Ruby CEO, Jill Nelson sat down with John Skiba on the JD Blogger Podcast. Their discussion includes Ruby’s history, the Ruby Service Pyramid, how lawyers interact with the phone, and why firm culture is such a big component of providing great customer service!

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Customer love, the Ruby way.

Reading time:

On Valentine’s Day, Ruby Founder and CEO Jill Nelson was the speaker at an AMA PDX luncheon. Her topic: love—specifically customer love.

If you look up the definition of love, you’ll find something along the lines of “an intense feeling of deep affection,” synonymous with fondness, tenderness, warmth, and attachment.

That’s a great definition. When you strip away all the excess connotations, love is an important goal for many businesses like Ruby: showing customers the love with a great product, service, and brand.

At Ruby, our mission is to preserve and perpetuate real, meaningful connections in an increasingly technology-focused, virtual world.

What does that come down to? Real. Meaningful. Warm. Love.

Here are just a few of the ways Ruby works to show and share our customer love!

Structure: The Ruby Service Pyramid

Ruby Service Pyramid

It’s the Ruby Service Pyramid that has empowered us to build the scalable service-minded culture that we have today. Only once we’ve built the foundation, put the processes in place, and trained the right people, can we blow our customers away.

Consistency is key when it comes to customer love, and with the Ruby Service Pyramid, we create consistent experiences from the bottom up. To make meaningful connections with our customers, first we have to build the right infrastructure. Then we have to commit ourselves to meeting our promises, fostering happiness (inside and outside of our company), creating experiences, and anticipating the unexpressed needs of our customers.

The Ruby Service Pyramid

Theme: In Our Customer’s Shoes

Our theme for 2017 is “In Our Customer’s Shoes,” which aims to answer the question, “how well do you know your customers?”

You can’t love what you don’t know. While we’ve always gotten to know our customers on a one-on-one basis—one of the great perks of being a remote receptionist company—we’re striving to spend 2017 getting to know our customers better than ever.

With customers from a variety of industries—including legal, construction, marketing, real estate, and more—we recognize and embrace the need to understand the nuances of our different customers, and their differing needs.

The more we understand our customers, the better we’re able to WOW them.

“In Our Customer’s Shoes.”

Process: Grow

core-values-growGrow is one of Ruby’s five core values, and we work to achieve it externally and internally by helping our customers grow, and fostering our employees’ growth.

Fostering employee growth means empowering them. Instead of managers, we have cultivators. A bad week doesn’t mean punishment. Instead, it’s an opportunity for improvement. Happy employees mean happy customers, and we try to have the happiest employees around!

We also empower our employees with the ability to send WOW gifts at their own discretion. By giving them the power to do whatever they need to do to make someone’s day, they have the opportunity to connect with our customers directly. It makes that connection meaningful, personal, and memorable—for both our customers and our employees.

When our employees grow, we grow, enabling us to better help our customer’s businesses grow.

Our Core Values

Goal: The Concept of WOW

core-values-practice-wowismAt Ruby, we’re not just about answering your phones; we’re about making your day.

And that’s exactly what WOWism is. Practice WOWism is one of our core values, and it’s the act of blowing our customers away. We don’t strive for fine, acceptable, or alright—we strive for surprised, delighted, WOWed. And what else is WOWism but Ruby’s way of showing our customers we appreciate them?

WOWism

Customer love is a movement. It’s a culture. And maybe, in the end, Ruby’s mission really is all about spreading the love.

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“Innovation” has become something of a buzzword lately, and it’s on the mind of business owners everywhere. But how does a business get there? What’s the secret to coming up with an original, achievable idea? What differs between the company that develops the next big thing, and all those companies that, well, don’t? Maybe it’s the right combination of inspiration and luck, or perhaps it takes years of tireless work, but the end result is the same: a brilliant yet seemingly simple invention that leaves us all thinking, “Man, I wish I’d thought of that!”

Innovation Fest

While there may not be a straight and narrow path to a big, revolutionary idea, we’ve found there’s one way to predictably generate good ideas, and lots of them: collaboration. In that spirit, Ruby recently held our first-ever ever Innovation Fest. You may have heard of “Hackathons” or “Hack Days”—sprint-like design events geared toward intensive collaboration on software development projects. Innovation Fest put a Ruby twist on this popular practice by incorporating one of our core values: Innovate.

The goal of Innovation Fest was to develop something—anything! Our Product, UX, Development, and Q/A teams had one day to come up with an idea, gather a group together, and develop the idea into a product before presenting the product to the rest of the team.

