Guide: The Shifting State of Healthcare

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Over the last year, COVID-19 has left no medical practice unaffected.

However, in the midst of a relentless pandemic, healthcare providers have worked tirelessly to adapt to changes and rise to the unimaginable challenges before them.

Digital health solutions and communication technologies have been a critical part of the healthcare industry’s response, benefiting both patients and practitioners.

In this ebook, we’ll take a look at a shifting industry, and the tools, services, and resources healthcare providers have employed to see their practices through to the other side.

  • Healthcare innovations in response to rapid change
  • Patient expectations in the new normal
  • Care and service adjustments that are likely here to stay
  • Simple changes that can help your practice compete

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The Ultimate Live Chat Cheat Sheet

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With just a few tips and tricks you can turn up your live chat efforts and turn the trickle of conversations into a flood. And once those conversations start, there are simple ways to maximize lead conversion.

We’ve talked to thousands of small business owners and entrepreneurs who use live chat and gotten to the best practices.

Remove Friction

A chat box form is just like a website sign up form: the fewer required fields the more likely a visitor is to complete the form. Best practice is to eliminate any required fields on your chat box. It’s far more natural to get a name and email address during a live chat conversation. Think of it as if the conversation were happening face-to-face. You would never ask from an email address before starting an in-person conversation.

Automate Triggers + Follow-Ups

You can’t always wait for customers to initiate the engagement. Triggers are a great live chat feature to initiate conversations with qualified website visitors. Most live chat software platforms will allow you to add triggers to specific pages or set triggers to fire after a visitor has been on your website for a certain amount of time. This is a great way to gently increase engagement and approach your website.

Connect your live chat software with a marketing automation tool to ensure you continue the relationship beyond the website visit. Leads you acquire through a live chat conversation may not be ready to buy immediately. So follow up! Or risk missing out on a lot of new deals and potential customers. 

Respond Instantly

Visitors want instant responses. Faster service ensures a better experience and gives them fewer reasons to skip over to a competitor. Responding instantly is made much easier by setting up desktop notifications – and, ideally, mobile notifications. If you have a mobile app installed on your phone for your live chat software, the easiest thing is to respond from your phone.

Train Your Live Chat Agents 

If the person assigned to live chat is not knowledgeable about your products or service they might deliver a sub-par service experience. Visitors want instant answers to questions that would lead to a sale or online purchase.

Add Chat To Your Shopping Cart

Abandoned shopping carts haunt every online business. Don’t let your future customers leave your site without crossing the finish line. Adding live chat on shopping carts or on checkout pages will give shoppers an opportunity to get any final questions answered. You might find that shoppers have questions about pricing, returns or shipping. Answering those simple questions just may improve your overall sales numbers.

Maximize Your Availability

The more time you’re available and accessible to answer questions for your visitors and customers, the most you’ll be able to help them. 

At some point, you have to sleep. For most businesses, however, you have website visitors with questions at all hours of the day. Ensure that you are capturing each question no matter what by converting your live chat box into an email capture form. By enabling the form, you’re not only helping potential customers you’re also improving conversion on your website.

Interested in learning more? Download our ebook, all about the rise of live chat and how to make it work for your business.

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Guide: The new front door to your business.

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Running a business doesn’t look quite the same as it did a few short years ago. But one thing remains the same:

Engaging with prospective and current clients is exciting, and each interaction presents an opportunity to win (or lose) their business.

In order to keep these connections with customers alive, a strong and positive online presence is critical. Your business needs to be findable, accessible, and truly representative of who you are, and what your business has to offer.

It’s a lot, but we are here to help. In this guide you will discover:

  • How to build your online presence from scratch
  • The role and power of web content
  • How to capture local business with SEO
  • The importance of user experience, and much more!

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How to Get More Live Chat Conversations

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We love chatting. It’s what we do all day – in person, with customers, with prospects and on Slack. For our small business customers, we are constantly working to help them have more live chat conversations with their website visitors and customers.

It’s hard to say specifically what will work best for each business, but here are some we’ve seen work for a wide range of clients.

Stylize and customize your chat window.

Make sure the chat window stands out and matches your brand aesthetic. If your chat window is boring and/or blends into the background of your website no one will ever see it. If they can’t find an easy way to contact you, they might just leave. 

Cut out any lead capture fields in a chat window. Excessive fields can drive users away. You already have someone who genuinely wants to talk to you. Make it easy for them. Get those form fields outta here!

Make chat available for every page of your website. Users never know when they’ll have a question, so you need to be ready to answer at any step of the journey. And remind them now and again that you’re here and ready for their questions. This is known as a ‘trigger’– a super simple way to pop-up the chat window proactively after a certain amount of time. You can also specify pages for triggers. Consider triggering your chat box on pages where visitors have the most questions. 

Optimize your user experience.

How does your site look on a mobile phone? If it doesn’t look awesome, now is the time to improve it because a growing majority of web traffic is coming from mobile devices.

Mobile traffic has been outpacing desktop traffic online for years now. Make sure you optimize your chat box for mobile, too.

How does the copy on your site look – especially on the homepage? Clunky copy can muddy a user’s experience and increase your bounce rate. You need copy that makes your value proposition clear and immediate to visitors. Get them interested. Help them visualize how your services will improve their lives.

It may be less obvious, but you could also add specific links on your website directing visitors to chat with you as a CTA (or maybe just in general use website copy to suggest that people chat with you).

Find a partner business for marketing.

Do you have a friend or contact who owns a business targeting a similar audience? Building a co-marketing partnership may be one way to drive more qualified traffic to both of your websites. Each of you have insights about your customers and audiences that will help craft a targeted offer or landing page that could drive more engagement.

Partnerships are great ways to start more conversations on social media as well. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn communities are always looking for thoughtful new fodder for discussion.

Boost your local presence online.

There are so many benefits of creating and maintaining your Google My Business profile. Especially if you’re a local business you can drive web and foot traffic by improving your Google page. Again, for local and geo-specific businesses there are many ways that optimizing your online presence can drive traffic. And you’re in luck – we wrote another blog devoted to this topic.

In addition to improving your Google business profile, consider submitting your website to other online directories of businesses like Yelp, Angie’s List, Thumbtack, and Business Journals are all great places to list your business.

Warm up old leads.

Depending on the length of your sales cycle, you may need to keep your prospects engaged over many weeks and/or months. Just because someone visited your website and opted-in to a newsletter a few months ago doesn’t necessarily mean they are ready to buy. Keep the relationship going and eventually those better educated prospects will come back to your website with buying questions. 

Reach out to customers you haven’t seen in a while. Consider running a promotion exclusively for repeat customers as a way to thank them – and as a reason to reach out. Referral campaigns can be fun and effective ways to warm up cold communication lines: give repeat customers the chance to share an awesome discount with friends who have not yet used your product.

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How do you change someone’s mind? The question has long baffled philosophers, educators, researchers, and leaders of all kinds—not to mention salespeople and customer service professionals. 

If you’ve ever dealt with someone who had a misguided assumption, irrational objection, or unsubstantiated complaint about your business, you know how challenging it is to talk them out of it. One reason we say “the customer is always right” is that it’s so dang hard to convince them they’re wrong.

