I was 17 years old when I had my first panic attack. The first thing I noticed was my hands going numb—a prickling-static sensation that radiated from my wrists to my fingers. Next: cold sweat, my heart racing irregularly, nausea, lightheadedness, the perception that my tongue didn’t fit in my mouth. It felt like my body was vibrating, as if it had been hijacked and was trying to shake the intruder out. 

I was terrified, hyperventilating, unable to speak. As thoughts incoherently churned and crashed into each other, the overwhelming feeling was I was doomed and stuck, like my brain had caught on itself, like my gears had jammed.  

I would soon grow familiar with this kind of experience. About a year later, after I had started suffering multiple panic attacks per day, I finally sought help. I connected with a team of mental health professionals who diagnosed me with panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.  

My diagnosis came as a relief. It meant I could seek the right treatment and, eventually, learn how to manage my disorders. It was the first step in my journey toward better mental health—a journey I’m still taking today. 

My story is not unique. This is what so many mental health struggles feel like—the loss of control, the thoughts and sensations that overwhelm a person and disrupt their ability to live their life the way they want to. And I’m far from alone in terms of my diagnosis or its timing: 

  • Around half of all mental disorders begin before the age of 14; three-quarters by age 24. [Source
  • An estimated 50% of people in the United States will be diagnosed with a mental health illness or disorder at some point in their lives. [Source
  • Approximately 43.8 million Americans are currently experiencing mental illnesses. That’s roughly one out of every five adults in the United States. [Source

These numbers include countless business owners. From anxiety to depression to eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), addiction, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and schizophrenia, all kinds of mental health struggles afflict people like you and me.  

“My diagnosis came as a relief. “

My issues did not evaporate when I ran my own business. If anything, I had to work harder than before to fulfill my mental health needs. It doesn’t take much reasoning to understand why.

The link between owning a business and experiencing mental health struggles  

Are business owners at greater risk than others of experiencing mental health struggles?  

Research seems to suggest the answer is, sadly, yes. 

In a 2019 survey of hundreds of business owners in Canada, more than 60% of respondents reported they feel depressed at least once a week. Researchers at the University of California and Stanford University, meanwhile, have found that 72% of entrepreneurs are adversely affected by mental health conditions. 

As therapist and executive coach Megan Bruneau writes in Forbes, “[t]oday we have ample research…to support that—despite its glamorization—entrepreneurship is negatively correlated with mental health.” Bruneau lists seven reasons why: 

  1. Stress 
  2. Uncertainty 
  3. Social isolation
  4. The pressure to manage impressions—that is, to appear strong, confident, and secure 
  5. Barriers to mental health resources 
  6. Predisposition to mental health challenges 
  7. The fusion of one’s identity and self-worth with one’s company 

In other words, the working conditions business owners are under tend to create or exacerbate mental health struggles. Compared to other people, business owners face elevated stress due to high demands on their time and energy, as well as the significant personal risk inherent in the job.  

It’s not just a matter of ensuring your and your family’s livelihood. The success or failure of your business can shape your perception of yourself.  

Together, these conditions can lead to problems such as chronic anxiety and depression, which often compound with other issues such as eating disorders and substance use disorders. As you might imagine, such issues disproportionately affect women and people of color. And the challenges multiply for non-neurotypical people, including people with autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). 

When you’re under financial stress, you’re under mental duress.

Another complicating factor? Many business owners don’t have the means to pay for mental health treatment, resources, and support.  

Bloomberg reports that “many who are self-employed or running smaller businesses can’t afford comprehensive health insurance coverage.” Lack of access and financial hardships can worsen mental health struggles—and it can quickly become a vicious cycle: financial challenges beget personal challenges, which beget business challenges. As Geri Aglipay, a director with advocacy group Small Business Majority, told Bloomberg (emphasis added), “When you’re under financial stress, you’re under mental duress. It impacts the ability to think clearly and to think long-term for stability and sustainability for your business.” 

On top of all that, there’s the stigma surrounding mental health issues. Business owners face outsized challenges here as well. When you run your own business, there’s enormous pressure to hide what you’re going through—to put on a happy face and fake it until you make it—and to hustle constantly.  

I could write on and on, but plenty of others have already covered these topics with the rigor, courage, and compassion they deserve. If you’re interested in reading more, I recommend starting with Jessica Bruder’s in-depth, award-winning article in Inc.“The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship.” 

Getting better: how to manage mental health struggles and overcome stigma 

So, what can you do about all this? What steps can you take to better manage your own mental health challenges and offer support to others? 

First, be honest with yourself. Acknowledge your humanity. There’s nothing shameful, weak, or morally wrong about experiencing a mental illness. If you’re struggling right now, it’s okay—you’re not alone—and you can get help. Embrace your vulnerability as the foundation of your power

Next, get proactive about taking care of your mental health. Make it a habit, take it seriously, and when necessary, ask for help by talking to a mental health professional. We visit physicians when our bodies don’t feel well, so why should we be afraid of visiting therapists when our minds need help? You can find a directory of licensed professionals in your area here

Whoever you are, and no matter what you’re experiencing, you deserve love, comfort, and joy. Give yourself what you need by practicing self-care. Here are a few simple ways to do it: 

Illustration of sneaker and weights; tex: Stay active
Illustration of paintbrush and painter's palette; tex: Do something creative you enjoy
Illustration of speech bubble-shaped hearts blossoming; text: Spend time with loved ones
Illustration of vegetables and water bottle; text: Nourish your body
Illustration of food and drinks; text: Appreciate the little things
Illustration of mobile device showing alarm icon in prohibition sign; text: Disconnect from screens
Illustration of sleeping crescent moon with three Zs; text: "Get plenty of rest"
Illustration of flower that looks like rotating fan; text: Volunteer

For more like this, make sure to check out Ruby’s Instagram!

Finally, to make the world better for everyone living with mental illness—to create a happier, kinder, more equitable future for ourselves, our loved ones, our children, and generations to come—we need to end the stigma. Now.  

The shame and fear surrounding mental illness only make life worse for those of us who experience it—not to mention our families, friends, employees, communities, and yes, even our customers and clients. The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) suggests the following

  • Talk openly about mental health. 
  • Educate yourself and others. 
  • Be conscious of language. 
  • Encourage equality between physical and mental illness. 
  • Show compassion for those with mental illness. 
  • Choose empowerment over shame. 
  • Be honest about treatment. 
  • Hold others (including members of the media) accountable for stigmatizing comments about and depictions of mental illness. 
  • Don’t harbor self-stigma. 

In your own business, you can start making a change by… 

  1. creating an environment where your team members feel safe to bring their truest selves to work, 
  2. using inclusive language, 
  3. leading by example, 
    and 
  4. taking the time to actively listen to others. 

You don’t have to figure this all out by yourself. Consider reaching out to an organization in your community that offers mental health resources. MentalHealth.gov has a great list here

Remember: you’re not alone. If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis or emotional distress, help is available.  

Additional reads you may find interesting...

View All
SEO and branding: star-crossed lovers—an illustration of two people with crowns surrounded by flowers
Small Business Tips

SEO and branding: star-crossed lovers

Title card: Authentic small business marketing with Jamie Adams of Scorpion

Ruby partner feature: Authentic small business marketing with Scorpion

Using chat as a sales tool: hands using laptop
Small Business Tips

4 ways to leverage live chat as a sales tool

How to attract more law firm leads: smiling woman in professional attire talks on phone while using laptop
Legal Practice Tips

Treading water? Here’s how to attract more law firm leads.

Needs-based selling: woman using laptop in well-lit office next to large window.
Small Business Tips

Needs-based selling 101

Closeup image of a business owner texting message from smart phone in cafe
Small Business Tips

Why you should be texting from your business number—and how to get started

Title card: Craig Rashkis, Farwell Rashkis LLP, Ruby customer feature series
Customer Feature

Ruby customer feature: Craig Rashkis, Falwell Rashkis LLP

What you can do to support Hispanic and Latinx-owned businesses

Using virtual receptionists for full-time answering

How to end a phone call: person holding phone
Receptionist Tips

How to end a phone call

Virtual receptionist sitting at desk

Virtual receptionist pricing 101

Professional sitting at desk on computer, working on a law firm's website
Legal Practice Tips

What Google’s Core Web Vitals mean for your law firm’s website

A group of Ruby customers stand together, smiling and talking

Does your business need an answering service?

Screenshot of a YouTube channel's live videos

How to use YouTube Live to engage your clients & audience

Smiling woman standing in a bicycle workshop with a mobile device in her hands
Small Business Tips

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

Try Ruby Risk Free

Call to talk to a live virtual receptionist and hear why 10,000+ companies Ruby.

Call Ruby Sign Up

Customer expectations are evolving. In today’s on-demand economy, customers want quick answers, personalized service, and to be able to connect in the way they prefer. Right now, someone is looking for your service or product, and if they don’t see an easy way to connect, they’ll move on.  

“I’m already stretched too thin,” you say. “How am I supposed to handle the work I already have while staying connected to my customers?” 

Never fear, Ruby is here! In this workshop, we’ll share how Ruby uses our proprietary software to personalize interactions, ensure calls get to the right person, while also keeping you in the loop. 

In this workshop, we’ll cover:

  • Options for call handling & routing
  • Best practices for custom greetings 
  • How we collect & deliver voicemails/messages 
  • Our secret to pronunciations 

 

Ruby Content

View All
Videos

Ruby partner feature: Authentic small business marketing with Scorpion

Title card: Authentic small business marketing with Jamie Adams of Scorpion
Videos

Ruby customer feature: Craig Rashkis, Falwell Rashkis LLP

Title card: Craig Rashkis, Farwell Rashkis LLP, Ruby customer feature series
Videos

A conversation with Ruby’s Chief Revenue Officer, Rebecca Grimes

Circular cutout of Rebecca Grimes, Ruby's Chief Revenue Officer
eBooks

Happy customers, efficient businesses: How to supercharge growth with virtual receptionists 

Woman in yellow sweater working in front of open laptop, sitting in home office interior, drinking coffee
Podcasts

Customer service tips and more from Ruby + SmallBizLady

Title card: Leveraging Customer Service as a Value Proposition, with Melinda Emerson, Kate Winkler, and Sharie Hendricks
Podcasts

[Podcast] Marketing insights with Rebecca Grimes

lifelong customer podcast
Videos

Ruby customer feature: Sam Hainey, Hilltop Law Firm

Title card with Sam's headshot: Ruby customer feature series, Sam Hainey, Hilltop Law Firm
Videos

Creativity, connections, and client relationships—with Nathan Wilson of The Narrative

Title card: Creativity, connections, and client relationships—with Nathan Wilson, The Narrative
Videos

Ruby customer feature: Rebecca Flanagan, Flanagan Legal Services

Ruby customer feature series title card: Rebecca Flanagan, Flanagan Legal Services
Webinars

Connection perfection: How to delight customers 24/7

Ruby workshop: Connection perfection: How to delight customers 24/7
Videos

Internal & external equity—with Michelle Ngome

Title card: Inclusive marketing, Pt. 2 with Michelle Ngome, Marketing Consultant
Videos

Ruby customer feature: Opportunity during crisis with Juan Huizar

Title card: Juan Huizar, Sage Real Estate Group, Ruby customer feature series
Videos

Ruby customer feature: New ways of legal work with Ashton Taylor

Title card: Ashton Taylor, A. Taylor Law Firm, Ruby Customer feature series, Pt. 2 New ways of legal work
Videos

Inclusive marketing—with Michelle Ngome

Title card: Inclusive marketing, Pt. 1 with Michelle Ngome, Marketing Consultant
Videos

High-end clients, projects, and service—with Melissa Barker

Try Ruby Risk Free

Call to talk to a live virtual receptionist and hear why 10,000+ companies Ruby.

Call Ruby Sign Up

Jace Thompson named CFO of the Year

Reading time:

Ruby is thrilled to announce that CFO Jace Thompson was named a ‘CFO of the Year’ by the Portland Business Journal earlier this month.

Jace has transformed Ruby in many ways over his tenure, and the challenges presented by the pandemic didn’t slow him down one bit. His ability to dynamically manage our business in collaboration with the rest of the leadership team was critical to keeping our promise of no layoffs.

Additionally, Jace’s efforts to modernize the company’s financial data system enable the leadership team to spot trends, draw educated inferences, and move confidently with timely adjustments. We are better equipped to forecast and track process modifications, new hires/promotions and view how various marketing/sales efforts affected the business day-to-day.

Ruby News

View All
News

Kate Winkler wins 2021 ‘Female Executive of the Year’ Gold Stevie® award

Attracting employee amid labor shortage
Media

Where have the workers gone? Companies pivot to attract employees

Designing people-centric customer service training
Media

Guest Article: 5 Ways to Design Customer Service Training

Ruby continues to lead industry in employee investment
News

Ruby doubles down on training & progressive wage structure

Ruby Grasshopper collaboration
News

Ruby and Grasshopper provide end-to-end phone solution for businesses

how businesses can address labor shortage
Media

[Column] With Oregon’s talent shortage, what workers really want

lifelong customer podcast
Media

[Podcast] Marketing insights with Rebecca Grimes

Ruby partners with Scorpion
News

Scorpion and Ruby partner to help customers manage their digital marketing-driven growth

Text: CFO of the Year
Media

Jace Thompson named CFO of the Year

Women in key roles text image
News

Multiple promotions of women leaders at Ruby

Media

Rubys hiring up to 100 new employees

News

Ruby expands into Arizona

News

Ruby earns two Stevie awards

News

Ruby publishes “The Shifting State of Healthcare”

Announcements

Ruby certified as a Great Place to Work for 5th year

Try Ruby Risk Free

Call to talk to a live virtual receptionist and hear why 10,000+ companies Ruby.

Call Ruby Sign Up
A blurry group of people sit at a table behind an open glass door. Read Ruby's list of 9 things to do for yourself before returning to the office.

