These days, it’s not unusual to interact with someone mostly or entirely online. Many of us have co-workers, colleagues, and friends we’ve only met over the internet. The same might be true for you and many of the people you serve. And potential customers (i.e. leads) want to meet you and your business online, too.

Although technology has changed, the basics of good business have remained the same. Sure, the world is growing more digital by the day, but all people—and especially your potential customers—still crave human connection before they buy. 

It’s the age-old question of having your cake and eating it too: Is it possible to grow your business and become more digitally savvy while providing all leads with the human connection they crave? 

Meet the cake: website chat for your business. 

With business live chats, you can delight potential customers and have more time on your hands. 

Website chat can… 

  • Convert traffic into leads
  • Foster human connection with everyone who visits your website
  • Demonstrate the value of your business to prospects
  • Gain insight into your leads and their needs 
  • Save you time so you can meet the needs of current customers or even (gasp!) have a life outside of your business 

To demonstrate how live chat can help you reach more prospects while providing a better web experience for everyone, let’s go back to our friends Amy, Bryan, and Casey from the Story of a Lead. And since we’re talking cake… 

Let’s say you run a bakery.

That’s you!

To recap, we know of three leads who may be interested in buying baked goods from your business: Amy, Bryan, and Casey. Each is at a different point in the sales funnel.

As explained in her story, Amy is what we would call a sales-qualified lead. This means we know a lot about Amy, but she’s not yet a customer. In this case, you’ve already spoken to Amy about her budget, and you know she’s interested in a Jaws-themed cake for her dog, Bruce’s, birthday.

Amy is going to purchase from someone—the goal is to convince her to choose you to bake the cake.

Using self-service chat to convert a lead into a customer

Let’s imagine what would happen if you had a self-service chat option on your website:

It’s after business hours, and Amy is ready to decide. She goes to check out you and your competitor online one last time before making a final decision. 

Meet Amy (Bruce not pictured).

Your business has a self-service chat built into your website, and your competitor doesn’t. With live chat, you connect with Amy directly while she’s thinking about Bruce and his cake. You have the opportunity to speak with her about her needs and show her the unique value your bakery brings to the table. (Or is that “…brings to the dog-food bowl?” You get the idea.)

In any case, your competition doesn’t have chat. Your competition didn’t even know Amy was browsing their websites, trying to make a decision. 

During the chat, you explain to Amy that all of your cakes use pet-friendly ingredients (no chocolate, of course) and will save her time, so she can focus on planning the rest of Bruce’s birthday party. To sweeten her options, you tell her you’ll even throw in matching cupcakes for Amy’s human guests.  

You win Amy over, and she makes a deposit directly through your website. 

With live, self-managed chat, you’ve seized the opportunity to take Amy from a prospect to a customer because you had a way to connect on your website. It’s a digital channel that enables you to connect, human-to-human (specifically, human-to-human-with-dog-who-loves-shark-themed-birthday-cakes). 

Self-service chat is just one option. Not everyone has the time to chat with all of their prospective leads personally—you’re busy making cakes, after all. That’s where full-service chat can come in.

Using full-service chat to convert a lead into a customer

Let’s see how outsourced, full-service chat can convert a lead into a customer for your business. This time, we’re talking about Bryan.

Meet Bryan.

As we explored in his story, Bryan is a marketing-qualified lead. He’s reached out to you in the past. He’s even filled out your email subscription pop-up, but that means he’s going to have to wait until your next newsletter to hear from you…

…Unless, that is, you can engage with him via chat on your website.

Full-service chat again enables a human connection—but, this time, from a professional familiar with your business, a professional hired to engage with your prospects while you’re busy baking cakes for your other customers. 

The chat specialist is ready to respond live if and when Bryan visits your website and chooses to initiate a conversation. They can find out exactly who Bryan is and what he’s looking for:

Is he looking for a cake? Cupcakes? A pumpernickel loaf?

Is he even a prospective customer? Maybe what he’s truly interested in is turning his love of cooking and baking into a part-time job.

Or, perhaps he’s a potential partner—someone who has an in with a supplier who can get you your ingredients faster and cheaper.

Full-service chat will help you gather the data you need to figure out which way to convert Bryan or direct him to the right area of your business.

One of the greatest advantages of full-service chat is that it creates human connections 24/7/365. While you’re busy with other customers, your personal life, or—hey, how about sleeping?—a chat professional can help you filter prospects through your sales funnel. 

A full-service chat professional is trained on your specific business and knows what questions you would ask if you spoke to Bryan yourself. They can gather his contact information, answer some of his basic questions, and show him where to go on your website for more details about your business. Your chat professionals have helped you determine what kind of lead Bryan is, all while assisting Bryan to answer some of his basic questions in real time. 

Plus, you can go back and read the transcript of the conversation with Bryan. You can review the data from that conversation and plan for reaching back out to Bryan personally, on your time. 

Self-service or staffed by a professional, chat is a powerful lead conversion tool. If you hadn’t had chat on your website, Bryan and Amy would have been left alone in the digital universe—and may have chosen one of your competitors instead. 

Using automated lead capture to gather more data about leads

What about the leads at the very top of your sales funnel? 

Here’s where we can talk about our third lead, Casey. 

Casey saw your Instagram feed, where you shared photos of Bruce’s birthday cake. They then clicked on the link in your bio and ended up on your website. 

Meet Casey.

Let’s pause for a moment and consider what Casey might be looking for. Are they just curious about your business? Or might they be interested in a cake of their own? 

We simply don’t know at this point. We’re not sure where Casey is on their cake journey. Maybe they don’t even know yet. 

How can you find out? By using automated lead capture

With automated lead capture, visitors on your website trigger a pre-built conversational flow designed by you to help evaluate leads 24/7. The flow changes based on your visitors’ answers. It can gather basic contact information, link your visitor to important pages on your website, and help you determine who needs your help—and who’s just browsing. 

Casey interacts with your automated lead capture tool, and as a result, you know that Casey clicked on your Instagram bio to learn more about you, but that they’re not interested in buying anything at the moment. 

But although you didn’t make an immediate sale, you did capture a lead. Your website stood out to Casey—it provided them with a better experience than your competitor’s website. And when Casey does need a cake, they’ll remember that experience and how it felt. 