But sometimes, the customer is wrong. Very wrong. And it’s in your—and their—best interest to change their mind. Maybe they’ve left a scathing, baseless review online that threatens your company’s reputation. Perhaps they’re dragging their feet about making a purchase decision due to an ill-informed belief about the value of your business. 

Whatever the case, here are a few tips for doing the impossible and persuading someone to change their mind.

Take time to listen.

Not every heated exchange is an argument or debate. At its core, the conversation might actually be an expression of emotions. Maybe the other person is upset because they feel they’ve been treated unfairly. Maybe their anger is rooted in an altogether different feeling, such as fear (e.g. fear of paying too much money) or confusion (confusion about what your business does, about how your products or services will make their life easier).

Let go of assumptions and meet the other person where they’re at, intellectually and emotionally. Only by taking the time to listen can you determine the real nature of the exchange and the issue at hand. Fortunately, listening is pretty easy—and it doesn’t need to be totally passive. You don’t have to sit there in silence while the other person rants at you. Ask open-ended questions. Look for opportunities to establish trust. Practice empathy. 

These sorts of active listening behaviors help dismantle hostility and transform the conversation into a collaborative one. Don’t think of it as changing someone’s mind (even if that’s exactly what you’re doing), but working with them through difficult emotions and reaching a mutual understanding.

Learn 5 ways to improve your active listening skills.

Let them talk.

Listening can also help you overcome arguments without much effort. Frustrating as it can be to sit back and allow someone to blather on when you know they’re ignorant or wrong, sometimes the best strategy you have is to let them talk—so they can hear themselves talk, and hear how little they know.

It’s called the “unread library effect.” Here’s how Eric Barker, author of Barking Up the Wrong Tree, explains it:

“Leveraging the unread library effect means you encourage the other person to talk and by politely asking them questions, allow them to see their own ignorance. Instead of you battering them with facts, they lead themselves into doubt. Socrates would be proud. At the very least it often serves to moderate extreme beliefs because it’s humbling to realize you can’t really explain what your beliefs are based on. And it reduces hostility because you don’t have to throw those backfiring facts at them; you just ask sincere questions.”

In other words, as much you’re genuinely listening to the other person, you’re also quietly challenging their beliefs by putting them on the spot. 

Sneaky? Sure. Effective? You bet—just ask the top law schools.

Share your perspective—mindfully.

Ever tried couples therapy? Even if you haven’t, I bet you’re familiar with some of the following. Relationship counselors often advise their clients to do things like…

  • use “I” statements such as “I feel…” and “I believe…”
  • avoid blaming and using generalizing statements such as “you never…” or “you’re so…”
  • communicate their needs directly (“I need help with…”, “Would you be willing to…”)
  • stay aware of and respectful of the other person
  • pay attention to non-verbal cues such as eye contact, lip-biting, or fidgeting

The same suggestions apply to any kind of relationship, be it with a spouse, friend, parent, child, employee, customer, or prospect. When it’s time for you to talk, be honest and kind, and keep your thoughts centered on the person and conversation in front of you. 

For examples of this kind of approach in action, check out Reddit’s r/ChangeMyView forum—one of the few places on the internet where people engage in non-polarized conversation, and the subject of a Cornell University research study titled “Winning Arguments: Interaction Dynamics and Persuasion Strategies in Good-faith Online Discussions” (PDF). 

An article in Psychology Today discusses some of the study’s main findings, which anyone can learn from to improve conversations (emphasis added):

“By analyzing the forum, researchers found specific attributes that made it more likely original posters would change their minds. Participants who used different words compared to the original poster—a sign of introducing a new point of view—were most likely to change someone’s mind. Arguments using specific examples were also more likely to change someone’s mind.

Researchers found word choice to be an important factor. People who posted their original opinion using the word ‘I,’ signaling a personal belief, were more likely to change their minds compared to people who used the word ‘we’ in their posts, which signaled a broader viewpoint. People who responded by qualifying their arguments—using words such as ‘it may be the case’—were more persuasive than those who posted staunch opinions.”

The point is that there’s a right way and an—ahem—maybe not-so-productive? way to express thoughts that controvert another person’s beliefs. As with so many things in life, it comes down to the Golden Rule:

Communicate how you’d want to be communicated with.

Be flexible.

Keep in mind that convincing someone to change their mind is no easy feat. It takes time, patience, and mental fortitude—and it’s never a sure thing. To boost their mind-changing capacity, business leaders need to use not just one approach, but a multitude of angles and tactics for different conversations.

That’s according to Laura Huang, associate professor of business administration at Harvard Business School and author of Edge: Turning Adversity into Advantage. Together with research assistant Ryan Yu, Haung examined the conversational habits of dozens of executives, politicians, entrepreneurs, and other leaders. Huang and Yu discovered that turning a “no” into a “yes” starts with a thorough assessment of the situation, followed by a strategy shaped for the specific context and audience.

They write, in a recent Harvard Business Review article:

“[W]e observed, and then interviewed, more than 60 leaders who were trying to convince business associates and other constituents to change their minds on a course of action that they initially disagreed with. The leaders who were most successful in overcoming others’ skepticism were those who diagnosed the root of the fundamental disagreement before trying to persuade. They first asked themselves, ‘What’s driving my detractor’s resistance?’ These leaders often pinpointed which aspects of their arguments elicited the most pushback and the most emotional reactions. Then, depending on the answer, they approached the situation with one of the following three targeted strategies.”

The first strategy Huang and Yu identify is “the Cognitive Conversation,” where the leader uses objective reasoning and facts to change the mind of a detractor.

The second strategy is “the Champion Conversation,” through which someone convinces another person by “invest[ing] time in personally learning about and building rapport with them.”

The third strategy is called “the Credible Colleague Approach” and involves bringing in a trustworthy “peer or superior” whose presence “forces the detractor to disentangle who you are from what your argument might be and evaluate the idea based on its objective merits.”

These certainly aren’t the only tactics that work. The more ways you can think of to approach a conversation, the better-equipped you’ll be when difficulties and disagreements arise. And arise they will—conflicts with customers are a fact of doing business, especially online.

That said, you don’t have to spend your time and energy trying to change your customers’ minds. Let Ruby handle the challenging conversations for you. We’re experts at creating connections over the phone and online, via live chat. Our unique approach to customer service translates into happier customers, improved brand loyalty, and—ultimately—better business. I think we can all agree that’s a good thing.

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Live chat: the good and the bad.

Reading time:

Outstanding customer service shines through the details. The chime when a visitor opens the front door, the number of rings before the phone gets answered, the words an agent uses to greet someone, the penmanship of a handwritten thank-you note—these are the kinds of small touches customer-centric companies obsess over. (How do I know? Because we’ve had long conversations about all of the above here at Ruby.)

As customer service moves further into online channels, the details matter more than ever. A funny tweet, a thoughtful response to a Yelp review, or a half-second shaved off your website’s loading time can boost your business significantly. Every element of your online presence makes a difference.

Especially chat. 

