None of us saw it coming. Yet today we see the impact of COVID-19 in everything we do. 75% of companies are reporting supply chain disruption. And for the more than 30 million small businesses that make up 99.9 percent of our nation’s commerce, the path ahead is unclear.

The good news? In creating a plan now (even if reactively) to keep your business functioning in times of crisis, you’re not only better able to handle what’s happening at present, you’re also more prepared for the future.

Enter the business continuity plan.

A business continuity plan outlines the processes and systems you put in place to help your business deal with, and adapt to, unexpected marketplace disruptions so you can maintain business as usual…or establish a new norm.

It’s important to note that there is no “right” business continuity plan, only what’s right for your business, and this will evolve over time. So even if you already have a business continuity plan, now is a great time to (re)evaluate its effectiveness and make changes where needed.

To that end, we’ve compiled the following business continuity plan checklist highlighting key things to consider when crafting a strategy for your small business.

Prioritize employee safety.

It goes without saying that the health and safety of your employees are critical. But what we’re all being forced to realize now is that office space is not.

Identify the roles that do and do not require on-site access and follow relevant government orders and guidance to establish safe working environments. Consider outsourcing essential tasks that can be handled remotely, such as receptionist services, to ensure you give your customers the same quality attention they’ve come to expect — and really need — during disruptive times.

Set up a flexible infrastructure.

Building a business infrastructure that is easily adaptable and can work within modified or, in today’s case, remote set-ups for unspecified amounts of time is key to preserving your customers’ confidence, your company’s reputation and, ultimately, the functionality of the business.

Start by equipping your employees with the devices, programs, and applications they need to do their job remotely and securely. Make sure all necessary app and service subscriptions are up-to-date, all licenses, documents, and keys are accounted for, and that you have enough bandwidth to enable your business to stay continually connected internally as well as with customers and clients. And don’t forget about your office phone lines. With the ability to reroute business phone lines to a mobile line or home office, you guarantee no calls go unanswered.

Nail down communication plans.

Your employees are going to have questions. Your business partners are going to have concerns. And your customers are going to have demands. You’re going to need clear, consistent messages to address them all.

Develop an internal communications plan to make sure your employees are continually updated on new developments and have the resources and support they need. Similarly, remember that many of the businesses you work with will be facing the same challenges you are. Keep a running list of all current suppliers and vendors and their contact data so you can proactively discuss business continuity plans, gauge their readiness, and be open and honest about yours.

As for customers and prospects, it’s important that you revise and formalize your outgoing messaging to reflect current realities and its impact on your business — and it’s imperative that you maintain a consistent and welcoming reception. It’s even better if you can deliver a personal touch. Having an expertly trained staff at the frontlines of your business to engage customers with relevant messaging and document pertinent information for new lead generation goes a long way toward nurturing long-term, loyal relationships.

Make the most of your website.

Odds are, you already have an online presence. It’s an easy and convenient way for people to find information on your products and services, view inventory, request customer service, or complete transactions. And in times like these, when physical access to your business is limited (or maybe even barred), your website is more important than ever.

You don’t need an agency to take advantage of many technology tools that can help you make your website more visible in web searches and more user friendly. Equally important, however, is your ability to engage with customers and prospects once they land on your site. With live chat functionality, you can give website visitors in-the-moment personalized attention. This not only increases customer satisfaction, but it also allows you to easily generate new leads and gather rich insights to improve your business moving forward.

Train, test, and reset your business continuity plan.

Imperative to ushering your business through tough times is making sure everyone is on the same page, and has the resources they need to do their jobs effectively. So once you have a plan in place, share it.

Schedule some time for a mock-up drill with your entire staff. This will give you an idea of what is going to work well during times of disruption and what is going to need some fine-tuning. Doing so will also give you an opportunity to revisit your business model and possibly adopt more cost-effective solutions that can carry you into the future as you transition back to business as usual. For instance, you may discover that virtual live support greatly reduces labor costs while keeping vital tasks like customer service or client intake up-and-running around the clock.

We understand your small businesses are facing unprecedented adversity. But we also know that you have a unique perspective: after all, it takes a special kind of risk-taking, innovating, grit, and fearlessness to start a small business. Add to that a business continuity plan, and you’ll be better equipped to handle whatever comes your way. 

Need more resources and tips to keep your business thriving? Check out our Small Business Resource Hub.  

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A guide to going virtual.

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The world is changing, and with this change comes a real opportunity for rethinking the way you run your business.

Working how, where, and when you want to is no longer only the stuff of dreams. The trend of taking ‘going virtual’ has been growing fast and strong over the last decade, and businesses around the globe are beginning to see the release of the traditional brick and mortar as their path to not only surviving, but thriving.

In this webinar, we take a look at the benefits of taking your business virtual, as well as the potential drawbacks and how to overcome them. You’ll get a list of useful tools and a number of tips on everything from what hardware and software could work for you to how to keep culture alive across time and space.

Watch our recorded webinar here and keep an eye out for more ‘going virtual’ content from the Ruby team!

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Once upon a time, there was something called a “water cooler.” It was a machine about the size of a small human that dispensed refrigerated liquid, producing the occasional bubble as its contents shifted. But more than that, it was a totem—a communal marker of socialization. Before lockdowns and quarantines, before social distancing and sheltering in place, people used to leave their homes, travel to offices, and gather around the water cooler to make small talk, tell stories, and opine about the latest episode of Game of Thrones

Back then, people shared workspaces and wore stiff, uncomfortable clothing known as “business casual attire.” They talked, worked, and commuted in close proximity to one another—often closer than six feet apart, and usually without masks on. 