Learn more about leads.

Discover how to connect with and convert different kinds of sales leads.

Get the guide.

Ready to convert more leads? Add chat to your website today.

Amy, Bryan, and Case are just three types of potential leads. Building up your digital presence with chat and making your website a better experience for all visitors can help you learn about, qualify, and convert many more leads. 

The bottom line: by adding chat to your website, you can have your digital cake and eat it too.

Ruby empowers businesses of all kinds—from bakeries to consultants, from law firms to healthcare providers—to provide exceptional experiences for the people they serve. We provide multiple chat and lead generation solutions:

Full-Service Chat: Ruby is here 24/7/365 to connect with your website visitors through our Full-Service Chat. Our live chat specialists gather contact information, answer FAQs, and assist in qualifying leads, saving you time so you can focus on growing your business. You can see all your chat information alongside your call details on the Ruby Dashboard and Mobile app.

Automated lead capture: Ruby offers automated lead capture to all Call Ruby customers, so you can engage website visitors 24/7/365. The tool captures leads and answers questions through a conversational flow designed by you. Conversations can branch based on the visitor’s answers, allowing you to identify more urgent leads from those doing initial research. The conversation can also answer FAQs and encourage current or potential customers to call for additional assistance.

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We are so grateful to sit down with well-known small business community leader, journalist, podcaster, and entrepreneur Loren Feldman, of 21 Hats. In the first of our three-part conversation with Loren, we discuss necessary collaboration, problem solving, and shared knowledge for survival and success.

Read the Interview

Jill McKenna: Thanks, everybody, for joining us. I am Jill McKenna. I’m the campaign marketing manager here at Ruby, and I’m delighted today to be talking to Loren Feldman. Loren is many things, wears many hats—he’s a writer, editor, podcaster, blogger, entrepreneur. And Loren, you’ve been working in the small business sector and industry for a very long time. I know you’ve been an editor and writer for The New York Times, Forbes, Fast Company, Inc.—can you explain to our viewers a little bit more about your background and how I got to speak to you today?

Loren Feldman:
Sure. Well, thank you Jill. It’s a pleasure to be here. I appreciate your having me. I have been doing this a long time—about 20 years now, it pains me to say. Previously, I’d been a general interest journalist with magazines, a little bit of business stuff. I did go to business school, undergraduate. But in 2002, a friend of mine was named editor of Inc. magazine, and he was kind of figuring out what he was going to do with it, and I happened to have been fired from a job as editor of Philadelphia Magazine previously, So I was looking for something to do and he invited me to sort of just hang out, no pressure, see if I could help and get to know it.

I had had some experience with business journalism, but no experience with entrepreneurship, and I kind of fell in love with it. I thought I would be there for a few weeks, and 20 years later I’m doing the same stuff. It’s been great. I spent about six years at Inc. and then I went to The New York Times. They kind of asked me to build their version of an Inc. magazine as a web vertical inside The New York Times. I did that for about six years, and then I went to Forbes and they wanted me to do their version of it. And I spent about five years there.

They’re all great publications with really smart people. At each place, they all wanted something a little bit different, and I learned something really important at each of them. And then ultimately, about two years ago, decided to leave Forbes and try to bring it all together in one place. I found a partner who was kind of my backer and we created something we called 21 Hats, referring to all those hats that an entrepreneur has to wear. The idea was to try to bring together everything I’d learned at Inc. and the Times and at Forbes, and create the platform for business owners. Unfortunately, we ran into this pandemic thing you might’ve heard about, and our plans haven’t quite played out the way we hoped, but we’re still working on it and still trying to do some good stuff.

Jill McKenna:
I’m curious, with your work with the small business owners and in speaking to them, what are the creative collaborations or problem-solving practices that you’re seeing entrepreneurs embrace now? Which ones are working, and which ones maybe are not so much?

Loren Feldman:
Interesting. That’s a really good question—that I should have some more time to think about.

Jill McKenna:
I can come back to it.

Loren Feldman:
No, let me give it a shot. I’m trying to think of a good example. I think we’ve all been so thrown off by what’s happened. We’ve all had to develop new routines and figure out new solutions, do things differently. Again, a lot of that’s been out of desperation, and it’s been difficult and not all of it has succeeded, but I think it’s broken down barriers that will help a lot of people in the long run.

Just the fact that you and I are having this conversation over video right now—this kind of conversation happens—you’re doing this to publish it—but people are doing this all the time not to publish it. And one of the things that changed for me, we collaborated with a lot of people on webinars. I mean, webinars have existed for a long time, but the idea that we could get a large number of people to set aside time in the middle of their workday to watch a webinar at the drop of a hat—it never would have occurred to us. But it became something that was acceptable and people started doing it, and we found ways to partner with other companies that had information to share.

I just did a webinar for a really terrific organization called The Great Game of Business. They’re not that well known. They’re not a household name, but they have a cult-like following among people who believe in the practice of open-book management—the idea being that if you share what really drives your business with your employees, your employees will get much more engaged, they will care more about their jobs, they will look for opportunities to help the business, they will generate ideas from the frontlines that you otherwise wouldn’t have gotten. A lot of business owners who do it actually say it takes the weight of the world off them because it means they no longer have to answer or solve every problem themselves. A lot of the best answers—better answers actually—come from the frontlines, up to the top.

So anyway, they have a terrific organization. I’ve been going to their annual event every year for, I don’t know, close to 10 years. I’ve made a lot of great contacts there. This year, they to cancel it. Actually, I think it was held last week, or maybe this week—I’ve lost track now—but I suggested to them that they let me do a pre-conference webinar talking about all the reasons not to do open-book management, because a lot of people are skeptical of it. A lot of owners say, “Why do I want to share that information?” If they’re not doing well, they’re concerned that they’ll scare their employees away. They’ll run in the other direction. If they are doing well, they’re concerned that their employees will ask, “Well, why aren’t I getting paid more?”

