WOW story: bundles of joy.

Reading time:

If there’s anything we can rely on 2020 to provide, it’s a constant flow of curveballs and uncertainties. Living with such constant change can feel overwhelming, and even leave us feeling a little lost. Fortunately, it also paints a new light over little things like kind gestures and good intentions, turning them into acts of magic during trying times.

Take, for instance, someone caring enough about your interaction to follow up and fulfill a need you may not have expressed. This is precisely the kind of care that Rubys strive to give to our customers. One such customer, Greg M.  recently experienced this firsthand.

After receiving an email request for pandemic-related assistance from Greg, Ruby’s own Customer Success Manager, Hannah Hogan, leaped into action. She dialed Greg’s number to see if she could lend a hand, and when Greg answered, he mentioned being at the pediatrician with his newborn! 

Hannah offered him a quick solution to his issue and ended the call. For Hannah, however, the work wasn’t over yet.

No, this was an opportunity to take Greg’s experience up a notch with a little above-and-beyond customer care. Hannah set to writing a card for Greg, found a toy for his little one, and sent the package, signed, sealed, delivered, to Greg!  

Not long after, Hannah received the following from the customer:

Hannah,

Thank you so much for the thoughtful gift that you sent to me and our new baby boy.  That was very thoughtful of you. Ruby continues to impress me with how you have taken care of my business – before and during this crisis. My family is appreciative.  Thank you again for sending us some positive energy. Stay safe and be well.  Talk more soon.

-Gregory M

Hannah turned what could have just been a simple interaction into a memory. All the while, strengthening her relationship with Gregory. It’s clear that, with a little time and a lot of heart, you can make a big impact.  Be sure to look out for those unexpressed needs, you never know who you could impress!

Looking for more ways to make connections? Download our ebooks, The ROI of Personal Connections for more tips!

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The world as we know it has been altered forever – there, we said it aloud. The question is, where do we go from here? We’ve invited several leaders in the legal profession to explore what it means to practice in a virtual world, technology’s impact on attorney/client relationships, the future of legal education, as well as predictions for what’s to come in 2021.

Join Ruby as we welcome:

  • Cathy Kenton, Chief Strategy Officer & Co-CEO of Legal Tech Media Group
  • Chad Burton, co-founder of Modern Law Practice, CEO of CuroLegal and a legal futurist
  • Adriana Linares, legal technology consultant, President of LawTech Partners and host of New Solo podcast
  • Josh Lenon, Lawyer in Residence & Data Protection Officer at Clio

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Jill McKenna:
Hi, I’m Jill McKenna. I am the Campaign Marketing Manager at Ruby and today I’m so delighted to be speaking with Melissa Barker. Melissa is a Business Coach and Social Media Consultant who has been helping businesses with marketing and sales strategy for over a decade. She’s a trailblazer in the field of social media and the author of the first college textbook. She’s literally written the book on social media marketing. The book is called Social Media Marketing: A Strategic Approach and it’s going into its third edition. Thanks for joining us, Melissa.

Melissa Barker:
Thank you so much for having me.

Jill McKenna:
How are you feeling about posting times and sending times for information? Is that really changing right now?

Melissa Barker:
Oh yeah. All the times that we thought once worked just broke because everyone is from home now. And so that is actually probably one of the biggest takeaways I hope anybody watching this gets is that now is the time to A/B test those times. And so what does that mean? That means posting consistently still at those times and then seeing is it the content? Is it the time of day? Has your engagement changed? And really becoming much more metrics-driven. Also a lot of the native analytics within Instagram, Facebook you can see when your audience is typically most online and so really leaning into that and using that.

Melissa Barker:
But also knowing that this is a strange time and there’s going to be more experimentation needed than ever. Right? So lunchtime is now totally different for a lot of people. Breakfast time, what does that actually look like? Because those were typically the times that we would encourage people to post. Right? You’d post in the morning, you’d post around noon, post around dinner time. But all of that has shifted with everyone being at home so I think that there’s a real need to test those times for your individual case.

Jill McKenna:
I know that we can’t fortune tell the future, we don’t know what’s going to happen. But are there trends or things that are happening now that you see or believe will become new normals for us regarding our social media practice?

Melissa Barker:
Yeah, absolutely. I think the biggest thing is that the standards for content and quality social media content have just raised, like exponentially. Right? When we have so much information, now more than ever, we can’t afford to put out half-baked content. It really has to be timely, it has to be high quality, or you’re going to get unfollowed at this point. And that’s what I’m seeing happen to a lot of different businesses that are still trying to maybe keep their posting schedule, but the quality of the content has gone down. So I think they’re across the board. I mean, it is going to call all of us to create better and to create content that we ourselves would want to consume.

Melissa Barker:
And I think the other piece is that more than ever businesses now have to really listen and we have to inquire about what does our target audience want? We spoke about that a little earlier about the ability to poll and to ask the audience, “What is it that you want to see more of from us?” And so I think there’s going to be a big trend around that and the importance of that and getting feedback about what is being created and not just assuming that we know what people want to hear.

Melissa Barker:
But I think the biggest thing to is that this isn’t necessarily a trend, but this is like a word to the wise, is to really approach this with a sense of curiosity. Treat it like a lab and like an experiment and not get attached or hurt when something doesn’t go the way we think it’s going to with social media more than ever. And treating it constantly as like a scientist that you’re just experimenting and you’re trying to figure some things out. And if we can stay in that mentality, that state of curiosity and approaching it with a little bit of levity and experimentation. I think that’s when we’re really going to see success.

Jill McKenna:
Great. I’m somebody who firmly, and I’m sure you do too, firmly believes that in industries rising tide raises all ships. Right? So are there examples of collaborations that you’ve seen lately that are really working or is there a mentality about collaborations that we should carry now or would like to carry forward that would be really beneficial for all?

Melissa Barker:
Yeah. I think you see this a lot with influencers. Right? That have different brands that they’re working with. I think more than ever you don’t have to be working with influencers or micro-influencers even necessarily, but finding opportunities for collaboration is really, really key. There’s not any specific examples that come to mind, but it is something that I am seeing business owners kind of do naturally. Like commenting on other businesses that they like or acknowledging each other, right? There’s this sense of community and acknowledgement that’s starting to grow and I think that leaning into that is really key. And I think it’s really key not only for selling things or getting your products out there, but for how do you want to navigate in whatever the next phase of all of this looks like. And I think that emphasis on local and community is key and so thinking about what are some businesses that I might want to collaborate with from a social perspective. Maybe running a joint giveaway or contest or just always knowing that you’re going to engage with each other’s content.

Jill McKenna:
I’m curious about influencers since you mentioned them. I know their role has really been changing in social media within the last year. And I’m curious how the role of influencers is playing out during this time of COVID and hopefully when we move into post COVID?