It was a simpler time. A cough was just a cough. Shopping at the supermarket wasn’t a terrifying, potentially life-threatening experience. And water coolers littered the land, drawing countless teams together every day for idle conversation and chit-chat. 

Legend has it the water coolers are still out there, bubbling in unlit hallways, waiting for us to return.

Welcome to the post-water cooler world.

As the world enters Week Whatever of the COVID-19 crisis, the pre-coronavirus era is starting to feel like a myth. Call it the “before times” or the “old world”; it’s growing more distant by the day, and it isn’t clear when—or if—we’re ever going back. Right now, millions of Americans are stuck at home, navigating a new, entirely remote reality. They’re creating, communicating, and collaborating from their houses and apartments. 

Unless you’re an essential service worker, that includes you. Assuming you’re one of the lucky ones who hasn’t been laid off or furloughed, you’re no doubt becoming accustomed to Zoom meetings and Slack chats, and the room, desk, dining table, or corner of the bed you call your home office.

You’re also likely feeling—how I should put this?—less than happy. Restless. Listless. Isolated. Anxious. Depressed. Lonely. The reality of the situation—we’re living through a pandemic—is difficult for anyone to cope with. On a good day, it’s a distraction; other days, it’s an inescapable nightmare. And then there are the challenges of homeschooling, wrangling kids and pets, living with spouses and partners, the endless cooking and cleaning…

Did I mention braving the supermarket?

It’s a surreal time to be alive. If you feel like you’re just barely holding up, take solace in the fact that millions of people out there feel just like you and are going through the same thing. And if you’re struggling with the transition to working from home, you’re definitely not alone. 

To help you better adjust to this new way of doing business, we’ve scoured the internet for remote work success stories and blunders—the good, the bad, and the ugly of working from home. Learn what to do (and equally as important, what not to do) or just let some of these triumphs and mishaps brighten your day.

“An astounding productivity boost.”

Does working from home improve productivity? A few years ago, Stanford professor Nicholas Bloom set out to answer that question. He designed an experiment that split a workforce of 500 employees into two groups—on-site workers and telecommuters. Here’s what his research showed, as reported by Inc.:

“Bloom expected the positives and negatives to offset each other. But he was wrong.

Instead, the robust, nearly two-year study showed an astounding productivity boost among the telecommuters equivalent to a full day’s work. Turns out work-from-home employees work a true full-shift (or more) versus being late to the office or leaving early multiple times a week and found it less distracting and easier to concentrate at home.  

Additionally (and incredibly), employee attrition decreased by 50 percent among the telecommuters, they took shorter breaks, had fewer sick days, and took less time off. Not to mention the reduced carbon emissions from fewer autos clogging up the morning commute.

Oh, and by the way, the company saved almost $2,000 per employee on rent by reducing the amount of HQ office space.”

“My life is rich beyond measure.”

Another major benefit of working from home: more time with the kids. Peter Fritz of Office Anywhere writes:

“The only way to build a lasting bond with your children is through the application of time and attention. It isn’t enough to be there – you have to be present, too. Instead of occasional appearances punctuated with fanfare and gifts, it’s the slow, steady and consistent presence that really counts. Kids don’t want performances, they want love, empathy and a steady hand. They want an example to follow. My mum and dad gave me those, and I’ve done my best to give the same to my kids.

Today, the same principles that cemented the bond between my girls and I apply to my son, Tommy.

Despite offers to return to corporate life, and opportunities to pursue businesses with potentially big payoffs, I remain steadfastly committed to seeing my son every day. Not just an hour or two before bed, but every morning when I walk him to school, and every afternoon when I pick him up again. Most nights, we also play together or watch a movie in our home cinema. We go to bed at the same time and often giggle ourselves to sleep—just like we did last night. I might not be wealthy, but my life is rich beyond measure.”

“Make sure you’re wearing pants.”

Here’s a brief (no pun intended) but unforgettable blunder from an anonymous work-from-homer:

“If someone knocks on the door and you want to open it while on a video call, make sure you’re wearing pants.

Signed,

It happened once and that was enough”

Twitter user @ChristinaKerby had a similar experience:

“Pro-tip: if you and your husband are both working from home, check to see if he’s on a four-way video call BEFORE running past the office naked to get a towel from the linen closet. #RealStory #COVID19 #WFH”

“You have to get out or you’ll go insane.”

Not everyone is anti-working-in-underwear. Dave Mosher, a journalist who worked remotely for two years, enjoyed the freedom to wear whatever he wanted, but offers another piece of advice:

“I loved the ability to talk to very important sources in my underwear. Jokes aside (maybe): Working from home eliminated my commute, plus the time and frustration it involved. For many people who work from home, ‘no commute’ means priceless sanity and more than an hour back in our pockets. We can spend that time and energy toward family, fun, or more hustling in our line of work.

But you have to get out or you’ll go insane. Exercise outside.”

Sheryl Garratt echoes Mosher’s thoughts in a blog post on The Creative Life:

“Being out in the fresh air wakes us up. Moving gets our mind working. Even on a cold, rainy day.

If you already start your day with a run, the gym or a swim, bravo. If not, you might want to try going out for a quick walk before you sit down to work. Not a morning person? Then go after lunch. But make sure you get outside and move at some point in your working day. You’ll get more done.

A walk can also be a great way to focus on a specific work problem, or to just clear your mind and let a solution pop up.”

“I wasn’t muted.”

Reddit user Entidus shares this poetic work-from-home horror story:

“My worst nightmare at work happened today…

I was working from home, in a conference call and I thought I was muted.