In the months (years? decades?) since March 2020, we’ve all heard terms like “new normal” and “back to normal” more times than any of us can count.

I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to imagine what “normal” even means anymore.

What’s normal in a moment in history defined by change? Jobs and businesses have changed. Family and living situations have changed. Bodies have changed. Mindsets and perspectives have changed.

Let’s all agree—right here, right now—to accept and embrace those changes.

You are not the same person you were before COVID. None of us are, and that’s okay! The entire human race changed right alongside you. Feels better to know you’re not alone, doesn’t it? 

But what does all this talk about change mean for you and your business? Well, that depends. 

Accepting personal change is one thing. Business changes, on the other hand…

Your business is unique, and your response to the pandemic has likely depended on numerous factors, including what type of business you run, how many team members you have, and how you meet your customers’ or clients’ needs.

How you move forward from here will depend on plenty of different factors, as well. For businesses that have operated remotely, one of the toughest and most urgent questions is whether and how to return to the office:

  • Should you bring your team members back to a shared, physical location?
  • Should you stagger a return to the office?
  • Or should some—or all—people continue working from home sometimes, or all of time?
  • How do you ensure everyone is working in the environment in which they feel more productive?
  • What’s the safest choice for everyone?
  • Should you require all team members be vaccinated before they show up?
  • Masks or no masks?

Clearly, there’s a lot to think about here. And let’s not forget the emotional impact of any decision on your employees and customers or clients, many of whom are still reeling from the events of the last year. So, as businesses, how should we navigate the return to normal? 

Step one: Forget that we are returning to anything normal.

Remember when I declared we should all embrace change? We are all starting something new here. Working in-person won’t look or feel like it used to. Normal doesn’t exist anymore—at least what we think of as pre-COVID “normal.”  Don’t think of this moment as an end, but a new beginning. You and your team will find ways to live your best lives and do your best work post-COVID. 

Ready to enter the brave new world? Before you slip out of your pajamas and into your pantsuit, here are 9 things to do for your business, your team, and yourself. (You can select any of the items on the list below to read more about that topic, or continue scrolling to read the full article.)

9 things to do before returning to the office

  1. Review your safety procedures and employee policies.
  2. Review your business continuity plan.
  3. Determine what kind of “reopening” makes the most sense for your business.
  4. Communicate your reopening plans to your employees.
  5. Buy a new outfit or two.
  6. Try a “rehearsal” week.
  7. Spend quality time with loved ones.
  8. Make space for your and your employees’ mental health.
  9. Book some time off.

1. Review your safety procedures and employee policies.

No matter what type of business you run, you’ve probably made many changes to your day-to-day operations because of the pandemic. From which direction to walk when navigating the physical office space to what to do if one of your employees gets exposed to COVID, chances are you need to revisit your safety procedures and employee policies.  

Updating your policies and procedures before calling everyone back to the office will help you get your team on the same page with these changes. 

Next to COVID safety precautions for your employees—which will be new for everyone returning to the office—be sure to consider the safety of your customers or clients, too. Will your customers be allowed in the office space? How will meetings with potential new clients look now that you are returning to the in-person work environment? 

Business as usual could be unusual for the long term. Now is the time to update your policies and procedures to account for these changes and other things you may have set aside while you survived the initial phases of a pandemic. 

2. Review your business continuity plan.

…A business continuity what?  

A business continuity plan is something every business should have on hand. If 2020 and the first quarter of 2021 have shown us anything, it’s that Murphy’s Law is real. Anything that can go wrong will go wrong, and probably all at the same time. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen supply chains freeze, the whole world shut down, and infrastructures fail, all while people suffered from unprecedented isolation and economic crisis. 

A business continuity plan spells out clearly and in great detail how your business will continue to run when the worst happens. If you haven’t already, now is the time to put all of the real-world expertise you’ve gained in the last 14 months into writing a comprehensive continuity plan for your business

3. Determine what kind of “reopening” makes the most sense for your business.

You know your business, your team members, and yourself best. Now is the time to sit down and think about your business and the smartest plan for returning to working in person. 

Some options to consider for reopening the office include:

  • Ask your team members for “volunteers” to return to the office. You probably have a few that prefer working from the office. Are any of your employees high risk? Should they be allowed to continue to work from home long-term? 
  • Choose a percentage (e.g. 10%, 15%, or even 25%) of your workforce to call back to the office. Think about what departments would most benefit from being in a collaborative in-person space and bring those team members back to the office first. 
  • Call everyone back to work on a set date. This option may prove to be the most complicated. To call everyone back on the same day, you should first make sure you clearly communicate your policies and procedures to your team members. For the time being, it’s also a good idea to have a plan in place should COVID cases spike in your area again or team members need to quarantine due to exposure to the virus. It’s much easier to send 10 or 15% of your team back to remote working than your entire staff all at once. Gradual is not necessarily a bad thing in this scenario. 

Another thing to consider is how the pandemic has changed your business in general. What will your new office hours be? Do your remote team members need to be available at the same time as your in-person team members? Will work hours be flexible for everyone? Now’s the time to make decisions—before coming back to the office. 

4. Communicate your reopening plans to your employees.

Once you’ve considered your options for reopening the office, decided on how your business should reopen, reviewed your policies and procedures, and updated your continuity plan, the next step is to tell your team. 

Make sure to give your team all of this information in multiple formats. It’s important to get your team to “buy in” to the changes so that everything runs smoothly.

In addition to communicating your plans for reopening to your team, you may want to have a plan in place for how to communicate changes to your new policies and procedures to your team—because, again, if we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, it’s that the only constant is change. 

5. Buy a new outfit or two.

Now’s a great opportunity to update your wardrobe. Buy something that makes you feel like your most confident self. You’ll exude that attitude when you wear the outfit. It will also help you mark a new era in your life and—if you’ve been wearing nothing but extra-comfy clothes this whole time—re-enter a more, um, professional headspace.

6. Try a “rehearsal” week.

Okay, practicing might sound silly, but stick with me here. 

You’ve been rolling out of bed and logging into your work computer in your pajamas for 14 months. Waking up on day one and going into the office with no practice or preparation will be almost impossible. 

Giving yourself a “rehearsal” week will not only help you get into the right mindset to return to the office, but it will help you figure out how long your new morning routine will take. You’re not the same person you were one year ago. Take the time to figure out who the new you is.  

Practice by waking up early and getting ready in your professional work clothes. See how it feels and how long it takes you to get ready for work. Plan things like where you plan on stopping for your morning coffee on your way to work. Your first day back at the office will go more smoothly if you’ve given yourself some time to practice being an in-person working adult again. 

As part of this exercise, practice setting boundaries. 

As a remote business owner for the last year, the lines separating your work life and your personal life might have blurred a bit (read: a lot). This warm-up week can give you a real sense of separation from your work and home life again. Take this opportunity to gain a sense of that balance and set some clear boundaries for yourself after losing sight of your boundaries because of the pandemic. 

7. Spend quality time with loved ones.

Our kids, partners, and pets have enjoyed having us home all the time because of the pandemic. This is one example of how not all of the changes the pandemic caused have been negative. I mean, who doesn’t want their dog sitting in their lap all day?

Now that you’re returning to the office, your family and pets will miss you. Some families have flourished under the stay-at-home orders, and saying goodbye to that family time will be difficult.

Now is the time to create some family experiences and spend some quality time together as you all leave the house and start new adventures at work and in school. 

8. Make space for your and your employees’ mental health

Returning to a shared work environment won’t feel the same for you and your team members. Expect reactions all across the spectrum. You and your team might experience some anxiety and stress over returning to the office. 

More than a year is a long time to be out of the traditional work environment. Coming back to the workplace will lead to feelings of excitement and fear for your team members. Making space for your team to acclimate to the newness of working in a shared space again can go a long way for their morale. Don’t expect everyone to be ready to jump right in—yourself included. Allow yourself and your team to take the time to adjust to the new routines of the coworking space. 

Practice self-care. I know it might sound cheesy, but sometimes we have to get a little cheesy to get things accomplished. Taking care of yourself is taking care of your business. After all, you are your business. Allow yourself time to indulge in the little things that bring you joy. Your business will be better for it. 

9. Book some time off.

The last year might have felt like a year off because you’ve been working from home. But you’ve probably been working a lot more than you realize. While working from home, the boundaries of home life and work-life quickly disappear. You’ve probably been working earlier and staying at work later than you think you have. 

With the pandemic slowly improving, vaccine availability opening up, and flight prices still down, now might be the perfect time to book yourself a trip or short getaway. Give yourself something to look forward to so that when you start to feel anxious about going back to the office, you have something to focus on other than work and your business. 

Let Ruby take something off of your do-to list.

Whew, we’ve given you a lot to consider here! Planning your return to the in-person work environment is a fair amount of work unto itself. There are numerous plans to implement—on top of the day-to-day operations of your business. 

Let us take customer communication off your list.

At Ruby, we use every opportunity to create meaningful connections between you and the people you serve. We can help your business by answering calls, engaging with your website visitors, and connecting with your customers or clients—online and over the phone.

You don’t have to face the changing business world alone. Ruby’s here to help. Learn more.

Additional reads you may find interesting...

View All
SEO and branding: star-crossed lovers—an illustration of two people with crowns surrounded by flowers
Small Business Tips

SEO and branding: star-crossed lovers

Title card: Authentic small business marketing with Jamie Adams of Scorpion

Ruby partner feature: Authentic small business marketing with Scorpion

Using chat as a sales tool: hands using laptop
Small Business Tips

4 ways to leverage live chat as a sales tool

How to attract more law firm leads: smiling woman in professional attire talks on phone while using laptop
Legal Practice Tips

Treading water? Here’s how to attract more law firm leads.

Needs-based selling: woman using laptop in well-lit office next to large window.
Small Business Tips

Needs-based selling 101

Closeup image of a business owner texting message from smart phone in cafe
Small Business Tips

Why you should be texting from your business number—and how to get started

Title card: Craig Rashkis, Farwell Rashkis LLP, Ruby customer feature series
Customer Feature

Ruby customer feature: Craig Rashkis, Falwell Rashkis LLP

What you can do to support Hispanic and Latinx-owned businesses

Using virtual receptionists for full-time answering

How to end a phone call: person holding phone
Receptionist Tips

How to end a phone call

Virtual receptionist sitting at desk

Virtual receptionist pricing 101

Professional sitting at desk on computer, working on a law firm's website
Legal Practice Tips

What Google’s Core Web Vitals mean for your law firm’s website

A group of Ruby customers stand together, smiling and talking

Does your business need an answering service?

Screenshot of a YouTube channel's live videos

How to use YouTube Live to engage your clients & audience

Smiling woman standing in a bicycle workshop with a mobile device in her hands
Small Business Tips

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

Try Ruby Risk Free

Call to talk to a live virtual receptionist and hear why 10,000+ companies Ruby.

Call Ruby Sign Up
Intersectionality; a group of people sit closely together in a well-lit office space.

What makes you, you? Is it your cultural heritage? Your age? Your gender? Your skin color?

How about the language you speak? Or your sexual orientation? Or is it your political or religious beliefs?

Oh, I know—maybe it’s your occupation, or your marital status, or whether you have children?

Nope. The truth is, of course, that you’re not one thing. What makes you, you is almost certainly a combination of the above—or none of the above! All of us are complex human beings, and none of us can be defined by one facet of our identity, background, or appearance.

And yet we often tend to reduce other people to single characteristics, usually without realizing it. I do it. You do it. We’re all prone to doing it when meeting someone new or interacting with a stranger.

It’s easier to sort an unfamiliar person by a seemingly obvious trait of theirs—”Black,” “white,” “Asian,” “woman,” “gay,” “Muslim,” “old,” “young,” “doctor,” “police officer,” “disabled,” “foreign”—than to imagine a whole, multilayered individual with a one-of-a-kind personal history and perspective on life.

But while that way of thinking is easy, it isn’t especially kind, honest, or inclusive. To break the habit, we need to embrace intersectionality.

What is intersectionality?

Intersectionality is all about the ways in which the elements of a person’s identity and experience, well, intersect.

In the words of Kimberlé Crenshaw, the lawyer and civil rights advocate who first developed the theory of intersectionality, the term is “a lens, a prism, for seeing the way in which various forms of inequality often operate together and exacerbate each other.”

Basically, intersectionality is the idea that you’re not one thing, but many things—and that those things shape one another. Characteristics such as your race, age, and gender don’t exist in a vacuum. They’re all bundled together, and every trait influences how you and others perceive every other trait.

Thinking carefully about these relationships allows us to understand our preconceptions and inherent biases.

What does intersectionality look like?

Intersectionality shows us that not all members who appear to belong to the same group have the same experiences. This knowledge can help us determine how to make the world a safer, more just, and more inclusive place.

For example, Black women are often subject to different forms of discrimination than Black men and non-Black women. Therefore, we need to make space to include and address the unique realities of life for Black women.

As Crenshaw writes:

“[M]any of the experiences Black women face are not subsumed within the traditional boundaries of race or gender discrimination as these boundaries are currently understood… [T]he intersection of racism and sexism factors into Black women’s lives in ways that cannot be captured wholly by looking at the women race or gender dimensions of those experiences separately.”

Another example: a transgender woman of color is more likely to face violence than a white, cisgender queer man, although both are often lumped under the same umbrella of the LGBTQ+ community. Using intersectionality as a framework, people within these communities can understand the diversity of experience and better address the unique struggles of their most marginalized members.

Today, as these members of historically oppressed communities continue to speak out against the modes of oppression that have affected their lives, we all have a duty to sit down, listen to their voices, and develop a greater understanding in order to move forward with advocacy and change.

Why does intersectionality matter?

Embracing intersectionality is a form of kindness.

If we don’t periodically remind ourselves that other people are just as unique and complicated as we are, we risk harming those people—and ourselves. Reducing someone to a single trait diminishes that person’s humanity and robs us of the opportunity to experience the world in its real, nuanced, messy beauty.