Melissa Barker:
Yeah. I mean what I’ve really been seeing is that actually micro-influencers have been the ones that are being tapped into more and a lot of the strategy around businesses working. Because the larger influencers have, again, a broader audience. They don’t necessarily have a specific target market now associated with them and so I have been seeing many of them, unfortunately, not doing as well during these times and having a broad-reaching approach. And we’re now looking more to like the local micro-influencers and I think that that is the direction things have been going, even pre-COVID was that micro-influencers were becoming a much more important part of doing business.

Jill McKenna:
I was curious about when we’re talking about coming from a place of service, we want to obviously portray our companies for the good works that we do also. But what’s the line right now? We don’t want to be self-aggrandizing, right? We don’t at this time want to be like, “Oh, we’re so great. Look at everything wonderful that we’re doing. Too bad everybody’s suffering.” How do we work those things in now in an integral way and with a balance in mind?

Melissa Barker:
And I think that that’s a great question. I think the biggest thing without being overly self-congratulatory is just reminding people that you are committed to helping. Right? And so the way you phrase is always like, “We are committed. Here is how we are doing it.” So it’s showing action rather than saying, “Hey, we did it.” And I think just kind of acknowledging this is the reason we are doing these things. Right? And coming from a perspective of wanting to acknowledge the importance and encourage others to do the same.

Jill McKenna:
Melissa, you’ve more than answered all my questions. I’m so grateful. And you’re so articulate and succinct that this moved really quickly and we covered a lot of ground, but a lot of great ground. And I’m so, so grateful for you. If people want to find your work online, where can they go?

Melissa Barker:
So the best place to connect with me is melissabarker.com. That is my primary website and if someone is looking for whether that’s small business coaching or to get help with a social media audit or the social media master certification course, all the links are there and I would love to connect with them.

Jill McKenna:
Great. And they should connect with you. Thank you so much. I’m sure we’ll be talking to you in the future again. I’m so grateful for your time. Thank you.

Melissa Barker:
It was so wonderful to be here and loved having these conversations. I think these are really important conversations to be having, especially in light of everything that’s going on. So thank you so much for having me.

Jill McKenna:
Absolutely. Our pleasure.

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Ruby, the premier provider of live virtual receptionist and chat services for small businesses, is on a growth trajectory. The company is adding to its workforce steadily in 2020, while also identifying more challenging opportunities internally for high-performing staff. Through July, Ruby will have added more than 110 new employees to its ranks, representing an 8% increase in staffing so far this year. The company anticipates bumping up those numbers by at least another 60 before year-end, and it is placing a strong focus on promotions to fill open positions.

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You’re an extraordinary person. I’m not just saying that to make you feel good about yourself. I’m telling you’re extraordinary because, well, you are. 

You’ve lived through a pandemic, my friend. 

Not only that, but you’re still in business during a pandemic. And now you’re using time in your busy day to read an article about how to make your customers’ lives easier. Take a moment to recognize your remarkable grit, strength, and empathy. 

Go ahead—pat yourself on the back.

Literally! I’ll do it with you. 

Ready?

Pat. Pat. Pat.

How does it feel to appreciate yourself? Maybe it feels weird, but I hope it’s at least a little comforting, too. 

The truth is that many of us are feeling underappreciated, exhausted, and monumentally stressed right now. We’re all in need of some TLC (and I don’t mean this TLC, although they certainly can’t hurt). That includes your customers.

Be kind to yourself. Be kind to your customers.

Like you, your customers could use extra care right now. They’re scared, they’re frustrated, and they’re looking to businesses like yours for help, reassurance, and guidance during these challenging times. 

One of the most meaningful and direct ways to show kindness and step up for others is through your customer service interactions. The words your team uses over the phone and in chat conversations can inform and empower the people you serve. This is a core pillar of the Ruby Service Pyramid—we call it “giving people what they don’t even know they want.” 

For more about the Ruby Service Pyramid and how it can supercharge your customer service, read our blog post.

I’m talking about questions that delve into people’s levels of COVID-19 anxiety and awareness, questions that help you gauge each person’s sensitivity to public health concerns and other external pressures. These kinds of questions serve multiple purposes:

They help customers feel confident and secure in your business.

They establish the right expectations at the outset.

They equip customers with the information they need to keep themselves and others safe.

By anticipating customers’ needs and allaying their worries proactively, you’ll avoid potentially awkward, irritating, or even dangerous interactions later on. You’ll also give them the space and encouragement to ask proactive questions themselves. 

9 customer service questions to ask.

Here are nine examples of the kinds of questions customer service professionals should be asking customers right now.

1. “How are you?” 

This basic, open-ended question sets the stage for the entire customer service experience. It tells you what emotions the customer is feeling, where the customer’s priorities lie, and how receptive the customer is to a genuine conversation. It also starts the exchange off on an empathetic note—you’re centering their feelings and their needs.

2. “What can we do for you today?”

Another simple-seeming question that uncovers a world of potential emotions, expectations, and preferences. This is an opportunity to truly listen to the customer and hear both what they’re saying and what they might be hesitant to say.

3. “Were you able to find all the information you needed before contacting us?”

Here, again, we have an opportunity to learn about and listen to the customer. Perhaps they have uncertainties they wouldn’t be willing to share or know how to express without prompting. A well-trained customer service professional is able to gently guide the conversation and unearth hidden concerns.

Another way to frame this question is “Are there any immediate questions you have before we begin?”

4. “Are you or is someone you live with immunocompromised?” 

This sounds like a direct question, but it can reveal a lot about a person’s perspective and mindset. Perhaps the customer isn’t aware of what “immunocompromised” means or why it matters, or isn’t sure what qualifies. In that case, the customer service professional can offer clarification—e.g. “I’m asking because we want to make sure we’re not putting anyone at risk…”

5. “Would you like more information about our health and safety procedures?”

Keep in mind that many customers aren’t aware of the ins and outs of public health guidance, or the precautions various businesses are taking. They may not care—and that’s fine—but it’s important that you offer the information to those who do want to know.

6. “Do you have any additional health or safety concerns we should be aware of?”

This is another question that demonstrates empathy and allows you to tailor the experience to each individual’s needs. Maybe a customer is allergic or sensitive to certain cleaning chemicals, or maybe they follow specific precautions when entering and leaving their home that they’d like others to know. In any case, you’re showing respect for the person and their personal health and safety.

7. “Does our current timeline work for you?”

Many businesses are spread thin right now. If you’re operating with fewer employees or resources than you were last year, you may not be able to get things done as quickly as before—and your customers should be aware of that.

Whenever possible, provide customers with precise times and dates for visits, installations, deliveries, completion of projects, and so forth. But if you can only give a window, make sure your customers are aware of that and understand why. Delays and missed appointments tend not to happen when businesses offer specific, realistic information.

8. “Are you aware of our pricing and payment options?”

Remember that your customers are probably spread thin as well. Given the current unemployment rate, many individuals and families are struggling financially or experiencing financial instability.

Rather than waiting until billing to learn whether a customer is able to pay, open the conversation in a friendly, compassionate way early on. Show your customers that you’re aware of the potential economic strain they’re under, and that you want to make sure the business arrangement works for them.