Does your website offer live chat? If not, you’re missing out on valuable opportunities to convert prospects into customers and reach existing customers. 

Not having a live chat function on your website is like not having a front desk in your physical office space. 

That’s a pretty big detail to overlook, if you ask me.

But as with a front desk, it’s not enough to merely have a chat window on your site. There needs to be a friendly, responsive representative at that desk or on the other side of the chat exchange to capably welcome visitors, answer questions, and provide a great experience. Here again, the details matter. The chat operator who responds, how quickly they respond, the kind of assistance they offer, and the words they use (and don’t use) all impact customer service success.

What this means is that there’s a right way and a wrong way to do live chat. Do it right and you’ll delight visitors and win more business online. Do it wrong and you could frustrate and alienate the people you’re hoping to serve. 

What does effective live chat look like? Let’s dig into some positive examples and a few less-positive ones.

The good: when chat makes life easier for customers.

Did you know that chat is many people’s preferred communication channel? 

According to one survey, which assessed thousands of customer service interactions, 73% of consumers were satisfied with their experiences on live chat—the highest level of any channel in the study. For contrast, 61% of the same group were satisfied with email communication and only 44% got what they wanted from phone calls. 

People in the survey rated chat highly because it helped them get their questions answered immediately, access information faster, and multitask while having a customer service conversation.

Learn more eye-opening statistics about live chat.

The bad: when chat makes life more difficult.

Unfortunately, not every live chat solution helps customers save time or get what they need easier. When improperly designed or implemented, chat can create its own problems and headaches.

Consider this example from Reddit user /u/ecpnw, who took to social media to complain about their experience trying to cancel a subscription. According to the user, the company in question allows them to “manage all aspects of my account online without assistance… except canceling my subscription.” Instead of simply clicking a button to cancel, their only option was to start a chat—and once they did, they learned that 400 people were ahead of them.

Definitely not convenient, fast, or user-friendly.

The good: when personal connections via chat increase revenue.

This one comes directly from one of our customers. Kellam Mechanical has been using Ruby’s live chat for years, and has sustained high rates of service bookings online as a result. The secret is Ruby’s ability to create personal, meaningful connections with every customer.

According to office manager and marketing director Sarah Kellam (emphasis added): “Our closing rate has been 75% higher with Ruby compared to when we were using another company that only offered a chatbot.” 

Read the full case study.

The bad: when chatbots fail.

Oh, chatbots. While automated answering can be an effective component of a chat setup (we make use of it at Ruby), it’s clear that bots aren’t ready to fully replace human agents any time soon.

The internet is full of examples of chatbot screwups—bots glitching out and repeating themselves, bots refusing to follow basic instructions, bots that aren’t built for human interaction, and so on and so on

Here’s one of my “favorite” examples, via augmented reality and virtual reality company Jasoren:

That’s right—this chatbot doesn’t understand the word “do.” It does not.

The good: when chat helps businesses make better decisions.

Here’s another example from a Ruby customer. Prero Orthodontics has leveraged our live chat services to not just boost business but also better understand their customers—allowing the company to make smarter, data-driven decisions.

“As soon as we started using [Ruby’s live chat], we started getting referrals,” said Dr. Dovi Prero. “We got the actual transcript of every chat, showing us exactly what people were concerned about or what their questions were. The transcript would also give us a visitor’s IP address and the link they clicked on to find our website. We could see if they were coming from Instagram, Google, Yelp, and so on. That has been very helpful in honing in on where our marketing resources go.”

Download the case study.

The bad: when chat specialists don’t do their job.

Business Insider has the story of a customer who used a major retail company’s chat function hoping he could talk through a possible case of identity theft. Rather than helping him, however, the chat specialist only exacerbated the customer’s frustration:

Williams told Hacker News he spent nearly an hour with “Farah,” trying to explain the problem. At no point did “Farah” show any understanding of what Williams wanted: She variously suggested deleting his own email account, resetting his password, and offering to delete his account for him. At one point “Farah” began addressing Williams as “maam,” even though he is a man.”

Here’s an excerpt from the conversation:

You can read the full story here.

The huh?!

One more example from Reddit, just because it made me laugh. This one isn’t good, but I’m not sure it falls into the “bad” category either:

Must be a busy minute.

The good: live chat with Ruby.

Convert your website visitors into customers with the leading live chat service on the market. Businesses love Ruby’s chat services because we embed value, personality, and humanity in every last detail. 

We act as an extension of your team, building connections and ensuring your customers receive the service they deserve—while saving you time and providing you with the information you need to make better decisions about your online presence.

Download

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Tips For Strengthening Customer Communication

Reading time:

Gartner predicted that 89% of companies would compete mostly on customer experience this year. The customer journey starts with their first introduction to your brand, which will most likely be your website.

Even the most successful brands are in a process of figuring out how to improve customer communication. Bain & Company found that while 80% of companies believe that they deliver superior customer experiences, only 8% of customers agree. 

Here are some ways that we’ve found effective.

Go off script.

Refrain from using acronyms, buzzwords or industry terms. Remember that language familiar to you and your team may not be easily understood by potential customers. Keep it simple and forget the jargon. 

This also means talking to customers in a natural voice, rather than pre-packaged phrases. Use your personality to build that connection and draw people into what you’re all about. Supply your receptionist with key talking points and FAQs, but train them so they can provide answers in their conversational way.

Perfect your site’s navigation flow.

Your website might make sense to you, but the overall flow may be costing you customers. Analyze how visitors navigate your site with a simple test. UsabilityHub offers online navigation testing with real people to find glitches and points of confusion.

Provide answers instantly.

People want answers and they expect them promptly, so you need to make it easy for them to get that. This means making customer agents accessible whenever (and however) customers prefer. You should be set up to answer questions 24/7/365.

Of course, your in-house staff can’t be waiting by the phone all day every day. Virtual receptionists help fill in the gaps, and live chat makes it even easier to engage every visitor at any time.  Recent studies show that nearly ⅔ of customers prefer messaging channels over the phone, and 90% of customers prefer their questions answered by a live human rather than bots.

Make calling easy (and delightful).

The popularity of live chat is certainly growing, especially with younger demographics, but lots of people still prefer to pick up the phone. Make sure your phone number is clearly visible on your website. Add click-to-call options to your Google profile. 

When folks call, make them glad that they did. Be welcoming, be professional, be proactive. If possible, provide receptionists with CRM systems to access client records and call histories. The more knowledgeable a receptionist is, the better suited they are to keep customers coming back.

Improve internal communication.

Responding to incoming web chat requests or support tickets from website visitors requires compassion and precision. If your internal communication is broken, it may impact your ability to quickly resolve customer questions. Strengthen internal communication with tools like Slack, so everyone is on the same page and can effectively communicate externally.

Follow up with customers and leads.

Following up with customers after every exchange is a simple way to keep the engagement warm and show you care. Make it part of your workflow for every interaction. Even a simple ‘Thank you’ email can go a long way.

In the spirit of continual improvement (and friendly brand management), invite your visitors to provide feedback about their experience. Surveys can easily follow live chat exchanges. Automated emails work too.  If you’ve built up a newsletter list you can also send out surveys asking subscribers for details about what would be most valuable.