I wasn’t muted.

I slowly just want to sink and die now.”

Entidus isn’t alone. Here’s Daniel Taroy of Vanity Fair:

“just started talking to my cat in the middle of a 68-person zoom meeting—and I wasn’t muted!!! send the meteor!!!!”

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We have a webinar for that.

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“I could mute them without being rude.”

That mute button really can come in handy. Cailey Rizzo writes for Travel + Leisure:

“For a long time, when I heard the ping of a Slack message or saw a new email pop up, I’d stop what I was doing and check it. Most of the time, it was just a courtesy ‘thank you’ email or a colleague asking how my weekend went. These little distractions are the norm in a work-from-home setting, but it took me a while to realize how detrimental they were to my productivity and that I could mute them without being rude.

All it took was a message letting my team know that I was going to do a couple of hours of focused work. The effect improved my productivity and allowed me to efficiently tackle big projects that often get pushed aside for those small, more ‘urgent’ tasks and communications.”

“Socially connect with others.”

Other times, you have to make an effort to un-mute yourself. Here’s a tip from a recent post on the Vault blog about the biggest challenges of working from home:

“Interacting with other people is a positive aspect of many jobs. Yes, you’re there to work, but social contact is also important and can help with productivity. Having a feed in your chosen communication app devoted to unrelated to work topics could help.

Two ways the recruiting firm HiringThing creates these missed water-cooler moments are:

  1. “Week Preview Meetings,” which are Monday meetings where people discuss work plans for the week, and are also allowed to talk about weekend events and other non-work-related things.
  2. “Happy Fun Time,” which includes fun activities curated by a company’s HR team such as answering workplace trivia and posting fun throwback images. 

The point is to make sure to take the time while you’re working remotely to socially connect with others. This is more important now than ever, with so many people alone, working from home.”

“Always make it a point to overcommunicate.”

Tom Papomoronis, an entrepreneur who started working from home in 2010, shared this tip with CNBC:

“Even on the slowest days, successful people who work from home always make it a point to overcommunicate. 

As someone who has managed a team from home for several years, making sure everyone takes part in the conversation about what they’re working on, assignment statuses, as well as their concerns and issues, gives me peace of mind. It ensures that nothing gets lost in translation and that no one feels neglected.

You don’t have to be constantly checking and replying to emails (unless they’re urgent). At the very least, have regular check-ins with your manager and team—through Slack, phone calls, emails. Get out of your comfort zone, talk about your goals for the week. Ask for—and give—direct feedback.

Treat it as a casual update, rather than a formal meeting. It will also help you build more sustainable relationships with people you work with.”

“I’ve been feeling really lonely.”

Freelance writer Kaleigh Moore posted the following on her blog:

“For the most part, I love the fact that I get to work from home.

I get to walk my dog, wear sweatpants, and don’t have the office interruptions that are productivity’s worst nightmare. I can really knock out some writing assignments with long, uninterrupted stretches of silence.

But lately, I’ve been feeling really lonely. And I think this is something remote workers need to talk about more than we do.”

Her solution to loneliness? Acknowledge it—and make a habit of leaving the bubble:

“I know that it’s important for my mental health to step out of this environment every once in a while, so I’ve been trying to go work in a coffee shop once every week or so (to at least have the noise and scenery of human activity around me.)

Along with this, I’ve been making it a priority to go to exercise classes, where I get to interact with some familiar faces each week.  I’m also working toward using the warm summer weekends as opportunities to travel—to get out of town and experience new things. That sometimes means taking on less work, too. I’m okay with that—I think this is important.

And finally, I’ve been asking fellow freelancers how they cope with loneliness. Just starting a dialogue about this helps me feel less alone.”

We can’t just moonwalk into a coffee shop and set up our laptops, but we can chat via FaceTime, Zoom, Join.me, or even just send messages via Slack to maintain our sense of connectivity.

“You need structure.”

Here’s another good tip from Tom Papomoronis:

“It’s easy to get distracted by personal matters when you’re working from home, because you’re so much more accessible to people outside of your worklife.

That’s why you need structure — a consistent schedule that you’re strict about — to prevent distractions from disturbing your workflow. The easiest way to do this is to create a to-do list for each day. It should include very specific, measurable and achievable tasks. You may need to adjust tomorrow’s list depending on what you get done today.

Maintaining structure also means setting boundaries. Of course, there are a few exceptions, such as if you’re a single parent with a newborn. But for the most part, be clear with your partner, friends or those you live with about your work schedule. Consider setting a ‘Do Not Disturb’ window of time where you can work freely without unnecessary interruptions.”

“Train your brain.”

And another bit of advice from Sheryl Garratt of The Creative Life:

“Have a routine of some sort to start/end the day. I meditate for a few minutes in the morning, check my calendar for appointments and go over my to-do list while playing music. Then I jump in and start.

When I’m done, I play a different soundtrack while clearing my desk, update my to-do list for tomorrow, turn my screen off then leave my study for the day. I try to do online shopping or web browsing for fun on my iPad, elsewhere in the house, so it’s clear that when I sit down at my iMac, I’m there to work.

I’m lucky in that I have a dedicated room to work in. If you’re using the kitchen table or in a corner of your bedroom, just clear your work stuff into a drawer or box once you’re done. Seemingly trivial tricks like sitting on a different side of the table when you eat can help to train your brain to know when this is a workspace, and when it is a dining/social space.”

“Suddenly it is a 16-hour day.”