This is especially important when you run a business. If you don’t consider others’ full humanity, you’ll seriously limit your opportunities and customer base. You might also alienate employees and even face claims of discrimination and unfair treatment.

In many cases, however, the impact is just as harmful as a discrimination lawsuit, but quieter and less obvious. Studies have shown that members of marginalized groups are often subject to feelings of isolation and underappreciation at the workplace. Instances of workplace exclusion, disrespect, and the silencing of voices can lead to employees feeling discouraged to speak up.

No one should be made to feel as if their voices and their ideas will be dismissed out of hand due to inherent bias in the workplace. A greater effort toward diversity and inclusion is the first step in creating a space in which everyone on board feels validated.

Bringing intersectionality into your business: How can you get started?

As you might imagine, intersectionality is a large, complex topic—something far beyond the scope of this article. But we don’t want to leave you to figure it all out on your own. Here are a few ideas for getting started:

1. Make sure everyone is involved.

As with so many matters of organizational culture, intersectionality involves everyone. Executive leadership, management, and frontline team members all need to share a commitment to creating and maintaining an inclusive environment—one built on a foundation of psychological safety.

2. Ask targeted questions.

As a leader, make sure that you and your team are asking the right questions when developing new projects and campaigns. Does the makeup of our team actively represent a diverse set of identities and experiences? Are the personal needs of our employees being taken into account? Are marginalized voices being listened to?

3. Review your organizational culture and initiatives.

Allow your team to share their stories and recognize why, in the past, they may not have felt comfortable doing so. Ask yourself if your workplace enforces a culture of exclusion and work on practical solutions built on input from those who have been directly affected by it. If your company is working on a campaign to commemorate Pride Month, for example, what are you doing to ensure that your team is accurately representing the diversity inherent in the LGTBQ+ community?
 

4. Educate yourself.

Due to the nature of the term, it’s fair to say that intersectionality research and education covers a lot of ground. Thankfully, plenty of resources are available. The easiest way to start incorporating intersectionality into your daily life is not to embark on an extensive research binge, but to teach yourself to unlearn certain unconscious and biases you may have picked up from broader social trends.

5. Engage in self-reflection.

If you find the concept of intersectionality difficult to comprehend or uncomfortable to think about, ask yourself why that may be and where those feelings are coming from.

6. Have honest conversations.

Aside from self-reflection, the most fundamental first step we can take to embrace intersectionality in our daily lives is to start having conversations with others whose lived experiences we may not be fully familiar with.  That being said, it is not the job of a member of any marginalized group to educate someone else on intersectionality.

So, don’t enter these conversations with any ulterior motives for your own benefit. Instead:

  • Create a genuine dialogue built around mutual respect
  • Avoid getting defensive when past instances of ignorance are referenced
  • Understand the personal impact of your words and actions
  • Learn to hold yourself accountable if and when you have crossed a line
  • Seek forgiveness and move on with a greater sense of knowledge
  • Commit to doing better

Creating a broader culture of intersectionality requires commitment from all of us, at every level. This includes speaking up and advocating for those who don’t feel as though they have an avenue to do it for themselves.

Remember: intersectionality takes work. It can be difficult, emotionally taxing work, but it’s necessary work. Intersectionality allows all of us to live in a fuller, richer, and frankly more interesting world—a world where everyone can live as their truest selves.

Additional reads you may find interesting...

View All
SEO and branding: star-crossed lovers—an illustration of two people with crowns surrounded by flowers
Small Business Tips

SEO and branding: star-crossed lovers

Title card: Authentic small business marketing with Jamie Adams of Scorpion

Ruby partner feature: Authentic small business marketing with Scorpion

Using chat as a sales tool: hands using laptop
Small Business Tips

4 ways to leverage live chat as a sales tool

How to attract more law firm leads: smiling woman in professional attire talks on phone while using laptop
Legal Practice Tips

Treading water? Here’s how to attract more law firm leads.

Needs-based selling: woman using laptop in well-lit office next to large window.
Small Business Tips

Needs-based selling 101

Closeup image of a business owner texting message from smart phone in cafe
Small Business Tips

Why you should be texting from your business number—and how to get started

Title card: Craig Rashkis, Farwell Rashkis LLP, Ruby customer feature series
Customer Feature

Ruby customer feature: Craig Rashkis, Falwell Rashkis LLP

What you can do to support Hispanic and Latinx-owned businesses

Using virtual receptionists for full-time answering

How to end a phone call: person holding phone
Receptionist Tips

How to end a phone call

Virtual receptionist sitting at desk

Virtual receptionist pricing 101

Professional sitting at desk on computer, working on a law firm's website
Legal Practice Tips

What Google’s Core Web Vitals mean for your law firm’s website

A group of Ruby customers stand together, smiling and talking

Does your business need an answering service?

Screenshot of a YouTube channel's live videos

How to use YouTube Live to engage your clients & audience

Smiling woman standing in a bicycle workshop with a mobile device in her hands
Small Business Tips

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

Try Ruby Risk Free

Call to talk to a live virtual receptionist and hear why 10,000+ companies Ruby.

Call Ruby Sign Up

When companies portray diversity and inclusion in their marketing efforts, they have a responsibility to reflect those initiatives in their business practices—and not only when it is a convenient lever to pull.

In this second part of our discussion, Diversity Marketing Consultant Michelle Ngome discusses companies who are doing it right and how to pull integrity through, from external communication to internal practices. 

Read the interview

Jill McKenna: Hi everybody, thanks for joining us today. I am Jill McKenna, I’m the Campaign Marketing Manager here at Ruby, and I am delighted to be joined today by Michelle Ngome. Michelle is a diversity and inclusion marketing consultant, founder of the African-American Marketing Association, an author, and also a podcaster. Michelle, thank you for being here. Can you explain a little bit more about the many hats that you wear and what you do?

Michelle Ngome:
I’m an inclusive marketing consultant. I help large organizations with their diversity inclusion initiatives focusing on their marketing departments.

Jill McKenna:
Yeah, that’s something I’m reading a lot about in trends going forward, millennials, but mostly Gen Z are going to be very particular in wanting to see the quantification of why one company is better than another to work for which we already see with B Corps to an extent, it’d be curious to see if they will expand what it means to be a B Corp, because they’re positioned to start doing that kind of work where people want to be aligned with things that match their values.

Michelle Ngome:
Absolutely, I left my job not too long ago, I was doing marketing at a law firm in-house, and I got to the point where I was doing some self-assessment and it’s like I have to go. And I had to make that decision but it was a hard decision because I think with any job there’s going to be things that you don’t like even in your business there’s things that you don’t like, but the work has to be done. But I think there’s a point where, “Okay, well what are my core values? What do I stand for? What do I represent?” And the hard thing for me to be so outspoken on diversity and inclusion, it’s like, “Alright Michelle, what are you going to do?” And I had to make that decision. I encourage small business owners and all leaders, minorities. They do look at the About Us page, they do look at the leadership page because once again, representation matters, but I also want to see do I have a chance to grow my career here and hold a leadership title? Whatever that may be.

So that is important, and I think that’s where the equity piece comes into. I think a lot of people don’t know what equity looks like and equity is really about how can I meet Jill’s needs? What are Jill’s goals? What’s important to her? And so equity looks different where you can have maybe a 25 year old woman who is fresh out of college, she’s going to be driven by money, maybe she wants to buy a house by the time she’s 30, so she’s looking for a high salary, and she’s going to go, go, go. Whereas you might have a woman that is 42 years old, her kids are young, obviously the pandemic is going on so it’s like, “Hey, can I work from home? Or can I work six hours versus eight hours?” And if you allow her to work those six hours, that’s what equity looks like.

And I think a lot of companies miss the mark because they have what I’m starting to call features and benefits, there are there, but people don’t know how to use them, or maybe that’s not important to them. If you’re a leader, you have to take time to figure out, “Okay, if I have 10 people on my team, what motivates each of these people?”

Jill McKenna:
That’s brilliant, it reminds me of the second one of these, I did these great interviews was in March, right as COVID was happening and it was with an HR expert, an EDI HR expert, and she said, “This is not a moment for equality, it’s a moment for equity. It’s a moment for meeting people, each individual where they’re at and not having a one size fits all approach to how we’re going to work from home.” And everything that’s happened subsequently since then, I keep thinking of that. It’s more and more companies are needing to react and build themselves in that way, and I’m glad you said that. So you mentioned intuitive, was it Intuitive Digital? And also Adidas as two examples of where changes have been implemented some big changes, which other companies do you see successfully embracing and executing inclusive marketing right now?

Michelle Ngome:
I think if we go back to June, Ben and Jerry’s is probably my favorite, they just, it took them a while, but when they came out, they came out swinging, and I think that’s what matters. Whereas I would rather have a company take a couple of days and get it right versus rushing and catching the social media trend and get it wrong. So during that time, I definitely saw a few bad BLM statements, some companies took it down and the screenshots where it went viral, so you have to be careful when it comes to diversity and inclusion because there’s so many audiences to cater to. But the reason why I like Ben and Jerry’s so much is because diversity, equity, and inclusion are embedded in their culture, so if you go to their website, they have numerous blog posts on diversity, Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ, marriage, mass incarceration. So on the outside looking in, it’s like it was nothing for them to come up with a statement because they’re already practicing this.

And I think that’s the importance of company culture and inclusion, having those people on your team because if you included us earlier, you wouldn’t be in this problem today. So it’s like now companies are scraping, what can I do? I got to do something and it’s out of your norm because it’s out of your company culture. So it makes it hard, but obviously D&I is hot right now, and even finding the right consultant can be tricky, but you have to find ways to stay motivated, of course, I think McDonald’s, Chase, Nike does a good job, that can be a love-hate relationship for some people. Toyota is another one, but they constantly advertise diverse campaigns and messages, when you go to the Chase app, there’s no telling what couple you’re going to see on that app, it can be a white couple, it could be a black man holding the baby in the air, it can be a Latinx couple in front of their brand new home. So it’s like you’d have to have those images and keep them in rotation because you’re catering to a wide spread of people.

Jill McKenna:
Yeah, and those companies know it for sure because they’re so large, right? They’ve been doing this work for so long. Thank you so much.

Michelle Ngome:
You’re welcome.

Jill McKenna:
I have just enjoyed myself so much, I’m so much appreciative of your time, and if people want to find out more about you where can they go?

Michelle Ngome:
Yes. MichelleNgome.com, Line25Consulting.com is my company. You can pretty much find me, first and last name, Michelle Ngome, N-G-O-M-E. I’ll say follow me on Instagram for the cool stuff, Facebook for the real stuff, and LinkedIn for the professional stuff.

Jill McKenna:
Perfect. Thank you so much, thanks for your time.

Michelle Ngome:
You’re welcome.

Read More

Additional reads you may find interesting...

View All
SEO and branding: star-crossed lovers—an illustration of two people with crowns surrounded by flowers
Small Business Tips

SEO and branding: star-crossed lovers

Title card: Authentic small business marketing with Jamie Adams of Scorpion

Ruby partner feature: Authentic small business marketing with Scorpion

Using chat as a sales tool: hands using laptop
Small Business Tips

4 ways to leverage live chat as a sales tool

How to attract more law firm leads: smiling woman in professional attire talks on phone while using laptop
Legal Practice Tips

Treading water? Here’s how to attract more law firm leads.

Needs-based selling: woman using laptop in well-lit office next to large window.
Small Business Tips

Needs-based selling 101

Closeup image of a business owner texting message from smart phone in cafe
Small Business Tips

Why you should be texting from your business number—and how to get started

Title card: Craig Rashkis, Farwell Rashkis LLP, Ruby customer feature series
Customer Feature

Ruby customer feature: Craig Rashkis, Falwell Rashkis LLP

What you can do to support Hispanic and Latinx-owned businesses

Using virtual receptionists for full-time answering

How to end a phone call: person holding phone
Receptionist Tips

How to end a phone call

Virtual receptionist sitting at desk

Virtual receptionist pricing 101

Professional sitting at desk on computer, working on a law firm's website
Legal Practice Tips

What Google’s Core Web Vitals mean for your law firm’s website

A group of Ruby customers stand together, smiling and talking

Does your business need an answering service?

Screenshot of a YouTube channel's live videos

How to use YouTube Live to engage your clients & audience

Smiling woman standing in a bicycle workshop with a mobile device in her hands
Small Business Tips

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

Try Ruby Risk Free

Call to talk to a live virtual receptionist and hear why 10,000+ companies Ruby.

Call Ruby Sign Up

Stay ahead. Improve efficiency. Eliminate busywork. Embrace technology.

Easier said than done, right?

Attorneys and law firms of all kinds would love nothing more than to streamline their practices and claim more time for themselves with tech tools—but making it happen isn’t always easy. Change can be painful, particularly when multiple stakeholders are involved. In fact, according to the 2020 Future Ready Lawyers Survey, 53% of 700 legal professionals surveyed said the greatest barrier to change in law firms is the difficulty of change management and leadership resistance to change.

The legal technology pros at Lawyaw have helped numerous attorneys and firms effectively manage change and prepare for new technology. In an article on their site, they offer advice on how to do exactly that. Specifically, they recommend focusing on the “why” behind the change, painting a clear picture of the “before” and “after,” and managing internal objections proactively.

Here are a couple more of Lawyaw’s tips:

Assemble an implementation team.

Adopting new technology is not a one-person job. You need a dedicated team to manage separate parts of the change, from evaluation to training.

In general, the more people using the software, the bigger the implementation team because you’ll want to have advocates of the new solution helping with outreach to the rest of the organization.

Here is an effective makeup of an implementation team:

  • Project owner: Usually the person spearheading the change. It could be a partner, the CEO, or another experienced member of the team. This person will assign other roles.
  • Project manager: In charge of organizing the implementation process, including working out the budget, defining technology requirements, and forming a list of potential vendors.
  • System administrator: Works (often with IT) to oversee the system’s setup. This should be a tech-savvy individual since some software setup can verge on complicated.  
  • Superstar end-user(s): The go-to person (or people) who act as a liaison between end-users and the implementation team. During implementation, superstars will be available to help troubleshoot with end-users.

