Social Media During Crisis: A Worksheet.

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As 2020 has delivered a series of series curve balls, business owners have turned to familiar communication channels to reach current and prospective customers alike. The result? Consumers are being inundated with the same messages, over and over again, making it even more difficult for small businesses to connect with their audiences.  

To help entrepreneurs effectively navigate social media during such turbulent times, Ruby teamed up with the experts to create a resource that will help you figure out what you should be posting (or not posting) on your own social platforms.

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Staff Augmentation: A Worksheet

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Supplementing your workforce happens on a spectrum. From hiring an outside agency to bringing on a freelancer for a single gig, the amount of support necessary can change from year to year, or even month to month.

Download our worksheet to determine whether you need to bring on a freelancer, agency, or full-time employee!

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What is a virtual office?

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A virtual office is a team of people working together remotely. Think of it as a shared work environment that isn’t tied to a single location. Basically, it’s an office without the office building. There’s no commute, no on-site staff, no cubicles or workstations, no front desk, no communal fridge or parking lot, or storage closet. Work can happen from home, or anywhere there’s an internet-connected device.

In fact, a virtual office isn’t really a place at all. It can be a bunch of different places, or nowhere. It’s an office in the functional sense, but not necessarily the physical sense. In other words, people who work in a virtual office still meet, communicate, and collaborate with each other—just not from within the same building.

A virtual office is “virtual” in two senses of the word: It fulfills virtually the same role as a traditional, physical, brick-and-mortar office.

It exists in the virtual space—it lives on computers, phones, software, and the internet.

Virtual, flexible, remote, work-from-home—what’s the difference?

The term “virtual office” is often used interchangeably with terms such as remote work, work-from-home (or WFH for short), telecommuting, flex work or flex jobs, and other combinations of the words “virtual,” “flexible,” “home,” and “remote.” 

These terms are similar but can mean slightly different things depending on the context and the specific organization or job in question. For instance, some jobs are totally remote—team members work entirely from home. Others are flexible—people can choose to work from home or come into a shared space as they wish. In some situations, team members are allowed to work from home but may be required to convene in a physical office a certain number of days per week or month.

It’s not just about where, but when.

In many virtual offices, people on the same team may work asynchronously—at different times. That is, a virtual office can change not only where work happens but also when it happens. Concepts such as “full-time” and “part-time” often take on new meanings in a virtual space, as people can log in and out instantaneously, rather than traveling to and from work. Team members can also be located in different cities, states, and time zones. 

This enables workers to start and end their days earlier or later than one another, as well as to take breaks when they need to—or to divide their daily/weekly schedules into unconventional chunks. For example, let’s imagine a virtual team of four people who all work roughly 40 hours per week:

Alan works Monday through Friday. He usually starts working at 7am, takes a 4-hour break at 11am, and then comes back to work at 3pm, finishing at 7 or 8pm.

Bethany also works Monday through Friday, but likes to begin each day at noon or 1pm, and then works nonstop into the evening or night.

Cai works a 10-hour shift every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.

Dylan works about 5–6 hours every day of the week, including weekends.

Keep in mind that not all virtual teams can operate like this. Depending on the organization, a person may need to be available during certain days and hours to answer calls, coordinate product or service delivery, or handle other time-sensitive business processes. But when workers do have options, that flexibility—as well as the ability to staff up and down to meet changing circumstances—is one of the core benefits of using a virtual office.

At a glance:
virtual offices vs. brick-and-mortar offices.

VirtualBrick-and-mortar
people work remotely
people work at a single location
the business may or may not have a real-life public address
the business has an address

people use tools and software to work together
people work together in-person
people might have their own schedules
people usually share a general schedule
can be entirely virtual or semi-virtual
is not virtual at all

Virtual office pros and cons.

Whatever form it takes, a virtual office has certain advantages and disadvantages when compared to a conventional office setup.

Pros:

Cons:

  • productivity is harder to manage and track
  • few opportunities for impromptu conversations and check-ins with team members
  • unclear boundaries between work and personal life
  • lack of a “professional space” for welcoming customers or clients
  • may require the use of one or more paid software applications
  • possible steep learning curve for workers unfamiliar with virtual tools

Transitioning to a virtual office: a few questions to consider.

Thinking about transitioning to a 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 or clients you serve.

But you can’t simply send everyone home and hope for the best. Before you transition to virtual work, you’ll need to plan ahead and figure a few things out in advance.

How will you ensure business continuity during the transition?

Going virtual is an ideal way to maximize business continuity, as a distributed network is less vulnerable than a single location to natural disasters, power outages, cybersecurity attacks, and other disruptive events. However, the initial transition to remote work can cause downtime of its own if not managed properly. 

Consider how you’ll ensure continuity of service in the first days and weeks of your virtual office. You might want to send your workforce home in separate segments, one group at a time. Make sure your clients or customers can access any essential or ongoing products or services during the transition. Think about whether it would be useful and appropriate to communicate the change to the people you serve, and be sure to provide them with any important information or updates related to the transition. 

This is a good time to think about your small business continuity plan and what that will look like once your virtual office is up and running.

Are your people equipped for virtual work?

Consider where, when, and how your team members will be doing their work. Do they have the right hardware and equipment? Can they work comfortably at home for extended periods of time? Make sure every member of the team has the following home office essentials:

  • a computer (here’s a great laptop buying guide)
  • a phone
  • a desk or other work surface
  • a comfortable chair
  • decent lighting
  • high-speed internet
  • a writing implement and notebook/pad for jotting down thoughts and notes
  • a wastebasket
  • a printer and a supply of paper
  • a paper shredder
  • paperclips
  • stamps and envelopes
  • a filing cabinet or drawer
  • sticky notes
  • coasters for drinks and hot food in mugs/bowls
  • a footrest

How about virtual office software? You’ll likely need one or more applications for…

  • video conferencing (e.g. Zoom, Google Meet)
  • collaboration (e.g. Slack, Microsoft Teams)
  • document creation and storage (e.g. Google Drive, Dropbox)
  • project management (e.g. Teamwork, Asana, Trello, Basecamp)
  • time-tracking, accounting, and invoicing (e.g. QuickBooks, Harvest, TimeCamp)
  • privacy and security (e.g. a password manager, a virtual private network app)

Are you setting the right expectations?

Virtual office success starts with the right expectations and tone. Team members need to know when and how long they’re supposed to be working each day and week, how their productivity will be measured, and what to do when they run into trouble or need help. 

Consider how structured (or unstructured) the workday should be: Are there certain times at which people need to be online? Will you hold daily huddles, weekly conference calls, and/or another kind of regular meeting or check-in? Different departments may do better with different arrangements and schedules.

Keep in mind that there are other—and sometimes better!—ways to measure productivity beyond logging hours. Many virtual offices focus less on how long people work, and more on deliverables—the products of the work. The better-defined your key performance indicators, the more capably you can keep track of your team.

Think about your company’s policies and how they apply to a remote work environment. What rules still stand, what can be tossed out, and what needs to be added in? Are your people trained and up-to-date on computer use, social media posting, and data security? Are your compensation, benefits, and leave policies still applicable, or do they need to be revised?

Get the full scoop

on transitioning to the virtual office.

Watch the Webinar

How to set up your virtual office communication hub.