Conclusion

The perfect communication plan might seem daunting at first. After all, customers are looking for instant, accessible, reliable, and friendly communication at all hours of the day and night. 

The key is to set yourself and your team up for success. Take the time to improve your internal communication. Set up the technology necessary to improve your reception capabilities while actually lessening the time obligation for your staff. At the end of the day, it’s about treating everyone as well as possible – customers and employees alike.

Looking for more tips on creating better customer experiences? Download our Customer Service Audit Checklist and start strengthening your cx offering today!

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Long lines! Massive crowds! Packed airports and shopping malls! Doorbuster deals you can’t miss! 

Yeah, no. The hallmarks of the holiday shopping season aren’t exactly COVID-friendly. Right now, as coronavirus case numbers soar across the United States, the best thing all of us can do is stay at home and avoid any in-person gatherings that aren’t absolutely necessary. 

But that doesn’t mean the holidays are canceled this year. Although we may be stuck inside for a while, you can still get into the spirit, spread cheer, and even boost your year-end profits by allowing your customers to enjoy some old-fashioned seasonal consumerism. Here are a dozen ideas for doing just that:

1. Set the mood for your home office. 

Brew some peppermint tea, hot chocolate, or warm spiced cider. Hang some fairy lights. Play some melancholy Charlie Brown Christmas music. Seemingly trivial touches can lift your mood and help you embody the feelings you want to convey to your customers.

2. Send holiday cards.

Who doesn’t like receiving holiday greetings in the mail? All you need is a photo of yourself (bonus points if it features your family; extra bonus points for pets) and a brief message like “Wishing you happy holidays!” Hint: you can turn this into a sales opportunity by including your business’s website URL and a discount code.

3. Write a thank-you post on your blog. 

Now is a great time to publish a blog post looking back on 2020 and ahead to 2021. Don’t think too hard about it—two or three paragraphs can suffice. Greet your readers, acknowledge some of the challenges of this year, offer an optimistic message for the future, and make sure to express your gratitude for your customers. Make it their story—show them that their support is what sustains your business.

4. Personally thank the people who kept your business going this year. 

In addition to writing a general thank-you post, consider reaching out to the VIP customers who stuck with you throughout 2020. They kept your business going during one of the most difficult years in modern history, and they deserve love and recognition for it. 

Above all, be sure to thank the other people who helped you stay afloat: your mail person, delivery drivers, vendors and suppliers, grocery clerks, and all the other essential, often invisible workers who power our economy.

5. Think beyond Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Lots of people eagerly anticipate holiday shopping events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But you know what’s more exciting? What people don’t expect. By thinking beyond typical shopping days, you can distinguish your brand and reach customers in a more authentic manner. 

Take REI, for example. The outdoor gear retailer has earned significant press and customer loyalty over the past few years by making a point of closing stores on Black Friday and encouraging people to go outside. 

Now is a perfect time to try a similar strategy—to show that you value your employees’ and customers’ well-being more than commercialism—or to launch your big holiday campaign on a different day (Tax Prep Tuesday? Home Services Sunday?).

6. Invite your team together for a virtual happy hour.

Happy employees create happy customers. Brighten your team members’ day by bringing the holiday party online this year and hosting a virtual happy hour over your video-conferencing app of choice.

7. Host a virtual networking event.

Why stop at bringing your team together virtually? Get your company’s name out there and start building relationships by inviting friends, local business owners, and community leaders to a remote holiday meet-and-greet. If you’d rather not host the event yourself, you could see if a colleague (or even a competitor!) might be interested, or propose the idea to your local chamber of commerce or BNI chapter.

8. Donate to a local nonprofit organization or hospital.

This one’s easy—and if your business is like most, there’s a good chance you’re already doing it. Supporting a nonprofit is a great way to drum up publicity for your business while making the world a better place. If you’re not sure how to give back, ask your employees or customers for ideas. People are more than willing to talk about the causes that mean something to them. And when in doubt, donate to your local hospital—they could probably use it right now.

9. Raise money for a cause.

Aside from donating directly, you can scale your impact by engaging other people to give. Host a fundraiser or pledge drive, or match donations from your customers, employees, and/or social media followers.

10. Give people something to look forward to next year.

One of the most powerful ways to instill hope is to work toward positive change. Maybe that means launching a new business initiative to serve low-income people in your community, or making your services more environmentally sustainable. 

But if you’re not quite ready for something that big, that’s okay. A new business offering, website, or brand refresh for 2021 can spur hope and excitement as well. Anything you can do to shift the focus from this year to next will help your customers feel optimistic and keyed into what’s ahead for your business.

11. Surprise your customers with small gifts and gestures.

This time of year is typically when customers can expect fun seasonal surprises like free cookies and gift raffles. Your business can (and should!) keep the spirit alive remotely. Mail little presents to random customers—not to be opened until Christmas, the first night of Hanukkah, or another holiday occasion. Make a donation in a client’s name. Offer a glimpse of 2021 by sending your mailing list a sneak peek of a new webpage, or a new product or service offering. 

Get creative and act charitably. No one ever went out of business by being a little more generous during the holidays—just ask Ebenezer Scrooge.

12. Take a break.

Finally, don’t forget to give yourself a gift—the gift of some quality time away from your business. Take a few days off (or more) to spend with your family, friends (responsibly and socially distanced, of course), a good book, or holiday TV and movie marathons. Then again, watching The Twilight Zone might not be so fun now that we live in it… 

Anyway, make sure to take care of yourself in the weeks ahead so you can start 2021 fully restored and rejuvenated. 

Delight your customers and get some much-needed rest this holiday season with Ruby. We’ll handle your phone calls and website chat for you, ensuring your business makes the most of every opportunity to connect with customers.

Interested in getting more customer experience tips? Download our comprehensive checklist and level up how you make your customers feel.

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When it comes to your website, accessibility and in intuitive navigation is key to a better user experience. Nowadays live chat is being considered part of the broader user experience (UX) plan meant to connect more closely with users on your website for better quality service.

User experience or UX has many different components and depths across different industries, but to put it simply: UX = how effectively a user interacts with a website when looking for information. The easier it is for users to navigate through your website the more satisfied they’ll be, leading to better converstions.


If we take a look at a recent survey from Statista Research Department covering global customer satisfaction with live chat from 2015 to 2019, 83% of respondents reported being satisfied with their experience. Knowing this and the potential return on success, a question you might be asking is: how can you leverage live chat and improve the overall experience of visitors and repeat customers on your website?

Make the Live Chat Convenient and Immediate

There are millions of websites online competing against each other for users making it that much more important to serve them efficiently. Customers’ expectations for quality service is rising with a recent survey from HubSpot Research reporting that 90% of customers expect an immediate response from a business and mark it as important or very important to them. Pair that with the 38% of users that will stop engaging with a website if they find it unappealing, and suddenly UX feels that much more important for your website especially if you want to maintain a good customer relationship.