Although many business leaders new to remote work fear that their teams will slack off, the opposite—overworking—tends to be a more common problem. Here’s what Mark Neuhausen, Technologist and Angel Investor, had to say on Quora:

“The worst parts of working from home were enforcing discipline on myself to not work all the time. It is easy to walk past the office and check my computer, respond to a few emails, jump on a call, and suddenly it is a 16-hour day. This is especially true when part of the team is halfway around the world. I also found that I enjoyed the human contact when I did go on business trips, whether to the home office, customer offices, or other company offices. It was energizing and evidence that humans are gregarious.”

“Reward yourself.”

How do you stay energized and avoid burnout when working from home? Home office furnishing company Set Your Office recommends the following:

“Since, in remote working, there is no external validation to know that you are doing a good job, start patting yourself on the back. Rather than waiting for someone else to do it, reward yourself whenever you hit a crucial task or objective. Once you’ve done something worthy of reward, treat yourself with anything that makes you happy.

Take a long break, or make yourself a fresh pot of coffee or go pamper yourself with some spa session or splurge in manicure and pedicure. You can even reward your extra effort by taking a small break to watch your favorite TV show. Give yourself the recognition you deserve. It not only makes you feel good but even works as a positive reinforcement for future tasks.”

Remember: you’re not alone.

How are you navigating the post-water cooler world? Need help going virtual, or looking to boost your team’s work-at-home performance?

Call on Ruby. With our professional, on-demand receptionist services, any business can maximize its virtual success and provide stellar service to customers. Over 10,000 business owners have trusted our virtual receptionists to represent them and their companies. We’re happy to report an average 20% increase in sales inquiries and customer service satisfaction among our customers, as well as 2–3 times quantifiable ROI.
We’re here to help you during this challenging time. Learn more about how Ruby’s virtual receptionists can fuel your business growth.

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How Ruby Went Remote

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Like many businesses out there, Ruby didn’t have a remote work plan before COVID-19. While we had previously dealt with weather-related issues that prevented employees from being able to get to our offices, shelter-in-place brought a heap of new challenges.

In this interview with the Portland Business Journal, Ruby CEO, Kate Winkler, discusses the people-powered culture that enabled the company to move 450 workstations in just 11 days.

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Industry: Healthcare
Location: Virtual
Date: May 2-3, 2020

The AAO is bringing the orthodontic community together for this first-of-its-kind online event and delivering the continuing educational opportunities needed to fulfill CE requirements. This event is free for AAO members and non-members can participate at a discounted rate.

This virtual experience will offer 12 live CE hours. Attendees will be able to create their own itinerary and choose from two tracks – clinical and practice management – with a variety of world-class speakers presenting cutting edge lectures, including COVID-19 topics.

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People want access to effective customer service when they need it and when it works best for them. Communication channels are constantly multiplying and in addition to the phone call, emails, and social media outreach, customers are beginning to expect the companies they do business with to be available another way: on their website, with live chat.

How live chat can help your business.

Meeting the needs and expectations of your customers is part and parcel to a successful business strategy, and adding live chat to your customer service repertoire is great for your customers and smart for your bottom line. Live chat prospects are 4.6 times more likely to convert into customers than potential clients who reach out via other channels.

In fact:

  • 42% of all customers prefer live chat to other means of contact
  • 73% of customers are satisfied with live chat experiences

Simply put, in our super-connected world, people expect service virtually on-demand and in the medium of their preference. Yet, only 14% of companies are taking advantage of live chat, which makes it a huge opportunity for you to set your company apart!

Besides being the most effective and preferred method of delivering great customer service, live chat can help position your business to rise above the competition.

Present a more professional image.

Live chatting gives your business a professional and customer-friendly approach to convenient communication. Through a live chat specialist, you can help your clients:

  • Answer FAQs
  • Collect feedback
  • Connect to Sales or another department
  • Learn about your products
  • Troubleshoot

The best part? All of that can take place outside of regular business hours, whenever the customer needs something, 24/7. The right service will represent your business effectively and efficiently.

Gather customer data.

This is where live chat really separates itself from more traditional means of customer service: data gathering. A chat specialist experience can be customized to collect data that helps you convert contacts into customers, and nimbly handle any issues. For example:

  • Collect insight to pain points
  • Flag common product questions
  • Personalize future interactions by adding to your database
  • Track referrals and build relationships

The opportunity to gather actionable insights lets you proactively tackle any issues, understand each customer and their needs holistically, all while giving a personal and friendly experience.

Refine your customer experience (CX) strategy.

Live chat also allows you to adapt to your customer’s needs by anticipating questions and issues, while being ready to give helpful answers quickly. A live chat specialist can help:

  • By being familiar with your FAQs
  • Convert browsers to buyers
  • Offer real-time support for any website issues

Making any transaction seamless and smooth for your customer helps win the business and keep folks coming back for more.

Reduce support costs (work smarter, not harder).

Without benefits or training, the average salary for an in-house receptionist is $36,000. When you figure in a standard 40-hour workweek, you can see quickly that a chat service that gives you 24/7 live chat capability is a huge value. The best ones:

  • Ease the demands of providing customer service yourself
  • Are highly-trained in the art of sounding human
  • Reduce your daily distractions

Not only is a live chat service a great value financially, but it also saves you time and lets you focus on your business.

Improve website conversions.

A better customer service experience converts callers into customers and retains them, building long-term value as a whole. It really is that simple! Live chat agents help establish a friendly and informative rapport by:

  • Clearing up any questions about product and features
  • Explaining pricing structure and incentives
  • Help connect callers to the experts they need

The personal touch goes a long way to setting expectations and service standards making true and lasting connections for your business.