Communication is at the foundation of every healthy relationship, and especially any relationship that takes place at a distance. That includes long-distance relationships with your team members.

By far, the most important consideration for transitioning to a virtual office is communication. 

To compensate for the lack of in-person interactions, it’s a good idea to err on the side of overcommunication. In successful virtual offices, people are continually emailing, calling, and chatting with each other, as well as with customers or clients. These teams engage not only in substantive discussions, but also plenty of small talk—the kinds of “water cooler” conversations that build morale and human connection. Fun exchanges are often just as important as communication about transactions, projects, and strategy.

To facilitate communication in your virtual office, make sure to use the right tools and approach:

  1. Begin with your physical setup.
    Consider what functions you need from your phone system. Where will calls be sent—that is, what phone will ring when someone contacts your business? Many virtual businesses use cloud-based, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone systems, which allow company representatives to take and place calls through apps such as Skype. You may need to forward your phone number—learn more about what this means and how to do it easily. (Psst—when you use Ruby’s virtual receptionist service, you don’t have to change your number.)
  2. Optimize your internal communications.
    Determine which software tools, such as Slack and Zoom, you’ll be using to host conversations and meetings between staff. Make sure everyone’s set up with a company email address, and that your contact database is complete and up-to-date.
  3. Optimize your inbound customer service.
    Think about how customers will reach you without a physical office address. Will you be retaining, reducing, or expanding your current business hours? This is a perfect opportunity to improve your call handling procedures, add chat to your website, and beef up your social media presence.
  4. Train your team.
    If you’re implementing new communication systems, make sure the people using those systems feel comfortable with them. Consider creating a virtual communication handbook or set of instructions for your business. Some team members may need live demonstrations or walkthroughs.
  5. Consider using a virtual receptionist.
    A call answering service such as Ruby makes sure that every person who contacts your business is greeted by a live, friendly professional—24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It serves as a seamless extension of your business, complementing your virtual office and providing continuous, high-quality customer service experiences. See if a virtual receptionist is right for you.

Outsourcing roles in a virtual office.

Going virtual is more than a change of scenery and schedules. It can fuel other, deeper changes for your business—particularly in terms of workforce management and composition. Why simply replicate your old working model in a virtual environment when you can give your team greater independence, save money, and access skilled professionals through outsourcing?

For many organizations, outsourcing is a natural consequence of going remote. It’s easier to bring on contractors and vendors when everyone is operating within the same dispersed environment. And it soon becomes evident that some functions don’t need to be assigned to a member of the team. They’re either simple enough to handle without much oversight, or they’re siphoning away time and resources better spent elsewhere. These functions become more reliable and cost-effective when people outside of the company are taking care of them.

We don’t recommend outsourcing everything. Your people are the lifeblood of your business—they’re what make your company special. But if a certain task isn’t happening consistently, is dragging your team down, or just doesn’t make sense for an in-house employee to handle, it’s time to consider outsourcing it.

Should you outsource it or keep it in-house?

To determine if a job or function is a good candidate for outsourcing, consider these questions:

  • Is it part of your core business? If so, keep it in-house.
  • How easily can it be done remotely? If it can be accomplished with minimal manager involvement—if it’s clear that it should have been done remotely from the beginning—outsource it.
  • How senior is the role? Junior roles are better candidates for outsourcing. Leadership decision-making is typically better left in-house.
  • Is the need short-term or long-term? Both kinds of work can be outsourced, but short-term projects are more commonly assigned to non-employees. A short-term need is also a good opportunity to test outsourcing, if you’re new to it.
  • How easy is it to communicate what you need for the role? If it’s relatively easy to transfer the role from person to person without extensive training, consider outsourcing it.

Tips to get the most out of your outsourced workforce:

  • Empower them. Give them any tools, training, resources, and information they need to serve your business to the best of their ability.
  • Trust them to do their job. Remember: you hired them for a reason. Give them the benefit of the doubt and the autonomy to their work the way they prefer to do it.
  • Pay them on time. Respect the value of their labor by paying their invoices as soon as you can. Taking care of the financial details keeps everyone happy.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate. Keep them informed. Be clear about your expectations of them. Ask them if they’d like feedback, and give it politely and constructively. Encourage them to offer their own feedback and ask their own questions.
  • If you love them, consider hiring them. Some contractors would be thrilled to join your team. Others prefer their independence. But if you have a company opening that you think they might be interested in, it never hurts to offer it.

Building culture, remotely.

Whether on-site or virtual, in-house or remote, work should be fun and rewarding. Everyone deserves to be part of a positive, diverse, inclusive, and equitable team.

The best organizational cultures are built on shared purpose as well as a full commitment to trust, respect, and curiosity. People contribute authentically and work together at the top of their game when they feel safe to speak up and be themselves at work. This requires empathy and vulnerability on the part of every team member—and it starts at the top.

How do you build culture remotely? Here at Ruby, we do it by centering three elements of our mission:

Incent. We dig deep to uncover and follow intrinsic motivations. Team members achieve meaningful rewards for work they love doing.

Inspire. We share stories that uplift and inspire our team, showing them the spectacular things others have done and what they can do to join in.

Empower. We give our people the tools and freedom to make judgment calls on behalf of customers and our company—to push themselves to be their best and exceed expectations at every opportunity.

Remember: an employee or contractor’s experience with your company is forged during the onboarding process. Nail the first impression and provide everyone with the necessary information and support, and they’ll be motivated to bring their best self to the virtual office every day.

A few ideas for building remote workforce culture:

  • Celebrate individual accomplishments in group meetings and company-wide communications.
  • Plan a digital charitable fundraising effort with your team.
  • Appoint people to become mentors or coaches. 
  • Host virtual trivia nights or movie nights.
  • Create a Slack channel where people can discuss their hobbies or post their creative work.
  • Run a contest in which people can submit and vote on new ideas for the business—and then implement the winning idea.

Delivering exceptional service while virtual.

Ultimately, the key factors for success remain the same no matter how, when, or where you’re doing business. It’s all about delivering an incredible product or service—and providing an exceptional experience to every customer or client.

At Ruby, we call this WOWism—making customers say “WOW!” with truly memorable moments and extraordinary customer service. The WOW comes from meaningful connections. We take every opportunity to build relationships and connect with the people we serve, human to human.

You can practice WOWism and improve your customer service experience by…

  • listening to your customers or clients with empathy and an open mind
  • continually expanding your customer service toolbox
  • stepping outside of your comfort zone and allowing yourself to learn
  • staying calm and managing difficult emotions in heated situations
  • remembering the why of what you do and what your business is about

Four Steps to WOW-Worthy Customer Service

Deliver a quality service or product.

Get to know your customers.

Connect and WOW.

Earn referrals.

Ruby: outsourced customer service built for the virtual office.

Need help going virtual? Looking for ways to save money through outsourcing? Want to deliver exceptional customer service experiences remotely?

We’ve got you covered. Ruby will bring your business to the next level with industry-leading live answering services. Our team of remote receptionists is ready to represent your company and create meaningful connections with the people you serve.