The results? A Ruby app for Apple Watch, to name one! Check out our latest mobile app overview video featuring Apple Watch:

Ruby’s emphasis on technology allows us to not only scale and grow as a company, but to enhance the services we provide to our customers—something we’re always working to do. In an effort to complement our feature-rich mobile app, one Innovation Fest team dedicated itself to building an Apple Watch app to simplify status updates for Ruby users on the go. Led by Software Developer Shawn Bernard, Team Apple Watch was inspired make it even easier for busy customers to update their call-handling instructions on the fly, keeping our talented receptionists in step with their changing day.

And now, a few short weeks (and a lot of work) later, the app has come to life! Ruby customers can use their Apple Watches to view their last three calls, open call details from a notification, return a call from a message or voicemail, and set a status with just one tap.

Innovate and Grow

Ruby’s inaugural Innovation Fest wasn’t just a salute to our core value Innovate, but a celebration of our core value Grow as well. Of the four members of Team Apple Watch, three began their Ruby careers as receptionists, growing into their current tech-focused roles through hard work and determination. Q/A Tester Heather Hill had this to say of the Innovation Fest experience and her career journey at Ruby:

Having been with Ruby for 5 and a half years, I’m honored by all the opportunities I’ve had to stretch myself and grow. Innovation Fest was a true testament to living out our core values, and gave us the opportunity to get creative and really challenge ourselves. Working on a team to help design and develop Ruby’s first Apple Watch app has been one of the most rewarding experiences for me. We were able to put our collective skillsets to the test, think outside of the box, and collaborate on what we thought would increase our service level and delight our customers. As a member of Team Apple Watch, I am THRILLED to release the app into the wild!

Associate UX Designer Macie Groves echoed Heather’s sentiments:

It was exciting to explore such a new realm of technology, and it was also an incredible testament to how far I’d come already. In 4 years, I went from answering phones to designing a wearable tech app—that’s amazing!

Congratulations to Team Apple Watch for their innovation and growth! If you’re an Apple-loving Ruby customer, we hope you enjoy using our new app as much as we enjoyed building it!

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Apple Watch

Many of the features from the Ruby Mobile App are now available through your Apple Watch! Working in tandem with our friendly receptionists and proprietary technology, this new functionality makes it easier than ever to manage your calls on the go. Watch wearers can now take advantage of a lot of the app’s functionality, without ever taking out their phone!

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Do you know your customers?

Naturally, you have some idea of who your customers might be. If you sell backpacks, you’re looking for buyers who need to carry something, probably on a regular basis. If you sell law software, you’re targeting lawyers.

This information only tells part of the story. Different people are looking for different styles, sizes, and features in a backpack. Solo lawyers are generally looking for different features than a lawyer at a large firm might need. In reality, there are a lot of customer elements to look at—including age, location, where they live (rural or suburban), specific needs, technology, the list goes on.

Customer personas (also known as buyer personas) are your opportunity to target exactly who your customers are, and what they’re looking for.

The Who, What, When, and Why of Buyer Personas

Who – A customer persona is a fictional, generalized representation of a real person. The people who fall within a persona description make up your target market. You can, of course, have multiple target markets made up of multiple personas.

What – A strong customer or buyer persona is made up of real data gathered through your own research, surveys, interviews, and market research. Your small business might have two customer personas, or you might need twenty. The actual information you gather will depend on the nature of the product or service you provide, but you generally want to focus on these broad elements:

  • Professional information
  • Demographics
  • Goals (why they want your product)
  • The challenge they’re trying to overcome and how you can help them overcome it
  • Common objections to buying your product
  • Marketing messaging that appeals to their specific needs

When – The earlier you are in you are in your production process when you start thinking about buyer personas, the better. If you don’t have personas for your small business yet, now’s always a good time to start!

Why – When you group people into persona categories, you can better design products, services, and marketing campaigns to reach them. A buyer persona gives you answers to all those things you vaguely wonder about your customers—or maybe forget to think about at all. Do your customers use smartphones? Are they working out of home offices, small offices, or coworking spaces? How are your customers using your products? What are they looking for?

Customer Personas for Small Businesses

While it may seem like customer personas are just for big businesses, they’re just as impactful for small or solo teams!

You can start putting together your personas today.