Overcome sales objections.

So, what does this all mean for your bottom line? Live chat offers a personal, professional, and warm experience for your customers. It allows you to focus on growing and developing your business. And, it delivers great value through always-on, always-available support, around the clock. Basically, you can grow your business while you sleep. How awesome is that?!

But what about the real-life numbers? Let’s take a look. Live chat gives:

  • 2.4 times greater annual increase in cross-sell and up-sell revenue
  • 2.6 times greater annual decrease in customer care costs
  • 20% greater annual improvement in customer contact abandonment rate

Add in what we know about many customers’ preferred method of contact and the overall satisfaction with live chat experiences, and the benefits keep piling up!

Gain more business with Ruby’s live chat services!

Live chat is popular, and it’s quickly becoming the new standard for customer contact and on-going care. It leads the way in customer satisfaction and gives personal and professional care to the people who rely on your business. And, Ruby makes it super easy and cost-effective to have you covered.

Our team of chat specialists is ready to engage with your website visitors, offer them support and answer questions, connect them with a call right to your business line, gather valuable data, and help you generate new leads. And the best part is, you can depend on us to be there 24/7/365.

Interested in learning more about live chat? Download our guide to website chat to get the full scoop!

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According to Walker Info, this year (2020) will be the year that customer service overtakes price and product as the key differentiator for businesses. And for growing businesses, the phone is a critical customer touchpoint.

Did you know that after a positive phone experience 80% of callers are likely to become repeat customers? Or that 74% are likely to choose another vendor after just one bad experience?

As a home-services contractor, good customer service sets you apart from the competition. That being said, it’s not easy being available every time the phone rings. This is why having a remote receptionist service can help you deliver exceptional service to every caller, so you never miss the chance for new, or repeat, business. 

Especially now, as people are spending a lot more time in their homes, there is a good chance you’re experiencing an upswing in business. From restless individuals tackling home repairs to the families putting a little extra stress on home appliances and systems as everyone spends all of their time at home.

Supporting these customers, net new and returning, is what makes catching every incoming call so critical to you and your business.

Here are three big reasons why home service professionals are turning to virtual receptionists to make sure they’re maintaining a strong connection to customers during Covid-19:

  1. Make great first impressions. 
    According to Consumer Reports, 72% of callers who reach an automated answer will hang up without leaving a message—and potentially call a competitor. You don’t want to miss out on a job simply because of a missed phone call.  

A remote receptionist service provides the coverage you need when you need it, so potential customers don’t fall through the cracks. No more risk of losing customers to voicemail—every caller is greeted by a live, cheerful person prepared to follow your custom instructions.

And if you’re looking to hire subcontractors, remote receptionists can answer on your behalf when candidates call to gather or relay any info you need, so you can make an informed follow-up.

  1. Keep current customers happy.
    When you’re on the go all day, you’re not always able (or in the mood) to answer the phone with the warmest customer service voice. But that’s exactly what a remote receptionist can do, no matter if you’re at a job site or with a customer. A remote receptionist service is dedicated to being friendly, professional, and above all, helpful—so callers are happy, and you look good.

A remote receptionist connects only the calls you want and happily fields the rest, so you can focus your attention where it matters most. With the freedom to focus, you’re able to accomplish more each day.

  1. Meet the particular needs of your customer base.
    Many businesses don’t simply stop running at 5 p.m. Home services professionals, attorneys, property managers, and more must be available when their customers need to contact them. 

Our 24/7/365 receptionists and chat specialists work day and night, ensuring right-fit coverage for your business, and making sure your clients can reach a live team member when their emergency arises. Additionally, we offer bilingual receptionists, and HIPAA compliant services to support your business and your customers. 

We know you’ve worked hard to build your business, which is why here at Ruby, we take pride in ensuring that every call is handled by a friendly, professional customer service expert. So whether you’re on the road, at a job site, or taking a well-deserved break, you’ll rest assured knowing every call is handled by a customer experience expert. 

Sure, your customers depend on you for quality work, but they also expect quality customer service, too. Especially during this stressful time, having a remote receptionist service can empower you to run your company more efficiently while also creating great experiences for your new and current customers—helping you rise above the competition and maintain a strong business in 2020.

Curious to learn more about how Ruby’s award-winning receptionists can help your business grow? Check out our quick guide for details.

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As a business owner, you know that managing a business means managing change, both unforeseen challenges and unexpected opportunities. Yet this becomes exponentially harder when unfamiliar work environments, fluctuating demand, and finite resources limit your ability to connect with customers when they need you most.

And that’s precisely why we’ve expanded our receptionist services to support you ’round the clock. We’re offering the same exceptional experiences you and your customers have come to rely on, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

What are 24/7 receptionist services?

Ruby’s 24/7 receptionist services are about so much more than answering phone calls. As the front line of your business, Ruby receptionists are dedicated to creating genuine and meaningful connections that turn first impressions into long-term relationships.

Expertly trained in the art of customer service, our receptionists are available day and night (including U.S. holidays) to answer your calls with a personalized greeting of your choice, take messages, and transfer callers on your behalf. Ruby not only ensures the best possible experience for your customers, we also free up your time so you can focus on your top business priorities (or even just take a break).

What does it cost?

There is no additional charge for this new service. Any minutes used will simply count toward your existing receptionist minute plan. If you exceed the number of receptionist minutes included in your plan, you’ll be charged according to your plan’s per-minute rate for any additional minutes used.

How can I get started with receptionist services?