Ruby’s virtual phone and live chat services fit seamlessly into any business environment and workforce model—remote, brick-and-mortar, flexible, or otherwise. Our platform is available 24/7/365, staffed by real people who sound like they’re in your office. We’ll develop a plan to fit the unique needs of your organization and customers, with custom greetings, call handling procedures, and more.

Over 10,000 businesses have trusted Ruby to serve their customers over the phone and via live chat. We’ve been doing this virtual thing for over a decade—and we have the chops to prove it. We’re happy to report an average 20% increase in sales inquiries and customer service satisfaction among our customers, as well as 2–3 times quantifiable return on investment.

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“We’ve missed you! Come back!”

Raise your hand if you’ve ever received an email with a subject line like that. 

Raise your other hand if you’ve ever sent that email.

Now waggle your hands around like a wacky waving inflatable arm-flailing tube man.

All right! Feeling pumped up? Ready to learn about some customer winback, remarketing, and reengagement strategies? I hope so, because that’s what this blog post is all about. 

I realize not everyone finds the prospect of winning back customers as exciting as I do. Marketing and sales efforts frequently focus on generating new business rather than converting people who have lapsed or lost interest. And let’s face it—those “Where have you been? Please come back” emails can feel pretty…desperate.

But the fact is that winback and remarketing campaigns can be some of the most powerful and cost-effective strategies for building a business. Consider the following:

For a typical business, 80% of profits come from roughly 20% of the company’s existing customers. This is known as the Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule.

According to Hubspot, existing customers are not only “50% more likely to try a new product” but will “spend 31% more than new customers.”

Research from Bain & Company suggests that improving customer retention by as little as 5% can increase profits by 25–95%.

Companies with successful winback campaigns have seen over 5x ROI, as this case study illustrates.

Clearly, a little nudge can have a big impact. So how do you win back customers effectively, without coming off as tactless or needy? 

It’s about more than an attention-grabbing offer or a deep discount (although those are often important ingredients). Great winback and re-engagement strategies are built on trust and empathy. They create real value for customers while respecting those customers’ time and emphasizing their humanity.

Here are a few examples of what we mean:

1. Bonobos

What Bonobos did: Sent a short email to disengaged newsletter subscribers asking if they wanted to remain on the mailing list.

Why it works: This is a perfect example of how to write a winback email. It’s brief and upbeat, with a clear call to action. If people don’t click the button, they’re automatically removed from the list. Receptive customers have an easy way to re-engage, the rest stop receiving emails that aren’t relevant to them, and Bonobos keeps the list clean—all with minimal effort.

2. Grammarly

What Grammarly did: “Awarded” inactive users with a badge for not using the service.

Why it works: Who doesn’t love winning something? I admire the cheeky way this plays with the concept of achievements—you earn recognition for what you haven’t done—activating customers by provoking an odd combination of feelings, all at the same time. Someone at Grammarly must have majored in psychology. 

Best of all, this little “prize” doesn’t cost the company anything to produce. And look at that “Go” button! Don’t you want to click it?

3. TeeSpring

What TeeSpring did: Tailored winback emails with customer data.

Why it works: This email goes a step further than Bonobos and Grammarly by using data to make the message hyper-specific to the recipient. It serves as both a reminder of the company’s value (“we helped you make money!”) as well as an enticing suggestion of future value (“you can make more money!”). 

This probably wouldn’t work for every user who’d lost interest in TeeSpring—imagine if you’d sold zero products—but it’s an excellent way to engage the people whose history with the service indicates they’ll see benefits from continuing to use it.

4. Alice + Olivia

Why it works: We’re moving past emails here and into the realm of more foundational business practices. Like many retailers, NYC-based boutique Alice + Olivia lost significant opportunities to connect with customers following the COVID-19 outbreak. Unlike many retailers, however, Alice + Olivia didn’t simply close up shop or redirect customers to their online store. 

Instead, they launched AO2GO. Through the new service, a customer can talk to a stylist over text, phone, or video. The stylist will then curate a few outfits for the customer, who can either pick up their try-on wardrobe in person or get it delivered if they live nearby. 

What’s so cool about this program is how it adapts the company’s brand of personalized retail to the limitations of the moment. Rather than compromising on quality or service, Alice + Olivia can continue to provide one-of-a-kind shopping experiences. Plus, it’s newsworthy—it gives them a reason to reach out to all of their customers, including the ones who became disengaged before the pandemic.

5. OneLogin

What OneLogin did: Acknowledged their shortcomings, changed their company culture, and delivered on their core value proposition.

Why it works: After suffering its second major security breach in the span of 12 months, access control and password management provider OneLogin was in crisis. How could customers trust the company to safeguard their sensitive information?

The company regained customer trust by acting quickly, decisively, and with full transparency. First, they acknowledged the breach the day it was discovered, then provided multiple updates over the following few days about how they were responding. Next, they imbued their culture with a security-first mindset, promising to “make any tradeoff” to keep information protected. This led to the company finding and fixing 150 defects in their infrastructure and making the decision to remove every bug within 48 hours of discovery. 

To put this into perspective, the average company takes “100 to 120 days to patch vulnerabilities,” according to IBM’s Security Intelligence, and “many companies have critical vulnerabilities that go unpatched altogether.”

Thanks to these efforts, customer perception of OneLogin is higher than ever, and the company is recognized as an industry leader. They’re not only winning people back, but winning new people over.

Bonus: O.B.

What they did: Sent personal apologies to tens of thousands of customers—through song.

Why it works: This one’s from a while back, but I wanted to include it because it’s truly one of the greatest winback campaigns of all time. 

It started with a months-long shortage of O.B. tampons in 2010. When the line finally returned to shelves, Johnson & Johnson could have easily issued a short press statement, or say nothing at all. 

Instead, they went big, with a song that would make the likes of Josh Groban weep (remember, this was 2010). The campaign made use of automated sound editing software in clever—and frankly, mind-blowing—fashion to create a personalized experience for every customer who couldn’t find O.B. tampons during the shortage.

I could sit here and explain more about this campaign and why it works, but you should probably just watch the video for yourself

Customer winback tips from Ruby.

These are just a few of the ways businesses have successfully earned attention and trust from disengaged customers. There are countless other examples out there, from small-scale email campaigns to complete overhauls of products, services, and entire organizations. Think of Mattel’s line of Barbie dolls, for instance, or Adobe’s evolution into a 100% cloud-based company

Maybe you’re thinking about how you can better serve your customers, too. Perhaps you’re considering creating your own winback campaign, launching a new offering, or even undergoing a thorough business transformation.

Whatever you have planned, here are a few quick tips from us to optimize your strategy:

Acknowledge the customer’s experience. If your business or messaging hasn’t resonated with a customer, think about why that may be. If you’ve made a mistake, own up to it. If you’re changing something, communicate why you’re changing it and what value the change will bring to the people you serve.

Make it personal. Honor each customer’s journey with your business. Tailor your message to their unique characteristics and needs. Pull in data where it’s appropriate and meaningful (think back to the TeeSpring example). Remember: this is about them.

Listen. Pay attention to who your campaign resonates with—and who it doesn’t. Know when a customer relationship is over. Silence almost always means “I’m not interested.” Move on to the people who are interested and invest your time and energy with them.

Whether you’re winning back customers or acquiring new ones, everyone you’re reaching out to wants the same thing: an amazing customer service experience. Get more tips on customer service with our Customer Service Audit Checklist.

