken to help them. (“Our attorney is in a meeting at the moment, but she’ll be happy to return your call tomorrow!”).

By getting your callers to where they need to go (and limiting interruptions). Whether your team is in the same office or thousands of miles apart, a virtual receptionist can route calls to different parties when the situation calls for it, saving callers time and leaving you more time to focus on the task at hand. Think of a virtual receptionist as your friendly switchboard! With a little basic information about your office staff, a virtual receptionist can make sure billing questions are routed to your billing specialist, appointment-related questions are routed to your admin, and the calls you want to handle (and those alone) are sent your way. Even solopreneurs benefit from this feature—perhaps you love taking calls from potential clients as they come in, but would prefer to return existing clients’ calls in the afternoon. Having your virtual receptionist transfer certain calls and hold others helps you stay in control of your day. Virtual receptionist services can typically tweak call-handling instructions at the drop of a hat, too; Ruby’s status feature allows you to send updates on the fly, so our receptionists are always in-the-know and equipped with the tools to handle any type of call just as you’d like it to be. The flexibility to field the calls you want when you want to ensures clients always chat with the best version of you (not the stressed version of you).

By gathering information (so you don’t have to). A virtual receptionist will happily ask callers intake questions and provide you with the collected information. Having a virtual receptionist do a bit of administrative legwork allows you to spend more time focusing on the good stuff with clients: building rapport. The information a virtual receptionist gathers can also help you go above and beyond for your callers. Good virtual receptionists will send a message any time they aren’t able to connect a call to you, even if they don’t have much information. (At Ruby, we call them FYI messages.) A brief message like this can be a client saver:

A woman named Karen called. I offered to take a message for you, but she declined to leave one, and said she’d try back later in the week. I included her caller ID.

Rather than waiting for Karen to call again, you can catch her right away—before she seeks out a competitor.

By relaying information (and making you look good). The information a virtual receptionist relays when offering you a call gives you the opportunity to make an excellent impression. It goes a little something like this:

Virtual receptionist to client: Hi! I have Tim on the line. He’s looking for an attorney, and has some legal questions.

Client to virtual receptionist: Great! Please put him through.

Client to caller: Hi, Tim! I’m Susan, the attorney here. I understand you have some legal questions. I’m so glad you called! How may I help you today?

Beats the heck out of greeting a potential client with a simple “hello,” right? Likewise, the messages a virtual receptionist takes help you prepare for your return calls, so you’re ready to provide customers with the help and information they need.

By being there when you can’t. No matter how great a business model or marketing plan you have, you’re probably going to struggle to gain new clients and (retain existing ones) if you’re not able to pick up when they call. A virtual receptionist may not have the answer to every caller’s questions, but they provide entrepreneurs a solid answer to this one: “How am I going to keep callers happy when I’m too busy keeping other clients happy to pick up the phone?” When you receive a call, your virtual receptionist is reliably there, helping you build and sustain positive relationships with customers, and giving you the breathing room to grow your business.

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People have a deep need to feel heard.

Of course, it’s easy to say “Yes, I’m listening”—but are you really? Do you know how your coworker responded when you asked “How are you?” Were you listening with intent to understand, or thinking about your own response?

When you have a caller on the line, there are a number of ways you can verbally express you’re listening—acknowledgment, using their name, and confirming information to list a few. And while these tactics also apply when meeting with someone face-to-face, there are many other factors that come into play.

Leadership Development Champion Janel Hodge is an avid student of the art of listening. After pioneering roles at Ruby such as scheduler, team lead, and trainer, Janel spent four years as a Star Service & Receptionist Cultivator, honing Ruby’s unique management style. In her current role, Janel helps Rubys unleash their talents and gain new perspectives—a key component of which is developing excellent listening skills. Here are a few of her tips.

Body Language
Much of what others communicate is more than simply what they’re saying. Part of being an expert listener is recognizing your audience through body language. Are they distracted, fidgeting, or not making eye contact? Are their arms folded as if concerned?
If you pay attention, a speaker’s body language can provide additional context to better understand what he or she is trying to communicate—or what they aren’t saying. Body language even goes so far as to build rapport. Physical gestures such as a slightly tilted head, leaning in, or relaxed hands can better indicate listening and build trust with the speaker.

Autobiographical Responses
Humans naturally form recognition through personal experience. Steven Covey has found humans perform four actions when engaged in communication: evaluate, probe, advise, and interpret—all from our own frame of reference. While using our experience saves time, it can also lead to incorrect assumptions. Always responding from your own experience is limiting. Recognize this tendency, aiming to keep your mind neutral and open.