9. “Would you like to share any feedback with us about your experience today?”

Finally, invite your customers to tell you how they feel about their exchanges over the phone or via chat. If you understand what you’re doing well and what you can improve on, you’ll know what questions to ask in the future and ultimately better serve your customers.

These are just a few examples of the kinds of questions you can ask to keep your customers happy, healthy, and safe. For more ideas on optimizing your customers’ experiences, use our customer service audit checklist.

Ask the right questions every time with Ruby.

As an extraordinary business owner, you deserve an extraordinary live receptionist and chat service. 

When you use Ruby, you ensure every customer talks to a friendly, expert customer service professional trained to capably represent your business. It’s all remote and available when you need it.

Discover what makes Ruby special.

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Creative Ways to Show Love from a Distance

Reading time:

I have some exciting personal news: I recently earned my communication degree from Portland State University! 

But this blog post isn’t really about that. It’s about what happened a few days later, when I woke up, looked out the window, and saw a dozen flamingos standing in my front yard.

I’d been flocked.

If you’re unfamiliar with flocking—like I was until a few weeks ago—you might think I’m talking about real live, walking, squawking flamingos. I’m not. That would be terrible for all parties involved (although the birds could probably handle it—I mean, they can drink boiling water).

Flocking is the much more feasible—but no less ridiculous—practice of scattering plastic flamingo lawn ornaments all over someone’s property.

It’s a big, pink, fun expression of love…and it made my week.

It also made me understand something I’d always known on an intellectual level but never fully appreciated.

Love comes in many forms.

The sense of joy I experienced looking out upon a bunch of lawn ornaments felt almost as real as the comfort of a real-life hug (remember those?!). Because, well, it was as real. It was an equally tender act, with the same thought, care, and emotion behind it.

Successful business leaders understand this. Rather than let physical distance get in the way of their customer and client relationships, they find creative ways to show their appreciation and build loyalty. They know there are plenty of opportunities (and reasons!) to show love to their customers and clients, even when they can’t see, smile at, or shake hands with anyone in-person. 

Cue the Bette Midler—here are a few ways you can show love… from a distance.

1. Surprise deliveries.

Just closed a major deal with a customer and want to show your appreciation? Want to thank a client for years of business? Send ‘em something!

It doesn’t have to be a flock of flamingos (by the way, the correct collective term is a “flamboyance” of flamingos). You could send that customer or client…

  • flowers
  • pizza
  • a gift basket
  • cupcakes
  • a bottle of wine or champagne
  • branded company merch—such as a hat, t-shirt, or mug

The list goes on. Whatever you send, be sure to keep it tasteful, and try not to overthink it or overspend. The goal is to delight your customer or client with something small they’ll actually use or consume.

2. Rewards, discounts, and freebies.

Small gestures to thank customers are nothing new. Businesses have thrown in freebies for centuries, long before the era of social distancing and quarantines. Consider the 13th pastry in a baker’s dozen, for instance. These little gifts are sometimes called lagniappes.

A lagniappe can be an extra physical item, such as a branded pen or sticker pack, that you throw in with each customer order. But it can also be digital in nature. You could email your customers discount codes, send them URLs to a “secret” page on your website, or donate a portion of every sale to a charitable cause in their name. 

3. Personalized thank-yous.

Sometimes the simplest forms of gratitude are the most powerful. In lieu of freebies—or better yet, in addition to them—send your customers or clients thoughtful, personalized, handwritten thank-you notes

These messages don’t have to be very long—just a few sentences at most. For the best results, tailor each message to the customer or client. Incorporate specific details where you can. For example:

“Dear Susan,

I wanted to thank you for supporting our business. I know it’s pretty hot right now down there in Austin, so I thought I’d send you this Ben & Jerry’s gift card. 

Treat yourself—it’s on us!”

Or…

“Hi Mike!

It was great catching up with you on the phone the other day. I know you’ve been with us since 2010, and I wanted to thank you again for all your business over the years.

I’ve included a discount code for 50% off your next order—enjoy!”

You can send these as physical notes, through email, or even via personalized videos. Just make sure to keep the message short, sweet, and genuine.

4. Free digital content and downloads.

You don’t have to wait until someone places an order, pays an invoice, or signs up for a list to show them some love. You don’t even have to wait for them to become a customer or client. One easy and valuable way to inform, appreciate, and delight people is through the content on your website and social media profiles.

Write some articles. Create a free guide or ebook. Share a favorite recipe, activity, or playlist. Post a link to donate to a local nonprofit organization. Your online presence provides your business with countless opportunities to make a difference in the lives of your customers or clients. 

Plus, it’s good for your business. Content is one of the most effective forms of marketing out there. Trust me—I have a degree in this stuff.

5. Virtual experiences.

Okay, this one’s a little more involved than the other ideas here, but it’s too cool not to include. 

Vacation rental company Airbnb has started offering online experiences for people who are unable or unwilling to travel. Customers can cook alongside master chefs, play Ancient Greek trivia games, learn how to make sangria with drag queens, meditate with Buddhist monks, and much more.

It’s the perfect kind of pivot for a service like Airbnb. As always, the company is connecting people in search of fun and adventure—but doing it in a virtual format.

I’m guessing your company probably can’t offer virtual card magic classes or motivational seminars led by Olympic athletes. But take some time to think about whether there are unique experiences and elements of your business you can bring online. 

Maybe you could host a customer book exchange. Or put together a virtual fundraiser. Or share a song of the day on your Twitter profile. Or launch a pay it forward campaign, where customers can throw in a little extra to cover a portion of the next customer’s order.

The possibilities are endless, and you can go as big or keep it as small as you want.

What everyone really wants: extraordinary customer service.

The most direct and meaningful way to show your customers you love them is through customer service. The moment when someone calls or starts an online chat with your business is an opportunity to bring them joy, win their business, and earn their loyalty.

Looking for more customer experience tips? We’ve created a pretty cool, fun-to-look-at, comprehensive checklist to help you jumpstart your service.


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Many business owners get lost in calculating the customer service
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  • What should you invest in?
  • What are the most important customer service skills?
  • What do your customers actually care about?

To help you succeed and grow in today’s business environment, we’ve distilled everything we’ve learned and consolidated the most important best practices into the only customer service checklist you’ll ever need.


Use this resource when monitoring your customer service to audit your approach and optimize your customers’ experiences. We’ve also included a wealth of information about the most important customer service skills, from the basics to the advanced.

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Business Unusual: Round Table Part 2

Reading time:

In the second video in a two-part interview series, Katie Hurst continues to talk change with a panel of entrepreneurs about the state of business in a post-COVID world.

Katie Hurst:
Hi, my name is Katie Hurst and I’m the Director of Communications here at Ruby. And I’m so excited to introduce our panelists today as part of our small business series: Business Unusual.

Katie Hurst:
Today, we’re going to be talking about moving forward, discussing what comes next and how businesses are planning ahead. So I’m going to start and have everyone introduce themselves. Let’s go ahead and start with Robin.