Drive user adoption with quality training.

No one wants to use something they don’t fully understand. If your team isn’t properly taught how to do something, they will revert back to old, less efficient systems.

Firms take on new technology. Everyone is excited. But, after those initial onboarding meetings, no one is using it and the ROI remains unseen. That’s why it is so critical to create an effective, personalized training program—one that makes relevant team members feel comfortable with the new platform.

To optimize training for your team on the new system…

  • Leverage influential users: Along with your superstar, those who are succeeding more quickly can help those who are struggling.
  • Document the processes in a centralized location: Sometimes lawyers just want to figure it out on their own. They can easily do that if the processes and technical information are easily referenced.
  • Host individual sessions: Some people might not voice concerns or challenges in a group session.
  • Focus on the most critical features: It is easy to become overwhelmed by all the bells and whistles of new software. To avoid flashbang, stick with the most important features at first. Then, when people are comfortable, you can move onto others.

These are just a couple of the ways attorneys and firms can ensure smooth and successful change management. For more, read the full article, “Managing Change and Preparing for New Technology.”

Another simple way to save time? Legal document automation. By transforming your documents into easy-to-fill, reusable templates, you’ll gain serious time back in your day. You’ll also reduce waste, minimize errors, and create better experiences for the clients you serve. Learn how it works at Lawyaw.com.

(Speaking of better client experiences and more time in your day, did you know that Ruby can double your billable hours? Find out how.)

Additional reads you may find interesting...

View All
SEO and branding: star-crossed lovers—an illustration of two people with crowns surrounded by flowers
Small Business Tips

SEO and branding: star-crossed lovers

Title card: Authentic small business marketing with Jamie Adams of Scorpion

Ruby partner feature: Authentic small business marketing with Scorpion

Using chat as a sales tool: hands using laptop
Small Business Tips

4 ways to leverage live chat as a sales tool

How to attract more law firm leads: smiling woman in professional attire talks on phone while using laptop
Legal Practice Tips

Treading water? Here’s how to attract more law firm leads.

Needs-based selling: woman using laptop in well-lit office next to large window.
Small Business Tips

Needs-based selling 101

Closeup image of a business owner texting message from smart phone in cafe
Small Business Tips

Why you should be texting from your business number—and how to get started

Title card: Craig Rashkis, Farwell Rashkis LLP, Ruby customer feature series
Customer Feature

Ruby customer feature: Craig Rashkis, Falwell Rashkis LLP

What you can do to support Hispanic and Latinx-owned businesses

Using virtual receptionists for full-time answering

How to end a phone call: person holding phone
Receptionist Tips

How to end a phone call

Virtual receptionist sitting at desk

Virtual receptionist pricing 101

Professional sitting at desk on computer, working on a law firm's website
Legal Practice Tips

What Google’s Core Web Vitals mean for your law firm’s website

A group of Ruby customers stand together, smiling and talking

Does your business need an answering service?

Screenshot of a YouTube channel's live videos

How to use YouTube Live to engage your clients & audience

Smiling woman standing in a bicycle workshop with a mobile device in her hands
Small Business Tips

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

Try Ruby Risk Free

Call to talk to a live virtual receptionist and hear why 10,000+ companies Ruby.

Call Ruby Sign Up
Graphic designers working with UX/UI designer planning application template layout framework

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard the phrase “fail fast, fail often.” It’s become one of those garden-variety bits of business advice like “push the envelope” or “think outside the box.” The idea is to make frequent mistakes to accelerate learning and growth.

Sounds like a good thing, right?

Maybe it’s just semantics but personally, as a user experience designer and researcher, the notion of failing fast and often has never inspired me.

Do we really have to “fail” our users and customers?

Or is there a better way to avoid exposing them to undiscovered usability issues in our products and systems and provide the people we serve with the best possible experiences?

Speaking from experience, I know there is.

The pitfalls of failing fast and often in user experience

I love the idea of experimentation and collaboration. By including customers and stakeholders early in our process, we not only validate our work with them, but we innovate with them.

My gripe with “fail fast, fail often” isn’t just about the “fail” component, but the “fast” and “often” parts. These words don’t carry the sentiment of how we work. We don’t fail; we experiment. In user experience design, working fast by skipping steps like understanding the problem, collaborating, and working iteratively tends to create friction. Why? Because users don’t like change. The more you change—and the faster you change it—the greater your risk of alienating the people whose experiences you intend to improve.

For example, think about your experience using Google.

Screenshot of Google's homepage

Imagine how you would feel if, one day, the search box and the logo switched places.

Screenshot of Google's homepage with the search bar moved above the logo

Now, imagine that it moved to the lower-right the next day…

Screenshot of Google's homepage with the search bar moved to the bottom-right corner

…and moved up again the next day—with the “Google Search” and “I’m Feeling Lucky” buttons swapped for good measure.

Screenshot of Google's homepage with the search bar moved to the upper-left corner and search buttons switched

At that point, I’d probably start using a different search engine.

Being thoughtful about how you implement change is part of the user experience ecosystem of your product.

In this example, it’s not necessarily that the changes themselves are mistakes. From the perspective of Google’s (theoretical) Product Managers and UX Designers, maybe there are good reasons for moving the search bar to different locations on the page.

But the updates above would have happened too quickly, too dramatically, and too closely together. They wouldn’t have been delivered properly. As software engineer Alex Connolly writes in UX Collective:

“If you aren’t careful with the way you impose change on your users, they will hate it regardless. It doesn’t matter about how much time you spend on it, how awesome it looks, how much research you did or how awesome the technology is.

If you don’t deliver changes the right way, people will hate your changes regardless of how great they are.

For most user experience updates, the “right way” is the deliberate, methodical, and inclusive way. In many senses, it’s the opposite of failing fast and often.

That doesn’t mean you have to sit back and keep things exactly the way they are ad infinitum, however. Google’s homepage, for instance, has evolved quite a bit since its launch in 1997:

Screenshot of Google's homepage in 1999

So, how do you implement updates the right way? Let’s look at a few ways you can make changes to user experience and try new things while ensuring ease of use throughout any transition.

4 steps to optimize user experience—without failing fast, often, or otherwise

1. Start with the big questions.

Successful design is intentional design. It serves a purpose. In other words, whenever you want to create or update something, make sure you have a reason behind it—a reason beyond “because it needs to change” or “because it will look cool.”

To determine your intentions for a user experience update, ask yourself and your team questions such as the following:

“What are we changing, and why?”

What element or elements of your user experience are you revamping? Why is the change necessary? Who asked for it, and who is it for?

The people involved in the project need to have a shared understanding of the “why” behind the change.

“How will this change improve users’ lives?”

Will it make something easier, faster, smoother, or more efficient? Will it give users enhanced or expanded options? Will it provide greater accessibility? Will it make people happier, safer, better informed?

“How will the change be delivered?”

What does the rollout schedule look like? Will you implement the change for all users at the same time? Keep in mind that every form of user experience optimization is a process, not an overnight flip of the switch. It should be planned and delivered over an extended period, typically weeks or longer.

2. Use the scientific method.

Whenever we work on a user experience update, We try to approach it as a scientist would. Doing so allows us to not only think as objectively as possible about the what and why of the design, but also understand the various steps and resources the work might require, so we can plan accordingly.

We follow a version of the scientific method, which starts with observation (noticing the problem) and questioning (which we explored in step 1).

From there, we come up with a hypothesis. Think of this as a proposed solution or an if–then statement. It’s the guiding principle and framework for the change.

“Successful design is intentional design.”

“Successful design is intentional design.”

For example, let’s say you’ve observed that a significant number of people visit your website every month, but that relatively few sign up for your mailing list. You know you’d like to change something to improve the number of signups. After giving it some thought, you determine that you’d like to redesign the “subscribe” button in your mailing list form. Specifically, you’d like to make it larger.

Here’s where you would come up with a hypothesis: If you make the button bigger, then more people will sign up. No, you don’t know that that will happen for sure, but you can make an educated guess.

To prove a hypothesis, you need to test it. Then test it again, and again, and again, and again… You get the idea. The more you test your hypothesis, the more information you’ll gather about what change is truly necessary and how best to implement that change.

3. Collaborate.

User experience doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Every design decision affects multiple people—your customers and clients, as well as your team members—and involves multiple decision-makers. The best user experience professionals know how to work across departments and functions, gathering input from various stakeholders along the way.

Successful user experience designers also understand that not everyone feels comfortable using the same channels to provide feedback. Some people like to talk during meetings and calls, for instance, while others may prefer responding to anonymous surveys.

Designers Linn Vizard and Rachel Grossman explored the role of collaboration in-depth in a wonderful article on Adobe’s “Thinking Design” blog, by the way. Read “Putting User Experience in Context: Tips for Using Collaboration to Improve UX Maturity in Your Organization.”

4. Take an active role in helping users navigate changes.

The work doesn’t end when a change is decided upon. Implementation takes time, effort, and a diverse team of people helping to deliver the change. Particularly for large-scale updates, an active approach to helping users navigate changes can make the difference between positive and negative sentiment, engagement and disinterest, adoption and abandonment.

Set expectations early. When you know a change is coming, think ahead and determine how you’ll communicate it to the people it affects. You don’t need to tell everyone everything, but continual glimpses and teasers help people feel comfortable about the change and whet their appetites for what’s next.

“Everyone’s experience matters—don’t listen to only the loudest voice.”

“Everyone’s experience matters—don’t listen to only the loudest voice.”

In many cases, it’s a good idea to roll an update out in stages, for different groups at different times. If the update you’re working on affects dozens, hundreds, or thousands of people or more, changing everything for everyone at once could overwhelm your team and systems.

Once the change has been implemented, maintain a long view. It’s important to squash bugs quickly, but keep in mind that a seemingly major day 1 concern may be a non-issue by day 30. In some cases, users just need time to adapt to changes. If the change is a positive one, they’ll forget entirely about the previous iteration given enough time.

Finally, make sure to keep the conversation going. Continue collecting and acting on feedback. You’ll earn your users’ trust and gain valuable insights into how to make the next change even more useful to them. Remember: there’s a spectrum of stakeholders, and everyone’s experience matters—don’t listen to only the loudest voice!

The bottom line? Effective user experience design is intentional, expansive, and often quite slow. It requires a great deal of planning, testing, and collaboration.

Mistakes will certainly happen, of course, but they shouldn’t be the goal. Anything that draws attention to itself doesn’t exactly serve the user. After all, good user experience is invisible. Many of the best updates are the ones users don’t notice.

So, instead of failing fast, failing often, try designing deliberately and inclusively, failing sometimes, and communicating often. No, it’s not as catchy, but it’s better for you and the people you serve.

Terri Haswell is Sr. Director of UX & Customer Research at Ruby.

By the way, these same considerations apply not only to product design, but to every element of your customer experience.

To provide your customers with the best experiences possible, make sure to continually, actively, and thoughtfully optimize your customer service. Ruby has distilled everything you need to know into a handy checklist. Find it here.

Additional reads you may find interesting...

View All
SEO and branding: star-crossed lovers—an illustration of two people with crowns surrounded by flowers
Small Business Tips

SEO and branding: star-crossed lovers

Title card: Authentic small business marketing with Jamie Adams of Scorpion

Ruby partner feature: Authentic small business marketing with Scorpion

Using chat as a sales tool: hands using laptop
Small Business Tips

4 ways to leverage live chat as a sales tool

How to attract more law firm leads: smiling woman in professional attire talks on phone while using laptop
Legal Practice Tips

Treading water? Here’s how to attract more law firm leads.

Needs-based selling: woman using laptop in well-lit office next to large window.
Small Business Tips

Needs-based selling 101

Closeup image of a business owner texting message from smart phone in cafe
Small Business Tips

Why you should be texting from your business number—and how to get started

Title card: Craig Rashkis, Farwell Rashkis LLP, Ruby customer feature series
Customer Feature

Ruby customer feature: Craig Rashkis, Falwell Rashkis LLP

What you can do to support Hispanic and Latinx-owned businesses

Using virtual receptionists for full-time answering

How to end a phone call: person holding phone
Receptionist Tips

How to end a phone call

Virtual receptionist sitting at desk

Virtual receptionist pricing 101

Professional sitting at desk on computer, working on a law firm's website
Legal Practice Tips

What Google’s Core Web Vitals mean for your law firm’s website

A group of Ruby customers stand together, smiling and talking

Does your business need an answering service?

Screenshot of a YouTube channel's live videos

How to use YouTube Live to engage your clients & audience

Smiling woman standing in a bicycle workshop with a mobile device in her hands
Small Business Tips

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

Try Ruby Risk Free

Call to talk to a live virtual receptionist and hear why 10,000+ companies Ruby.

Call Ruby Sign Up

How do you educate customers and increase engagement while building lasting relationships? Moreover, how do you do all that in a highly competitive business landscape and during a time in history defined by near-constant change?

We spoke to successful real estate broker and entrepreneur Juan Huizar of Sage Real Estate Group to get his advice (and hear about his experience with Ruby, too!).

Read the Interview

Katie Hurst: Hi, my name is Katie Hurst. I’m the Director of Brand and Content at Ruby. I’m thrilled today to be speaking to Juan Huizar of Sage Real Estate, who will be offering some advice on how to be successful in the next coming months, as well as what Ruby has offered his business in terms of efficiency and trust building.

Juan Huizar:
Thank you, Katie. Thanks for having me. I am a real estate broker, so I’m an independent real estate broker and I guess my niche, I don’t really focus on single family home sales. I focus on apartment sales. So, I help buyers, investors build wealth through apartment ownership.

Katie Hurst:
And so what has been your experience over this past year in terms of how your work has changed or has there been a higher demand, a lower demand? I’m so curious.