Listening with your Ears, Eyes and Heart
We’ve all laughed at sitcom episodes depicting the stereotypical marriage conversation where one partner pretends to listen to the other. Due to the lack of attention, one person agrees to do something without knowing what the other said, hilarity ensues, and the show ends with the person learning their lesson.

We’ve all been guilty of pretending to listen, or selectively listening to a conversation. To really move into the deepest level of listening, however, you need to place yourself within the other person’s frame of reference, or empathetic listening. As Michael P. Nichols puts it, “Genuine listening means suspending memory, desire, and judgement—and for a few moments, at least, existing for the other person.” This deepest level of listening requires trust, and the ability to connect with the speaker’s emotions. To practice empathetic listening:

  • Reflect Feeling: “I can see why this scheduling conflict is frustrating you. This back and forth would upset me too, and I certainly don’t want you to feel that way.”
  • Rephrase Content: “So, what I’m hearing you say is, it’d be more convenient to hold the meeting at 10:00 AM instead of 2:00 PM.”
  • Ask Questions For Better Understanding: “Would it make your workday less stressful if I went ahead and scheduled the meeting for 10:00 AM?”
  • Take the Time: Cutting a tough conversation short can prevent communication moving to a deeper level and discovering the root of the issue.

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” —Stephen R. Covey

There’s a big difference between hearing and listening. It’s easy to ask a question—it’s waiting for the answer, and absorbing the response that’s the kicker. When interacting with someone face-to-face, take care that your body is communicating your desire to listen, and that you’re avoiding framing the conversation with your own experience. You’ll find you’ll have better, more fruitful conversations that leave everyone feeling satisfied.

If you found this article helpful, could you hit the Share/Save button below so others can benefit from it too? Thanks for sharing!

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magic

Receptionists at Ruby don’t just love making caller’s smile—they are masters in the art of “day-making.” It isn’t easy to make an amazing impression when you can’t see the person with whom you’re interacting, so we spend a lot of time training receptionists on language and tone to create the right mix of professionalism and friendliness.

Continue reading “Paging Dr. Ruby Ep. 2: 7 Habits for WOWing Callers”

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Customer Spotlight: LoBiondo Law Offices

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Juliana LoBiondoJuliana LoBiondo and her husband are the owners of a small, but busy, law firm in Newburgh, New York. Their practice focuses on family law, immigration, personal injury, criminal defense, and a full range of mediation services. Both have been lawyers for 25 years and greatly enjoy owning their own small family business. Ruby has been answering calls for LoBiondo Law Offices since May of 2014, and we’re delighted to share our chat with Juliana in today’s Customer Spotlight! Continue reading “Customer Spotlight: LoBiondo Law Offices”

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As a child of the 80’s (and a Chicago native), it should surprise no one that Ferris Bueller’s Day Off  is one of my favorite films. There’s a moment in the film when Ferris stops being his goofy self, and makes a profound statement about growing up:

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and take a look around once in awhile, you could miss it.

That statement applies as much to modern business practices as to how one should live one’s life. Technology is advancing at an incredible rate. Innovation has become an expectation, instead of the exception. The common philosophy of “innovate or die” often results in products and services being released before they are ready, overwhelming consumers with untested technologies they’re aren’t sure they want. 51% of consumers say the rate of innovation in business and industry is moving too fast and, as a result, are losing trust in companies they feel are driven more by money then by innovating to serve the public.

“If you don’t stop and take a look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

The popularity of search engines and social media has given consumers a great deal of insight into the products they purchase. Consumers can follow products from concept, to development, to release—all from their home computer. Yet, end-users still feel left out of the process. Companies are not taking the time to seek out these conversations, nor inviting those customers to contribute to the conversation. By not taking a moment to look around, companies are missing valuable information that could drive product decisions.

Fortunately, the same technology that enables consumers to follow a product’s lifecycle, can also be used to gather their feedback and establish trust. Every call, email, tweet, or post is a chance to make a connection and engage with your client’s wants and needs. In addition to collecting feedback, these interactions are also an opportunity to have an open dialog about your company. The 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer found transparency and engagement are two of the most important factors in building consumer trust. Sharing the process of creating a product with your customers has become as, if not more, important than telling them about the product itself.

How To Build Consumer Trust

Small business owners have a big advantage when it comes to building trust, as you are more likely to be less removed from your end customer. Here are just a few ways you can use customer feedback to guide your business practices.

Collaborate With Experts
With all the misinformation being distributed, consumers are wary of information that comes from a single source. Partnering with other companies, industry experts, or even academics can help establish trust with your customers. Is your company looking to adopt a new technology? Host a webinar with another company who is already using the technology, so they can share their story. New law passed that will affect your business? Have an industry expert guest blog about the changes.