Within a few seconds of landing on your website, most people will be forming opinions very quickly about the design, functionality, and value of the information. This is where live chat comes in as it is known to improve user’s opinion right away if implemented correctly. Several factors are considered to optimize live chat for speed and convenience on your website such as:

  • Prompt response time for every visitor
  • Simple chat box layout that is aesthetically pleasing and familiar to all users (similar colors or styles of favorite apps)
  • Chat agents that are ready with answers to FAQS
  • Making the chat box “call to action” button available on every page

It takes a bit of tweaking to find the right fit for your website, but convenience and speed are some of the most important factors when implementing a successful live chat.

Real, Live Humans, Ready to Help

Technology is continuing to advance and becoming more integral to our lives especially in the business, agricultural, and construction industries. Though bots can be extremely useful, users don’t always like them even if they have come to expect them on more and more websites.

For most websites, chat is an opportunity to bring a human touch to your visitors. Users who are less tech-savvy will be grateful for these live chat features especially when there are well-trained chat agents ready to improve UX by:

  • Welcoming visitors soon after they’ve arrived on the website
  • Using natural language customized for your business and customers
  • Working from talking points, not scripts
  • Sending personalized follow-up emails for better retention

The chances are that most people on your website won’t need a chat agent every time they land on your website. For the times that they do, especially new users, it’s important to provide the best quality customer service as a first-impression and no one does it better than a real live chat agent that knows your business and users.

Create Mutual Benefits with Live Chat Data

The best user experience is always data-driven. Examining customer feedback and webpage analytics should determine any changes you make, and ultimately be tied to results. Live chat offers a unique way to collect and employ data from customers landing and interacting with your website. And with more customers comes bigger expectations. In fact, according to the 2017 State of Global Customer Service Report, 2/3 of customers expect business to know about them and their purchase history when they reach out for customer support.

This may all sound like a lot, but live chat makes connecting with your customers easier by having agents at the helm, personalizing every interaction. This could be as small as knowing their time-zone or any neighboring cities. Chat transcripts also help gather data that can directly identify UX successes and challenges on your site directly from your users and visitors.

Different Needs for Different Users

Even some of the best websites that are perfectly designed with all the right features will work differently for every person who visits. Some will love it and others might struggle finding their way through.

According to UX Planet, different age groups have different UX expectations and challenges, such as visibility, simplicity, and directness. Live chat is an opportunity to show people what’s available on the website and help guide your users to the right information, especially if they’re struggling to find their way round your site.

Live chat is also a great opportunity to support diverse groups of customers and potential customers, by helping them as soon as they land on your site. Some effective forms of supporting customers include:

  • Guiding users to low-tech, self-service solutions
  • Offering to continue conversations in different formats (such as phone or email)
  • Managing expectations for service and products
  • Multilingual support.

The more prepared your live chat agents are for a variety of customers, the more capable they will be to handle any requests or issues that come up for your users. The right live chat can be the difference between more conversions and customers that end up leaving your website in frustration!

In a growing world where websites are just as important to your success as the front door to your business,

utilizing live chat can provide many benefits to user experience. From providing better service to visitors as soon as they land on the homepage for faster solutions and requested information. They can also be helpful in the mere fact that users want to be talking to a person that understands them and maybe knows the questions they’re going to ask before they ask them. This is often useful for returning customers or frequent users. This is where data can be gathered to begin making an online data profile that is personalized for every customer to ensure that every user on the site is getting all their needs met in an efficient time and manner. All in all, live chat has been shown to be very successful with a positive improvement in UX for customers and business as a mutually beneficial relationship.

To learn more about live chat and how you can better optimize your website, download our ebook: The Rise of Web Chat to get the full scoop.

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Humans adapt. Our species has an exceptional innate ability to not only endure hardship but learn from it and, eventually, grow stronger through it. 

All year, small business owners have exemplified this trait. Faced with the COVID-19 pandemic and the various turmoil 2020 has wrought, small business owners have found new ways to continue serving their customers and clients. Telehealth, contactless delivery, the resurgence of drive-in movie theaters—no one could have predicted any of it, but when needs emerged, businesses stepped up and provided.

2020 has been a hell of a year.

How has your business changed this year? 

How have you changed this year? 

Regardless of what’s shifted for your organization or you personally, your journey isn’t over yet. The coronavirus remains a major disruption and daily concern throughout the world. Even with a vaccine available as soon as early next year, we may not return to anything resembling pre-2020 life for some time

But maybe, rather than trying to bring back “normal,” we can imagine better ways of living and doing business.

Make 2021 your year—for real this time.

As you look back on the last several months and forward to 2021, now is the time to reflect on your growth and successes, as well as your opportunities to do even better for the people you serve. 

What strategies, processes, and tools can you put in place now to stand out and expand your business in the months to come? 

Here are a few creative and cost-effective ideas for improving how you communicate with customers, sell products and render services, and continue growing your business—no matter what 2021 has in store:

Record Videos

Video-sharing platforms such as YouTube are more popular than ever—and not just because they let us watch the dance scene from Kid ‘n Play’s House Party whenever we want. More and more people are using videos to connect with audiences and build online communities. If you haven’t tried it for your business yet, you have a powerful opportunity to reach and create value for customers and prospects.

Videos lend a face and voice to your business. At a time when most organizations have few moments to connect with their customers in-person, vlogging can fill the gap and bridge the distance. Just a 5-minute video every week or so humanizes your business and keeps people engaged.

Plus, video content tends to significantly boost businesses’ reach. It’s a key ingredient in any successful online presence, supporting search engine optimization, social media, and other digital marketing efforts. It can speed up your content production, too, as videos can easily be converted into different media such as blog posts and podcasts.

You could even make your videos into products or services unto themselves. If you run a law firm, for instance, you could record a short course on a basic legal topic and offer the video for a small fee. DIY home improvement walkthroughs for home services or real estate customers, mindfulness exercises for healthcare patients—the possibilities are endless.

A few more ideas to consider:

  • product demos
  • how-tos
  • educational courses
  • answers to frequently asked questions
  • commentary on news or trends in your industry
  • a weekly/monthly vlog
  • interviews with clients and colleagues

Create experiences at a distance.

Extraordinary businesses stand out for the experiences they create. That hasn’t changed as the world has moved online. In fact, organizations of all kinds, sizes, and industries have successfully transitioned to offering fully virtual or semi-virtual services without losing what makes them special.

Whether you’re able to serve your customers online or not, consider the virtual experiences you can create. Beyond merely having a website or managing transactions online, think about how you can add personal touches and imbue your organization’s values in the process. 

Is there a small gift you used to offer in-person that you can replicate or provide a replacement for online? If you used to have free coffee in the lobby, for instance, you could include a $5 Starbucks gift card with purchases over a certain amount.

Are there opportunities to personalize the experience? The more you’re able to tailor your approach—e.g. by using customers’ names in prebuilt forms or recommending products and services based on past purchases—the more your customers will feel comforted and cared for.

Like videos, experiences have a bit of money-making potential of their own. You could present a live virtual webinar or training session, or hold a mini-conference, for which you charge for admission, for example. 