Those are very legitimate questions. There are good answers to them. So, I pitched this collaboration: Let me do it. We’ll host it, but I’ll do it for you. And it’ll turn into a video that you’ll be able to use for years, because anybody who considers joining your organization and adopting this practice is going to have these questions. They’re going to want to get them answered. Let’s just create the best possible conversation we can. I took three of the owners from my podcast, who I knew were skeptical about open-book management, and got the organization to supply three of their superstars, people who have done this for years and had success with it, and we had a conversation. I orchestrated it, it got a little tense at times, because there were differences of opinion, but we got to the heart of the matter. We had entrepreneurs asking very real questions.

I’m sure we scared some people away. I’m sure we brought some people in. But that’s what we wanted to do. It’s not for everybody. Some people who were scared away should have been scared away—it’s not right for them. But for others that would work. And I’m hoping we had a conversation that helped a lot of people. I don’t know if that is what you were looking for, but that’s a collaboration that would not have happened if it hadn’t been for this crazy environment.

Jill McKenna:
Yeah. I mean, that’s exactly it. I’m seeing things happen that we…I liked to say as I was an entrepreneur with competitors and people in my industry, rising tide raises all ships, right? There are so many different ways to come together. When this all started, I was reading an article that was about Mark Cuban speaking to nonprofits about they’re going to be facing. And kind of the hard answer for them, from his mouth, which I think makes a lot of sense, is you might have to combine forces. You might have to meld your ideas into one. You can’t all survive and ask for the same amount of money. Some of you have better mailing lists, some of you have better adoption events, some of you have better whatever, and it’s maybe time to group, which I think makes a lot of sense. And I know that there’s even small businesses doing that. Does the city of Chicago need 25 comic book shops? No, but maybe it needs 10 or 15, and maybe you’ve got a better back catalog than I do, or whatever.

Loren Feldman:
Right. Some of that’s painful collaboration as people are weeded out, but certainly that kind of thing is happening.

Jill McKenna:
Right. And I’m curious, to that end, what do you love about entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship? This is your primary language. What do you love about it?

Loren Feldman:
Oh, I could talk for hours about that. I had no idea what I was getting into when I got into this. As I told you, I went to Inc—at the time, I had kind of specialized in helping magazines redesign and rethink what they were doing. I’d done that at a couple of places, and I thought I would do that at Inc. and then move on, but I really did fall in love with it. Part of it is I love the intellectual challenge. I love trying to figure out which businesses will succeed and which ones won’t, and how much of it is the idea and how much of it is the execution. To me, that’s all really fascinating. So that was part of it.

Entrepreneurs are really interesting people. I’m not going to tell you anything you don’t know. Obviously, they’re by definition risk-takers. One of the things that I learned doing this is something that a lot of my colleagues as business journalists still don’t fully understand. I mean, I’ve worked with some of the smartest business journalists in the world at Forbes and The New York Times. And they would often ask me, “Why are you interested in covering small business or entrepreneurship?” To them, all they heard was the word “small.” They understood that it was important in the aggregate, but they didn’t necessarily understand what I found exciting about it. And to them, it was, “Alright, entrepreneurship—I get it if you’re talking about a venture-backed company that’s going to take over the world and change the world, Uber or something like that”—that they got.

But the typical, smaller entrepreneur, who’s not venture-backed, they didn’t realize that that’s real risk. That’s risking your own money and your own livelihood—and often your own house. Most business journalists have no idea that it’s routine for a business owner to borrow against their own home. They think risk-taking is what happens on Wall Street, which is of course risk-taking with someone else’s money in most instances.

I love that I learned from a lot of people at Inc. Their star writer at the time was a guy named Bo Burlingham, who’s written some terrific books, including Small Giants and Finish Big. He kind of took me under his wing and I sort of followed him around for a few years, met a lot of great people, and learned a lot from him.

One of the things I learned from him is that he discovered that a lot of the best ideas in business bubble up from smaller companies. If you pay attention to what’s happening, they’re the ones that are really being creative. He was aware of that long before you saw big companies creating accelerators, deciding that their own R&D department wasn’t working as well as the startups out there that were independent and doing their own thing and not dependent on the budget of a big corporation. You’ve seen this trend of big companies trying to create their own accelerators to harness that power of entrepreneurship and startups. Bo saw this a long time ago.

Even what I just mentioned to you, the open-book management idea—that’s something that bubbled up from a small, failing company. It was actually a division of International Harvester that was told that had to shut down in Springfield, Missouri. They remanufactured engines there. And the head of the union at that shop said, “Wait a second, give us a chance. We’re going to buy this from you and we’re going to make it work as a company.”

They did that about 30 or 40 years ago, and it’s a more than $600 million business today with all kinds of divisions—all predicated on this open-book practice and, in fact, on employee ownership. They have people who work on the frontlines, working on an assembly line who retire as millionaires because they own a piece of the company. They have a stake in the outcome.

That’s a long answer to your question. But to me, learning about these things was really exciting. I loved meeting the people, hearing the ideas, and sharing what these companies have learned so that other companies can emulate them and try to do the same thing themselves. To me, that was really exciting.

Jill McKenna:
Yeah, and I think we’re seeing so much of that “difficulty breeds ingenuity” attitude right now. When I had a business, it started during a recession and it took off like gangbusters. And a really interesting story I came across doing this series is I talked to two folks in Louisville, Kentucky, and they were attending a protest after David McAtee’s murder. And during the protest in Louisville, Kroger shut down in the neighborhood with customers inside, said, “We’re not doing this,” boarded up the windows, people coming in got kicked out, and left the whole West End of Louisville in a food desert. They ended up starting their own delivery and order service for groceries for their neighbors and community—a nonprofit—and then they realized that the community really needed it.

Now they’re starting a for-profit business, and I’m not sure what the model is called—they’re taking very low profit—but what they’re doing is creating living-wage jobs and giving the employees at this market that they’re creating some status in the community—”These are good jobs. We’re not going anywhere. We’re not a nonprofit who’s coming in here, fly by night, ‘we’ll only be here six months’—we’re going to establish and stay here and create a community market so that we’re not reliant on these other companies that are just going to leave when things get hard.” That’s one of the coolest stories I’ve heard come out of this. And what a business model to create from difficulty that supports its own community and become symbiotic. It’s been great.