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Creative Ways to Show Love from a Distance

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

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

I’d been flocked.

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

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

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

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

Love comes in many forms.

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

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

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

1. Surprise deliveries.

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

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

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

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

2. Rewards, discounts, and freebies.

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

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

3. Personalized thank-yous.

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

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

“Dear Susan,

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

Treat yourself—it’s on us!”

Or…

“Hi Mike!

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

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

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

4. Free digital content and downloads.

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

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

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

5. Virtual experiences.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What everyone really wants: extraordinary customer service.

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

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


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

It’s about you.

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

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

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

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

How do Allen and other successful owners make the jump? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A plumbing answering service converts more sales leads.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A plumbing answering service empowers your customers.

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

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

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

Grow your business with Ruby’s plumbing answering services.

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

With Ruby, you’ll…

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

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

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

See how it works.

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Is your customer service WOW-worthy?

Reading time:

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

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

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

Surprised?

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

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

Enter the Ruby Service Pyramid.

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

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

Meaningful connections are the apex of customer service.

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

Probably not.

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

Nope.

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

The next steps?

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

Reach out and go the extra mile.

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

Is there anything else I can do for you?

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

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

…Can I just…send them a pizza?

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


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

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

Great questions.

The art of personal connections:

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

Ask open-ended questions to spark connections.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The short of it is:

Deliver a quality service or product.

Get to know your customers.

Connect and WOW.

Earn referrals.

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

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What does ‘call handling’ mean? How do you forward calls? Is it ever necessary to “unforward” them? When you do forward them, where are you forwarding them to?

Is call handling like having a virtual switchboard?

The answer to that last question is yes (ish) and all of the other questions you understandably have around call handling can be found in this very fresh and very helpful infographic.

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How does call forwarding work?

Reading time:
Call forwarding: how it works

If you’ve had the pleasure of speaking with a receptionist at Ruby, you know the experience is nothing short of magical. But have you ever wondered about the behind-the-scenes magic that makes Ruby possible? Call forwarding allows our receptionists to sound like they’re answering from your office, even from thousands of miles away. Our clients save money, and their callers receive exceptional care, never knowing they’re chatting with a remote receptionist.

Check out the infographic below to explore the many ways clients forward their calls to our talented team! (Click here to download infographic!)

Interested in treating your callers to stellar service without breaking the bank? Whatever your business situation, Ruby likely has a call forwarding solution to meet your needs. Give us a call!

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When did customer service become so complicated? 

Maybe when the world got complicated. We live in a dizzyingly elaborate, interconnected global society teeming with people, technology, organizations, and their various competing interests. An action as simple as finding a plumber to fix a leaky sink can bring someone into contact with multiple channels, opinions, advertisers, and behind-the-scenes systems. From Google to Yelp to Aunt Irene, everyone and everything has an influence over a customer’s thoughts and behavior.

As a result, customer service is more challenging—and more important—than ever. It’s the key differentiating factor between businesses that succeed and grow and businesses that drown in the noise. Customers expect better, more personalized service within minutes of reaching out to a business. That means you need to remain available and ready to be friendly, professional, and responsive at all times. This is particularly true for small businesses, whose best shot at outperforming the big guys is through customer service.

With all this in mind, many business owners get lost in calculating the customer service equation:

What should you invest in?

What are the most important customer service skills?

What do your customers actually care about?

It doesn’t have to be complicated. You don’t need to compromise on quality or drive yourself crazy answering phone calls and emails at all hours of the day and night. Any business, regardless of size or industry, can provide excellent customer service right now—whether in-house, through outsourcing, or with a combination of the two; virtually or in-person.

At Ruby, we know this from experience. Over 10,000 companies have trusted our team to deliver top-quality, meaningful customer service online and over the phone. Having started as a four-person studio in 2003, we’ve gone through the gauntlet ourselves. And we’ve learned a ton from our customers and the businesses we admire along the way. Today, Ruby is a recognized leader in customer service—but we haven’t lost touch with our small business roots. Although we’ve grown significantly since the early days, our humble beginnings continue to shape every aspect of how we run our business and deliver our services. 

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

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

Your customer service audit checklist.


Start with the basics.

Make sure your business has a solid foundation that enables you to deliver on the promise of your service before you start worrying about more sophisticated customer experience protocols.

1. A robust, flexible customer service infrastructure is in place.

Every business needs to serve its customers where they actually are. That means having a multichannel (or, better yet, omnichannel) presence: customer service is available in-person and via phone, email, live website chat, social media—anywhere customers are active and looking to reach out. Some form of customer service also needs to be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days per year. Keep in mind that not every customer makes contact within the confines of business hours, and product and service issues don’t take days off. For many businesses, this isn’t feasible or cost-effective to manage in-house, which is where on-demand virtual receptionist services come in.

2. All customer service team members are fully trained. 

Your receptionist(s) and other customer service staff shouldn’t be making things up as they go along. People who welcome visitors, answer phones, and respond online need to know how to greet customers properly, deal with challenging situations, route inquiries to the right person at your organization, and more

3. Customer service training is ongoing.

Training isn’t something that only happens once.

Customer service team members need to take refresher courses periodically, learn about new practices and technologies as they’re introduced in your business, and engage in continuous education and continual improvement. Learn six tips anyone can use to sharpen their customer service skills.

4. Customer service is available by phone.

You need to have a business phone number. And whenever possible, when someone calls that number, a human being should answer. Customers don’t want to reach voicemail or deal with an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system. The phone is more important than ever, and every missed call is a missed opportunity.

5. Your phone number is easy to find.

Your customers shouldn’t be spending time digging through business listings to find your phone number or trying to determine which of multiple numbers is the correct one. Make sure your business’s phone number is available in a prominent location on your website, social media profiles, and any marketing and sales materials. Ideally, it should come up in the title or meta description when someone performs a web search for your company.

6. Customer service is available through live chat.

Don’t think you need to offer chat on your website? Consider the facts

  • 42% of all customers prefer chat over other communication channels.
  • 73% of consumers are satisfied with their experiences on live chat—the highest level of all customer service channels.
  • Chat prospects are 4.6 times more likely than other prospects to convert into customers.

Read more about how live chat can benefit your business—and how to do it right.

7. Customer service is available through email.

Not every customer service question can be answered through chat, and not every visitor to your website wants to communicate with someone live. You also need to be ready to accept and respond to emails to your business. You should be checking the inbox regularly (at least once a day, if not more often) and replying to most emails within 24 hours. As with your phone number, your business’s email address should be displayed prominently.

8. Customer service is available via social media.

An increasing number of customers are turning to social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to connect with brands. If your business is unavailable to respond to their posts, tweets, comments, and direct messages, those customers will turn to your competitors. No matter your company’s size, location, or industry, you need a social media customer service plan.

Stay true to your word.

Once you’ve laid the groundwork, maintain consistency and continue to meet client expectations.

9. You’ve created a comfortable, welcoming environment—physically, virtually, or both.

One of the most important—and most frequently overlooked—elements of customer experience is the customer’s first interaction in the business’s space. We’re talking about physical spaces, such as lobbies, offices, and waiting rooms, as well as websites and other digital spaces. In terms of the former, you need to consider fundamental questions like the following:

How do guests feel when they enter your business?