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It doesn’t even have to be directly related to your main line of business. If you’re confident (really confident) in your culinary skills, you could offer an online cooking class. Or you could pull an NPR and start a wine tasting club for your business. Donate some of the proceeds to a good cause to maximize participation and goodwill for your company.

A few more ideas to consider:

  • virtual happy hours or Q&A sessions
  • online fundraisers
  • website profiles/accounts for customers, with personalized landing pages
  • a public Spotify playlist featuring music in rotation at your office
  • freebies included in orders (tea bags, candy, branded pins and stickers, etc.)
  • handwritten thank-you notes, or 30-second thank-you videos

Reward Your Most Loyal Customers

Your customers deserve recognition—especially the ones who stuck firmly with you throughout 2020. 

Why not reward them with a discount code or free product or service? Or, how about asking them if they’d like to join a “premium” mailing list to receive special newsletters and updates featuring exclusive offers, bonus content, sneak peeks, and so on? You could even make them “preferred” customers who enjoy priority status in receiving services or get early access to new products.

Many people love earning these kinds of perks—so much so that they’re willing to pay for them. That means you can boost your bottom line by allowing customers to pay for their own rewards. It’s the same business model that airlines, credit card companies, and—more recently—Kickstarter campaigns and Patreon accounts use to drive customer interest, loyalty, and retention.

A few more ideas to consider:

  • discounts or rewards for referrals
  • different reward program tiers
  • a “secret” page on your website only accessible to people with the right code, or people who know where to look

Use Live Chat!

Live chat is the fastest and most effective way to connect with customers online. It helps website visitors find the information they need, gathers useful information for your business, and initiates customer service and sales conversations. 

If you do business online, live chat is essential. In our virtual-first world, it’s no longer a nice-to-have but a necessary component of any online experience. It’s the equivalent of a friendly, capable front desk receptionist greeting people as they walk into your business’s physical location. 

Uses of live chat:

  • clear up questions about product and features
  • explain your pricing structure and incentives
  • connect visitors to the right specialists and departments
  • invite visitors to take advantage of exclusive deals
  • answer FAQs
  • offer real-time support for any website issues
  • make online transactions seamless 

Ruby has the live chat services you need to build your business and create unforgettable customer experiences in 2021. Our live chat is powered by friendly, professional, US-based agents. We’re trusted by more than 10,000 small businesses to deliver an above-and-beyond, exceptional customer experience, every time.

We train each of our specialists to deliver tailored responses to establish and support your brand. They spring into action within 60 seconds of receiving a chat request, using the information you provide to support your customers. Think of us as an extension of your team, except we’re available 24/7/365 at a fraction of the cost of a full-time employee.

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Going Virtual: A Complete Guide

Reading time:

Thinking about sticking with your virtual office? Great!

Going virtual can maximize your organization’s flexibility while saving you serious cash. Indeed, making the switch could be one of the best decisions you ever make for your business, your workforce, and the customers you serve. 

But you can’t simply maintain a set up that was designed to be temporary. You’ll need to rework what going virtual or operating as a remote company really means for your business in the long term. 

Download our comprehensive guide to the virtual office to discover what you need to thrive, from anywhere.  

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It happens at some point to everyone who talks to customers. One day, you pick up the phone, start speaking, and suddenly find yourself in a painfully awkward conversation.

“Hey bubby, how’s it hanging?”

“What? Did you just… call me… ‘bubby?’”

“Oh, I, uh, oop. I mean, oops.”

“Huh?”

“Yeah, I… Cool. Cool. So, how are you?”

“I’m fine. I guess?”

“That’s cool! I mean, great!”

“Is it?”

“Sure thing. I’m— *yawns*

“Um, are you okay? Is everything alright?”

“Yes, I’m so sorry. Can we start over?”

“ *Laughs* Yeah, maybe we should.”

I’ve had more exchanges like this than I’d like to admit. I’ve called people by the wrong names, made jokes that didn’t land, overshared, interrupted, lost the thread, and so on. And so on. 

Ugh. 

Memories of the worst conversations linger in my brain for months, even years, after the fact. I’ll wake up in the middle of the night, remember a two-minute phone call I had in 2012, and think oh my God, I can’t believe I said that. But then I take a breath and remind myself:

Awkward conversations are normal.

Messing up a conversation with a customer (or anyone, for that matter) is an entirely human thing to do. Few people consider themselves conversational whizzes. Many of us experience some level of social anxiety and dislike—if not loathe—small talk. 

These feelings of discomfort, along with the embarrassment that follows awkward moments, sting particularly sharp right now. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve all been stuck inside for months. If you’re like me, you’re feeling socially rusty and on edge. 

And then there are the various charged political topics currently on people’s minds. It’s all too easy for conversations to veer into sensitive territory—and you may not realize the other person disagrees with you until it’s too late.

All of which is to say that at a time when “How are you?” is a loaded question, difficult conversations are bound to occur.

You don’t need to agonize over calling Mike “Steve” or giving Nadia too many details about your cat’s litter box habits. Weird exchanges with customers happen. It’s okay. It might even be a good thing sometimes. 

As a matter of fact, you can spin an awkward conversation into an opportunity to create a deeper connection with the other person. It all comes down to your attitude and ability to react carefully and authentically in the moment. 

Here are a few tips for recovering from awkwardness and overcoming conversational roadblocks when talking to customers.

Lighten up.

Your attitude is your greatest asset in customer service. A positive, enthusiastic outlook not only helps your customers feel welcomed and comfortable, but keeps you motivated to continue answering the phone even when the last conversation (or three) didn’t go as anticipated.

Don’t take yourself too seriously. People are drawn to people with senses of humor. If you can laugh at yourself (without wallowing in self-deprecation), you’ll make your customers feel at ease. And ultimately, what they’ll remember most when the conversation is over is how you made them feel—not what you said, word for word.

When you do make a mistake, laugh it off with a quick acknowledgment—“Oh, oops, that’s not your name, is it?”—and then…

Let it go.

Move on. There’s no reason to draw out an awkward moment. Keep the conversation rolling along and maintain your lighthearted attitude.

Again, it’s important to put the self-seriousness aside. You should take your responsibility to your customers seriously, but you don’t need to center yourself—or your conception of your self-worth—in executing that responsibility. 

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In other words, remember that it’s about them. Any conversational faux pas only matters insofar as it negatively impacts the customer. A minor mistake doesn’t mean anything as long as you provide the other person with outstanding service and a positive overall experience.

Apologize when you need to.

Sometimes, mistakes and awkward moments do cause problems. Calling someone the wrong name, for instance, could hurt their feelings. Giving someone incorrect information can create frustration and confusion. 

In these sorts of cases, you owe the customer an apology. Say you’re sorry and take responsibility. If necessary, offer an explanation and communicate what you’ll do to remedy the situation. It helps to empathize with your customer and verbally acknowledge their feelings. 