Loren Feldman:
That’s a great example. And actually, what you were saying about your own business, you only mentioned it briefly, but that’s a perfect example too. When I first got started and started meeting entrepreneurs like you, it was all new to me. And the idea that growing really fast, that that seemed like, well, that’s everybody’s dream, right? That’s what you want. That’s everybody’s goal. But the stress that that can create and the dangers of failure that that can create, I had no idea. I’m not saying anything that an entrepreneur like you doesn’t already know, but for someone from the outside, learning that, trying to understand that, that’s just a perfect example and why I loved meeting entrepreneurs like you as I started trying to figure this out.

Jill McKenna:
Yeah. I mean, it’s a tightrope every day with no net. It is every single day. Before I came to Ruby, which is such a great place for me to be, because I’m really serving small businesses which I understand so much, every single day was…you never knew what you were going to get. It was often in the car, eating grocery store sushi on the way from meeting the banker to go meet somebody to see if I want to hire them, to go meet a manufacturer, to go meet a vendor—and then, if I’m lucky, get home at a decent hour, eat dinner, and then start working again until midnight. It’s every day, and that was for 10 years. And yeah, I’m just sad I didn’t meet you sooner because I think we would have avoided some of the pitfalls of being successful. Nobody tells you in our country, with our model of business, that you can be too successful and you can be too successful too quickly.

Loren Feldman:
If you haven’t seen it, there’s a terrific book called No Man’s Land. It was written by a guy named Doug Tatum. What he writes, essentially, is that every company that has any success is eventually going to reach a point that he terms “no man’s land,” where the things that allowed you to succeed to the point where you succeeded are no longer going to work. You reach a point where you get a big contract or something happens and you have to step it up. And the people you have in place, maybe they’ve been great. Maybe they’re your friends, maybe they’re your relatives. They’ve been incredibly loyal, you love to see them, maybe you spend Thanksgiving with them, but they’re not the right person to take the next step, and you have to have a really difficult conversation with them. That’s just one small example. It might be your relationship with your bank that you’ve outgrown. There are any number of things. You’re going to hit a wall in all sorts of ways—and that’s if you’re successful! And that’s something a lot of people don’t realize. It’s just so hard.

Jill McKenna:
So if folks want to find out more about your podcast, your daily email, where can they go and find out more?

Loren Feldman:
Well, they can find me on LinkedIn if they’d like to connect. I’m always happy to connect with people. It’s a Loren, L-O-R-E-N, Feldman, F-E-L-D-M-A-N. They can go to 21hats.com and find our archive of podcasts there. We’ll be publishing a new one on Tuesday. We always publish on Tuesdays. Or they can go wherever they get podcasts, whether it’s Apple or Google or whatever.

Jill McKenna:
Thank you so, so much for your time and insight. I’m really appreciative.

Loren Feldman:
My pleasure.

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Welcome to the omnichannel world. These days, the pressure is on for every business to provide an omnichannel customer experience. 

Is your business keeping up? 

There’s a good chance you’ve already worked hard to be present for your customers where they are most active, online and in person. Perhaps you’ve met your customers on social media, you’ve built an engaging website, your business lobby is warm and welcoming, and you have real humans answering the phone. But you might still be missing something. 

Connection.  

Connection is the core of what we mean when we talk about an omnichannel customer experience.  

You know how to connect with your customers. You might even have a clear idea of what your customers want. But do your business tools and processes connect with each other enough to create a seamless customer experience?  

What does an “omnichannel customer experience” really mean?

Let’s start with definitions. Omnichannel means your customers are everywhere at the same time. Think of yourself as a customer and reflect for a moment: How many digital and in-person platforms have you used today alone? It’s probably more than you realize.  

An omnichannel customer experience means that your customer touchpoints (i.e. your website, social media pages, in-person experiences, and telephone experiences) all not only exist, but connect to create a seamless journey for your customers and potential customers.  

Humans are omnichannel. We interact with the world on multiple platforms all at once. The better those platforms interact with one another, the happier and more connected we feel.  

Creating an omnichannel approach to meeting your customers digitally and in-person starts with having a vision for what that might look like for your particular business. From there, the next step is making your omnichannel vision a reality, by using the right technologies to make all of your customer touchpoints seamlessly interconnected.  

In an omnichannel customer experience, all of the platforms your customers use to interact with your business (social media, webpage, telephone, live chat, in-person, etc.) are aligned and synchronized. Your customers can hop from one channel to another without having to build that connection all over again.  

Every business uses multiple channels to meet and engage with potential customers. Today, you would be hard-pressed to find a company that doesn’t have a website, social media pages, an email address, and a telephone number. These are all touchpoints or places that your customers can get in touch with your business. Most businesses are multichannel, meaning they have all these different ways to interact with customers.  

What’s the difference between multichannel and omnichannel?

The difference between multichannel and omnichannel is how touchpoints connect to one another. In a multichannel environment, a customer may not have a seamless, consistent experience if they switch channels. They have multiple channels through which to reach your business, but perhaps those channels don’t “talk” to each other. In omnichannel customer service, channels share information and coordinate to ensure a continuous, harmonious, convenient experience. 

Let’s say, for example, a customer is shopping on a website for a product. The customer notices a buy-one, get-one sale on the product, but they have to sign up for a rewards program to get the BOGO price.  

In a truly omnichannel customer experience, when the customer leaves their shopping cart to sign up for the rewards program, they return from filling out the online form to an updated shopping cart. In the background, technologies seamlessly updated their cart with the sale price, making it easier for the customer to complete a purchase.  

Essentially, multiple touchpoints talked to each other. The customer left one touchpoint (their shopping cart) to interact with the business at a different touchpoint (the online form). Perhaps they even left the website to check their email inbox for a confirmation email. When they returned to their cart, omnichannel processes made it easier for them to click “buy now,”—the business instantly fulfilled its promise of providing a coupon code.  

That’s just one example of an omnichannel customer experience.  

What omnichannel looks like for your business depends on who you serve and what you offer.  

Maybe it looks like…

  • consistently responsive service online, over the phone, and in person 
  • lightning-fast lead qualification and conversion 
  • seamless patient intake and scheduling 
  • conversations that transition smoothly between phone and chat 
  • 24/7 availability for your clients and prospects 

So, where should you begin? To develop an omnichannel customer experience for your business, you need to understand who your customers are and where they interact with you the most.  

But first, you need to know why omnichannel experiences matter to the people you serve. 