  • Check out Google Analytics – Google Analytics is full of valuable data. It can show you where your visitors are from, what keywords they used to find you, and what pages they’re visiting.
  • Call in the Calvary – Get your product, sales, development, leadership, and marketing teams all in one room. All of these groups interact with customers in a different capacity and can help shine some light on who they really are.
  • Use social media – Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook all offer quite a bit of analytic data that can help you dive into who’s following your business—helping you drill down on who your existing fans are. You can also use social media listening to find potential customers and learn more about them!
  • Ask your audience directly – Surveys and interviews oh my! Nobody will ever know your customers as well as they know themselves. If the opportunity arises, sitting down with your customer is the best way to get to know them.

Once you’ve created customer personas, distribute that information to your team. The more people who know more about your customer, the easier it will be for you to develop a product and market it to that persona!

What Does it Look Like

Customer personas will look different for different businesses. Here’s a simple example of a made up buyer persona: Lawyer Liam and Lawyer Lisa.

Small Business Buyer Personas

Buyer Personas are a powerful and often underestimated tool that can help you develop your product or service and market it effectively! Are you using them? Tweet us @callruby and let us know!

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Ruby Service Pyramid

Ruby is the best in the biz in a lot of ways. At the top of this list is our ability to use our best judgment to fulfill our customers’ unexpressed needs—known as “give them what they don’t even know they want” on the Ruby Service Pyramid. Ruby receptionist, Chris, read a recent situation perfectly and went above and beyond to make a customer’s day, not once but twice!

Chris announced a call to Laura that was a bit out of the ordinary. He let her know that the person on the other line was looking for some old and possibly outdated information. Laura laughed ironically and remarked, “I’m literally having the worst day.”

Fulfilling Unexpressed NeedsChris wasn’t about to let that comment go unnoticed. “You know what? This call doesn’t sound pressing, and I would be glad to take a message so that you can concentrate on your work.” Even though Laura hadn’t asked Chris to do this, it was exactly what she needed, without even knowing it. “Oh my goodness! You would be a life saver right now,” she exclaimed. Chris handled the call as promised and went about his day. But he wasn’t done lifting Laura’s spirits.

Chris sent her a thoughtful note and a Starbucks gift card to help her out of her slump. With this extra bit of care, he climbed right to the top of the pyramid, where “make meaningful connections” is key.

Laura could not have been more grateful. She immediately wrote into Ruby to thank Chris personally for his time, his thoughtfulness, and his gift.

“I wanted to personally thank you for the note and Starbucks gift card. That was SO thoughtful of you. I was actually speechless, which doesn’t happen often. People like yourself that go above and beyond are a special breed in this crazy harsh world we live in. So thank you again. You made my day, my week, and my month!”

Taking the time to connect with our customers and make sure that they’re heard, cared for, and WOWed makes all the difference. Chris’ excellent intuition and follow through were on point—a perfect example of Ruby’s Service Pyramid in action!

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Running a small business is time consuming. It can be hard to find the balance between building a staff, catering to customers, and innovating. Luckily technology and Ruby are here to help!

Ruby is honored to be included in Entrepreneur’s list of 10 tech tools that help small businesses automate, simplify, and grow!

Read the Article on ENTREPRENEUR

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Showing Your Customers Love

Gifts can be a lovely gesture, but they’re no match for real, meaningful connections when it comes to surprising, delighting, and building trust with your customers—and sometimes the simplest and least expensive (read: free!) approaches are the most powerful. In fact, everyday tasks we often take for granted can be the perfect way to show customers you care. If you’re looking for ways to express your appreciation, don’t underestimate these standbys:

1. A notecard. If you’re a regular to the Ruby resource library or follow us on social media, you know we’re crazy about handwritten notecards. This simple gesture packs a big punch, largely because it’s a rarity. There’s nothing like finding a hand-penned envelope amid a pile of otherwise junk mail! In the few minutes it takes to jot a quick note and put it in the mail, you create a memorable experience that’s sure to brighten a favorite customer’s day.

2. An email. That’s right: email. Am I talking about a beautifully designed email template full of bright colors and captivating images? Nope. Well, sure, if you have the time for that—but it’s not the point. A simple, plain-text email can be a great connection maker with the right content and context. In those moments when you’re struck by a notion of, “Wow—that customer is really something special!” take three minutes to send a message letting them know. Something as simple as this does the trick beautifully:

It was great to chat with you the other day. I just wanted to reach out and let you know how much I appreciate your business! Thank you for being a loyal customer.

Type, send, impress!