What’s the first thing they see? 

Is there a comfortable place to sit?

Learn how to charm new clients from the moment they walk in through your front door.

In terms of your website, it should be fast, easy to navigate, and optimized for any device. It should also contain any information you want customers to know about your company before they get in touch with you, and help customers take the next step—whether it’s making a purchase or signing up for a mailing list. Here are some basic considerations for creating a good business website.

10. You have support for off-hours and after-hours service.

As we laid out in tip #1, customer service can’t really go dark or take days off. You need to have a solution in place for people who contact you when you’re closed or too busy to respond immediately. Outsourcing is your friend here. Ruby’s virtual receptionist services ensure no call or chat goes unanswered.

11. Customer service wait times are minimal.

Whenever and however they contact your business, your customers don’t want to wait. The majority of consumers (approximately 80%) expect service within an hour of reaching out, and most of those people (75%) expect it within just five minutes. The more time they have to wait—the more rings they have to sit through—the higher the chances they’ll look elsewhere.

Foster happiness.

12. Calls are screened and transferred efficiently.

Excellent customer service starts before anyone says “hello.” Smart businesses have systems in place to automatically route callers to the right people—e.g. to connect customers in specific areas to the appropriate regional offices or to ensure callers during a busy period don’t reach a busy line. When technology isn’t available, human customer service professionals should be trained to seamlessly transfer calls by asking the right questions and acting quickly.

13. Team members are greeting people in a professional, friendly manner.

There are right ways and wrong ways to greet customers. Here’s how we do it at Ruby:

  1. Start with a greeting. It could be “Hello,” or “Thank you for calling,” or “Good morning/afternoon,” or a combination of all three.
  2. Say the company’s name. A plain “Hello” can be confusing to callers; they want to know that they’ve called the right place.
  3. Offer assistance. You can say “How may I help you?” or “How may I assist you?” or—when you’re routing calls rather than addressing questions directly—“How may I direct your call?” If there’s a question you need to ask every customer (“What’s your account number?”), this is the time to ask it—again, in a professional friendly way (“May I have your account number, please?”).

14. You offer customer service in more than one language.

With the United States on track to become the largest Spanish-speaking country in the world, this one grows more important with each passing day. Businesses can no longer afford to be completely monolingual. You should be delivering the same quality of service to everyone you do business with, regardless of which language they speak. Learn how to overcome the language barrier.

15. Team members practice active listening.

Customer service is about the customer. Your business needs to show you care about the people you serve by truly being present in customer conversations. That means listening attentively and never assuming what a customer wants or needs. You can practice active listening by taking notes, offering small verbal cues (“yep,” “that’s right,” “mm-hmm”), reiterating what you’ve heard, and responding in ways that indicate you’ve been paying close attention. It’s an art, but it’s one that’s easy to learn and master.

16. Team members demonstrate knowledge of your products and/or services.

Your customer service workers should know what they’re talking about. They may not be able to provide information about your products or services in as much depth as your salespeople could, but they should be able to answer basic questions and demonstrate some level of expertise in your industry or niche—the issues, concerns, jargon, technology, news, and trends specific to your line of business.

17. Team members keep conversations positive, personal, and quick.

Again, customer service needs to be customer-centric. Your customers aren’t looking to waste time engaging in idle chatter, but they also don’t want to be treated in a gruff or impersonal manner. Customer service professionals can achieve the right balance by responding as quickly as possible, greeting customers graciously, personalizing every interaction (e.g. using a caller’s name), minding their manners, and remaining calm. It’s equally important to eliminate unnecessary obstacles, avoid dead ends, and not obsess over mistakes. Learn conversational dos and don’ts.

18. Team members are aware of and comply with all relevant rules and regulations.

Your customer service team members need to be trained in any laws and regulations, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), that might apply to your business. This isn’t just about following the rules and avoiding fines and jail time; it’s also about treating customers ethically and with respect. Keep in mind that your customer service staff represent your business—their words and actions are your words and actions, and without proper training, they can get you into trouble. 

19. Team members clearly communicate brand values.

Representing a business means communicating in a way that aligns with everything that business stands for. Your customer service team needs to live and breathe your company’s mission, purpose, and values. From the moment they get in contact with a business representative, your customers should have a sense of what’s special about your company.

Create experiences.

Be the kind of company that keeps people (literally) calling back for more. Personalize your interactions, go the extra mile, and make sure your customers are having an experience with your business, not just an interaction.

20. Team members personalize customer service interactions.

If you want to build trust with your customers (and trust us, you do), you need to focus on forging and nurturing relationships. If your customers see your company as a cherished resource or friend, rather than simply a service they require, they become loyal supporters and enthusiastic advocates. Here are a few of our tried-and-true strategies for personalizing service:

Remember—and use!—every customer’s name.

Send customers forms of communication, such as birthday notes, that aren’t (explicitly) “sales-y.”

Keep track of milestones in regular customers’ lives and businesses (new offices, marriages, babies, etc).

Ensure you’re providing every customer with service that matches their particular need.

21. Team members are able to effectively handle difficult questions.

No one wants to hear “I don’t know.” Great customer service professionals know that it’s not about having the answer to every question, but about knowing what to say when you don’t know. Instead of saying “I don’t know,” they should emphasize what they can do. Think: “Let me find out for you,” or “Let me connect you with the best person to help you.” 

Here is a quick video about why the phrase “I don’t know” is actually the worst:

22. Team members are empowered to solve customers’ problems and go the extra mile.

If you give your frontline customer service team members the tools and freedom they need, they’ll provide extraordinary service. Ruby’s entire staff has access to a prepaid Amazon account, and when a team member feels moved to send something special to a customer, they’re free to make it happen—no questions asked. Employees feel respected, trusted, and valued through this empowerment—and customers are delighted by their thoughtful gestures.

23. Customer inquiries and issues are escalated when necessary.

When the customer service team can’t provide a customer with the help that person needs, there should be a process in place to connect the customer to someone who can serve them. And when a customer has a problem with a member of the customer service team, they should know how to and be able to easily file a complaint and resolve the issue with a supervisor.

Anticipate needs.

From your customers to your staff members, being tuned in to your people enough to anticipate what they might need before they even have the chance to speak it is absolutely critical to building a culture and a company worthy of loyalty.

24. Team members anticipate customers’ needs.

Excellent customer service professionals seem like psychics—they know what a customer wants and needs before the person even thinks to ask. This isn’t as difficult as it may sound. It often takes the form of reading cues and taking small actions. Examples include…

  • sending a care package to a client who missed a meeting due to a personal loss
  • not scheduling an appointment for a patient’s birthday
  • interpreting a hesitant “sure” as a signal to offer an alternative solution
  • keeping dog treats handy 

Discover how to WOW customers by delivering the unexpected.

25. Team members foster connections with customers.

This is the big one. Connection is at the core of good customer service. It’s the secret ingredient among brands that establish passionate followings and robust books of business without ever spending a dollar on advertising. All of these tips can ultimately help you foster connections with customers, but if you’re looking for quick, actionable tips you can put into practice today, we’ve got you covered.

For a more thorough exploration of this topic, download our free ebook, The ROI of Business Connections: A Business Guide.