Robin DeTrude:
Hi, I’m Robin DeTrude. I am the owner of Elaine’s Salon located in Fishers, Indiana.

Katie Hurst:
Thank you, and Robust Promotions.

Greg Seei:
Hi, I’m Greg. I’m with Robust Promotions. We’re a sweepstakes and promotions agency for retailers.

Leslie Allison:
And I’m use wife, Leslie, and we’ve been doing this business for 14 years now.

Katie Hurst:
Awesome. All right. And Joshua …

Joshua Zissman:
Hi. I’m the Chief Operating Officer for an oral surgery practice outside of Philadelphia.

Katie Hurst:
Greg and Leslie, you guys have mentioned this has kind of forced you to go virtual and the remote piece, so what apps and tools have you added or started utilizing because of the changes in the way we work?

Leslie Allison:
Well, Zoom for one, and I’ve done a lot of webinars on how to do the Zoom. We’ve also gotten into the Facebook ads, the Twitter ads, the LinkedIn ads, so we’ve done a lot of advertising that way. And to that end, then there’s an app called as Zapier-

Katie Hurst:
Zapier, mm-hmm (affirmative).

Leslie Allison:
Yep. So that we get those leads that come directly to our phone. So, that way we can follow up as well. A lot of Google Share and Greg in particular has been doing a lot of Skyping with our VP and doing a lot of Screen Share as well.

Greg Seei:
Right. Yeah.

Katie Hurst:
Yeah, you guys are entering my territory with LinkedIn and Facebook ads and Zapier.

Leslie Allison:
Oh, right.

Katie Hurst:
Yeah, Zapier is a great tool because it can connect so many different things. It’s really awesome, so that’s great. Robin, how about you? What apps and new tools have you added into your repertoire?

Robin DeTrude:
Well, actually Zoom has been huge for my staff and I to stay connected and to see each other spaces and hear each other’s voices. I think that was very important for us to stay united in that way. A lot of texting, a lot of texting, some emailing, mostly Instagram on my personal and my business, some Facebooking as well for business, and Ruby. Ruby was wonderful for us. I mean, all I have to do is pull up my Ruby app, just mentioned what I need to do and you guys were all over it and it was amazing. And the fact that you didn’t even make the salon … You put our account on hold, was … I mean, you don’t understand. For a small business like ours, those expenses are … they’re overwhelming for us. And so that was absolutely wonderful.

Katie Hurst:
Oh, I’m so glad that we could be of service.

Robin DeTrude:
Absolutely.

Katie Hurst:
I mean, that’s been so hard for us, is to see our small businesses have to go through such a rough time. And so anything we can do, we’ve been trying, including-

Robin DeTrude:
And I felt that. And I felt that and appreciated it so very much. And even checking in, you guys even checked in on us. It was very, very special. So thank you for that.

Katie Hurst:
Our pleasure. Well, and so that brings me to a question that’s not on the list, which is most of you have teams or work with individuals, so what are some ways that you guys have stayed connected during this time? Leslie, and you mentioned you’re doing a lot of webinars to stay connected to what’s out there. Just out of curiosity, Greg and Leslie, what other ways are you trying to stay connected to the other folks you work with and your client?

Leslie Allison:
Right, and I would say as far as our clients are concerned, I’m going back to the old fashioned way. I’m picking up the phone and I’m calling them, just to check in to see how everybody’s doing. So there’s been a lot of that as well. Not everybody likes to do the Zoom thing.

Greg Seei:
We were able because other people are in similar situations, people … It’s all new territory. We reached out to a firm that kind of rebuffed us before because they were busy with a little company called Pfizer. We called them this time and said, “Hey, we’re still a small agency, but we really like what you’re doing with social media advertising and all the rest. And we noticed that you had the Home & Garden television account.” They said, “Yeah, we had it for five years,” and lots of sweepstakes and promotions were offshoots of that because they realized how lucrative that was for their online advertising because people were so into that product and that property.

Greg Seei:
So they took us on. They took us on without charging us and taught us things that we wouldn’t have opted for because we, not knowing what we were doing, I didn’t want to look at a $10,000 price tag while we were learning each thing. So we were able to do things now because their bandwidth was available and they weren’t charging us while we were learning, and those things are starting to take off. So they planted seeds they otherwise wouldn’t have. We learned along the way and now we’re both going to profit.

Leslie Allison:
And we’re playing that forward because Airbnb, they got shut down pretty badly as well, so they had to pivot and they went to Airbnb Experiences. And so for Easter Sunday, obviously we couldn’t get together with our family. We have four grandkids that are under the age of nine and it was breaking my heart and I wanted to do something. And so it came up on my email that Airbnb was doing these experiences, and one of them was a magician that could do this Zoom magic tricks. And so we all signed in and we, even my mom who was out in Utah, signed in on this and it was a wonderful experience. And as it turned out, we were his very first clients. And Greg and I tend to make friends every place we go, whether it’s on Zoom or in real life, however it happens. Long story short, too late now, Greg has been mentoring him every Tuesday. Greg takes an hour and gets on the phone with this young man, and he’s now doing … Go ahead. I won’t steal your thunder.

Greg Seei:
Yeah. He’s in London and he’s a magician and he quit high school and he’s about 30 years old. He’s been doing it for, what, 13 years. And he did this with us because he was targeting families for birthdays and things like that. And I said, “Well, go do corporate stuff, and you get 200 people at a time and charge per head.” And so he’s got Google and Netflix or … yeah, Netflix and …

Leslie Allison:
Dyson.

Greg Seei:
Dyson and … He’s got a bunch of huge companies that are coming back in droves. And he was one of only six things she could pick for experiences. Now there’s 10 magicians and he’s at the top of those 10 magicians. There’s tons of them. She’s done like … I don’t know, make a-

Leslie Allison:
He has six world records.

Greg Seei:
… sangria with drag queens in Portugal. I mean, she’s done some crazy crap. But anyway, his thing is just going through the roof. He’s making more in a day than he used to make in a month.

Katie Hurst:
That’s incredible. What a great story!

Leslie Allison:
Anyway, now we have taken the gentlemen of the company that you’ve been working with, and tomorrow our virtual mentoring session-

Greg Seei:
We’re going to hook those two together. The head of the company that wouldn’t work with us before is now going to work gratis for this gentleman in London who took a lockdown to go global. He had a local lockdown in London that made him go global. He’s working in the States, he’s working in Japan, all over Europe.

Katie Hurst:
That’s amazing. What a great story. Robin or Joshua, I know that’s going to be hard to top, but are there ways that you guys are staying connected with your teams or clients that are interesting?

Joshua Zissman:
I mean, there’s always the typical things, but the reality is that it’s more of a slog than anything else for us at this point. I mean, we’re just really trying to make sure that we maintain our patient base and that we’re reaching out to as many people as possible. I think the thing that made it most interesting, I don’t know if the other folks on the call applied for PPP?

Leslie Allison:
Yes.