If you’re a current Ruby customer and interested in 24/7 receptionist service, simply reach out to our Customer Happiness Department to get it added to your account! If you’re not (…yet) a Ruby customer, give us a ring at 844-311-7829 today to get started.

W realize it’s not business as usual for anyone these days, particularly for small businesses. And while we don’t have all the answers, at least Ruby’s 24/7/365 receptionists can help make sure your business does. 

Curious to learn more about how Ruby’s live virtual receptionists can help your business grow? We’ve got a guide for that.

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Like most of the 10,000 small businesses we serve, the last few weeks have put us to the test.

Uncertainty.
Innovation.
Tough decisions.
Grit.
Sleepless hours.
Hope.

The future is still murky, but we do know this. For 17 years, Ruby has been here to keep you connected, to be that bridge between you and your customers—and that won’t ever change. We know that every phone call, every website visit, and every chat session is crucial to the success of your business. That’s why Ruby provides a consistent, compassionate voice that never calls in sick or takes a day off. We’re here 24/7/365 (via phone and chat) to help small businesses survive and thrive.

And that commitment to supporting your business during these uncertain times extends to our employees, all 585 of them. No matter where their desks happen to be, each team member delivers the same technology, expertise, and — most importantly — meaningful human connections.

One more thing. We know to move beyond these challenges demands courage and professionalism, but it also requires patience, empathy, and humanity. And that is why we’re here at Ruby. That’s something you can count on, no matter what.

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Now more than ever, it’s important for companies to be able to connect with their clients. To support customers’ evolving needs in these uncertain times, Ruby accelerated the expansion of our services with our live virtual receptionists now available to answer 24/7, 365 days a year.

“Things are changing daily with businesses and their customers alike struggling to keep up,” said Ruby CEO, Kate Winkler. “Every phone call or website visit is crucial to the survival of a business, and Ruby provides a consistent, compassionate voice that never calls in sick or takes a day off. We’re here 24/7/365 to help small businesses survive and thrive.”

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I am a marketer. I am a student. I am a mom. I am other things, too, but now? Right now? Right now, I am all of those things at once. In my home office, I share a desk with my six-year-old during the day and fight off the cats who want to lay on my keyboard at night. I am taking conference calls while correcting math worksheets. I am making lunch while responding to emails. I am perpetually covered in chalk and feeling guilty for every, “Shhhh, hang on one second, buddy.”

I, like many of you, am trying to figure out how to balance homeschooling with work. And, surprise! It hasn’t been super easy.

But, amidst all of this chaos and change, the support among parents here at Ruby and beyond has been amazing. Last week, a coworker received a mysterious Google doc chock full of the following resources. Feeling guilty or apprehensive about screentime? I totally get it…but what if I told you a little extra screentime teaches your kid how to code? Does your family love Piggie and Gerald? Great, your kids can spend a lunch hour doodling with Mo Williems.

Check out this bounty of schooling-at-home resources (plucked straight from that Google Doc!) and be sure to peek it again in a few weeks if you find it useful. We will be updating this periodically with any additional goods we find or any information that is sent to us at resources@ruby.com.

  • Homeschooling Resources
  • Headspace has meditations for kids
  • Cooking–Knife for younger kids
  • Family dance-off to music shuffle so every tune is a surprise – YouTube has lots of Just Dance videos that are super fun
  • YouTube Learning Hub – The goal is to give people – especially kids – easy access to the universe of educational videos on YouTube
  • If your kids are younger, YouTube Kids is the better way to watch YouTube, and also can be a gateway towards useful information. 
  • Audible
  • Physics Girl for physics-related YouTube content. Best aimed at kids 6+ but she does a lot of at-home experiments as well
  • Hiking with a magnifying glass and the iNaturalist app to identify species; good to get out of the house, get exercise, and avoid playground germs!
  • Books, paperback or ebook. If you would like to avoid physical library books, you can still check out ebooks from the library.
  • PBS Kids has a lot of educational activities and games on their website.
  • Tynker – coding lessons and games for a variety of ages (subscription)
  • Typing club
  • Mystery Science pulled their most popular science lessons for K-5 and are offering them for anyone to use for free.
  • Learning Ally – Learning Ally is a great resource for kids learning to read, or extra support.  It has a volunteer reader (quality of reading may vary) reading along with highlighted text.
  • Made by Joel has tons of crafts and activities on his site, and also wrote a great book Made to Play (this link includes a list of free printables).
  • Lunch doodles with Mo Williams
  • Netflix Educational Videos 

Ages 0-2 Years Old

  • Indoor Yoga on YouTube: Cosmic Kids Yoga
  • Bath time fun (bath crayons, which are so messy, but very entertaining. Wipes off well with a baby wipe.)
  • Aqua doodle
  • Soap bubbles in the yard (or nearby park) – making sure the container is taped to a table/bench leg so that it doesn’t get poured out every 2 minutes
  • Music using saucepans, kitchen utensils etc
  • Scribbling with crayons, finger paint
  • Make a den/makeshift soft play with pillows and cushions/old Amazon boxes
  • Organize toys by category (e.g. cooking, music, farm animals, etc) and lay them out to keep things “interesting” and different per day
  • Do video calls to cousins/friends who are also stuck at home.