Make meaningful connections.

The apex of customer service, take the connections we mentioned above, and bring them to another level: make them meaningful. Make them actionable. Go above and beyond to ensure that your connections with your customers create a ripple effect with real travel power.

26. Team members follow up with customers after conversations.

The work doesn’t end when the customer hangs up the phone or closes the chat window. Your business can and should keep the conversation going by following up (in a useful and welcome way, of course): send an email thanking the customer for calling, perhaps including a summary of what was discussed along with any applicable informational resources or perhaps a bonus discount code—anything that shows you’re thinking about the customer and care.

27. Team members are engaged and happy at work.

Your customer service representatives can’t make customers happy if they aren’t happy themselves. Study after study demonstrates the link between employee engagement and customer satisfaction. Learn how to improve your bottom line by fostering happiness.

28. You have developed a positive, inclusive organizational culture.

Culture and employee engagement are closely linked—and both drive business success. According to Daniel Coyle, author of The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, healthy organizational cultures tend to exist where people feel safe, are willing to be vulnerable, and share a purpose. Organizational culture also needs to be diverse and inclusive; when you leave people out, you leave out their ideas, perspectives, and talents. These are the elements that bind together any strong community, but they don’t arise out of nowhere. As a business leader, you need to build and nurture culture. How? At Ruby, we do it by encouraging employees to work together, help one another, share in each other’s successes, and contribute to something bigger than themselves.

29. You’ve specified and are monitoring customer service KPIs.

If you don’t know what your goals are or how to track them, you’ll have a hard time reaching them. And if you haven’t connected your customer service efforts to your larger business objectives, you have no way to improve your approach, let alone ensure customers are being treated right. You need to specify, monitor, and measure key performance indicators (KPIs). Common customer service metrics include customer satisfaction (CSAT) score, net promoter score (NPS), customer effort score (CES), churn rate, retention rate, response time, and resolution time.

30. You keep track of all conversations with customers and leads.

Customer service team members should not be starting completely fresh when speaking with someone who’s previously contacted your business. People tend to get frustrated and feel mistreated when they need to repeat information or reintroduce themselves. Be sure to maintain a database of customers and leads so your team can keep track of who’s getting in touch, when, and why. There are plenty of customer relationship management (CRM) applications out there—check out your options and implement a system at your organization if you haven’t already.

31. You regularly collect feedback from customers—outside of transactional conversations.

Be sure to ask your customers what you can do to improve their experiences. This means more than simply soliciting product reviews or business ratings. Get to know your customers and what you could do to serve them better. What aspects of your business do they care about the most? What frustrates them? What would they improve?

32. You incorporate feedback into your customer service approach and business model.

Don’t just listen to what your customers tell you; implement it in your business. Show that you care about your customers by tailoring your products and services to their needs—starting with your customer service approach. After all, if your customer service doesn’t serve customers, what’s the point?

And that’s our customer service audit checklist! 

How did you do? 

What areas of customer service do you have under control? 

What needs improvement? 

Wherever your business stands today, you don’t have to manage the complexities of customer service by yourself. Ruby’s team of customer engagement specialists can help you…

  • grow your business,
  • deliver personalized experiences,
  • build customer loyalty,
    and
  • stay connected anywhere, anytime.

Want to take this checklist offline? Download it straight to your device.

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Restaurants, lawyers, plumbers, doctors, landscapers, power tools, cars, cat food, computers, babysitters, lampshades, interior designers, travel experiences, company cultures, customer service teams… 

If it exists, someone out there seems to be willing to review it. And from Yelp to Amazon, Facebook to Google, the Better Business Bureau to Glassdoor, the internet is teeming with ratings and commentary about businesses and their products and services.

Most business owners are aware of the outsize role all this customer feedback plays in their companies’ successes. That’s doubly true for local businesses, which depend on recommendations, referrals, and word-of-mouth to stand out in their markets. 

Plus, reviews are perhaps the single most important source of information about your customers. If you want to make the right strategic decisions for your business, you need real customer feedback.

But there’s no guaranteed way to generate a customer review.

Still, positive and authentic reviews remain hard to come by, especially for small and growing businesses. Countless companies and professionals have just one or two public reviews. Many have none at all. 

Meanwhile, a fair number of small businesses are saddled with negative feedback from disgruntled customers or spammers—feedback that drags down ratings, hurts search results, and damages reputations.

But then there are those businesses that manage to win the customer feedback game. You know the ones. The ones with tons and tons of glowing, five-star, 10/10, A+ reviews on their business listings and product pages. The ones with legions of fans and advocates on social media.

How the heck do they do it?

Are they paying people to leave positive feedback?

Are they writing the reviews themselves?

Or are their products and services just so good that customers feel compelled to rave about them?

We did some digging and found out. Read on to discover a few ways businesses have encouraged or incentivized their customers to leave positive reviews.

First things first: you should never, ever pay for a review.

Quick disclaimer before we go further: paying for reviews is a bad idea. Ditto for writing reviews yourself. These kinds of practices are unethical, unfair, and illegal under federal law. In fact, in recent years, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has cracked down on bogus reviews, fining companies millions of dollars. No marketing boost is worth an 8-figure lawsuit or jail time.

All right, with that out of the way, here are five ideas for generating positive customer feedback—without paying for it.

1. Make it super easy for customers to leave reviews.

Everyone has an opinion. But relatively few people share their opinions with the world. Why? It’s not just due to shyness or modesty. It’s because, in many cases, leaving a review is hard work. 

I mean, you have to have coherent thoughts, write things down, put words together, make coherent arguments. It isn’t easy. (Trust me—you don’t want to know how long this blog post took to write.)

Businesses bridge the gap between having an opinion and the effort of voicing that opinion by making it dead simple for customers to leave reviews. They use templates and buttons that allow people to provide feedback in seconds. They ask for and collect reviews in the channels in which customers are most active and receptive.

Small tweaks can have massive results. Home Depot, for instance, increased reviews by 55% after removing a single step in the customer review process. Rather than asking customers to click on a link within an email message and go to a separate landing page, the company lets people provide feedback by responding directly to the email.

Here at Ruby, we’ve used Hively, which generates a nifty little footer in email signatures with three buttons: a happy face, a “meh” face, and a sad face. People can simply click the icon that represents how they feel and send immediate feedback to us about how we’re doing.

2. Celebrate positive reviews in big ways.

A good review is a cause for celebration. It means that you’ve not only made someone’s day (an achievement unto itself) but converted a customer into a vocal fan whose word of mouth will generate business better than any marketing campaign could.

Then again, rather than choosing between word-of-mouth and marketing, why not combine the two? You could do what Emerald Nuts did a few years ago and center that review in your brand messaging.

In 2016, an anonymous customer left a five-star review of one of Emerald’s products on Amazon. The review read, in full:

“Yes good”

The marketing team at Emerald loved those two words so much that they made them the company’s temporary tagline. They filmed “Yes Good” commercial spots, printed “Yes Good” banners and billboards, launched a “Yes Good” website, and manufactured “Yes Good” hats and tote bags. You can check out the whole campaign at The Drum.

This isn’t the only example of companies running with customer reviews. Brands such as Dollar Shave Club and Verizon have launched similar campaigns featuring dramatic readings and interpretations of online customer feedback.