Keep it direct, personal, and brief, and then usher the conversation towards practical matters. For example:

  • “Oops, I’m so sorry, Dr. Martinez. I got you mixed up with another client and had the wrong information on my screen. I’m looking at your file now. Let’s try that again. How may I help you today?
  • “I’m sorry, Sam, you’re absolutely right about that. My fault—I should have listened to you more carefully the first time. Let me know if this sounds better…”
  • “Ms. Phan, I want to sincerely apologize for your experience today. We didn’t hold ourselves to the standard we’ve set for customer service. I can imagine how disappointed you probably feel. I’ll make sure we handle any future interactions in a more professional manner.”

Be patient and listen.

Not every conversational blip, awkward moment, or customer issue will be resolved immediately. Sometimes, the best option is to listen and let silence happen. Stay calm and be patient and present in the moment. Instead of filling the silence, pause for a beat and see how your customer responds. If they take the lead, great! If not, then it’s time to jump in and steer the conversation in a new direction.

Also, be patient with yourself. You will make mistakes. Forgive yourself for them and, if you can, learn from them. 

Reflect on your experiences: What were you feeling when you said that? What caused the awkward moment to occur? You might discover that the reason the mistake happened was that you hadn’t met your own needs. Maybe you were hungry or tired, or weren’t in the right emotional state for the conversation. 

Take the time to understand and grow through the experience. The better you know yourself, the better you’ll be able to serve your customers.

Use words and phrases that build trust.

The words you choose to say matter much more than the ones you utter by accident. Try using phrases like these to draw attention away from small mistakes and build connections in your customer service conversations:

  • “I understand.”
  • “Thank you.”
  • “Of course.”
  • “Absolutely!”
  • “I appreciate it.”
  • “That makes sense.”
  • “Is that right?”
  • “How may I help you?”
  • “What can I do to improve your experience with us?”
  • “Is there anything else I can help you with?”

Create connections every time with Ruby.

At the very least, an awkward conversation is a memorable conversation. But there’s no reason you need to wake up at 3am cringing about uncomfortable moments with customers. 

Sign up for Ruby and we’ll take care of customer service conversations for you. You can rest easy knowing the people you serve feel are connecting meaningfully with your business and experiencing unforgettable customer service exchanges—in the best possible way. 

Experience Ruby’s legendary customer service for yourself.

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Even those of us in the business of customer service have a difficult time putting a hard-and-fast definition around the magic that happens when things go right. And everyone on all sides of the customer service equation knows when things go wrong. Given that, the complexity of today’s world (everyone’s busy, all the time!), plus the fact that in so many areas digital interactions have replaced face-to-face interactions, you might be wondering: “How did we get HERE?”.

It’s hard to believe that there actually was a time when, to be successful in business, all you had to do was make more of your product as fast as you could. Speed was what customers craved and if you could make a lot of whatever you were selling and make it fast, you could beat out your competition based just on that tenet. This is why Marketers at that time (we’re talking way back, in the 1900s), focused so much on product’s features. They weren’t thinking as much about what a customer needed when assessing the product, purchasing it and even after the purchase. If it was new and cool, customers were in. And it usually was a product and not a service.

Today, consumers want more from companies than swift production lines. And brands are genuinely trying to meet them where they are—striving to deliver simple, seamless and satisfying experiences. To say that the world of customer service has evolved (and continues to change) is truly an understatement. Early on in technology’s disruption of the industry, many people dreaded reaching out for help via the phone let alone online. And those channels are now commonplace and preferred. We’ll dive into these game changer but first, a brief history of customer service.

Globalization Gains Pace

In the 1960s, businesses focused less on what they were making and how to get it distributed. Globalization became a reality and companies began assessing the economics of manufacturing products in other countries. This made distribution more complex and the crux of customer service during this time. If a company could distribute products more places, to more people, they had the world in their hand, quite literally. This moved the focus from products to customers but still didn’t get anywhere near customer service as we know it today. It wasn’t even in the ballpark.

Time for Tech

As technology grew, naturally, businesses shifted their focus. Technology, first in the form of the phone, provided tools that meant business could really dig into who their customers were. And vice versa. All, simply because it was easier to contact each other.  

That’s right, the telephone (not even as we know it today, constantly on—and on us) was the first big shift in how customer service was delivered. While it certainly saved travel time, the switchboard, known to us today as the phone tree, was less than ideal. Enter call centers, toll-free numbers, off-shore customer service teams and customer service scripts. Companies experimented, customers provided feedback and those that adapted, thrived.

Around the Clock Customer Service

Phone-based customer service has come as far as the phone itself—oftentimes it’s the 24/7, front line of sustaining a fulfilling customer journey. Customers looking for help, guidance and problem solving operate on their own timeframes and time zones. This fact doesn’t lessen the expectation for a swift response, either. And we all know that ultimately, the customer will determine when, where and how they need a customer service representative. So the advent of the Internet made things even more  interesting.

Whereas businesses perhaps thought the phone would be abandoned in favor of instant messaging and email in the early days of the Web’s inception, instead, these channels all came together as a series of tools that customers would use (and use freely).

World, Meet Internet

A brand is no longer what it says about itself—it’s what its customers say about it. Scroll through any customer review site or business’ social media page and you’re sure to see plenty of what consumers have to say about customer service, good and bad. This is a long way of saying: when it comes to these conversations, today, the customer takes the lead. The most customer-oriented organizations started using social media to connect with their customers and keep up—another huge leap forward for customer service. So oftentimes, the customer-customer service interaction is happening out in the open.

For companies that can’t keep up in terms of channels or messaging, the introduction of the Internet meant there was no longer anywhere to hide.

Our Story Ends

Here we are, today, in a world where customer personas are at the center of business decisions, the needs of the customer are what Marketing teams focus on and options for products and services abound. Customer feedback is taken into account at every stage of the journey—all the way through to the close. And rightfully so, because customers know your products and services sometimes better than your own business does. That trickles down, too. When customer service shines, or you have the best deal, customers can be your biggest advocates. As a result, customer service, experience and reviews are key to business success. Ready or not, we are truly living in: The Age of the Customer.

While this is where our stroll through the evolution of customer service ends, the tools you need to succeed in this realm are far from finished growing. That’s a sure thing where Ruby has anything to do with it.

Ruby: Creating Lasting First Impressions

Need help meeting your customers where they are? Want to be able to respond quickly to consumers whether it’s online or via phone? That’s where Ruby comes in. While we began as a small company working to help companies build lasting first impressions over the phone, we now also help you communicate online, via live chat.

Why do we do it? Because that’s what consumers demand. How do we do it? With industry-leading live answering services and a team of remote receptionists ready to represent your company and create meaningful connections with the people you serve.

Ruby’s virtual phone and live chat services mean customers can connect on their terms whether your business model is remote, brick-and-mortar, flexible, or something else. Our platform is available 24/7/365, staffed by real people who sound like they’re in your office. But Ruby is no one-size-fits-all solution. Custom greetings, call handling procedures that fit into your existing processes are all a reality with Ruby. Over 10,000 businesses will attest to it.

Interested in learning more about customer experience? We’ve got a resource for that.

Download our Customer Service Checklist
& run a comprehensive audit of your customer service offering.

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Self Care for the Business Owner

Reading time:

If the phrase “self-care” makes you roll your eyes, I get it. 