Why are omnichannel customer experiences important? 

Not every customer interacts with your business in the same way. Giving your customers choices for how they interact with your business fosters loyalty and may even encourage your customers to spend more money with your business.  

How your customers want to interact varies based on their needs. Making those interactions connected seamlessly means integrating your business with technology, processes, and people who all understand your vision and goal for your customers’ experience.  

For instance, when a customer interacts with your business online, they should be able to initiate a phone call with a professional who sees and understands what the customer was looking for online. Optimizing the connection between website, live chat, and phone calls—without your customer explaining themselves three times—creates a better customer journey.  

By building an omnichannel customer experience, you’ll give your customers and potential customers easy and intuitive customer journeys, no matter which platform they choose to start those journeys. You’ll need to invest in the right tools. Adapting technology and processes that create connections between your digital and live channels enables you to grow your business while staying in touch with your customers and what they care about.  

How can your business deliver omnichannel customer experiences? 

Before you create an omnichannel customer experience, determine whether it’s the right move for your organization. Not all businesses require an omnichannel approach to create positive customer experiences. A boutique law firm or highly specialized business-to-business service company, for instance, may only have a few clients to interact with on two or three channels.  

Additionally, you need to time it right—trying to go all-in on an omnichannel strategy too quickly can lead to customers bouncing around between channels and dealing with disjointed customer service.  

For most businesses, however, there’s much to gain from delivering omnichannel customer experiences. And it might be easier than you think. Although making changes to your customer engagement strategy can sound overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be.  

To build an omnichannel customer experience, you’ll need to look at your technology, processes, and people through an omnichannel lens. It begins and ends with your customers and the various places they want to interact with your business (that is, your touchpoints). Here’s how to do it: 

Step 1: Start with your customers. 

The core of your customer engagement strategy is your customer. If you’re not already doing so, start collecting data on your customers at every interaction. Consider: What do your customers want? Some customers want faster service and the flexibility to interact with you digitally. Others may prefer to interact with your business on a much more personal level and speak with a human being when they call or initiate a live chat. Part of your omnichannel strategy should include looking at your various customers and their pain points, to identify customer needs.  

Step 2: Design the omnichannel journey. 

Once you’ve looked closely at your customers and identified the customer needs you want to address, you can build your customers’ omnichannel journey. 

Whether you are trying to synchronize the experience of your physical office with a digital app, or connect your customer to the correct department when they initiate a conversation online, think about the possible stops your customers might make from start to finish. For instance: 

  • A client researching a product might start on your website. 
  • Next, they may follow you on social media or subscribe to your mailing list. 
  • Before making a final purchase decision, they might call you to ask about product availability. 
  • After their purchase, they may contact you through chat inquiring about your returns and exchange policies. 

An omnichannel experience integrates those various communication channels so that your customer has a unified journey throughout.  

Mapping out this journey will help you determine what technology and personnel support your company needs to integrate your digital and live channels.  

Step 3: Select your omnichannel tools. 

Omnichannel tools include technology that integrates your web and live channels, tools that collect customer data (and make it available to your customer service agents), and platforms staffed by highly skilled and trained customer engagement professionals.  

To choose the right omnichannel customer experience tools… 

  1. Identify what tools your business already has. What technology and services do you use to serve your customers? Are you using the full capabilities of those tools, and taking advantage of their integrations with other tools? 
  2. Fill your gaps. Looking at your existing tools and the map of your customer journey, determine what you need to add to create a seamless experience on the channels where your customers are active. 
  3. Get to know your new tools. Beyond simply investing in new tools, take the time to learn how to use and get the most value out of them.
  4. Train your team and create buy-in. Ensure that your entire team knows how to use the tools they need to use to serve customers, and that they feel comfortable using those tools. 

Watch out for siloes. Make sure everyone who acts on behalf of your business understands and believes in your vision of a customer-centric omnichannel journey. Keeping your team members focused on the bigger picture rather than hyper-focused on the small roles they play in that customer’s journey will keep all of your various team members and departments looking toward your overarching customer service goals.  

Step 4: Test, monitor, and improve your approach over time.  

When looking to create an omnichannel customer experience, it can be overwhelming to consider the infrastructure needed to integrate all of your various channels. And with more digital and in-person channels coming on the scene every year, it can be a lot to keep up with. You don’t need to feel like you have to integrate them all at once.  

By getting to know your customers through collecting data and surveying customer experiences, you should have an idea of the few digital and live channels you want to focus on at first.  

Implement your plan to integrate your priority touchpoints. Then, track and monitor how well you’re doing. Collect customer data and survey your customers’ experiences to continue to meet your customers’ needs. Over time, you can add (and integrate) more digital or live channels, especially if you see your customers’ needs evolving. 

What does a successful omnichannel customer experience look like? 

If you’re curious about what an omnichannel approach looks like in the real world, consider the ways these companies interact with their customers digitally and in-person: 

Starbucks: Customers can use their Starbucks rewards program across all digital and in-person platforms, including web, mobile, phone, and in-store. Customers can quickly reload their Starbucks cards while waiting in line for their turn to order. Starbucks customers can order, pay, and redeem points all using the same integrated platform. Starbucks will even put your (correctly spelled) name on your drink without asking when you order using their mobile app.  

Best Buy: As a large electronics and appliance store, Best Buy knows that an in-person showroom is just as crucial for its customers as the real-time updated digital inventory through their mobile app. Best Buy allows customers to know their inventory counts for products in real-time through both the mobile app and the digital price cards in front of their in-person products.   

Note that Best Buy didn’t adapt its entire omnichannel strategy all at once. The company first focused on the customer experiences in-store and digitally with their real-time inventory availability. As they monitored their progress and adapted to their customer’s demands, they added more to their mobile app to make things possible, like preloading credit card information and allowing customers to create favorite lists. Today, using the Best Buy app, you can review and buy products, call Best Buy (or even your local store), chat or call for tech support, set repair appointments for your products, apply for or pay your Best Buy credit card bill, and a lot more.  

As buyer behaviors changed, Best Buy evolved its omnichannel strategy to meet customer needs.  