Perhaps you don’t need to go that far, but consider how you can celebrate your customers’ positive comments in fun, public ways. Maybe you could feature review excerpts in a prominent location on your website, mention them on social media, or add them to your business cards. Show your customers you’re paying attention to them and they’ll reward you in turn.

3. Make the customer journey fun and rewarding.

Speaking of rewards, another way to incentivize your customers is to build in some form of entertainment or gratification in the ordinary course of doing business.

Note that we’re not talking about trading anything for reviews here. You can’t give customers special treatment or benefits for offering their feedback. But perhaps you can award non-tangible “points” and “game progress,” as Samsung did with “Samsung Nation.” 

Daniel Griffin and Albert van der Meer tell the story in their book, Press Start: Using Gamification to Power-up Your Marketing:


“Samsung Nation, as the name suggests, aims to create a community around the Samsung customer base and use it to drive customer engagement. Within the community, users can review Samsung products, participate in discussions, watch videos and so on. Each time they contributed to the community they would progress through levels, earning badges and achievements.

[Samsung Nation] simply uses some low-level game elements such as badges and achievements to help increase a sense of brand loyalty. The real purpose behind it, though, was to increase product reviews for Samsung, and it achieved this. Samsung saw an increase of 500 percent in their product reviews.”


I realize that the average small business can’t launch a virtual, gamified community like Samsung did. But this is less about a specific approach and more about the value of connection—an idea we’ve written a ton about around here

Successful businesses understand that customers long for feelings of connection. They know that every home sale, every dental visit, every auto repair job has an impact on someone’s life. And so these companies imbue their products and services with fun, meaning, and humanity. They connect with and truly help the people they serve—and those people feel a natural desire to return the favor.

4. Remember the human.

Here’s another story about the link between customer reviews, connection, and our shared humanity.

Black Flamingo, a bar and restaurant in Brooklyn, New York, has had its share of negative Yelp reviews. These reviews have threatened to hurt the business’s bottom line—particularly during its early years, when any rating lower than four or five stars could sink Black Flamingo’s average score and scare off potential customers.

Black Flamingo has taken action to address negative customer feedback and resolve complaints, with owner Bryce David often personally reaching out to reviewers. However, as time has passed, more and more exchanges have become antagonistic. Coarse language, blithe criticism, and unsubstantiated claims have put David on the defensive. In recent years, he’s started to refute negative reviews publicly, not always in “informative” or “productive” ways, as documented in an episode of Proof, a podcast from America’s Test Kitchen.

“I notice how I get sometimes, where I’m fuming,” David tells the show’s producers, about responding to one-star Yelp reviews. “My blood’s boiling. I’m deleting and rewriting. And I’m taking inventory of myself—‘Is this a little bit crazy?’”

That’s where the episode takes a surprising turn. Proof coordinates an in-person meeting between David and one of the people who left his restaurant a negative review. The two sit down for a meal at Black Flamingo and learn they have a lot more in common than they thought. 

You can listen to the full story here.

I won’t spoil the ending for you, but suffice it to say that both David and the reviewer realize they’d been thinking of the other person as something less than human. Once they step out from behind their screens and engage in a real-life conversation, everything changes.

Keep David’s experiences in mind as you encourage and react to customer feedback. There’s a human being on the other end—a person just like you. Consider why they might be saying what they’re saying (or not saying), and what they’re really looking for in interactions with your business. 

The better you can empathize with your customers—rather than focusing solely on your own perspective—the better you can serve them, and the more successful your business will ultimately become.

5. Optimize your customer service experience.

At the end of the day, the most important variable in whether your customers leave reviews or not—and what kinds of reviews they leave—is the quality of your business. People want to recommend products and services they appreciate, and professionals who take care of their needs. Provide that and they’ll be happy to leave you positive feedback.

It starts with excellent customer service—everything that happens when customers pick up the phone or begin chatting with you through your website. Those first moments are often the deciding factor in winning positive sentiment from customers.

We know this through experience. Every day—24 hours a day, 7 days a week—Ruby’s team of customer service professionals represents small businesses throughout the United States,  forging customer connections, earning positive reviews, generating word of mouth for organizations like yours.

Optimize your customer service experience with Ruby.

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What is a business continuity plan?

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Want to take bets on what’s next for 2020? 

My money’s on aliens. 

Between the COVID-19 pandemic, a global economic downturn, massive protests over racial injustice, presidential impeachment proceedings, the Australian wildfires, and the appearance of murder hornets—yes, murder hornets—on American soil, the last six months have been one of the most turbulent periods in modern history. And we still have half a year to go before 2020 is over. 

Honestly, an extraterrestrial encounter doesn’t seem out of the question at this point.

Whatever the future holds, it’s imperative for your business to think ahead and prepare for the unexpected. Your organization will survive—and perhaps even thrive—in any situation if you take certain precautions now. I’m talking about implementing a business continuity plan.

A what now?

A business continuity plan (sometimes shortened to “BCP”) is exactly what it sounds like: a strategy for ensuring your organization remains operational. Companies of all sizes use business continuity plans to minimize the impact of emergencies and unexpected events on their supply chains, processes, people, and customers. 

A business continuity plan is how a restaurant chain like Waffle House is able to stay open in the midst of hurricane season, or how a company like Amazon realigns its logistics to manage supply and demand in a pandemic

But business continuity plans aren’t just for national and multinational brands. Disasters affect small businesses, too—with perhaps even more dire consequences. In fact, according to the Small Business Administration, approximately 9 out of 10 companies fail within two years of being struck by a disaster.

I bring up that terrifying number because too many businesses have been ignoring reality and simply hoping for the best. In early March 2020, when the coronavirus was still primarily confined to Wuhan, China, most organizations didn’t have emergency protocols in place. Perhaps they realized the importance of business continuity planning, but just didn’t consider it a priority at the time. 

I’m guessing those organizations now wish they had done things differently. If you want to avoid the fate so many companies have suffered, you need to think like Waffle House and Amazon and develop a business continuity plan ahead of the next crisis. Establish your framework for survival now—your future self will thank you.

How does a business continuity plan work?

A business continuity plan is more than an intention or a series of mental notes. It’s a detailed, written document that outlines what your team needs to do before, during, and after a significant disruption. 

Every business continuity plan is different, just as every business is different. That said, the best business continuity plans tend to have a few things in common

  • They emphasize employee safety. The physical and mental well-being of people is always the first priority.
  • They establish flexible infrastructures. The goal is to develop ways of doing business that work in practically any set of circumstances.
  • They don’t rely on any single human or piece of technology. Instead, they account for multiple backup systems and support roles, and include several contingency plans if the primary strategy isn’t feasible.

Whatever form it takes, a good business continuity plan contains the following:

1. An assessment of potential disruptions to the business. Floods, earthquakes, wildfires, power outages, public health emergencies, security breaches, incidents of workplace violence—your business continuity plan should cover them all, with different strategies and procedures laid out as necessary.

2. A catalog of all systems and assets the business needs to preserve to stay operational. Your essential systems may include your accounting, workforce management, sales, and fulfillment processes, as well as any technology you need to facilitate those processes. Your essential assets might include legal and financial documents, data, equipment, and/or intellectual property.