Greg Seei:
Yes.

Joshua Zissman:
So that experience was a whole different universe as well.

Leslie Allison:
Yes!

Joshua Zissman:
Our bank was a little bit … interesting is one way to put it, but it was at 5:30 AM on a Saturday morning that we got our application in because the bank didn’t have the application ready until 4:00 AM. And so my controller said, “We need to get on the phone together, Share Screen so we can fill out the application.” So it was just a whole … which we got. We got the PPP money, which has saved the practice, but it was definitely one of those things that, it’s like, “Okay, what else am I going to do at five o’clock on a Saturday morning?”

Greg Seei:
Right.

Joshua Zissman:
So that’s not about spending time doing the kind of lovely things that you guys did, but it was just an interesting experience to have to make those things work like that.

Greg Seei:
Yeah.

Katie Hurst:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). So talking about PPP is actually a great segue into the next question… what factors do you think will make or break a business’s success post-COVID? And Josh, let’s just stick with you.

Joshua Zissman:
I think it really depends upon the business. We have good friends, quite frankly, who have a hair salon and other friends who are restaurant owners, and I really feel badly for them. I mean, I don’t know what else to say. We have friends … It’s a personal note; I’m vegetarian vegan. One of the best vegetarian vegan restaurants in the country is in Philadelphia and they’ve been shut down and it’s been … it’s horrible. I mean, they are really, really struggling. They were super successful. They have three restaurants, two in Philly, one in Washington DC, and they were just killed. And it’s just awful to see people who were … I mean, you had to call months in advance to get a reservation at these restaurants. I mean, that’s how successful they were. And they’re down to doing some takeout Friday and Saturday night for a limited number of people who order a day or two in advance. I mean, it’s awful.

Joshua Zissman:
So, from our own business perspective, we are doing okay. I really am not sure what it’s going to take to survive because the pattern of patients coming to us is very different. Normally we get people who would make an appointment two, three weeks in advance. Now they’re making the appointment the next day or the day after. So, I look at my schedule right now for the rest of the week and I see a lot of white space, which is not a good thing. And I’m sure that from the hairdresser, from a salon perspective, that hole in the schedule is a scary thing. So we’re definitely hoping that the pattern of appointment making will go back to the old way, though I don’t know if it will or not. And once our referrals come back online, maybe that will help as well. But in the meantime, it’s definitely a situation where we’re gritting our teeth every day until we see the next day’s schedule and the next two days’ schedules fill up.

Katie Hurst:
Well, and so Robin, since he specifically was just mentioning hair salons, have you seen something similar where it’s just the level of appointments is pretty unpredictable?

Robin DeTrude:
Actually we are booked solid, and if anything, we cannot get new people in or anything for about three weeks out. Now, having said that-

Joshua Zissman:
I was going to say the big differences is that in Pennsylvania right now, in our area, hair salons are not allowed to be open.

Katie Hurst:
Oh, gotcha. Okay.

Robin DeTrude:
See, they’re in that different phase.

Joshua Zissman:
They’re really hurting.

Robin DeTrude:
Yeah. Now having said that though, the way that we have to book now cuts my stylist’s income down. So, we can’t double book. We can’t squeeze someone in. If you don’t have an appointment, you cannot come in the salon. It’s just that simple for right now. Which also makes people that want to come in and buy product or buy a gift certificate for Mother’s Day or anything like that, that does hurt our bottom line. But at the same time, for right now, I think that the most important thing is, is that as an owner, I have to keep my staff; I need them to feel safe, I need our clients to feel safe and cared for, and communication is key. You know, we have signs on the door; we have signs as you come in. They can’t go past a certain place in the salon.

Robin DeTrude:
So hopefully once those … I’m thinking those things will be lifted and then we can go back. Just like what Joshua said earlier, I don’t think it’s ever going to go back to the way that it used to be. I could be wrong about that, but honestly, I think we’re looking at a new way of doing business and I hope we can get some form of new normal, where it’s comfortable again and our lobby is open again, because our salon is beautiful and people love to come and hang out. That’s what they do. And they sit with other clients and whatever; they’ve gotten to know each other. And those days are … for right now, those are done.

Katie Hurst:
Well, and sticking on you for a second, what factors do you think will make or break a business’s success? I know you mentioned your husband also owns a small business.

Robin DeTrude:
Yes. Well, I think that we need to stay … You have to communicate. I think that’s one of the biggest things right there. You have to communicate. Say what you mean and do what you say. And if that means you keep signs up or you keep your mask on and hold on to these guidelines, then that’s what you do. That’s what you do. And I think organization is key. Those things, being able to organize your schedule … Our schedule looks so different now. And you have to make time to do extra sanitation measures. You have to make time to make sure that laundry is in the perfect place because it has to be contained, and then it has to be washed in a certain temperature and certain soap now. I mean, it’s a lot. It’s a lot, but my staff is rising to the occasion. They’ve got it. They’ve got it handled.

Katie Hurst:
So I want to finish with … we’ve talked a little bit about some of the difficulties, we’ve talked about some of the changes, but you guys are amazing small business owners. You’re doing your best to get through it. So let’s talk about your wins. Let’s talk about some celebrations. So with Greg and Leslie, let’s go ahead and go to you. What has been your biggest win in navigating these times?

Greg Seei:
The rigors of going through the stuff with the social media advertising, that we didn’t have much experience with, made us create some assets. One of those was a video. That video got noticed by a editor of a publication and so we’re going to get some free earned PR out of it. And that’s going to help our transition into the new sector that we’re going after, C-stores and fuel retailers. So, just-

Katie Hurst:
That’s awesome.

Greg Seei:
… one step led to another and then kind of snowballed.

Leslie Allison:
And to me, it was making new friends, making our friends overseas.

Katie Hurst:
I love it. Well, Josh, how about you and your biggest win in navigating COVID?

Joshua Zissman:
I think the biggest win, quite frankly, is throughout the whole thing, as of right now, we’re able to keep all our staff on. There was some level … I mean, staff was furloughed, but basically we were able to bring everybody back and we maintained their benefits throughout the whole period. So, hopefully we will obviously be able to continue now keeping people working and keeping her benefits, but no one lost their benefits throughout the two and a half months we were only able to see emergent and urgent patients. So I’m really happy that we were able to do that, and I think the staff is too. That to me is the biggest win, which is of course coupled with hopefully our level of busyness and things like that will start to rise back to our old levels.

Katie Hurst:
That’s incredible.

Greg Seei:
Joshua, do your benefits include dental?

Joshua Zissman:
Yes, they do, as a matter of fact. I was actually instrumental in getting dental added, which is actually … It’s an interesting thing you should ask that because many dentists and oral surgeon offices do not have dental because the doctors say, well, they’d just take care of their staff. But that doesn’t help if you have to be referred out to an orthodontist or whatever. So I personally wanted dental coverage because this is an oral surgery practice, not a dentist office. So yes, we do offer … Actually we have a full … We just revamped our 401k program; we added life insurance and AD&D. So the benefits are actually … been enriched during this period as well.