Again, remember that these retailers didn’t become omnichannel legends overnight. The same holds true for your business. Your omnichannel vision will take time and effort to implement. Begin with your customer and their needs and utilize tools and strategies to help you make the customer journey, wherever it begins and ends, a seamless and positive experience for your customers.  

Delight your customers everywhere they interact with your business. 

Unify your customer communications with Ruby’s live chat, automated lead capture tools, and virtual receptionist services. With Ruby, you can rest easy knowing everyone you serve is experiencing personalized service and a real, meaningful connection.  

I mean, why keep something like that to just one channel? 

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Between 40% and 50% of clients are putting off seeking counsel until the COVID-19 pandemic completely subsides. Yet many firms grew in 2020—and are continuing to grow in 2021.

Their secret? A client-centric mindset combined with virtual technology.

According to the 2020 Legal Trends Report, published by Clio: “Delivering on what clients need throughout the course of their matter, in a way that is effortless and convenient for them, earns higher client satisfaction—which in turn drives new business through positive reviews, repeat business, and referrals.”

Discover more insights from the report in Ruby’s infographic, The #1 secret of successful law firms.

(For more information, make sure to check out Clio’s 2020 Legal Trends Report.)

Grow your practice with Ruby.

Deliver exceptional human service backed by sophisticated technology that will grow your practice, with Ruby:

  • 24/7/365 live virtual reception and chat services for your practice
  • Customized call handling tailored to your needs
  • Ability to manage your service and access activity from your mobile phone
  • Integrated with Clio Manage and Clio Grow

Learn more and try Ruby today at ruby.com/legal.

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What does your schedule look like? Do you have availability in the evening? Are there have any earlier slots available? What times are best for you? 

If these kinds of questions drive you bonkers, you’re not alone. Businesses and professionals of all kinds lose untold hours every week arranging appointments and coordinating schedules.  

Even supposedly quick scheduling conversations add up. Every interruption in your day can take up to 25 minutes to recover from. That’s right—when someone pops up on your phone or in your inbox to ask about your calendar, they might have used 25 minutes that you didn’t have to spare. 

Your time is precious. Their time is precious. Don’t waste any more of that precious time scheduling appointments. Let Ruby handle it for you, 24/7/365. 

Enjoy smarter scheduling with Ruby.

Ruby has expanded our scheduling capabilities to support a broad range of requests, across any platform that meets our guidelines. When people call your business, our friendly virtual receptionists are happy to schedule appointments on their behalf. 

We work with your preferred calendaring system through your website, so you’re never double-booked. There’s no handholding required—and no additional cost to you!

Scheduling appointments with Ruby is easy when:

  • We can link directly to your calendar. 
  • All required fields are clearly marked.  
  • The time zone is locked or easily adjustable. 
  • You have fewer than eight different appointment types.  
  • There aren’t any pop-ups that block the ability to schedule an appointment.  
  • Users aren’t required to accept terms and conditions or create an account in order to schedule an appointment. 
  • Your scheduling tool doesn’t collect social security or credit card numbers. Additionally, there’s no complex verification process or CAPTCHA required—a simple “I’m not a robot” checkbox works just fine. 

(By the way, if you’re a covered entity, Ruby can support HIPAA compliance.) 

For more information, review the checklist

Have questions about incorporating scheduling into your Ruby service? Reach out to us—we’re happy to help! 

For a full list of everything you get when you sign up for Ruby, visit our plans and pricing page

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Ready to turn your website visitors into leads for your business?  

Ruby makes it easy—with our automated lead capture tool. 

Automated what now? 

“Automated lead capture” may sound like a mouthful, but it’s simple in practice.  

Here’s a basic overview of how it works: 

  1. Someone visits your website.
  2. The lead capture tool initiates a conversation and gathers the visitor’s contact information.
  3. You receive an email with details, so you can follow up.

Ruby’s automated lead tool is designed for flexibility and ease of use. It’s highly customizable for your business and intuitive for your website visitors. 

Why install automated lead capture on your site? For one, your visitors want it. Did you know that 64% of consumers expect real-time answers? How about the fact that 46% of consumers prefer online conversations over other communication channels? Automated lead capture ensures your business meets the expectations of the people you serve. 

Plus, automated lead capture improves your visibility in search results. Google favors user-friendly webpage design. Automated lead capture is a quick and easy way to provide a better experience for your customers or clients.  

Finally, automated lead capture enables you to collect valuable data from your potential customers, clients, or patients. It’s particularly useful for service-oriented businesses and professionals such as law practices, healthcare providers, plumbers, HVAC technicians, financial advisors, IT providers, creative agencies, and business consultants. 

Take a tour of Ruby’s automated lead capture tool. 

Let’s dive into some of what Ruby’s automated lead capture tool can do: 

Manage conversations. 

Ruby’s automated lead capture tool comes ready to use with basic templates and tons of customization options. With some quick setup you can create a conversational flow that gathers and sends lead information to you and directs any current customers or clients to call your office for assistance.  

And that’s just the tip of the automated lead capture-berg. Use the tool to answer frequently asked questions, collect detailed intake information, relay information about your business, and much more!  
 
Here are a few different kinds of questions you can incorporate into your custom flow:  

 
Question: Use this basic question and answer format to collect general information such as the lead’s name and the kind of service they’re looking for. 

Multiple Choice Question: Define a set of multiple-choice options for your visitor to choose from. This is great for differentiating between current and new customers, for instance. You can route leads to a specific conversational flow based on their answer.  

Statement: Add a remark that doesn’t require an answer from the web visitor.  Use this option for ending conversations and setting expectations for next steps. 

You can reorder your questions by dragging and dropping them up or down, and use branching options to modify the flow of the conversation. Branching gets truly powerful when you use Multiple Choice questions. Ask existing customers one set of questions, and new customers a different set, for instance.

Collect valuable data. 

With Ruby’s automated lead capture tool, you can collect the specific data you need from your customers and prospects. Our validation options ensure nothing falls through the cracks. 

For example, if you need a visitor’s email address, you can set up the conversation so that anyone who doesn’t enter their email is re-prompted to submit it. 

The same function works for phone numbers, dates and times, and other kinds of information.

Make it personal, and make it your own. 

Our lead capture tool empowers you to make interactions friendly and personable by referencing answers visitors have provided during their conversations.