Juan Huizar:

Yeah. And thanks for asking. When COVID first hit and the first, here in California at least, real estate in the very first two weeks was not considered an essential business. So we were technically not able to show properties. In my business, we need to be out because if I’m selling an apartment building, I’m meeting with buyers, we’re meeting with inspectors, appraisers. So, I need to be out in the field. So, the first couple of weeks was a little slow, kind of halted everything, where we weren’t supposed to be leaving the house.

Then we became essential. Then we could go about conducting our business. We were concerned. There was a lot of laws that were changed impacting tenant-landlord laws. That directly impacts us because if there’s changes going on, investors aren’t as confident moving forward. But all in all, the real estate market made it through March, April of last year, which those were pretty tough. But then I feel people wanted to continue investing because interest rates were low. So all in all, for the end of 2020 real estate was really, really strong in the apartment portion of the market.

Katie Hurst:
So with all these unknowns, and I’m sure there was some anxiety amongst both you, your team, the people that you were interacting with, how did communication and the importance of that human connection really factor into the work that you were doing this year?

Juan Huizar:
A big lead pillar for my business is my database and so it was just going back to checking in on them. How are you doing? Not, do you want to sell. Not that you want to buy. Just how are you doing? How’s the family? Can I help in any way?

Katie Hurst:
And how has Ruby helped you be able to achieve those goals over the past year?

Juan Huizar:
We spend thousands and thousands of dollars each month marketing. Okay? Like postcard marketing, direct marketing. Okay? What I found was the folks that we service, the apartment owners, they’re up there in age because they’re to the point where they’ve owned their properties for 30 years, much, much older. Sometimes English is a second language. First generation, they came from another country, all over. And they came here and they started buying real estate. They created wealth. Well, now it’s time to maybe sell. Okay? If they call me off my postcard and I don’t answer, oftentimes they don’t leave a message. Even with my voicemail, they will not leave a message. So, what ended up happening was every day at the end of the day, I had missed calls and I would have to go back and call them. Well, half of those, if not 90% of them, were spam calls and calls that I didn’t want to get anyways. And then I’m stuck trying to shuffle through. Did one of these missed calls, could they have been a possible lead off my marketing? Right?

So we’re spending all this money. We don’t want to lose the opportunity for that lead. And that’s when I came across Ruby Receptionists. It was a professional voice on the backside saying, “Thank you for reaching either Sage Real Estate or Juan Huizar’s office. Did you receive one of our mailers?” And if it was a spam call, they got shuffled through. I didn’t have to waste my time with them anymore. But if it was a legitimate call, now that person that I’m trying to target, that I’m trying to market to, that I’m trying to bring value to, they’d be glad to leave a message. And then when I would get a text message, an email showing that someone called and left a voicemail, then I could go straight to the source. I didn’t have to shuffle through the end of the day. And sometimes even listening to voicemails is really time-consuming. So for me, it’s a big plus having that professional service behind my line, I can’t always take a call.

Katie Hurst:
So really for you, what’s important to you, is that balance of efficiency, but also not missing out on any potential opportunities. So, having that helped to be able to eradicate the noise and weed out the noise so that you can really focus on the things that are going to be most valuable to your business.

Juan Huizar:
Jokingly, some of the folks we do business with, they’re like, “Hey Juan, can you not answer? I like the nice ladies on the background or just a nice folks and answer the phone.” They said that.

Katie Hurst:
Oh, that’s always a treat when the folks, we’ve had folks bring cookies to offices back when things were open thinking that we were there at the front desk and they were disappointed, they’d like to meet the front desk person or Ruby. So, that’s us doing our job. So, I appreciate that. What, if any advice you would offer to others in the real estate industry about how to find success in their business over this next year, as well as create a great experience for their customers?

Juan Huizar:
We do a lot of reading, we do a lot of studying, and we’re always learning. Right? So I always wonder what can we do? So here’s what we’ve come up with, and I think this is going to work for anyone in real estate or in any business is that you need to give before you receive. You need to be of value before you ever asked for business. So I’m not going to call you, Katie, and say, “Can I help you sell your building?” What have I done for you? And I want your business, Katie, but I need to earn your trust. A few ways to earn trust is to educate you on what’s important to you.

So, what we’ve done heavily, probably through COVID and maybe because we saw that there was going to be less meetings. We took an active approach of, well, who are we servicing? Hey, we’re going to serve as apartment owners. That’s that’s my client base. There’s a lot of changes going on. A lot of my apartment owners are much older. They’re what’s considered mom and pop apartment owners. And I wanted to make sure that I was bringing value to them. Value in keeping them up to date with any changes. There’s eviction laws that have changed there’s rent control that’s gone on, there’s forms. And so what we started creating was videos.

Videos, where all we’re going to do is educate, not sell the heck out of me. That doesn’t matter, but I’m going to tell you guys, this is what’s happened. This is what you need to know. This is how the changes in the way that you manage your property. This is what you need to know that that’s going to make you a better apartment owner or a better investor. So we went heavily on we’re going to educate, educate, educate. And through that we built trust. Through that we earned their business.

Read More

Additional reads you may find interesting...

View All
SEO and branding: star-crossed lovers—an illustration of two people with crowns surrounded by flowers
Small Business Tips

SEO and branding: star-crossed lovers

Title card: Authentic small business marketing with Jamie Adams of Scorpion

Ruby partner feature: Authentic small business marketing with Scorpion

Using chat as a sales tool: hands using laptop
Small Business Tips

4 ways to leverage live chat as a sales tool

How to attract more law firm leads: smiling woman in professional attire talks on phone while using laptop
Legal Practice Tips

Treading water? Here’s how to attract more law firm leads.

Needs-based selling: woman using laptop in well-lit office next to large window.
Small Business Tips

Needs-based selling 101

Closeup image of a business owner texting message from smart phone in cafe
Small Business Tips

Why you should be texting from your business number—and how to get started

Title card: Craig Rashkis, Farwell Rashkis LLP, Ruby customer feature series
Customer Feature

Ruby customer feature: Craig Rashkis, Falwell Rashkis LLP

What you can do to support Hispanic and Latinx-owned businesses

Using virtual receptionists for full-time answering

How to end a phone call: person holding phone
Receptionist Tips

How to end a phone call

Virtual receptionist sitting at desk

Virtual receptionist pricing 101

Professional sitting at desk on computer, working on a law firm's website
Legal Practice Tips

What Google’s Core Web Vitals mean for your law firm’s website

A group of Ruby customers stand together, smiling and talking

Does your business need an answering service?

Screenshot of a YouTube channel's live videos

How to use YouTube Live to engage your clients & audience

Smiling woman standing in a bicycle workshop with a mobile device in her hands
Small Business Tips

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

Try Ruby Risk Free

Call to talk to a live virtual receptionist and hear why 10,000+ companies Ruby.

Call Ruby Sign Up

They say it takes a village to raise a child. That village includes not only parents, neighbors, and teachers, but also local businesses.  

When I look back on my own childhood, small businesses played a tremendous role in my upbringing. My love for DIY projects began with trips to my locally-owned hardware store with my dad. My prolific reading habits are the direct result of a contest sponsored by the town credit union. I was able to travel as part of a competitive soccer league as a tween due to the generosity of several local restaurants covering my fees. And how can I forget the annual school carnivals with booths paid for and staffed by neighborhood dentists, salons, bike shops, toy stores, and others? 

No doubt about it: businesses are intricately tied to our communities and can make serious, lasting differences in community members’ lives. That’s why, for so many businesses, giving back is embedded in our missions—but turning words into action isn’t always easy.  

How do we businesses create an impact in a way that’s authentic and sustainable? How do you make it easy for everyone at your organization to get involved?  

And how do you coordinate giving back when everyone is working remotely?

After all, the “village” these days isn’t necessarily a physical place, but a network of people and organizations connected digitally. 

We think about these questions all the time at Ruby, and we want to share a few things we learned from a successful charitable initiative our Rubys came together to create earlier this year. 

The DonorsChoose Challenge 

Ruby encourages civic participation in several ways through our Ruby Corps initiative, including paid volunteer hours, joint projects with a dozen-plus organizations such as Make-A-Wish and the Oregon Food Bank, as well as donation matching for employees.  

Historically, most of these activities have relied on in-person interactions. Our challenge during the pandemic was how we could continue to support this critical part of our culture when the whole company is remote. 

The answer: take our collective love of community building and amplify it with a digital tool! 

At the beginning of each year, Ruby hosts our annual “Connections” event, bringing together all our employees to share plans for the year, reconnect with our vision and mission, as well as celebrate our culture. 

In advance of our 2021 event—knowing it would be entirely virtual—we sought a solution for supporting our local communities while keeping our team staff. A member of our graphic design team pitched the idea of partnering with DonorsChoose—a website that connects donors with teachers’ projects in their local area. 

Our Ruby Corps team loved the idea and set a goal of $1,000 in donations to fund projects in Portland and Kansas City. Projects were selected based on their proximity to our office locations and connection to our philanthropic areas of focus—education, equity, mental health, art, and literacy.  

Bringing the challenge home 

In true Ruby fashion, our team went above and beyond , generously donating more than $3,532 across 10 classroom projects over the four-day event. 

The DonorsChoose digital platform enabled us to safely connect with one another and celebrate our communities, even though we haven’t seen each other face-to-face in over a year. 

How to launch a similar giving effort at your business 

Partnering with a digital platform focused on supporting nonprofit projects, such as DonorsChoose, is a fantastic way to engage your employees virtually while fulfilling your mission of community building. Here are a few tips to get the ball rolling: 

Discuss your goals. 

In our case, we knew we wanted to fund several small projects across multiple cities and have a measurable impact, making DonorsChoose an ideal platform. The website lists projects across the U.S. with small goal amounts ($100–$1,000).  

Connect the project to your culture and values. 

Ruby has a history with online donations due to our employee donation matching program, so the DonorsChoose challenge was a natural extension of our culture. Additionally, we were able to filter projects based on their subject area through the platform. 

Build excitement! 

Each morning of the event, our Employee Experience team introduced the projects, explaining why each was chosen and sharing a quote from the teacher who submitted the project. They broke down the cost per Ruby to make the goal seem attainable and followed up at the end of each day with progress. 

Most importantly, community building should be driven by your employees. Select a project that is important to them and then get out of the way! 

This is just one way businesses can engage their employees in giving back from anywhere. We look forward to growing our impact and expanding our charitable efforts in the months and years ahead. 

How does your company support your community and make the world a better place? 

Share your story with us—and find more ideas for building connections with your customers, employees, and community—on Ruby’s FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, or Instagram

Additional reads you may find interesting...

View All
SEO and branding: star-crossed lovers—an illustration of two people with crowns surrounded by flowers
Small Business Tips

SEO and branding: star-crossed lovers

Title card: Authentic small business marketing with Jamie Adams of Scorpion

Ruby partner feature: Authentic small business marketing with Scorpion

Using chat as a sales tool: hands using laptop
Small Business Tips

4 ways to leverage live chat as a sales tool

How to attract more law firm leads: smiling woman in professional attire talks on phone while using laptop
Legal Practice Tips

Treading water? Here’s how to attract more law firm leads.

Needs-based selling: woman using laptop in well-lit office next to large window.
Small Business Tips

Needs-based selling 101

Closeup image of a business owner texting message from smart phone in cafe
Small Business Tips

Why you should be texting from your business number—and how to get started

Title card: Craig Rashkis, Farwell Rashkis LLP, Ruby customer feature series
Customer Feature

Ruby customer feature: Craig Rashkis, Falwell Rashkis LLP

What you can do to support Hispanic and Latinx-owned businesses

Using virtual receptionists for full-time answering

How to end a phone call: person holding phone
Receptionist Tips

How to end a phone call

Virtual receptionist sitting at desk

Virtual receptionist pricing 101

Professional sitting at desk on computer, working on a law firm's website
Legal Practice Tips

What Google’s Core Web Vitals mean for your law firm’s website

A group of Ruby customers stand together, smiling and talking

Does your business need an answering service?

Screenshot of a YouTube channel's live videos

How to use YouTube Live to engage your clients & audience

Smiling woman standing in a bicycle workshop with a mobile device in her hands
Small Business Tips

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

Try Ruby Risk Free

Call to talk to a live virtual receptionist and hear why 10,000+ companies Ruby.

Call Ruby Sign Up
A closeup of a digital timer counter on tablet—the timer reads 00:03.18

Speed usually seems like a luxury. When it comes to faster cars, faster shipping, faster computers, or faster service, we appreciate the time saved—but we don’t think of it as necessary. In most of those cases, the slower model works just fine if you’re willing to wait.

The speed of your website, however, is much more than a little luxury. In fact, it’s a key factor in your ability to bring in and convert leads. A single second shaved off your website’s load time can be the difference between missing and attracting new business.

Ready to multiply the power of your website? Think fast! Here are three big ways a little extra speed can connect you with more customers or clients:

1. A fast website can improve your search rankings.

Countless businesses compete every day to get their websites to the top of Google Search—and for good reason. Organic searches through Google account for a sizable chunk of the traffic to most websites, putting businesses in contact with potential clients and customers they may not otherwise reach.

In May 2021, Google plans to launch a major algorithm update that puts more emphasis on page speed. In other words, how fast a webpage loads will influence the page’s rank in search results. While page speed has been an ingredient in the rankings mix for a while, this update significantly raises the bar and shifts website load time from a general consideration into a set of detailed metrics.

The bottom line is that, all other things being equal, websites that hit the bar on Google’s speed metrics will rise in the rankings, and slower websites will fall. And, while speed won’t be the only ranking factor that matters, it will soon take up a much bigger portion of the pie.

Want more details? Get up to speed with Google’s 2021 page speed updates here.

2. Faster websites make for better user experiences.

The faster your website loads, the better the experience it provides to your users—including your existing and prospective customers and clients.