3. A set of directives for conducting business during a crisis. Once you’ve identified your essentials, you’ll need to determine how you’ll protect, maintain, and adapt those essentials. Your business continuity plan should cover how you’ll safeguard key equipment, preserve critical job functions, and ensure data security. It should also spell out which team members (individuals or roles) are responsible for which tasks, as well as what to do in the event that someone is incapacitated or unable to perform their tasks.

4. A crisis communication strategy. Consider how your business will communicate before, during, and after a disaster internally (i.e. staff talking with staff) as well as externally with any clients, customers, vendors, or other third-party stakeholders.

How to create a business continuity plan: 5 steps to get started.

1. Determine your goals and vulnerabilities. First, ask yourself: “What does successful continuity look like for my business?” Quantify this, if possible, by establishing metrics to track and assess during a crisis (e.g. business downtime, emergency notification speed).

Next, consider which elements of your operation are particularly susceptible to various disasters. For instance, would a flood destroy your servers? Would a pandemic compromise your communication systems?

2. Develop your crisis strategies. Come up with plans for short-term disaster mitigation, such as machinery replacement and remote working arrangements.

Next, consider your plans for longer-term business continuity: How will you stay open with reduced staff? Can you continue working without daily in-person deliveries?

3. Test your approach. Choose a specific threat scenario: e.g. a tornado, denial-of-service attack, or pandemic. 

Next, choose a format for the exercise. A tabletop exercise engages leaders from all departments to read through every step of the plan together and roleplay their response. A drill exercise involves the entire office, with everyone going through the physical motions of the plan.

4. Evaluate your test results and revise your plan. How did the testing go? Note any strengths and weaknesses you discovered, change your approach as necessary, and rewrite your documentation. Then test, evaluate, and revise again. And again, until you feel your organization is fully prepared.

5. Publish and promote your business continuity plan. Present your plan to your entire staff, and then take the time to review it with every employee. It’s important that you earn buy-in from each member of your team and conduct thorough crisis preparedness training.

A few more BCP tips.

  • Hope for the best, plan for the worst. Expect the unexpected. Never assume you have every scenario covered, or that a disaster will happen exactly the way you predict it will.
  • Involve every employee. The people on the front lines of your business operations can offer valuable insights regarding business continuity workflow, necessities, and vulnerabilities.
  • Use clear, accessible language. When disaster strikes, your team should understand exactly what they need to do.
  • Train, train, and train some more. Thorough, interactive training ensures every member of your team knows your plan and is capable of following through in a crisis.
  • Revisit your business continuity plan often. From operating systems and supply chains to the realities of staffing and environmental threats, everything evolves over time. Make sure your continuity plan remains relevant and up-to-date.

One item you can check off your BCP right now: customer communication.

In today’s turbulent world, business owners have a lot to think about and prepare for. When you use Ruby, you can rest easy knowing we’re taking care of one of the most important things at all times: your customers.

Ruby provides outsourced reception services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. We’re ready to answer your customers’ or clients’ calls and live chat conversations no matter what disruption, emergency, or interplanetary visit 2020 throws our way next.

Get started with Ruby today.

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Every day, our customers and prospects are inundated with promotional messaging, constantly overwhelmed by the array of channels to consume and then left with the burden of deciphering which claims are valid and false.

The answer to cutting through the noise and building trust isn’t found in a sea of management jargon; it’s based on three words — Think. Do. Say.

Watch our webinar to learn how great people and great organizations succeed in this busy, busy world based on: 

1. What they think: The purpose behind the person or company.

2. What they do: How they behave to reinforce the purpose.

3. What they say: How they talk about what they believe and how they act. 

We’re thrilled to be teaming up with Ron Tite, founder of Church+ State, an agency that helps global brands unify content and advertising, and Editor-in-Chief of The Business Casual, for this Ruby webinar!

Ruby Content

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

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Inclusive marketing—with Michelle Ngome (pt. 1)

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

Infographics

Infographic: Beating healthcare burnout and delivering on patient expectations

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The art and challenge of business services—with Justin Dunham of ércule

Square title card with circular-cropped head shot: The art and challenge of business services, Justin Dunham, ércule
Infographics

Infographic: The #1 secret of successful law firms.

Tip Sheets

10 questions to ask a virtual receptionist provider

Videos

Ruby customer feature: Rapid resourcefulness with Ashton Taylor

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Small business resourcefulness—with Loren Feldman

Infographics

[Infographic] The #1 secret of successful law firms.

Infographics

[Infographic] Telehealth in 2021 and beyond.

eBooks

Guide: The story of a lead.

Videos

Advertising 101—with David Lambert

Webinars

Setting Your Home Service Business Up for Success

Webinars

Booking Business: How to Balance Marketing & Client Retention

Try Ruby Risk Free

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

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Webinar: The Home Stretch

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Customer service and growth strategies for home services.

Running a business dedicated to keeping your customer’s homes functional, comfortable, and safe is anything but easy. From juggling calls to scheduling appointments to doing the actual work that completes a job—there is a lot to balance. Throw in economic turbulence and a pandemic, and work is anything but business-as-usual.

In the midst of all of the busy, the uncertainty, and the unpredictable, it is easy to let customer experience fall by the wayside. The good news is, even in this new environment, going back to the basics of customer service can improve customer satisfaction, increase loyalty, and ultimately keep your business growing.

Join us on July 9th for our upcoming webinar, where we will discuss:

  • Tips for winning new business
  • The importance of consistency
  • Tools for managing your business on the go

Try Ruby Risk Free

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

Call Ruby Sign Up

Businesses are facing challenges unwitnessed in modern economic times, leaving owners to navigate these unknown obstacles with limited guidance and support. However, history has proven that when chaos strikes, the real “pros” show up to lead with purpose and conviction.

Leading in a moment of crisis versus calm doesn’t always require a change in leadership or a new leadership style. Instead, leaders need to rethink and recalibrate actions to address these unknown obstacles head-on. 

Great leaders are:

  • Bound by purpose
  • Defined by action
  • Adopted by communication

In this webinar, Ron Tite, author of Think. Do. Say. and host of the hit podcast, “The Coup,” shares how to start with the right leadership framework to effectively lead your business through the chaos and come out the other side⁠—stronger.

Ruby Content

View All
Videos

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

Videos

Inclusive marketing—with Michelle Ngome (pt. 1)

Videos

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

Infographics

Infographic: Beating healthcare burnout and delivering on patient expectations

Videos

The art and challenge of business services—with Justin Dunham of ércule

Square title card with circular-cropped head shot: The art and challenge of business services, Justin Dunham, ércule
Infographics

Infographic: The #1 secret of successful law firms.

Tip Sheets

10 questions to ask a virtual receptionist provider

Videos

Ruby customer feature: Rapid resourcefulness with Ashton Taylor

Videos

Small business resourcefulness—with Loren Feldman

Infographics

[Infographic] The #1 secret of successful law firms.

Infographics

[Infographic] Telehealth in 2021 and beyond.

eBooks

Guide: The story of a lead.

Videos

Advertising 101—with David Lambert

Webinars

Setting Your Home Service Business Up for Success

Webinars

Booking Business: How to Balance Marketing & Client Retention

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.

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*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.