It’s all totally customizable to align with your business’s brand and goals. You can choose the color and position on your website, and add a call to action to engage your web visitors. 

Tips for getting the most out of Ruby’s automated lead capture tool. 

  • Keep your website visitors’ experience in mind when deciding to allow them to skip a question. Depending on the question, not allowing them to decline to provide a certain piece of information may cause frustration and lead to them abandoning the conversation.  
  • Follow up on your emailed leads as promptly as possible! If you have a sales team, set them up to be copied on your emailed leads.  
  • Take advantage of the Branching feature! If the visitor gets to the end of the flow, add a question asking if they would like additional assistance and loop them back to an earlier multiple-choice question to go through an additional flow. 
  • Use the Test button to thoroughly test all of your flows before publishing to make sure your conversation doesn’t have any dead ends.  

By the way… 

Did we mention that this tool is free for all Ruby customers? 

That’s right: automated lead capture is included in every Ruby plan! 

For more details, visit our Plans and Pricing page, or use the buttons to your lower right to contact us. 

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The COVID-19 pandemic redefined healthcare models and spurred a new openness to change for healthcare consumers. More than ever, patients are willing to shop around to find their ideal experience, searching for convenient, connected approaches to care.

How has the healthcare landscape changed over the last 12 months? What do the present and the future look like for patients and providers?

The answers lie in telehealth. According to Chris Jennings, healthcare policy consultant and former advisor to the Obama and Clinton administrations:

“There’s the assumption in primary care that you always had to have in-person contact, and that telemedicine would be unsatisfactory, or wouldn’t fill the void. That’s been exposed—actually, it’s safer, it’s quicker, and it’s easier. … People are now seeing this model, which we thought would take years and years to develop. And it’s probably been accelerated by a decade.”

See why telehealth is here to stay post-pandemic, what healthcare industry leaders are saying, and what patients look for in a provider. Explore Ruby’s infographic, Telehealth in 2021 and beyond: data, trends, and opportunities.

(By the way, the statistics used in this infographic about telehealth in 2021 come from a guide we recently published and which you can download for free.)

Ready to grow your practice in 2021? Ruby is here to help.

Healthcare providers of all kinds rely on Ruby to connect with their patients online and over the phone. Our HIPAA-compliant live virtual receptionist and chat services elevate client experiences from the first “hello.” We’re available 24/7/365 to offer support and answer non-medical questions. It’s all private, secure, and 100% based in the United States. See how Ruby’s digital patient engagement capabilities work at ruby.com/healthcare.

For more information about how COVID-19 has changed the healthcare industry, and how your practice can succeed in the new landscape, download our guide: The Shifting State of Healthcare.

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Guide: The story of a lead.

Reading time:

Sales leads—every business wants them, and everyone has different advice about how to get them. To be honest, a lot of that advice misses the point.

Successful sales professionals approach their leads as people, not numbers. They create meaningful, lasting relationships with potential customers and clients.

How? By creating real value and connecting with every lead on a personal level.

In this guide, we’ll show you how to do just that. You’ll learn…

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  • How to categorize leads based on their stage in the buying journey
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  • How to convert leads into lasting customers or clients
  • And much more!

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Welcome to Women’s History Month!

The month of March is dedicated to honoring the accomplishments of women. That includes women making change, leading businesses, supporting and caring for their families, and shaping the future right now.

After all, we don’t just look back on history. We create history—by living through it. As we mark a year since the first coronavirus cases and lockdown orders in the United States, our roles in history are undeniable.

Women made history in 2020.

Think about the healthcare workers who saved countless lives over the last 12 months.

Or the scientists who helped create COVID-19 vaccines in record time.

Or the business owners who served their communities and sustained their employees during a pandemic.

Or the parents who woke up every day to feed, teach, and nurture their children—while working from home.

Women did all of the above and more. Resilient, capable, innovative women. Women in business. Women in STEM. Women who raise their children without the support of a spouse or partner. Black women. Trans women. Indigenous women.

Women like Kizzmekia Corbett, PhD, one of the National Institutes of Health scientists who developed Moderna’s COVID vaccine.

Women like Sydni Craig-Hart, CEO of Smart Simple Marketing, an agency that connects organizations with women-owned, minority-owned, and small businesses.

Women like many of the small business owners Ruby serves.

Women, perhaps, just like you.

Join Ruby in honoring women this March.

All month, Ruby will be honoring the women making history in our communities. We’re committed to elevating women through education, visibility, and action—and to facilitating opportunities to learn, listen, and participate.

Stay tuned for candid conversations, stories from Rubys and our friends, and ways you can make a difference.

#ChooseToChallenge

Curious about what can you look forward to this month? A major theme we’ll be exploring this month is Choose to Challenge, inspired by this year’s International Women’s Day theme.

Throughout history, women have chosen to challenge the status quo in every facet of their lives, and they’ve done so with determination, resilience, and grace. With all that women have fought to achieve, there is still work to be done. That’s why we all need to continue to challenge—ourselves, each other, the status quo—every day.

What do you #ChooseToChallenge?

Share your goals, experiences, and perspectives with Ruby’s small business community. Find us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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Closeup of a Paycheck Protection Program loan application

At a glance:

  • The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has reopened for applications in 2021.
  • Businesses with fewer than 20 employees have an exclusive early window to apply.
  • PPP loans are forgivable—qualifying businesses don’t have to pay back the money.
  • The small-business-only period ends on March 9th, and the SBA will stop accepting all new applications on March 31st.

Have fewer than 20 employees? If so, now may be an ideal opportunity to apply for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan.

The US Small Business Administration (SBA) launched the PPP in 2020 to provide financial assistance to businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike loans through standard SBA programs, PPP loans are forgivable, meaning borrowers who meet certain criteria don’t have to pay back the money. Unfortunately, numerous applicants were turned down last year, and many small businesses lost the chance to access funding before the program closed.

Last week, the SBA reopened the program. And this time, the PPP has an initial application period exclusive to businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 20 employees. In other words, the smallest organizations now have the first shot at receiving loans.

It’s kind of like senior shopping hours at a supermarket, except the seniors are mom-and-pop businesses and they’re shopping for loans, not bananas.