To understand why, consider your own experience online: How do you feel when you try to use a slow-loading website? How about when the elements on a page shift around as it loads? Do you usually wait around, or do you back up and try a different website?

We all know what it’s like to wait too long for a website to tell us what we need to know. Whether you’re looking for a restaurant’s menu on your phone or searching for a local attorney’s services on your desktop, it’s frustrating to hit a slow-loading, laggy, or broken website. Moreover, it can shake your confidence in the service that business might provide—and, in all likelihood, prompt you to visit a different destination instead.

When your website is slow to load, it’s likely that your prospects are frequently choosing your competitors over you. Their immediate needs—to find answers, to access information, to get help—almost always outweigh any concerns about who meets those needs.

In terms of online search, it’s not just about finding the right answer—but the fastest one.  

This is especially important for attorneys, doctors, and other professionals who help people with potentially life-changing problems. If prospective clients have to wait for your website to load, or if it’s sluggish as they use it, they’re going to build an impression of your business itself as slow, sluggish, and inconsiderate of their time. 

3. Website speed can accelerate conversions.

Attracting people to your website via Google and providing a great user experience when they get there are the first steps. Now, let’s talk about conversions.

Faster websites are better at getting visitors to convert—i.e., complete a desired action, like filling out a contact form, downloading an offer, or clicking to call.

It’s not just a gut feeling. All kinds of businesses—from auto retailers to doctors and lawyers—have found that shaving even milliseconds from loading speeds can drive an uptick in conversions. Likewise, for every second of delay in load speed on mobile devices, conversions can fall by up to 20%.

Website speed affects retention and referral rates well. Users may convert once on a slow site, but they are less likely to return to the same business again or recommend the business to their friends and family. Ensure your website loads quickly, and you won’t miss out on valuable word-of-mouth marketing!

Get up to speed with award-winning website experts on your side.

These are just a few reasons to invest in your website and considerations for providing your visitors with the best possible experience. Clearly, a speedy website matters. And, thanks to Google, 2021 is the year where it really matters.

The good news is that you don’t have to spend hours of your time optimizing your online presence alone. Get your website up to speed by getting in touch with the experts at Foster Web Marketing.

Give our team a call at 888.886.0939, or schedule a website design consultation to learn about your current site speed and how to improve it!

For more tips about creating and improving your online presence, check out Ruby’s free guide.


Molly McCormick is Director of Marketing at Foster Web Marketing.

Additional reads you may find interesting...

View All
SEO and branding: star-crossed lovers—an illustration of two people with crowns surrounded by flowers
Small Business Tips

SEO and branding: star-crossed lovers

Title card: Authentic small business marketing with Jamie Adams of Scorpion

Ruby partner feature: Authentic small business marketing with Scorpion

Using chat as a sales tool: hands using laptop
Small Business Tips

4 ways to leverage live chat as a sales tool

How to attract more law firm leads: smiling woman in professional attire talks on phone while using laptop
Legal Practice Tips

Treading water? Here’s how to attract more law firm leads.

Needs-based selling: woman using laptop in well-lit office next to large window.
Small Business Tips

Needs-based selling 101

Closeup image of a business owner texting message from smart phone in cafe
Small Business Tips

Why you should be texting from your business number—and how to get started

Title card: Craig Rashkis, Farwell Rashkis LLP, Ruby customer feature series
Customer Feature

Ruby customer feature: Craig Rashkis, Falwell Rashkis LLP

What you can do to support Hispanic and Latinx-owned businesses

Using virtual receptionists for full-time answering

How to end a phone call: person holding phone
Receptionist Tips

How to end a phone call

Virtual receptionist sitting at desk

Virtual receptionist pricing 101

Professional sitting at desk on computer, working on a law firm's website
Legal Practice Tips

What Google’s Core Web Vitals mean for your law firm’s website

A group of Ruby customers stand together, smiling and talking

Does your business need an answering service?

Screenshot of a YouTube channel's live videos

How to use YouTube Live to engage your clients & audience

Smiling woman standing in a bicycle workshop with a mobile device in her hands
Small Business Tips

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

Try Ruby Risk Free

Call to talk to a live virtual receptionist and hear why 10,000+ companies Ruby.

Call Ruby Sign Up

All businesses have been deeply impacted by the last year, but people-focused work, such as that of the legal industry, has had to morph at warp speed, embracing technology and makeshift solutions to keep moving important legal work forward.

In this second part of our discussion, Houston-based attorney Ashton Taylor of the A. Taylor Law Firm tells us more about the unique problems lawyers have navigated in recent months.

Read the Interview

Jill McKenna: Something else you said made me think of an experience I had as a small business owner and I think a lot of other small business owners do too. And I’m wondering how you saw this evolve or if you do see it. So when people hear small business owner, they for some reason always think that means successful and wealthy. Like that means we’re just thriving. And I’m sure even more so as a lawyer. So what do you wish people understood about being a small business owner and a small business lawyer?

Ashton Taylor:
Yeah, I think that it’s a great question. And just the expenses that we have, the overhead, as I mentioned earlier, you have to have somewhere to work. You can’t, because like you mentioned that earlier, I had an issue with a… I had a court case with an Attorney General. Now, they work for the government, but they still have their kids at home also. So it’s just a big challenge. And so to answer your question specifically, yes, I do believe that they have to understand that we still have to pay the overheads and we have the expenses. And at the end of the year, when we do our taxes, that profit isn’t really there all the time. It’s just, I mean, I know I used to hear that a successful business doesn’t make a profit for three to five years.

Now, I can’t quote where that came from, but I’ve always heard that. And so I’m in my 10th year yet and I’m still waiting for the huge profit. And so I just wish people would understand that we need support. The support staff, that’s why I love Ruby because I’m able to kind of push my phone calls off. Not push them off, but you get it. People want to hear a live voice. I mean, that’s definitely your business model, that’s why it’s great. And I don’t have time to answer the phone all the time. That’s one thing I will say too, not even a financial thing. People think because you have your own business, you’re an entrepreneur, you have all this time in the world to talk or to handle this or to answer this question and to be flexible with the prices and with the payment plan. Like you said, “You’re a lawyer, you have all this money, just give me a break.” But no, that’s not the actual factuals.

Jill McKenna:
No. And from the work you do, it’s obvious that you do it, and there’s so many lawyers who do, who do it because they believe in it. They believe in the work. They believe in the people and the representation that they can offer, which people forget about. So what has changed about the way that you physically work day to day now with COVID?

Ashton Taylor:
Well, I’m working from an office, but it’s not my home. And so that’s different, and then we don’t go to court. And so we do a lot of Zoom, just like this, a lot of Microsoft Teams. But even that is challenging because the normal thing was when I would go to court, I practice in a couple of different counties. So one county outside of the county that I actually… My office is, is about 40 miles away. And so you would think, okay, that’s easier now because you can kind of… But the judges, they don’t have a lot more leniency of running late. I’m running late or I’m in another county. They all automatically think, well, you can be on. So sometimes I’ll have, like right now I have an iPad, MacBook, and I have to be on hearings, muting at the same time.

And it’s almost like not only do you have to be an attorney, you have to have great technology. Also, you have to have high, high speed internet because they don’t want you in a hearing where it’s buffering and all that. And that’s an increase in cost. Like I mentioned, I’m blessed to have two computers. I know it may be some lawyers, business owners that can’t even afford that. And the thing is you have to have good technology. You can’t just have a computer these days, because you have to have a computer with great access, high speed internet, no cookies popping up and all of that. You have to have the best Zoom and it’s just, it’s the technology and the cost has just drastically went up.

Jill McKenna:
That’s incredible. It’s something I didn’t think about of the needing… Now that everybody thinks, well you’re just always available because you’re in one place, I didn’t think about what that would mean for lawyers of this constantly being on sort of a feeling. Whereas before, you could have been driving to court or from court or take some phone calls in the car or whatever, that seems like it must all be gone now.

Ashton Taylor:
It’s over. It’s over. And you can do it, but like I said, if you’re driving and I’m on a CPS hearing, a real serious hearing and I’m buffering while I’m driving. So it’s like, yeah, it’s definitely, I mean, it’s challenging. It is really challenging. I do think that it can be efficient, but it won’t be efficient for another year or two. Because I do like the fact that I can log on and I don’t have to go to a five minute hearing, 40 miles away. I do like that. But at the same time, you definitely have to be prepared for that with the technology and the time management and things of that sort. And like you said, not having my kid in the background on his class, his Microsoft class.

Jill McKenna:
Yeah, that’s a whole thing.

Ashton Taylor:
Yes, yes, yes.

Jill McKenna:
That’s interesting because all the research I’ve done into the legal industry and the changes have all said exactly what you just said, which is like this huge vanguard of need for technology that isn’t necessarily there for the industry yet. And so everybody’s just kind of band-aiding solutions together until something better appears or somebody learns how to do things better. But I mean, that’s a major pillar of our country, the legal system that is operating this way. It’s incredible.

Ashton Taylor:
Exactly, exactly. So I do also, I didn’t mention this, but I do a lot of, a ton of mediation. And the mediation part of it with this is great, because a lot of judges, they don’t want cases to be heard. They don’t want long, lengthy trials. Like right now, because you can’t even have jury trials in a lot of places. So if we can get it taken care of in the mediation part or the arbitration part outside of court, I think that’s going forward, I think a lot of judges in the legal industry will start pushing more on that end of it.

But that, you have to have great technology because when I first tried to do my first one, I didn’t even know how to put people in different rooms and because it’s confidential. So if you mess up and have somebody, a dad in a room hear something that mom says that’s supposed to be confidential, that’s a major… That might be an ethical violation. So yeah, I mean, I hate to keep harping on the technology and having it. I’m almost wanting to hire someone to come in and make sure everything is good.

Jill McKenna:
Last question. You’ve mentioned some things that have had to change and some things that you’ve found solutions for, but in this last year, are there changes and realizations that you’re glad have come about? Or solutions that you’ve found or things that are really working that you hope never change?

Ashton Taylor:
Yeah. I love the DocuSigns of the world, the Dropboxes, the iClouds. I had a young associate, I’m 43, so I had a young associate who’s in college. She’s like 19. She would always laugh at me because I have a whole stack of papers. And she’s just like, “You need to learn Dropbox and Google.” What’s it called? Google’s Teams. I don’t know. I don’t even know. But yeah, I love the… I complain about the technology, but I love it. Because once you have the good technology where I can look up a case on my phone at dinner, or everything’s connected with the iPad, the iPhone, and everything’s connected. And they’re uploading it at the same time. But as far as the apps, the Zoom and the DocuSign has been great, especially the DocuSign. The DocuSign is just a hidden gem that is just… Now, I really, I do think that company, everybody invest a lot of money in that company because I don’t think they’re going anywhere anytime soon.

I just think that just the business that you guys have, it’s been great for me personally. This is my second time speaking with someone from your organization and the level, I don’t know if I would have made it. And this is not a commercial or whatever for Ruby, but I would not have made it without having Ruby. And that’s the technology side of it too, just being able to get an email or a text to say somebody just called, a live person spoke with them. It goes a long way. It goes a long way and I would just encourage you guys to just keep hammering that into your marketing, that people want to talk to people, at the end of the day.

Read More

Additional reads you may find interesting...

View All
SEO and branding: star-crossed lovers—an illustration of two people with crowns surrounded by flowers
Small Business Tips

SEO and branding: star-crossed lovers

Title card: Authentic small business marketing with Jamie Adams of Scorpion

Ruby partner feature: Authentic small business marketing with Scorpion

Using chat as a sales tool: hands using laptop
Small Business Tips

4 ways to leverage live chat as a sales tool

How to attract more law firm leads: smiling woman in professional attire talks on phone while using laptop
Legal Practice Tips

Treading water? Here’s how to attract more law firm leads.

Needs-based selling: woman using laptop in well-lit office next to large window.
Small Business Tips

Needs-based selling 101

Closeup image of a business owner texting message from smart phone in cafe
Small Business Tips

Why you should be texting from your business number—and how to get started

Title card: Craig Rashkis, Farwell Rashkis LLP, Ruby customer feature series
Customer Feature

Ruby customer feature: Craig Rashkis, Falwell Rashkis LLP

What you can do to support Hispanic and Latinx-owned businesses

Using virtual receptionists for full-time answering

How to end a phone call: person holding phone
Receptionist Tips

How to end a phone call

Virtual receptionist sitting at desk

Virtual receptionist pricing 101

Professional sitting at desk on computer, working on a law firm's website
Legal Practice Tips

What Google’s Core Web Vitals mean for your law firm’s website

A group of Ruby customers stand together, smiling and talking

Does your business need an answering service?

Screenshot of a YouTube channel's live videos

How to use YouTube Live to engage your clients & audience

Smiling woman standing in a bicycle workshop with a mobile device in her hands
Small Business Tips

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

Try Ruby Risk Free

Call to talk to a live virtual receptionist and hear why 10,000+ companies Ruby.

Call Ruby Sign Up
A smiling young woman looks at her computer with one hand on the keyboard and the other holding a paper cup

Remember when picking up the phone and making a phone call was the only way to schedule an appointment, make a reservation, or book a flight? I know—it sounds prehistoric. Almost hard to believe that was once our reality. 

Technology has transformed the customer journey, and self-service options are now prevalent in nearly every industry. The beauty is, when implemented correctly, automated self-service actually elevates the customer experience—even without a “real human” involved in the process. 

Think about it: Instead of waiting indefinitely on hold for the next available agent, travel arrangements can be done with the click of a few buttons online. Restaurant reservations can be booked weeks in advance, and rescheduled just as easily. Even when the situation is urgent—if you just lost your wallet and need to freeze your credit cards, for instance—you can quickly take care of business through an app or web portal. 

So let’s talk about chat—and what approach is right for your business. 