Katie Hurst:
That’s incredible. I really have to commend you for taking care of your staff like that, and really striving to make sure that everyone … that was your number one goal of making sure that people were able to continue with their benefits, so nice work on that, sir. Raising my glass to you.

Joshua Zissman:
And actually one other piece of it, which I thought was … So the managing partner, throughout the time that people were laid off and were collecting unemployment, he also sent out three different rounds of $100 checks to everybody. I mean, they weren’t working, but he just said, okay, this is something he wants to do. Because frankly, we have a lot of single moms in our practice as employees, and whatever it was, it was a great added thing which he absolutely didn’t have to do at all. He just felt it was something he really needed to do. So it was very, very cool.

Katie Hurst:
That’s great. So Robin, we’ll end with you. What has been your biggest win in navigating COVID?

Robin DeTrude:
Again, I cannot sing their praises enough, my staff. My staff … I knew I was a lucky gal before COVID hit, and let me tell you, my staff has rose to this … it’s rose to the occasion, this nasty virus, and just has lifted me up. They followed my lead, but most importantly they trusted me to lead them through something that we’d never been through before. And unity in the salon is key, and at Elaine’s we have that.

Katie Hurst:
Oh, that’s so wonderful. I mean, working in such close quarters, typically you can’t avoid but get close-

Robin DeTrude:
Absolutely.

Katie Hurst:
I love it. Yes. Well, thank you so much, you all, for participating in this wonderful round table. Your stories are so incredible, and I know that other business owners are really going to benefit from having your insights and what you’ve learned come out of this. So thank you so much. For those of you watching, be sure to check out the rest of our Business Unusual series and subscribe on our YouTube.

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Jill Mckenna:
Hi, I’m Jill McKenna. I am the campaign marketing manager at Ruby, and today I’m so delighted to be speaking with Melissa Barker. Melissa is a business coach and social media consultant who has been helping businesses with marketing and sales strategy for over a decade. She’s a trailblazer in the field of social media and the author of the first college textbook. She’s literally written the book on social media marketing. The book is called Social Media Marketing: A Strategic Approach, and it’s going into its third edition. Thanks for joining us, Melissa.

Melissa:
Thank you so much for having me.

Jill Mckenna:
Well, how do you feel right now about gated versus non-gated content? So meaning, when we ask somebody to do something, we asked them to fill out a form or information before they get to the item that we would like to them to have or experience, how are you seeing companies use gated content well, or is it a time to maybe not be using gated content?

Melissa:
Great question. I think that gated content still plays a very, very important role right now. I think that as long as you are delivering enough free information through your social channels and still making sure that you are having some non gated things, you can drive people to the gated content very comfortably, but no, do not throw out data content right now because we still need leads and we still need a way to stay in contact, and if the content is timely enough and high value enough, you’re still going to see people inputting their information to access it.

Jill Mckenna:
Great. And that is the exact thing I wanted to ask you about. What is the line right now between tasteful social media communication and needful communication? Because businesses, we obviously need to keep people employed. That’s really important to us, that we have employment and that people are solid and grounded. So how can we create mindful communication right now that is not grabby or needy or pushy and how can we walk that line mindfully?

Melissa:
Yeah, I think that’s a great question and a complex question, but I can offer a couple of ideas here. I think the first and foremost is to continue to acknowledge what’s happening in the world, so if we suddenly pretend that this isn’t happening, that people aren’t at home, that people aren’t losing their jobs in our communications, and it’s lots of, “Join us now,” with exclamation points and not having that acknowledgement, is problematic. We don’t need to sit in it, but first acknowledging it in your communications, and tone is everything right now. And I think really being mindful of making the offers that you have really come from that place of service and offering kindness in your calls.

Melissa:
And there’s a way to do that, I think, that is very tasteful, by really focusing on creating safety and being a voice in the community. Also, acknowledging the wonderful things that your employees are doing. So maybe having a little bit more content that is company culture than you normally would, and those sorts of things. Taking photos of the masks that your employees have made and sharing those on social media, and so you’re still aware and present of what is happening, but you can still be talking about your products, talking about your services and selling. I think you can do both, but it’s more important than ever that we show our human side right now in order to remain tasteful.

Jill Mckenna:
You’ve mentioned a couple of times coming from a place of service and how this is really a time to refresh that instinct. Do you have anything else to say about how we can come from a place of service or remind ourselves that our work should be fulfilling that role?

Melissa:
Yeah, absolutely, and so I’ve said this a few times, just [inaudible 00:03:37] anytime I’ve talked to people about social media or social media marketing, is that there’s two things we should always be aiming to do, and that is educating and inspiring. So everything we create should do one or both of those things, and I think that that is how you returned to a place of service, is when the focus is on, how can I give more? And that giving mentality, whether that’s of information, of inspiration, of talking about those intangibles and those benefits that you can really provide to people beyond the physical product, beyond the actual service. And I think that’s how we return is when we always have those two things in mind, education and inspiration, [inaudible 00:04:16] the content that we create, that we are servicing our community in a really big way.

Jill Mckenna:
Great. I know that in our instinct to try and create some levity and some joy, in light of current events, people are doing giveaways. Do you have any ideas or strategies for the way to think about conducting giveaways right now so that we can engage and welcome people and have fun with it, but also be aware and acknowledge that we’re aware of what’s going on?

Melissa:
Yeah. I think having the focus of those giveaways and contests be about drawing up positive stories is a really nice way. The traditional social media giveaway, like comment share, and you’re asking for tags of people and it’s not really adding any community content, but again, coming back to the origins of social media, social media has always been about connecting people. Businesses happened to insert themselves, and so we have to play by those rules, and so I think a really important way to utilize these contests and giveaways is to ask for community story. So instead of commenting and just tagging someone they know, maybe they write a story about why that person should win the giveaway or why this person did something really wonderful in the community, but elicit stories, elicit positive stories as a part of your contest, and that, I think, is really when you’re going to get people to engage in a really authentic way, and also create some joy within the community.

Jill Mckenna:
Speaking of joy, is it a good time for companies to maybe think about entering in to other channels that they haven’t pursued before? I am a person who has found tremendous joy enjoying TikTok during this pandemic time? Is it a good time for companies to think about avenues that they haven’t used before, like Instagram or even YouTube or Pinterest or anything else?

Melissa:
I would say that depends on a few factors. So, the first factor is what is your bandwidth realistically? If you’re a solo business owner who is struggling already with juggling everything, then I would say no, but I do think that if you have the bandwidth, it is a great time to test new avenues, but I would say do it in a very systematic way, not just hopping on and creating profiles on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, if you haven’t previously had them, but start with one, and start by observing what is being done in there before creating, so really observing what is going well. Look at other business owners, see what they’re doing and then mirror the things that you think are really effective. So yes, I think that this is a great time to experiment and A/B test in all sorts of ways, if there is that bandwidth, and if there’s a systematic approach, figure out what are your metrics before you join and what are you hoping to get out of those channels before you begin experimenting.