In all seriousness, this move may provide much-needed relief to millions of small businesses throughout the US. According to a fact sheet (PDF) from the SBA, “98 percent of small businesses have fewer than 20 employees” but received “only 45 percent of PPP funding” last year.

The small-business-only window could improve equity as well. It’s one of several changes the SBA is making “to eliminate barriers that disproportionately harm minority-owned, women-owned, Main Street, and other underserved small businesses.”

This exclusive application period ends next Wednesday, March 9th, 2021, at 5pm ET. After that point, the PPP will accept applications from all eligible businesses until March 31st. (So, if you don’t get your application in before next Wednesday, you can still apply until the end of the month—you just might not have the same odds of receiving a loan.)

For more information, check out the following articles:

For free tips, tricks, and tools to grow your business, visit Ruby’s Small Business Resource Hub.

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What do you do when you have too many customers?

It might sound like a non-issue, or something too good to be true, but businesses sometimes find themselves with more customers or clients than they feel they can handle. The right marketing effort—or just plain luck—can bring a ton of new buyers your way.

The other day, for example, I watched an Instagram video posted by a small lifestyle business that was overwhelmed with purchases after getting a shoutout from an influencer. The company’s owner had to stay up all night fulfilling orders. She even called on a few family members to help pack.

Meanwhile, others are well-positioned for sudden growth. Take Nathan Apodaca, better known as Doggface. You may be familiar with Doggface from a video in which he rides a longboard and drinks cranberry juice while lip-syncing to Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.” The video went viral in October 2020, resulting in millions of new fans and business opportunities for its star.

Without the right mindset and resources, Doggface would have struggled to adapt to his newfound fame and capitalize on his large new audience. But he skated nimbly through the transition and found lasting success in sponsorship deals.

For many businesses—especially those with exceptional services, products, or teams—a similar moment could be right around the corner. Indeed, if you invest in marketing and optimize your online presence, it’s only a matter of time before it happens to you.

Optimize your online presence.

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So, what should you do when it happens? In the wake of a major new business opportunity, how can you avoid those late nights and family favors, and keep your cool, Doggface-style?

Prepare yourself.

Not quite. More business doesn’t have to mean more labor. Here are a few ways to work smarter, not harder, when it feels like there are too many clients or customers coming your way:

  • Embrace a growth mindset. Coined by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, the term “growth mindset” reflects the attitude that intelligence isn’t fixed, but can be developed over time. The idea is that we can achieve more by learning from challenging experiences rather than avoiding them, giving up, or simply focusing on how difficult they are.
     
  • Establish healthy habits. Set yourself up for success by establishing the right routines. Eat well, take regular breaks throughout the day, get enough rest each night, ask for help when you need it, take time for your mental health…you get the idea. These sorts of habits will help you keep your energy high and your mind sharp. Remember: your business runs on structure and routine, and so do you.
  • Practice self-care. Here’s another way you and your business are intrinsically linked. Caring for your company necessitates caring for yourself. Practice appreciation; practice celebrating and rewarding yourself. Take that bubble bath—the success of your business depends on it!

Prepare your team.

Business owners sometimes worry about taking on too many clients or customers because they don’t want to let people down.

What if I can’t meet every client’s needs? Or worse: What if I put too much strain on my team?

Let’s flip that around. You can just as easily let a prospective client or customer down by not serving them when they need your business most. And you can let your employees down by not providing them with opportunities to grow and share in your business’s success.

The key to giving everyone what they want is communication. It’s all about communicating the right expectations to your buyers and your team. Of course, you’ll need a growth plan—a strategy for building your business and serving more people (see point 3 below)—but the primary factor in that plan’s success is your ability to get your team on board with and excited about your vision.

In a case of sudden, viral success, there will likely be growing pains and difficult moments, but communication goes a long way towards alleviating stress. Be sure to explain to your employees:

  • What’s happening and why. What’s behind the influx of customers or clients? Was it planned or expected, or did it spring out of nowhere?
  • Why it matters. What does growth mean for your business? What does it mean for your employees? What new opportunities does it present?
  • What’s expected of them. How does this change alter employees’ day-to-day jobs? Will there be a “crunch” period—and if so, how long do you expect it to last? Where can employees go if they need support?
  • How the business will adapt. Will processes change? Will you hire more people? Will you partner with another company?

Regardless of what changes lie ahead, be sure to reward your employees and show gratitude for their hard work.

The good news is that no team has to take on all the work by themselves. Outsourced services like Ruby can act as an on-demand extension of your business, there to pinch-hit when you need it.

Prepare your business.

With the right infrastructure in place, the problem of having “too many customers” evaporates.

Okay, I admit this topic deserves its own blog post—or several. For now, I’ll leave you with a quick tip: You don’t need to rethink your business model or reengineer your infrastructure overnight. There are various services and tools out there that allow you to respond deftly to sudden spikes in demand. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Canary Marketing can help you scale your brand, improve your logistics, and take your business digital.
  • Asana streamlines and accelerates project management. You can communicate with your team, assign and delegate important tasks, and measure progress all in one place, at a glance.
  • QuickBooks offers easy accounting and bookkeeping tools to keep your team organized, informed, happy—and paid on time.
  • Upwork is an excellent solution for hiring talented freelancers who fit your budget.

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If you want to grow, “too many customers” can be a good thing.

Thunder only happens when it’s raining—and business only happens when you’re marketing. As you optimize your digital marketing, keep in mind that before long, your efforts will result in new customers or clients. Make sure you’re ready for them. Prepare yourself, prepare your team, and prepare your business.

It bears mentioning that many businesses have ceilings for growth, and some reach those ceilings sooner than others. Sometimes, it’s a matter of practical space; a gym, for instance, might have issues providing customers with sufficient room and equipment. Other times, as with a high-end lifestyle business, exclusivity might be at the core of the company’s value proposition.

For the majority of companies, however, more customers or clients are a good problem to have. More business means more revenue and profit, so long as you navigate the growth mindfully and strategically.

(By the way, if you’re looking for more tips, our friends at Grasshopper wrote an article about this topic—read their advice about what to do when you’re feeling overwhelmed by a surge in new business.)

No matter how small your business, or how pressing the demand, it’s possible to serve and delight every customer. Ruby makes it easy.

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