Create Your Own Content
Staying competitive as a small business often involves a great deal of reading, tracking developments in your field, and researching what others are doing. Guess what? Your customers are interested in all that too! Use your information gathering to create resources for your customers. Consumers are more likely to see your company as a trusted authority if you share what you’ve learned, and give them a behind-the-scenes look into your business.

Invest in your Employees
Small businesses rely on word of mouth marketing, and employees are just as critical to those efforts as happy customers. Consumers don’t want to do business with companies they perceive as having a poor company culture. If your employees enjoy working for you, they’ll pass along that energy to your customers.

Have a Bigger Vision
The Edelmen survey made it clear consumers are looking for products that will make their lives, and consequently the world, a better place. This translates to your staff as well, particularly as more Millennials enter the workforce looking for jobs that make a difference. Companies that base their decisions on a vision or set of values are more likely to gain consumer trust. Think about what drives you and your business, and build a set of values based on those thoughts. Post your values on your website, share them with your customers, talk about them in blog posts, and award employees who embody those values. You’ll find your customers are less likely to be upset by something new when you can tie the changes back to your values.

We learn at the end of Ferris Bueller (spoilers!) the most important things in life are your relationships. By skipping school one day, Ferris took the time to learn more about his friends, bringing them closer as a result. Companies would do well to learn from Ferris—that prioritizing listening to your customers and building relationships over innovating, will pay off in the end.

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What is your phone personality?

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As a small business owner, you are faced with managing time in a way that will be productive and beneficial for both you, and your clients. Company phone calls are a large part of the puzzle of running a business, yet calls can range from facilitating important new business opportunities, to the useless solicitation you’d rather not answer. How do you balance your need for time off of the phone without sacrificing those important calls? Hiring a virtual receptionist like Ruby is certainly a step in the right direction.

Ruby has a number of options available to fit any phone personality—or the method of phone answering that works best for you and your business. So, what’s your phone personality? Take our easy, five question “personality” quiz to determine your preferred style for your business calls!

Grab a sheet of paper. Choose one answer per question that best describes you, and write down the letter of your answer on the sheet of paper.

1. I enjoy work that allows me to “dive in” with few interruptions.
a. Completely True
b. Somewhat True
c. Somewhat False
d. Completely False

2. I let calls go through to voicemail.
a. Never
b. Rarely
c. Sometimes
d. Most of the time

3. I am talkative.
a. Completely True
b. Somewhat True
c. Somewhat False
d. Completely False

4. I’m able to refocus quickly after being interrupted.
a. Most of the time
b. Sometimes
c. Rarely
d. Never

5. Which statement best describes you?
a. I prefer to take all calls.
b. I prioritize certain calls over others.
c. I’d rather someone else answer my calls.

You’ve answered the questions—now let’s see the results! To get your score:

  • Award 3 points for each “A” answer
  • 2 points for each “B” answer
  • 1 point for each “C” answer
  • Award no points for D answers

Add up your total points to learn your phone personality!

Chatty Cathy/Carl (Score 10 or above): Talking to folks brings you energy, and you crave the opportunity to connect with your callers. You love answering questions, big or small, and don’t mind catching a solicitation or two. For Chatty Cathys and Carls, Ruby is happy to connect calls to any number you’d like—desk or mobile. A Ruby will stay on the line after politely asking your caller to hold, and introduce the call to you once you’ve answered. Simply let the receptionist know you’re ready for the call and you’ll be instantly connected!

Pick & Choose Patty/Patrick (Score 5-9): You prefer to prioritize calls as they come in, directing your energy where it is most useful. You want to be sure you’re available for a certain type of caller, but unavailable to others. Ruby has you covered! We’ll gladly note to put through your potential new clients, or any other type of call, to the number you’d like us to reach you on. Other callers will be told you’re away from the phone at the moment, and our receptionists will provide excellent service by collecting a message or sending the caller to voicemail. This leaves you free to tend to your high priority calls immediately, while protecting your time and ability to do the work your clients appreciate.

Rather Return Rachel/Roger (Score 4 or below): You work best when you have a chunk of interrupted time when you can remain focused. Other times, you need to collaborate with colleagues in the office and are not at your desk for long periods of time. If this is the case, Ruby can let callers know you’re away from the phone whenever they call in. After politely offering to take a message or connect the caller to voicemail, we’ll send any information we’ve gathered for you via email. Your time is well protected and any urgent calls will be marked as such. You’ll always know when to call back immediately! Ruby is also able to relay a specific time frame of availability to your callers. If it works best to return calls during a certain hour of the day, we’ll gladly let your callers know!

If you’re interested in learning more about your own phone personality and how Ruby fits into your day, just let us know! You’re welcome to reach out at 866-611-7829 or hello@callruby.com. We’re delighted to help!

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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.