Jill Mckenna:
Are there platforms for automatically posting or things like Hootsuite that people could be using right now, and if they’re new to it, are there best practices that they should be mindful of during this time?

Melissa:
Yeah. So I think it’s worth noting that some of the platforms have scheduling capabilities already built-in natively. Facebook is a great example. There are definitely a whole host of tools, but to tell you the truth, a lot of those tools negatively impact the algorithm to a degree, and when you’re posting from a third-party service, it’s just not surfaced as often, but if you are someone who is stretched, bandwidth wise, Hootsuite is still my favorite go-to and I think has a lot of the integrations and even the free version, there’s a lot of opportunities there, but I think the biggest thing is to create a schedule for yourself and then either post on that schedule or use one of those tools. For sure.

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You run a plumbing business. Ruby runs a plumbing answering service. You should consider using us. But this isn’t about us. 

It’s about you.

Your plumbing business takes work. Perhaps you have a handful of employees, or maybe you’re the sole member of your organization. Either way, you work too hard, you don’t get paid enough, and you’re feeling like it’s time to grow.

There’s just one problem: you are the business. The success and customer loyalty you’ve earned have come from your skills and personality. If you focus on business management, your customers will lose out on the exceptional service and personal touch you provide. But if you keep putting your head down and doing all the work yourself, you’ll never reach that next level. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day to engage in both business development and the demands of the job.

How do I know all this? Because practically every plumbing company that’s ever existed has faced—or is currently facing—the same dilemma. Take it from Steve Allen, owner of Allens Plumbing, whose story was recently featured in Plumber magazine:

“The toughest thing is setting down the tools. [Managing the business] was a very rough transition. But it wasn’t a good combination to work in the field and also try to run the business at the same time. You cannot be in the field and manage a business of any magnitude properly. You just can’t.”

How do Allen and other successful owners make the jump? 

How can you smoothly transition from lead plumber to plumbing company leader? 

Plumbing answering services are a key piece of the puzzle. Here are a few ways a service like Ruby unclogs your workflow and makes life easier for you, your team, and your customers. 

A plumbing answering service allows you to work smarter, not harder.

Plumbers are busy people. Many work in excess of 40 hours per week, conducting multiple site visits in long shifts punctuated by unexpected crises and after-hours emergencies. After all, burst pipes and clogged toilets hardly ever happen at opportune times.

And then there’s everything else beyond the installation and repair work: customer calls, scheduling, workforce training, transportation, sales and marketing, and so on

A plumbing answering service eliminates many of these burdens and streamlines communication, so you and your team can focus on the jobs in front of you. 

With a service like Ruby, your company benefits from friendly, trained professionals who are available on-demand to talk to customers, represent your business, transfer calls, set up appointments, and more. There’s no need to let calls disrupt your work or hire on-site receptionist staff who you need to actively train and monitor. It’s one less thing (or, more accurately, 10 less things) to worry about.

A plumbing answering service converts more sales leads.

In the plumbing industry, sales opportunities are unpredictable by nature. You never know when a new customer will reach out, what they’ll need, or how quickly they’ll need it.

Given the current state of customer service expectations, it’s imperative that no call goes unanswered. Customers are no longer willing to try your number multiple times or leave a voicemail and hope you’ll call back. If someone doesn’t reach you immediately, that person will probably move on and contact one of your competitors.

That doesn’t mean you need to wait by the phone all day and night. A plumbing answering service ensures you never miss an opportunity to connect with a customer or prospect. You can rest easy while you’re working—or literally resting easy—knowing that someone is capably handling external communication (and bringing your prospects ever closer to conversion).

A plumbing answering service helps you prepare for and personalize every site visit.

Every plumbing project and site visit is unique. And every customer is unique, with their own preferences, levels of understanding, and service expectations. Some know their stuff; others are depending on your expertise. Some are willing to wait and be patient with workers; others… not so much.

Put another way, plumbers are never totally certain what kind of situation—physical, emotional, or both—they’re stepping into.

Wouldn’t it be great to know everything you need to know in advance? To avoid issues that could balloon into customer complaints? To know which jobs and customers require that, shall we say, gentle approach?

A plumbing answering service like Ruby makes it possible. Our team leverages years of experience in the industry to effectively convey information between customers and businesses. We know how to manage expectations and read between the lines to determine not only what customers say they want, but what they might not realize they need. Equipped with this information, you can personalize every visit without needing to navigate the sometimes-thorny initial conversations alone.

A plumbing answering service empowers your customers.

Good communication flows in both directions. The better your customers understand your work and their own plumbing needs, the more detailed the information they can offer to you before you arrive—and the more appreciative they’re likely to be of your hard work.

With a plumbing answering service, you’ll open up customer communication and access to information, empowering your clients and ultimately improving the quality of your work. Ruby ensures customers receive the essential details about your company and capabilities, so they can make informed decisions about how to best use your services. 

We also facilitate conversations during and after the job, making it easy for your organization to provide customers with updates and follow up when projects are completed. Along the way, we’re always capturing the customer data you need to drive improvements to your business.

Grow your business with Ruby’s plumbing answering services.

I’ll say it again: you work too hard, and you don’t get paid enough. Don’t add more to your already-full plate by managing every aspect of business growth all by yourself. 

With Ruby, you’ll…

  • work smarter—not harder,
  • convert more leads,
  • improve customer service,
    and
  • stand out from the competition

…all without needing to retrain your staff, change your business structure, or hire more in-house employees.

Say hello to the next phase of your business’s growth with Ruby’s plumbing answering services. 

See how it works.

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Is your customer service WOW-worthy?

Reading time:

There is no denying we have transcended into a high-touch, high-tech, digital age.

But, even in this era of automation, focusing on the human element of your business can be your most valuable tool in impressing potential and current customers alike.

In fact, by 2020, customer service will replace price as the key brand differentiator.

Surprised?

Consider this: Word of mouth continues to be the most effective form of marketing in the business toolkit, and it is virtually free.

So, between meetings and fumbling through things like Google Analytics, how to design print ads, and donning every other hat of a business owner—how do you also create experiences worthy of your customer’s loyalty?

Enter the Ruby Service Pyramid.

At Ruby, our Service Pyramid starts with basic biz fundamentals and works up to the finer elements of our service.

We could break down the entire pyramid, step by step. However, for the sake of your time and the purpose of this blog post, we will skip straight to the heart of the matter:

Meaningful connections are the apex of customer service.

We have built our business on this idea. But, would personal connections matter to our customers if we weren’t able to pick up their calls?

Probably not.

Would it even be possible to connect with our customers if we didn’t deliver on the promise of our service?

Nope.

Investing in the proper technology, software, staffing, and metrics are essential in reaching a point where you can truly WOW your customers.

The next steps?

Well, there are a few between the bottom and the top of our Service Pyramid, but assuming you’ve gotten the hang of fostering a little happiness, anticipating your customer’s needs, and doing what you say you’ll do, you’re ready to…

Reach out and go the extra mile.