Many small business owners feel like they don’t have the luxury of making time for themselves. Settling in with a book and a cup of tea? Not this afternoon. Soaking away in a bubble bath? Not any time this week. Taking a day trip with the spouse and kids? Maybe next month… Maybe.

The disconnect goes further than that. The very idea of work-life balance doesn’t match up with reality when you’re working in excess of 60, 80, 100 hours per week building your company, managing your team, and meeting customer demands—and there’s still more to do at the end of the day. 

But here’s the thing: 

You need to practice self-care. 

You need to make time for that bubble bath, that cup of tea, that day with the family. 

When you are your business, you don’t have a choice. 

Taking care of yourself means taking care of your business. It’s a form of maintenance, the same as maintaining your home or your car—only for your mind, body, and soul.

For business owners, occasional acts of self-care that may seem frivolous and selfish are anything but. Those acts are key to…

  • staying happy and focused,
  • remaining productive,
  • making good decisions,
    and 
  • showing up authentically for employees and customers.

In other words, making time for yourself is what keeps you, you. There’s a reason they call it “recreation”—it’s about re-creating yourself. Self-care is how you ensure the person in charge of your company is the same passionate, dedicated, big-hearted person who took on the massive responsibility of running the business in the first place.

That said, recognizing the importance of self-care and practicing it the right way are two entirely different things. We’ve all had the experience of misusing our recreational time, of coming back from a vacation even more exhausted than when we left. It happens because many of us aren’t trained to take care of ourselves or are drawn to behaviors that deplete rather than replenish.

(this could be you)

The first step to good self-care is recognizing what self-care isn’t.

Real self-care doesn’t look like any of the following:

  • Avoidance. Self-care isn’t about procrastination or losing sight of responsibilities. It’s about temporarily prioritizing your responsibility to yourself, so you can return to your other responsibilities with renewed vigor.
  • Over-indulgence. Consuming too much of anything—pizza, cupcakes, cocktails, reality television—can leave you feeling physically ill, as well as emotionally unfulfilled. Shame, guilt, and regret often follow. Don’t use self-care as a reason to punish yourself.
  • Doing only what feels comfortable. It’s important to comfort yourself, but acts of real self-care go deeper. They also energize you, broaden your mind, and open your heart. They may challenge you on multiple levels; think visiting a museum or going on a hike rather than spending a weekend on the couch.
  • A miracle cure. No one activity, product, or substance can magically and instantly revitalize you. You can’t buy self-care in a bottle or an app, and you can’t engage in it only once and expect to feel better. You need to practice it—with regularity and intention.

In fact, self-care isn’t about just taking an occasional bubble bath or quiet afternoon to yourself, but about fitting personal time into your everyday life. The most effective way to practice self-care is to make it a habit. 

Find a few activities that refuel you and make time for them in your schedule, the same way you make time for grocery shopping, budgeting, or answering emails. After all, self-care is as important as any of those things.

What does real self-care look like?

Here are 10 ways to practice self-care as a business owner:

1. Take breaks. Every hour or so, get up, stretch, and walk away from your workstation for a few minutes. Maybe grab a drink and/or snack while you’re at it. Why not take the opportunity right now? Go ahead—we’ll be here when you get back.

2. Delegate. When you’re the person in charge, being a good boss also means being your own good boss. You’re the only one who can look out for yourself. Ask for help when you need it. Be sure you’re giving yourself a manageable amount of work (and time to complete the work) and delegating the rest.

3. Exercise. A healthy amount of physical exertion does wonders for your health and mood. Doctors recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise (or 15 minutes of intense exercise) once per day. Walking, jogging, biking, and even household chores are great ways to work it into your schedule.

4. Sleep. Far too many business owners are chronically underslept. As unproductive as it seems (“What do you mean I have to spend eight hours lying down and doing nothing?”), sleeping is as important as eating or breathing. Do it right—try for 7–9 hours a night in a dark, quiet, cool environment.

5. Eat well. Speaking of eating, be mindful of what you put into your body. Opt for less processed foods and more fresh fruits and vegetables. Try different foods, as well—variety keeps your diet healthy and interesting. What’s most important is enjoying what you eat. Food is one of the greatest pleasures we have, so make the most of it!

6. Say “yes, and…” This is one of the core principles behind improvisational comedy—and a powerful tool for running your business and living your life. Saying “yes, and…” means accepting a premise and running with it. In the context of your business, it could mean saying “yes” to an employee’s idea and building on it, or perhaps saying “yes” to an unexpected customer request and figuring out how to make it work. Outside of work, it might mean following an artistic impulse by buying paint and a canvas, or letting your kids decide what’s for dinner for a week.

7. Give yourself a daily gift. This one comes directly from our favorite TV investigator, Dale Cooper (portrayed by Kyle MacLachlan) of Twin Peaks:

“Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it. Don’t wait for it. Just let it happen. It could be a new shirt at the men’s store, a catnap in your office chair, or two cups of good, hot black coffee.”

8. Give back. Caring for others is one of the most effective forms of self-care. So says Laurie Santos, a psychology professor at Yale University and host of The Happiness Lab, in a recent interview in The New York Times:

“We assume that self-care looks like a nice bubble bath—or even hedonistic pursuits, selfish pursuits. But the data suggests that the right way to treat ourselves would be to do nice things for other people. We actually get more out of being more open and more social and more other-oriented than spending money on ourselves. It’s a bigger increase to your happiness.”

9. Laugh. Laughter is seriously the best medicine. According to Mayo Clinic, laughing relieves stress, stimulates organ function, relieves pain, and even boosts immune response. If you need a quick pick-me-up, may I recommend this video?

10. Express gratitude. In the constant hustle and grind of running a business, it’s easy to lose sight of all the reasons we have to feel happy. We’re fortunate to be busy, to be in business, to be alive. Practice self-care by thanking the people who make it happen, including yourself.

This is a lot to remember on top of everything else you already have to…remember. Download our Self Care calendar and use it to set reminders in your Outlook or Gmail. Build your days around self care. Or just start by building it in.

Remember: you don’t have to do it all.

Running a business is hard work. You don’t have to do it all yourself. Give yourself the gift of more time, energy, and peace of mind by letting a team of industry professionals take care of customer service for you. Discover how Ruby makes small business easy.

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Need to get your administration on board with Ruby? We can help!

Opening up a dialogue about student/parent communications isn’t always easy, especially when you’re looking to remedy an existing issue.

The good news is, when you take steps toward better experiences for your students and staff, your community reaps the benefits.

In this worksheet, you will find an email template, questions to consider, and more tools to help you make the best case for Ruby.

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Missed connections translate to lost revenue. With Ruby, you have a partner in gaining and retaining customers. Plus, we’re so confident you’ll love our service, we offer a 21 day money-back guarantee*.

*Ruby is delighted to offer a money-back guarantee to first time users of both our virtual receptionist service and our chat service. To cancel your service and obtain a full refund for the cancelled service (less any multi-service discount), please notify us of the service you wish to cancel either within 21 days of your purchase of that service or before your usage exceeds 500 receptionist minutes/50 billable chats, as applicable, whichever occurs sooner.