Ages 2-4 Years Old

Ages 5-7 Years Old

  • Rivet, a reading practice app for kids, all free, available on AndroidiOSKindle Fire devices and the web. Built by an Area 120 team at Google.
  • KiwiCo – Create/Innovate subscription boxes ($20 a month), ages 0-14.
  • Duolingo
  • Kodable – Fun programming app
  • Coding Club – Teach your kids how to code (if they are reading) 
  • Todomath
  • Coloring Books
  • Small lego kits (~80 pieces)
  • Puzzles
  • Slime, slime, and more slime
  • If you have camping gear + a yard, spend an afternoon setting up a campsite, teaching them to set up the tent, hang a bear bag, where to cook, and Leave No Trace principles.
  • Tell them to hide something and create a treasure map for you to find it. Block off 30 min. so you can go on the treasure hunt.
  • Scavenger hunts (free printouts)
  • Facetime a bestie 20 mins a day.

Ages 7-9 Years Old

  • Rivet, a reading practice app for kids, all free, available on AndroidiOSKindle Fire devices and the web. Built by an Area 120 team at Google.
  • Scratch – Free MIT site to make stories, games and animations
  • IXL – Online math program, can customize by age
  • Coding Club – Teach your kids how to code.
  • Facetime a bestie 20 mins a day.
  • Air-dry clay projects.
  • Google’s CS First Lessons

Ages 9-12 Years Old

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41 million. That’s approximately how many people in the United States speak Spanish at home, according to the US Census Bureau. We’re talking about 13.5% of the entire population. And given that those findings are several years old at the time of this writing, the number of Spanish-speakers in the United States is likely even higher by now.

If your company doesn’t offer customer service, sales, support, and other business services in Spanish, you’re missing out on a sizable and growing population of potential customers and clients. 

No hablo español? No problem. You can make use of bilingual professional answering services, such as Ruby, to serve your Spanish-speaking customers easily and cost-effectively.

The benefits of bilingual professional answering services.

Bilingualism is fast becoming a necessary part of doing business. By some estimates, the US will have more Spanish speakers than any other country by 2050

More and more consumers now expect service in English and Spanish. The US is a big and diverse country, and multilingual support is already common in many states—including California, Texas, New York, New Mexico, and Florida. 

But beyond being an imperative, bilingual customer service can deliver numerous benefits for your company and the people you serve. Here are just a few advantages of using a bilingual professional answering service.

You’ll gain a better understanding of your customers—so you can serve them better.

To serve your customers or clients sufficiently, you need to speak their language—literally. Although most Spanish speakers in the US are also fluent or semi-fluent in English, it’s not always their preferred language. That means you’re causing them an inconvenience when you oblige them to use it. Monolingual customer service not only disappoints people (and potentially turns them away), but tends to create significant gaps in communication and mutual understanding.

People tend to feel different when they speak a different language. They may not be able to explain themselves as well as they could in their primary language. Humor and important conversational nuances may get lost in translation. When you compel your Spanish-speaking customers to speak English, you’re forcing them and yourself into an often-challenging compromise, creating a largely transactional relationship rather than a human one.

Bilingual professional answering services ensure that every customer or client—whether English- or Spanish-dominant—is treated warmly and compassionately

This allows you to collect better information about the people you serve. A bilingual receptionist or customer service agent can ask more detailed, targeted questions about Spanish speakers’ needs and preferences. With bilingual professional answering services on your side, you can sort your leads better, convert them into buyers more often, and more capably handle their questions and concerns.

Your customers will gain a better understanding of your business.

By overcoming the language barrier, your business can empower your buyers to make better decisions, avoid frustrations, and more easily navigate the customer/client journey.

Every person who interacts with your business should know what you do and why you do it. Bilingual professional answering services can help you communicate your mission, philosophy, values, and brand identity—the things that make your business special—to more customers or clients. 

But it’s not just about the big-picture stuff. A bilingual answering service also helps you manage expectations and inform customers or clients about the various details involved in interfacing with your company, shopping, or accessing products or services. You’ll ensure they can make an appointment, sign up for a service, receive a refund, or manage another part of the process with minimal errors and confusion. You can provide them with frequently asked questions, instructions for visiting your location, tailored help, and more—in the language they use every day. 

When you use a professional answering service like Ruby, you tell your team of virtual receptionists everything your customers need to know about your business. We communicate it in English or Spanish to every caller (or website visitor using live chat).

This is particularly important for hospitals, doctor’s offices, dentists, and other medical and healthcare professionals. When you have a responsibility to communicate clearly and attentively to every patient, you need a bilingual answering service.

You’ll increase customer loyalty.

This is the big one. Serve people better—in the language they prefer to use—and they’ll reward you with their business and loyalty. Bilingualism and customer retention go hand in hand. 

Regardless of the language they speak, people prefer to talk to other people—not machines—who can help them quickly, listen to them empathetically, and laugh at their jokes. It’s all about making your customers or clients feel welcomed and comfortable with professional, friendly, capable receptionists. In an era in which customer experience increasingly determines business success, you can’t afford to leave anyone out.

Plus, happy customers tend to share their experiences with others, generating lucrative word-of-mouth referrals for your business. Make one Spanish speaker’s day and you could reach a larger community of their friends, family members, neighbors, and co-workers.

Ruby’s here to help you expand your reach.

Ready to review? Bilingual professional answering services can…

  • help you better understand your customers or clients,
  • help you better serve your customers or clients,
  • empower the people you serve,
  • drive customer loyalty,
    and
  • generate powerful word-of-mouth for your business.

Again, these are just a few of the benefits of using a bilingual professional answering service. There are lots of even broader reasons to bring multilingual culture into your organization. You’ll see a greater diversity of ideas, fuel innovation, uncover new marketing opportunities, and much more.

That said, you don’t need to hire a full-time bilingual receptionist to meet your Spanish-speaking customers’ or clients’ needs. Ruby provides bilingual professional answering services designed for growing businesses like yours—available remotely and on-demand.