3. A phone call. In a world of text messages, tweets, Facebook posts and the like, a live phone call has the potential to stand out, especially when your intention is to express gratitude. It can also seem a bit daunting. Here’s the trick: don’t overthink it. If you’re prepping for an important conference call, by all means, fret, plan, practice—but when you’re calling a customer to say “I appreciate you,” it’s best to just pick up the phone and go for it. A sincere expression of thanks beats a script any day.

Bonus! 4. Video email. Services like BombBomb make it easy to record and send short videos to customers using your computer’s webcam or your smartphone—a great way to introduce yourself, thank a customer, or just say hi. While not all video email services are free, a creative video message can be a unique way to really make an impression, as evidenced by this WOW story.

However you choose to connect with your customers, the point is to do it. To set yourself up for success, carve out time each week (or each day) to write a notecard or two, send a friendly email, make a call. Stock your office with stamps, cards, and envelopes; keep a stack of sticky notes handy so you can jot down the names of any customers you want to follow up with—whatever works for you. Making customer connections a priority is a great way to earn loyalty, and it’s a fun and rewarding pursuit.

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Content marketing is becoming a big player in the marketing world. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 88 percent of marketers are using content marketing in their plans this year, an effort they define as “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience—and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Content—including blog posts, social media updates, videos, white papers, case studies, and more—is published across the Internet, and users consume it with a voracious appetite.

Some reports show that on average, individuals spend more than 490 minutes each day consuming media in all of its forms, and the Internet is projected to reach almost 30% of daily media use in 2017.

With all of this time spent online, many people worry about the ability to truly connect with others. Face-to-Facebook can’t replace face-to-face, they argue.

Content marketing, though, is the exception to those worries. It’s become such an important part of the marketing world precisely because of the relationship formed between content consumers and the individuals or organizations marketing themselves. While the end result of content marketing is built around a specific, often sales-related action, it’s the relationship formed through content marketing that drives that action, rather than the marketing itself, for several reasons.

 

Content marketing is storytelling at its finest.

Think back to a book you couldn’t put down. You were completely wrapped up in the storyline, the characters, and the situations presented. You probably remember the title and maybe even the author—but the book didn’t stand out because it sold you these elements. Content marketing is the same, except you are telling your brand’s story. Selling should never be the means of content marketing.

Some of the best content creators aren’t marketers. They are journalists, leaders, and bloggers who know how to ask questions that elicit the answers the brand’s audience seeks.

As you start to tell your brand’s story and produce content that interests your audience, you’ll see members start to respond. They’ll share your content, comment on a social media update, or download a white paper. This is the first step your audience takes towards developing a relationship with your brand.

 

Content marketing builds trust.

Content Marketing Builds TrustYour audience and content consumers gauge each piece you publish. Whether you design highly technical pieces, detailed how-tos for industry participants who are in-the-know, or light-hearted posts that showcase your company culture, your audience decides if what you create is true based on their knowledge and experience.

As your pieces get higher circulation and increased shares, you gain credibility—an important part of building trust. Ratings, shares, and likes speak highly of a post or product, and positive social proof is highly effective at increasing your trustworthiness.

As your audience’s trust of your brand increases, your content consumers begin to connect with your brand. They develop loyalty, and you develop a following. They share pieces that resonate with them and invite their friends, family members, and associates to follow you. You become a valuable resource.

 

Content marketing revolves around engagement.

Timely and relevant pieces that engage and interest your audience are primary components of content marketing and increased sales.

Whether you respond to a question on Twitter, reply to a blog comment, or answer an emailed question, the prospective customer made the decision to reach out to you. They entered your sales funnel, and you now have the opportunity to connect with them on a deeper, more personal level. This doesn’t mean you need to start selling to them, but it does mean you’ll want to take the time to give a thoughtful, personal response. Building this base is key to developing meaningful relationships online.

Most experts note that it takes anywhere from six to 13 points of contact for a prospect to become a qualified lead, and the same for the qualified lead to become a customer.

A thoughtful email or a powerful blog post can be an important touchpoint in moving your content consumer closer to a sale. If you get to know your audience, publish pieces that appeal to them, and engage them authentically when they reach out, you’re sure to build meaningful relationships, earn trust, and win customers.

Gabe Arnold

Gabe Arnold is the founder of Copywriter Today where you can get unlimited fresh content for all your marketing needs. If you want 250 free headline ideas for your next marketing campaign, use their free tool here.