One fateful morning in Ruby history, a member of our Customer Happiness team was wrapping up a call with a customer:

Is there anything else I can do for you?

Well, we are pretty hungry. Lunch would be great!

After a shared laugh, the call ended and the Ruby began to wonder…

…Can I just…send them a pizza?

Voila. Just like that, our WOW program was born. We’ve been sending coffee cups with tea for a pick-me-up, sick packs, onesies, and more ever since.


But this isn’t just about the gifts. It’s about being human and engaging with our customer base in a way that matters.

So, when the time comes, how do you determine what to send a customer? When to send something? How do you even make these connections in the first place?

Great questions.

The art of personal connections:

Friendliness is key. Minding your p’s and q’s goes a long way in building rapport between you and your customer

Ask open-ended questions to spark connections.

Listen. Genuinely listen to your customers and you will offer something rare and invaluable in today’s world of business. Did a customer mention how excited they are about the Dodgers game tonight? Are they sniffling through a cold?

Follow up! Sometimes a hand-written notecard is all it takes to make someone’s day.

If you’re sending a gift, make sure it makes sense. Keep it:

  • Personalized. A Dodgers hat for the Dodgers fan excited for the Dodgers game.
  • Appropriate. The items you send represent your company.
  • Practice. The recipient should be able to use it.
  • TimelinessSend your gift along quickly to ensure relevance.

In taking the time to foster a connection, you’re elevating not only the experience of your customer but also that of your employees.

It’s all about engagement. Oh, and referrals.

Which just so happens to be the cherry on top of creating meaningful connections.

Since launching our WOW program, customers have made a point in sharing their enthusiasm for WOW gifts.

From Instagram and Facebook posts, to giving us a shout out in a blog about the ROI of personalized customer service, our customers have let us (and their friends) know that this way of doing business means something to them.

And ultimately, as a company that strives to preserve and perpetuate real, meaningful connections in an increasingly technology-focused, virtual world, that’s all we could hope for.

The short of it is:

Deliver a quality service or product.

Get to know your customers.

Connect and WOW.

Earn referrals.

Now, start WOWing your customers and watch your business grow.

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There’s a lot of talk in the news right now about “returning to work” after COVID. However, it’s clear to most employers (and their employees) that work as a construct has fundamentally changed.

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Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can feel like a painfully abstract chore for business owners – a coded game that you pay a tech wizard to win on your behalf – but it’s related more to basic business values than you might think.

Over time, search engines have become very good at understanding what people actually want from websites. They understand it by observing and charting the interactions between users and websites.

In other words: if your website is a place that people enjoy spending time, it will be a place that search engines recommend more frequently. In that sense, optimizing your website for SEO is very similar to setting up the best possible brick and mortar shop.

This quality is often described as User Experience (UX). There are lots of little tweaks you can make to optimize UX on your site, same as you would a store. And just as every store benefits from a friendly employee to welcome all visitors and answer questions, websites benefit from live chat.

What is User Experience (UX)?

UX pertains to how people feel about when they’re on your website. Scientists can (and do) get really deep on UX and interface theory, particularly as it intersects with cognitive science and digital interface design.

But here’s a shorthand version: if you can create a good user experience, people will spend more time on your website. Search engines notice when people spend significant time (or don’t) on your website. They do so with metrics like these:

  • Bounce rate
    What percentage of visitors visit your site and don’t take another action before leaving – the equivalent of a customer window shopping and quickly deciding this store isn’t for them.
  • Time on page
    How long someone spends on an individual page once they get there. A high average for time spent on a page can be one good indicator of valuable content.

Qualities of Strong UX

Broadly speaking, you want your website to affect visitors in the same way that your actual business does – projecting competence, thoughtfulness, and competitive edge. 

Content

A sense of value comes from relevant content that satisfies the questions your users have. For example, if someone searches ‘house sale listings in my area’ and clicks on your realty website, those listings should be readily available and up-to-date.

Web Design

Ease of navigation and interaction will keep people engaged. Do the pages load quickly? Is it easy to find the most important pages? Are the support resources for visitors struggling with any step of the process?

How Live Chat Improves UX

So, to review: improved UX will amplify your search engine rankings (and probably your sales in the meantime). And you can enhance your UX by creating a website that answers people’s questions, keeps them happily exploring, and possibly even providing you with contact info so you can convert them farther down the sales funnel.

Live chat is a powerful tool at your disposal to address all of those concerns at once.

How does live chat optimize your site’s UX? Here are some values…

Responsive

People’s customer service expectations keep rising and they want it now. A Salesforce survey found that 64% of customers and 80% of business buyers expect questions answered in real time. And nearly 3/4 of shoppers will switch brands if they don’t receive consistent service.

For web visitors, live chat offers the most immediate mode of response. Visitors don’t even have to pick up the phone. Instead of waiting for a visitor to reach out with a question, effective live chat systems introduce themselves as soon as a visitor arrives.

When I landed on the Ruby homepage today, for example, I was greeted by a little live chat box where an assistant offered guidance. I knew where I was going, but kept the minimized chat box in the corner, just in case.

Useful

Your website should gently lead visitors to the information they want. But no matter how perfectly you create content and design the site, people will have unique questions and access needs. There’s no substitute for live customer service in those situations.

A live chat assistant trained in industry terms and customer concerns can direct people to the info they need. They can answer questions directly and, in case they don’t have an answer right away, they can follow-up later on with it.

Access is also a tech issue – people are visiting through various desktops, tablets, and smartphones. According to Google, 79% of users are more likely to revisit a mobile-friendly site. The live chat tools you choose should be adaptable to these platforms.

Engaging

Live chat agents not only ask questions – they ask follow-up questions. It keeps people paying attention (and increases the time they spend on your site). It’s also a fantastic way to understand what people are looking for when they come to your site. If numerous people ask the same question to live chat, such as ‘where is your pricing page?’ then it’s probably time to rethink the placement of your pricing page. 

Live chat dialogue is also an effective (and accessible) way to capture contact info for lead acquisition. It does the work of a lead capture survey without putting the onus on the customer. When done well, it can also include all sorts of nuanced data that provides your sales team with extra personal touches for outreach.

Classic Customer Engagement In The Digital World

Focusing on User Experience can be one of the best tactics for boosting any business’s search engine rankings. When visitors spend more time on your site than your competitor’s site, Google and other engines take notice.

There’s really no faking those UX metrics, but you can improve the quality of UX by focusing on fundamentals: content, design, and customer support.

Effective customer support can keep visitors happy despite any complications they may have on your site, and live chat provides responsive, engaging, valuable support to visitors 24/7/365.

Interested in learning more about live chat? Download our guide, The Rise of Website Chat to get the full scoop!

Josh Orr is part of the team at Ercule, a content and SEO performance agency in Portland, OR.

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Already a Ruby customer?

Let’s get started.

Ready to turn more callers into customers?

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.