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When data shows that 65% of consumers prefer to contact a company by phone, 75% expect help within five minutes, and 73% report satisfaction with live chat experiences, what’s a busy small business owner to do?

Option 1: let callers go straight to voicemail, garnering a customer satisfaction rating of meh.

Option 2: hire a dedicated full-time receptionist, taking a sizable hit to your bottom line and providing service equal only to your receptionist’s disposition du jour.

Option 3: have them at ‘hello’ with a human-powered, artfully trained, virtual answering service.

When it comes to first—and ongoing—impressions of your business, it’s all about real, customer-centric, human interaction. So, who should be answering your phone? When it comes to representing you and your company, not just any receptionist will do. You want virtuosos. Masters. True artists.

One critical way to up your phone answering game is to ensure your virtual receptionists are true ambassadors for your business. Receptionists who are highly skilled and fully empowered to make every interaction personable and professional.

For example, one way we achieve this at Ruby is by not relying on scripts, but by using comprehensive training so interactions feel organic as well as informative, leaving customers happy, informed, and impressed by their phone or chat experience.

How virtual answering services can improve customer interactions.

We live in a world of service on a whim and instant gratification. Forgot to pick up toothpaste? Not a worry! A few clicks and bam! At your door in an hour. Hungry? Get warm cookies delivered at midnight. Want to hear that one song you danced to at junior prom right now? There’s an app for that. 

For a small business, every customer is critical. If someone calls with a question or an issue, people nowadays are used to getting what they need immediately. If someone calls and there’s no answer, or even worse, a bad interaction, where will they go? To the competition. Or Yelp. Or both.  

A virtual answering service provides businesses the most effective, meaningful, and economical alternative to hiring a dedicated receptionist. A virtual answering service is always there for you and your customers, and some even offer live chat 24/7. Virtual receptionists let you get away from your desk and avoid distractions. And the best virtual receptionists can customize service to meet your needs, relieve stress, and save money.

You never know which call or contact is going to be your next big client. So, when you are looking for the perfect call answering solution, be sure it includes the following six key tactics to engage every customer, every time.

Emphasizing warm greetings.

We all know how important first impressions are, and the trick to making a warm, positive one isn’t really tricky at all. In fact, it’s deceptively simple and it starts with a greeting.

The three elements of a warm greeting are:

  • A friendly hello! – sets the tone and pace of the conversation
  • Your company’s name – assures the caller that they’ve reached the right place
  • An offer of assistance – gives the caller the go-ahead to be heard and helped

Practicing active listening.

Once the caller begins speaking, the receptionist should actively listen to what they ask for, how they ask for it, and what they expect as a result. True listening takes just a little bit of practice to perfect!

Five essentials for active listening:

  • Focus – hear what the caller is saying as they say it; don’t jump ahead
  • Empathize – acknowledge their feelings to establish tone and rapport
  • Confirm – repeat the details back to reassure them and build confidence
  • Clarify – if more context or clarification is needed, ask relevant questions
  • Act – respond to resolve the conversation and confirm satisfaction

Maintaining consistent brand representation.

To give confidence to any potential customer, it’s key that any receptionist shares introductory information about your business and is familiar with industry-speak for returning clients.

Three never-fail guidelines for representing your brand at its best:

  • Mission – be ready to share the brand’s identity and/or beliefs in a clear way
  • Appropriate jargon – use specific terms for any industry, e.g., legal, medical, psychiatric
  • Context – show what they know by sharing a bit of knowledge

Providing targeted questions.

Make the most of each call by gathering information based on your business’s needs. For example, want to know how a caller heard about your business? Have your receptionist ask! That way, you can make an informed approach to the callback.

Three ways to make successful contact:

  • Gather – a caller’s name and contact information are just the start
  • Customize – ask for an account number, case number, property address, or personal notes
  • Verify – read the info back to verify accuracy and let them know they were heard

Optimizing caller success.

Guiding callers through an interaction that leaves them feeling heard, cared for, and supported is an advanced skill. Do they want to leave a message, speak with you directly, or schedule an appointment? A good receptionist handles anything with ease.

These three steps ensure optimal success for every call:

  • Availability – is it a sales call? New customer intake? Route it to the right place
  • Expectations – give a clear idea of what comes next; be ready for questions
  • Confirm – get verbal agreement and understanding to ensure satisfaction

Understanding caller needs.

Every caller has a unique set of expectations when they reach out, but at the heart of every call are a few simple, respectful, thoughtful principles.

Cover all the bases:

  • Time – quick and efficient calls are the best use of a key resource
  • Knowledge – assure callers that if you don’t know an answer, you’ll get them to the expert
  • Connection – smile, be kind and be happy you aren’t a robot

Virtual answering services, the Ruby way.

As you can see, great calls don’t just happen. It takes a lot of knowledge and know-how. When looking for the right virtual receptionist, there’s a lot to keep in mind. Or, you can just call Ruby.

The goal of every interaction is to make the best impression possible; new clients, existing clients, prospective clients. From the first ‘hello,’ to ‘thank you and have a great day,’ the people representing you and your business are a key point of contact that reflects who you are and what your business is about.

Person-to-person interaction is an art form, and our team at Ruby has it mastered. We help create meaningful connections with your customers by providing a professional, and personable experience every call, every time.

Thousands of customers testify to our high standards of reliably personable, professional service that fits perfectly with their daily needs. We’ve here during office hours, after hours, after-after hours, with our receptionist and live chat services.

Give Ruby a call to find out how our virtual answering service can help you share the art of being human with the people that matter the most to your business, your customers!

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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 cancelled 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.