There’s no way around it. In order to stay competitive, modern businesses need to leverage chat somewhere in their customer service workflow. Here’s why: 

  • Customers have high expectations. They want to have their questions answered, their requests addressed, their problems resolved. And they want all it done in minutes. 
  • Customers have options. They’re already shopping with your competitors, looking to make a decision. The experience that is seamless, fastest, and easiest will make the sale. 
  • Customers have no set hours. Whether it is normal business hours, the weekend, or the wee hours of the night, customers want to be taken care of. 

With chat, customers can get answers while they’re active on a website, enhancing their experiences. A customer service specialist can respond to several chats and help multiple customers at the same time. 

Meanwhile, tools such as automated lead capture can engage website visitors on your behalf. By applying the self-service model and using automated lead capture, you can alleviate your employees’ workload—and gain some much-needed time for yourself—while still harnessing chat to scale operations and improve customer satisfaction. 

How does live chat differ from “automated” chat? 

Chat is a term used so broadly that it can get confusing. To clarify, there are two distinct forms of chat support. The one you’re probably most familiar with is live chat, in which a person assists website visitors in real time. The one you may be less familiar with is what we at Ruby call automated lead capture (and which others sometimes refer to as “automated chat” or “chatbots”), whereby a prebuilt conversational flow acts as a concierge, guiding visitors to the information they need. 

Let’s break it down.

Live chat refers to human-powered chat support. In other words, responses are coming in real time from a real person. The communication is unscripted, complex conversations are easily supported, and support agents can handle multiple chats at once.

Live chat pros: 

  • Unscripted communication
  • Complex conversations are easily supported
  • No limit to personality, tone, overall expressiveness
  • Multiple conversations at once

Live chat cons: 

  • Wait time is dependent on chat specialist availability
  • Can be hard to support outside business hours
  • Limit to number of concurrent chats

Automated lead capture refers to technology that is analogous to human chat support but is powered by software programming. Communication is scripted and conversations are based on a pattern recognition and preset conditions. Response time is immediate, information is easily collected, and leads can be captured 24/7. 

Automated lead capture pros: 

  • Instant response time
  • 24/7 availability 
  • No limit to how many concurrent chats
  • Can collect information and capture lead

Automated lead capture cons:

  • Scripted communication 
  • Conversation is based on preset conditions
  • Complex requests can be difficult to support

What is the best way to implement both live chat and automated lead capture? 

There’s a delicate balance when it comes to optimizing customer service. You want to scale up and support higher volume without jeopardizing the quality of the experience. And despite all the buzz surrounding automation and artificial intelligence, solutions built purely on technology can feel daunting and impersonal.  

Make no mistake: we’re not talking about robots replacing people. In actuality, technology such as automated lead capture can help create human connection, when properly implemented.

In an ideal world, live chat and automated lead capture complement and support each other in the customer service ecosystem. Think of automated lead capture as the base level support—a means of answering frequently asked questions, qualifying prospects, and pointing visitors to readily-available information. Automation is how you ensure your human team members are spending their time only where it matters most. 

To determine how best to implement automated lead capture for your business, ask yourself: What are the customer service tasks that take up the most time, but are the easiest to address? In other words: Where’s the busy work?

Where to implement automated lead capture: 

  • Frequently asked questions with scripted answers
  • Status updates that have simple look-up procedures
  • General inquiries and simple requests 
  • Data collection and lead capture 

 

What are the benefits of incorporating live chat and automated chat tools? 

As the saying goes, time is money. What’s nice about chat tools is how they save that sweet time-money for you and your customers. 

Imagine someone visiting a website, ready to make a purchase, but with a simple question they’d like to have answered first. Maybe it’s a question about delivery options, how long a promotion will run, or whether a different color is available—you get the idea. 

Time is of the essence. They want to know the answer to their question and take action as soon as possible, and every second they spend waiting negatively affects their trust in the company and their likelihood of making a purchase.  In a matter of minutes, they can go from a ready-to-buy state of mind to abandoning the purchase altogether. 

A quick chat is a convenient, effortless interaction that prevents that scenario from ever happening. 

  • Chat offers a pleasant, more fluid customer experience. It also allows for personalized sales to help convert. 
  • Chat allows both parties to multitask. A customer can initiate a chat while working, eating, watching a movie, etc. Similarly, support agents can also work on other tasks when waiting for replies. 
  • Chat alleviates workload for your support team. It reduces the demands on your employees’ time and energy. 

Simply put, when it comes to customer service, chat support allows businesses to do more with fewer resources. What’s not to love?

At Ruby, we offer both live chat and automated lead capture, all with an emphasis on maintaining that meaningful human connection that helps businesses thrive. See how it works.

Additional reads you may find interesting...

View All
SEO and branding: star-crossed lovers—an illustration of two people with crowns surrounded by flowers
Small Business Tips

SEO and branding: star-crossed lovers

Title card: Authentic small business marketing with Jamie Adams of Scorpion

Ruby partner feature: Authentic small business marketing with Scorpion

Using chat as a sales tool: hands using laptop
Small Business Tips

4 ways to leverage live chat as a sales tool

How to attract more law firm leads: smiling woman in professional attire talks on phone while using laptop
Legal Practice Tips

Treading water? Here’s how to attract more law firm leads.

Needs-based selling: woman using laptop in well-lit office next to large window.
Small Business Tips

Needs-based selling 101

Closeup image of a business owner texting message from smart phone in cafe
Small Business Tips

Why you should be texting from your business number—and how to get started

Title card: Craig Rashkis, Farwell Rashkis LLP, Ruby customer feature series
Customer Feature

Ruby customer feature: Craig Rashkis, Falwell Rashkis LLP

What you can do to support Hispanic and Latinx-owned businesses

Using virtual receptionists for full-time answering

How to end a phone call: person holding phone
Receptionist Tips

How to end a phone call

Virtual receptionist sitting at desk

Virtual receptionist pricing 101

Professional sitting at desk on computer, working on a law firm's website
Legal Practice Tips

What Google’s Core Web Vitals mean for your law firm’s website

A group of Ruby customers stand together, smiling and talking

Does your business need an answering service?

Screenshot of a YouTube channel's live videos

How to use YouTube Live to engage your clients & audience

Smiling woman standing in a bicycle workshop with a mobile device in her hands
Small Business Tips

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

Try Ruby Risk Free

Call to talk to a live virtual receptionist and hear why 10,000+ companies Ruby.

Call Ruby Sign Up
Hands use a VoIP device

If you’re like most business owners, you have something of a love–hate relationship with your business phone line. On the one hand, you love being able to instantly connect with customers or clients. On the other hand, there’s the cost and hassle of maintaining the line—and ensuring a high-quality phone experience for everyone who calls.

You might also have a love–hate relationship with landlines, which provide stable connections but tether you to a specific location and carry not-insignificant costs.

It’s one reason why many business owners consider using VoIP. Maybe you’ve started to explore VoIP as an option. You may even be using VoIP already. Or perhaps you’re hesitant to try VoIP due to concerns about its reliability.

Whatever the case, if you’ve been wondering if VoIP is a good choice for you, wonder no longer. Let’s explore what VoIP is, how it works, and whether it’s the right option for your business. 

Table of Contents

What is VoIP?

VoIP definition: VoIP stands for voice over internet protocol. In simple terms, a VoIP line sends and receives calls using the internet rather than a copper wire connection (which is what a landline uses). 

VoIP’s beginnings reach back to the mid-1990s and the growing popularity of the internet and personal computers, as well as the rising costs of long-distance calls. With VoIP calling, people and businesses could save on their phone bills by tapping into the power of the newfangled World Wide Web. VoIP gained further traction in the mid-2000s with the rise of DSL and broadband.

Today, while VoIP calling is still largely dependent on the quality of the user’s internet connection, the technology has a whole heck of a lot to offer in terms of features and usability. And in some cases, it can be a better choice than a landline.

What makes VoIP calling so popular is its flexibility. You can send and receive phone calls anywhere from your VoIP phone number as long as you have an internet connection. 

However, although VoIP calling has come a long way, it’s not a perfect match for every small business.

Let’s take a closer look at how VoIP works and what kind of features VoIP might offer for you and your business. 

How does VoIP work?

Get comfy and refill your beverage—we’re about get a little technical.

Okay, so, a VoIP phone call requires many things to happen all at once to get your voice from your IP address to someone else’s IP address (that is, essentially, to place a phone call over the internet). When you place a VoIP phone call, your voice is recorded and converted into data. Those one and zeroes travel over the internet, and once they reach the other person’s IP address, they’re converted back into your digital voice. All of this occurs in real time, over your internet connection.

VoIP calls can work through a special phone plugged into your router, or through software on your computer or mobile device. Most people have used VoIP software, even if they don’t realize it. If you’ve ever placed a Skype call, for instance, congratulations—you’ve used VoIP.

The VoIP calling of yesteryear certainly had its limitations. For one, it required that you place a call to another person using the same VoIP software (e.g. Skype user to Skype user).

Today, many VoIP providers offer integrated mobile or desktop apps that allow for video conferencing and team messaging, and can even enable team members to take phone calls on their smart watches (perfect for when employees are in the field!).

Instead of call forwarding, you automatically receive your VoIP calls and messages on your mobile device when you leave your office (which, to be fair, isn’t so great for your days off). You’ll never miss an important call with a client or potential customers because you had to untether yourself from your desk.

All of this makes VoIP calling truly competitive with traditional phone lines in terms of value. Keep in mind that with a landline, you need to be at your business’s location to place or receive a call. VoIP allows you to take your business phone number with you anywhere you have an internet connection.

What providers offer VoIP?

Many companies specialize in VoIP calling, while others, such as our friends at Grasshopper, offer VoIP calling as a feature alongside their other services.

  • LogMeIn: LogMeIn offers a suite of business tools aimed at helping you connect your workforce with intelligent business tools. LogMeIn’s suite of tools includes Grasshopper, a business phone system you can use from your personal device. GoToConnect is their cloud-based business phone system that integrates business calling, messaging, and video conferencing—all on one cloud-based platform. LogMeIn and GoToConnect integrate with many of the business tools small businesses rely on, such as Salesforce, Zoho, Microsoft Teams, and G Suite.
  • Nextiva: Nextiva is another company that offers flexible VoIP services. The desktop or mobile app helps you see past communications with customers, which can be a powerful tool for customer service. Nextiva allows you to video conference with team members. Nextiva offers an AI tool that automatically sends welcome and follow-up messages to new and potential customers.
  • RingCentral: RingCentral offers flexible pricing (based on the number of users) and features to its small business customers. Depending on the package you choose for your business, you can conduct video meetings, audio conferencing, internet faxing, advanced calling features such as call monitoring, whispering, and barging. RingCentral integrates smoothly with tools you might already be using, including Slack, Microsoft 365, Salesforce, and Zendesk.
  • Google Voice: Google Voice offers a mobile or a desktop app that allows you to send and receive calls, voicemails, and texts over your internet connection. With Google Voice, you can make calls from any device using a separate business phone number. Voice integrates with other Google applications such as Google Meet and Google Calendar. Although Google Voice is a popular option for VoIP, its limitations make it less-than-ideal for many growing businesses.
  • 8×8: The 8×8 Experience Communication Platform offers cloud-based voice, contact center, video, mobile, and unified communications for businesses of all kinds, with analytics and additional features such as call handling, call management, and core productivity.
  • Intermedia: Intermedia offers an array of connected services that help you integrate your business technology. Intermedia’s VoIP offerings include the ability to switch from a traditional office phone, a desktop app, and a mobile app. You can start a chat or video conference with your team and even share files right from your computer. Advanced features help you see data about your business’s calls and your team’s productivity. Intermedia integrates with Microsoft Teams, Salesforce, Zoho, G Suite, Outlook, Slack, and others.

With all these options for features and smart business integrations, why would anyone still choose a traditional landline for their business?

Unfortunately, there is a reason why your business might still need to hang onto your copper landline.

Let’s talk about what you can get out of VoIP and the reasons why your business might not get the best VoIP quality.

VoIP quality: what to expect and why it varies

VoIP is a powerful tool for your business—especially with the features, business integrations, and smart tools offered by most VoIP providers. The downside to VoIP might be something you don’t have much control over. 

Your internet connection. 

Because VoIP calling operates over the internet, call quality can vary, especially if you don’t have a reliable internet connection. Rural businesses, or businesses in areas that don’t offer many choices for a high-speed internet connection, may find that their VoIP calling isn’t as impressive as they thought it would be. 

Why does VoIP quality vary?

The quality of your VoIP calls can vary for many reasons—here are just a few:

  • You or your VoIP provider need to reconfigure something. Different providers offer varying VoIP services, packages, and tech support. Some platforms are more intuitive than others. More advanced VoIP services offer advanced features that require an IT professional to adjust your VoIP settings.
  • You have multiple devices using your internet connection simultaneously, which can stress your ability to support high-quality VoIP calls. You can adjust these bandwidth and traffic issues to improve your VoIP call quality.
  • You’re using older equipment that might not support the newest apps and software.
  • You live in an area prone to power outages. If your internet goes down, unfortunately so does your VoIP system.

A solid and reliable internet connection is the primary way to ensure your VoIP calling delivers clear calls for your business. Solving bandwidth issues for you and your team members can be as simple as kicking your kids off their devices when you’re making phone calls, or as complex as telling your router to prioritize and save bandwidth for VoIP calling so that bandwidth is always available for your business.

I promise that it’s not as difficult as that sounds.

Many internet providers allow you to adjust your router management settings to protect a certain amount of bandwidth, specifically for VoIP calls. That means that bandwidth will always be available for your VoIP calls, no matter how many users or devices are surfing your internet.

And most VoIP providers have robust IT customer service departments that can help you pinpoint what might be causing VoIP quality issues you’re having.

VoIP or landline: Which is the right option for you?

Let’s look at the pros and cons of the two calling options we’ve explored in this article: landlines vs. VoIP lines. 