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3 ways virtual receptionists elevate customer experience (while making your life easier)

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Ruby Receptionists is thrilled to announce the promotion of Jace Thompson to Chief Financial Officer. Jace was previously the VP of Finance and brings more than 15 years of experience in financial roles, having spent several years as a Senior Director of Finance at the Clymb, and 13 years as a Senior Finance Specialist at Intel. Over the past two years at Ruby, Jace has provided greater customer, operational, and business insight through data analytics, helping Ruby align with key initiatives. He’s excited to take on this new role and work towards introducing Ruby to the millions of small businesses that can benefit from our technology and amazing staff!

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Working with a virtual staff (remote employees) and virtual offices has become popular in the business world. It’s been shown to lead to increased productivity and even saves time and money for both employees and businesses. And with accessible technology, like Google Drive and Skype, it’s easier than ever for employees to stay connected anywhere they are and everywhere they go. So what’s the catch?

There is none. Just a few differences to consider when working with a virtual staff (assistants and receptionists) to guarantee success.

Virtual Employees: Assistants & Receptionists (the differences)

Among remote employees are virtual receptionists and virtual assistants. Though both work off-site and assist in helping run the business more smoothly, virtual receptionists specify in creating a pleasant experience for callers. They focus on making a great impression and standing out from the rest of the competition.

Virtual assistants are either software agents or professionals. When it comes to the occupation, virtual assistants provide professional, technical and creative assistance to clients (they’re more like freelance agents and independent contractors.) Software agents perform tasks and services for individuals. They’re chat bots like Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa, and Microsoft Cortana.

So whether you’re thinking about hiring virtual employees or are already managing a remote team, our tips with the help you adapt and succeed in the new modern business world!

Provide great training. 

If you have (had) in-house employees, you probably relied on the good old “watch and learn” mentality when it came to training. With remote workers, it’s a little different.

Virtual employees train on-site, but they’re also trained through a series of documents, video, and meetings through online means. It can be daunting at first due to the time constraints, but don’t fret! –it’s a small investment with big returns.

Also, make sure your remote staff keeps up with the recording and updating of all your processes. Eventually, they’ll be able to work through the onboarding and training process on their own!

Set them up for success. 

Once you’ve established trust with your remote team, set some time aside to grant them access to every system or network you think they may need.

Have an internal drive? Get them remote access through programs like Microsoft Remote Desktop or LogMeIn. Think they may need into your Dropbox, or social media? Do it now. You’ll thank yourself when you don’t have to keep stopping your work to allow access.

Doing this at the beginning of your working relationship prevents time-sucks down the road and helps you both stay organized.

Trust them(!). 

You hired your remote staff for a reason. You may feel completely overworked or overwhelmed, so let your remote staff truly take that burden from you.

Take a few weeks to get to know your virtual employee and build trust. Once you’ve gotten to a point where both of you are comfortable, give them autonomy. Let them make decisions by themselves and make it clear that they can proceed on certain tasks without asking for permission (which can save you a lot of precious time!) This is super important for your remote over in-house staff, as getting permission requires an electronic communication and response, vs. a quick trip to your office to get the “OK.”

And if your remote employees are performing well and producing great results, make it clear that you appreciate their effort. Which leads into the next point…

Make them feel like part of the team. 

Be sure your remote staff feels like they’re part of your team. They’re more likely to get invested in the work if they feel connected to your business. Celebrate their successes, make time for face-to-face interaction through video conferencing, recognize their efforts publicly—anything you can do to build a personal relationship with your remote employee will go a long way.

Personally, I love working from home because I still feel connected to the company’s team and culture. I get to know my fellow co-workers through Skype and Slack, I get weekly updates on what the company is up to, and I get greeting cards on almost every holiday. These small things have helped build a healthy and productive environment for me as a remote worker. And in turn, gets me excited to help propel our business forward each day.

Remember that remote staff can do a lot of wonderful things for your business. But it’s up to you as an employer to get them the opportunity!

Bonus:

If you’re nervous and don’t really know how to get started, find an experienced remote employee. They’ll be able to guide you through the processes and transitions. It will take time in the beginning but the result will be a huge payoff for you and your business in the long run (in productivity, time saved, costs, and reduced stress.)

Audrey Fairbrother is the Marketing Manager for Boldly, a premium virtual assistant company that matches talented, dedicated VA’s to demanding founders and executives. She enjoys working remotely from gorgeous Colorado Springs, CO.

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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.