Traditional landline pros: 

  • Reliable connections and stable call quality 
  • Your business won’t lose your phone line during power outages or bad weather
  • Not complicated to set up

Traditional landline cons: 

  • More expensive than VoIP
  • Minimal flexibility, calling features, and integrations with software
  • Only offered by the companies in a given area, which may mean little choice in providers

VoIP business line pros: 

  • Flexibility to make business calls anywhere you have an internet connection 
  • Many calling features and intuitive platforms, as well as access to video conferencing, messaging, and call data analytics 
  • Potential integrations with the business tools you may already be using, which can help you smoothly connect your business software and customer touchpoints

VoIP business line cons:

  • Relies on a strong internet connection 
  • You can lose your VoIP calling if the power goes out (sometimes remedied if your VoIP provider offers aapp you can access from a mobile device) 
  • May require advanced IT settings on your internet connection to improve quality and reliability  

Considering making the switch to VoIP? Here are a few questions to consider when thinking about letting go of your landline and evaluating a VoIP provider:

“Is my internet connection fast and reliable?”

Unfortunately, some areas of the country still struggle with a lack of access to high-quality internet. In some cases, 4G and 5G data networks can fill the gap. VoIP might not be the best option for your business phone line if you’re in a rural area or don’t have access to high-speed internet or a reliable cellular network.

“Am I prepared for a power outage or other emergency?”

Power outages can happen at any time. When your VoIP business line depends on the power for your internet connection, it’s a good idea to have a plan in place for when the power goes out unexpectedly. 

You can do a few things to keep your business line up and running when the power goes out. 

  1. Connect your internet and VoIP equipment to a battery backup.
  2. Switch over to your VoIP provider’s mobile app in the event of a power outage (assuming your cell phone is charged enough). 
  3. Set your VoIP settings to forward all your calls to voicemail if the power goes out. 

Regardless of the phone system you use, you may want to maintain a landline for emergency purposes, as most landlines continue functioning during power outages. Additionally, keep in mind that many alarm and elevator lines require landlines.

“What capabilities does the VoIP provider’s mobile app offer?”

Standardizing the devices your business uses for VoIP calling, including smartphones, headsets, computers, and handsets can help you improve how your team delivers customer service through your VoIP business line. Standard equipment enables you to address IT issues across all your devices and equipment. 

“How does the VoIP provider work with other tools and systems?”

The more you can integrate your telephone line with the other business tools and software you already use, the better customer service you can provide your clients and customers. Many VoIP services integrate with the CRM tools and productivity tools you use to run your business.  

“What experience am I providing for my customers?”

Running a small business means making connections where your competitors can’t. Customers want to connect with your business over the phone. Your VoIP provider should offer you the tools and features you need to make those connections with clients and prospects memorable from the very first call.  

Not sure if VoIP is right for you?

Your business might be in a storm-prone area (with frequent power outages) or a rural area with an unreliable internet connection. If that is the case, VoIP probably isn’t the best option for your small business.  

Fortunately, you have options. If you’re not sure if VoIP is right for you, ask us about porting or hosting your business line. We can help make sure your customer’s calls are answered 24/7/365.  

 VoIP or landline, it’s all about connection.

No matter what you choose for your business phone line, what matters most is selecting the tools to help your business accomplish what your competitors can’t—providing extraordinary experiences for your customers every day. 

Creating memorable experiences for your customers while growing your business is easier than you think. 

Ruby’s here to help with that. Visit our small business resource hub for tips, tricks, and resources to help you make more connections with more customers every day.

Additional reads you may find interesting...

View All
SEO and branding: star-crossed lovers—an illustration of two people with crowns surrounded by flowers
Small Business Tips

SEO and branding: star-crossed lovers

Title card: Authentic small business marketing with Jamie Adams of Scorpion

Ruby partner feature: Authentic small business marketing with Scorpion

Using chat as a sales tool: hands using laptop
Small Business Tips

4 ways to leverage live chat as a sales tool

How to attract more law firm leads: smiling woman in professional attire talks on phone while using laptop
Legal Practice Tips

Treading water? Here’s how to attract more law firm leads.

Needs-based selling: woman using laptop in well-lit office next to large window.
Small Business Tips

Needs-based selling 101

Closeup image of a business owner texting message from smart phone in cafe
Small Business Tips

Why you should be texting from your business number—and how to get started

Title card: Craig Rashkis, Farwell Rashkis LLP, Ruby customer feature series
Customer Feature

Ruby customer feature: Craig Rashkis, Falwell Rashkis LLP

What you can do to support Hispanic and Latinx-owned businesses

Using virtual receptionists for full-time answering

How to end a phone call: person holding phone
Receptionist Tips

How to end a phone call

Virtual receptionist sitting at desk

Virtual receptionist pricing 101

Professional sitting at desk on computer, working on a law firm's website
Legal Practice Tips

What Google’s Core Web Vitals mean for your law firm’s website

A group of Ruby customers stand together, smiling and talking

Does your business need an answering service?

Screenshot of a YouTube channel's live videos

How to use YouTube Live to engage your clients & audience

Smiling woman standing in a bicycle workshop with a mobile device in her hands
Small Business Tips

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

Try Ruby Risk Free

Call to talk to a live virtual receptionist and hear why 10,000+ companies Ruby.

Call Ruby Sign Up

Diversity Marketing and Business Consultant Michelle Ngome has seen an increase in business this last year as companies are being thoughtful about how they reflect the world they want to live in and the organizations they want to be.

In this first of our three-part discussion with Michelle, she explains what Diversity Marketing is and outlines important points to consider when creating an inclusive marketing presence.

Read the interview.

Jill McKenna: Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining us here. My name is Jill McKenna. I’m the campaign marketing manager at Ruby, and I’m joined today by Michelle Ngome. I’m deeply excited to have you here, thanks for being here. Michelle is a diversity and inclusion marketing consultant, the founder of the African American Marketing Association, author and podcaster, wearing many hats. Michelle, thank you for being here. Can you explain a little bit more about your work for our audience?

Michelle Ngome:
Yes, thanks for having me. I help large organizations look at diversity and inclusion from a marketing perspective. Everyone’s doing marketing in some capacity, I’m making sure that your content and your visuals show diversity and inclusion in all of your marketing material for your campaigns.

Jill McKenna:
I imagine that your work has really changed in the last year with shifts to social awareness, social justice, initiatives that have happened as a culture. Can you explain a little bit more about how you are seeing companies embracing inclusive marketing now?

Michelle Ngome:
Yeah, I think the companies have definitely become a lot more aware since June 1st. I think it’s always been affirmative action/diversity, equity and inclusion, or diversity, inclusion and belonging, each company has their own name for it. I think it’s always been a component, but since June 1st it’s definitely gone in hyper-awareness mode. I definitely see companies making strides as far as galvanizing their own employees to say like, “Hey, what are we doing? What are we doing wrong? How can we do better?” And then, of course, hiring experts to come in and assess what that process.

Jill McKenna:
Yeah, I can see how you would have amplified your business because those are a lot of questions in a lot of areas that that companies need to cover.

Michelle Ngome:
Yeah. I think the unique thing about me, I say that I look at diversity and inclusion from a marketing perspective. I don’t have an HR background, I haven’t done talent recruiting and all that kind of stuff, but I have expertise in finance and marketing that overlaps when it comes to trends, reading reports and stuff like that. But I realized that the marketing department wasn’t talking to the HR department. In order for you to have an inclusive campaign, I think it starts from the inside of the organization, so that’s how I go in and help teams. I prefer working with the marketing team, but I’m like, “Hey, now that we’ve got this together, we need to work with the HR team.” That’s what I assist with.

Jill McKenna:
To that point, if people are wondering, is this for me, is this something I need, what is this exactly, can you explain a little bit more about inclusive marketing and exactly what it is for those who aren’t sure of the definition?

Michelle Ngome:
Yeah. Inclusive marketing is about creating an internal environment that’s going to allow for you to have a successful marketing campaign, because the marketing campaign is the external output that you’re promoting your company, brand awareness, sales, whatever the objective may be. What I realized is that there was a lack of representation or misrepresentation when it comes to Blacks and other minorities, but I feel that if you’re creating the environment where Black and Brown people are in the process, the decision making process of your campaign, that would help with the inclusiveness.

Jill McKenna:
That makes a lot of sense. I think it’s something that we see a lot as consumers too. A different example is I remember I used to watch really heavy gaming, like people win millions of dollars playing video games, and I noticed that all that was happening was this was being marketed to men. I was like, “You’re missing 50% of your customer base,” and so it’s only logical to think about not only doing it for the right reasons because we want to be inclusive, but you’re also cutting yourself off at the knees if you’re not thinking about the wider audience. Do you run into that a lot?

Michelle Ngome:
Oh yeah, absolutely. I think it’s one of those things, for so long it’s been the white audience is the mainstream audience, it’s mainstream America. I think most companies have looked at it just very broad and people are going to fall in where they fall in, if they like the product, they like the product, but lately we’ve been seeing where representation matters. Also, with that representation, you have a large number of Black and Brown people that are wealthy, that have disposable income. Nelson Media reports when you look at Black consumers, Latinx consumers, Asians, and even people with disabilities, each of those groups spend a trillion dollars in consumer spending. Your brand, your product caters to them, but they want to see themselves in their marketing because then it’s like, “Oh, I need that. I relate to him, her,” or whatever. Then, “I want to buy a house. I need to sell a house,” it’s like, “I see myself driving that car or wearing that makeup. All of those things are important and I just want to encourage individuals, even small business owners as well as the larger companies, that let’s be mindful of that moving forward.

Jill McKenna:
Are there other fundamentals of inclusive marketing that people should be keeping in mind when they’re doing this work or starting to look at themselves through this lens?

Michelle Ngome:
I think that’s why it’s important to create your team. I think diversity comes in an array of ways, diversity of thought, experience, socioeconomic, education, location. Diversity goes beyond race, we have religion, we have culture, and so many things. You want to bring those people to the table. You need to create that environment where individuals on your team feel like they can contribute, they can speak up when it comes to creating these marketing campaigns or even these job descriptions, that you, once again, hire the right people. That way, anything that goes out, it’s like your team has some input and it’s a representation of your company, of your work culture. I feel like for the longest we have lost sight of that, so I’m always encouraging people to be mindful of that.

Jill McKenna:
For marketing, beyond using stock photos of Black, Indigenous, and people of color, what can marketing teams do to also be creating that reach?

Michelle Ngome:
Yeah. Let me say this with the stock photos, because that is tricky, because the stock photo platforms are not that diverse in itself so that can be a challenge. If you’re able to create original photos, the best way possible during this time, I would definitely encourage you to do that. Some other ways, there’s actually a company in Portland right now, Intuitive Digital, I think they’re doing a great job. They’re a great example, where they did hire a consultant. They have this on their website and I think that’s what I loved about it. You see how they’re doing the work and they’re tracking it. They did hire a consultant, resources that they tapped into, they started a scholarship, an essay scholarship specifically for minority candidates. Those are the three things that I can remember right now. I think that’s the start. Once again, if you’re in Timbuktu, North Carolina, if you’re not in a major city where maybe there’s not a large Black population or a Black marketing population, you’ve got to get creative. You’ve got to find other ways to support the Black Lives Matter movement or just minorities in general.

Jill McKenna:
Thank you so much. I have just enjoyed myself so much. I’m really appreciative of your time. If people want to find out more about you, where can they go?

Michelle Ngome:
Yes. MichelleNgome.com, Line25Consulting.com is my company. You can pretty much find me, first and last name, Michelle Ngome, N-G-O-M-E. I’ll say follow me on Instagram for the cool stuff, Facebook for the real stuff, and LinkedIn for the professional stuff.

Jill McKenna:
Perfect. Thank you so much, thanks for your time.

Michelle Ngome:
You’re welcome.

Read More

Additional reads you may find interesting...

View All
SEO and branding: star-crossed lovers—an illustration of two people with crowns surrounded by flowers
Small Business Tips

SEO and branding: star-crossed lovers

Title card: Authentic small business marketing with Jamie Adams of Scorpion

Ruby partner feature: Authentic small business marketing with Scorpion

Using chat as a sales tool: hands using laptop
Small Business Tips

4 ways to leverage live chat as a sales tool

How to attract more law firm leads: smiling woman in professional attire talks on phone while using laptop
Legal Practice Tips

Treading water? Here’s how to attract more law firm leads.

Needs-based selling: woman using laptop in well-lit office next to large window.
Small Business Tips

Needs-based selling 101

Closeup image of a business owner texting message from smart phone in cafe
Small Business Tips

Why you should be texting from your business number—and how to get started

Title card: Craig Rashkis, Farwell Rashkis LLP, Ruby customer feature series
Customer Feature

Ruby customer feature: Craig Rashkis, Falwell Rashkis LLP

What you can do to support Hispanic and Latinx-owned businesses

Using virtual receptionists for full-time answering

How to end a phone call: person holding phone
Receptionist Tips

How to end a phone call

Virtual receptionist sitting at desk

Virtual receptionist pricing 101

Professional sitting at desk on computer, working on a law firm's website
Legal Practice Tips

What Google’s Core Web Vitals mean for your law firm’s website

A group of Ruby customers stand together, smiling and talking

Does your business need an answering service?

Screenshot of a YouTube channel's live videos

How to use YouTube Live to engage your clients & audience

Smiling woman standing in a bicycle workshop with a mobile device in her hands
Small Business Tips

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

Try Ruby Risk Free

Call to talk to a live virtual receptionist and hear why 10,000+ companies Ruby.

Call Ruby Sign Up
Sales Support
Legal_Final

The Secret to Successful Law Firms

The inside scoop on Clio’s latest legal trends report.

Phone Thumbnail 2

10 Questions to Ask a Virtual Reception Provider

Ask the right questions and rate virtual reception services with our handy guide and scorecard!

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 canceled service (less any multi-service discount), please notify us of the service you wish to cancel either within 21 days of your purchase of that service or before your usage exceeds 500 receptionist minutes/50 billable chats, as applicable, whichever occurs sooner. Some restrictions may apply.