Growth. Every law firm wants it, but many struggle to reliably and sustainably achieve it. Meanwhile, a select few are able to consistently scale their practices without ever spending a dollar on advertising.

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

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

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

You’ll learn…

  • What clients really want from their legal service providers
  • How to streamline your practice to gain an edge over your competition
  • The top three attributes that make a lawyer hireable
  • And more!

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Selecting a virtual receptionist for your business can be tricky. How do you know what features will best meet your needs, at a cost you can afford—all while giving your customers an exceptional experience?

We’ve created a list of 10 questions and a scorecard to help you conduct a thorough evaluation of any virtual receptionist service. This resource provides a detailed explanation of each question, as well as what to look for in a response. Additionally, we cover commonly requested features and industry lingo, so you can best articulate your needs to the services you evaluate.

Simply print this page off as a cheatsheet to have next to you for each call!

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Working from home right now is not without its challenges. The line between home life and work-life has become blurry. Roughly 46 percent of American businesses have implemented remote-work policies as of mid-February. This is a huge jump from 2017, when just 3.4 percent of Americans worked remotely, half of the time. In other words, working at home for many of us feels foreign. Many of us have children at home and have had to transform ourselves into teachers overnight. And those of us with spouses, well, they’re also our new coworkers. 

Here’s the silver lining: Despite all of the distractions at home, having employees work remotely may be beneficial for companies and employees. Small experiments have found that combining work and home life can boost morale in certain situations. And today, we have the technology to get work done, create and move forward, virtually. Virtual offices are a thing. We’re sure many of you have used video conferencing platforms like Zoom and Skype, to meet with your team which helps to stay connected. Here are a few other tips to boost your team’s creativity and productivity during quarantine. 

Get Dressed

This might seem obvious, but if we’re being honest, how many of us are in our pajamas right now? Pre-quarantine, we got up and changed into our work clothes, right? It’s no secret that how you dress influences your mood. Wearing something suitable makes you feel human and the act of changing your clothes is a signal to your brain that it’s time to get things done — even if it’s remotely.  

Have a Workspace

The separation of work and home life is critical. The more a person’s workspace bleeds into their home life, the less productive they’ll be. Encourage your team to design their own workspace, whether it’s a corner in their bedroom, a spare room, or a kitchen nook. The point is, it should feel separate from the rest of the living space. When work is over, the space should be packed up. It’s this physical act of leaving work that helps us recharge and reset. 

Keep Work Hours

Some evidence indicates that people working remotely are actually working longer days. Those employees who are also homeschooling might be catching up on the weekends or after hours so they seem to always be available. So it’s important to encourage employees to log off at the end of the workday. 

Stay Connected 

We mentioned tools like Zoom and Skype that help with communication and connection, but really staying connected takes more than just the technology to do so (though, at the moment, that technology is critically important).

Make time for small talk. Carve it into your day. Working from home means that the opportunity for spontaneous conversation on your way to eat lunch or refill your coffee cup isn’t quite there like it used to be. It is important to remember that we are not machines, and that to do our best work, we need to be ourselves. Staying connected with your coworkers starts with making intentional time to do so!

For more tips, tricks, and insight into what it means to be a part of the small business community, check out our Small Business Resource Hub.

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

You’ve lived through a pandemic, my friend. 

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

Go ahead—pat yourself on the back.

Literally! I’ll do it with you. 

Ready?

Pat. Pat. Pat.

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

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

Be kind to yourself. Be kind to your customers.

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

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

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

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

They help customers feel confident and secure in your business.

They establish the right expectations at the outset.

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

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

9 customer service questions to ask.

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

1. “How are you?” 

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

2. “What can we do for you today?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ask the right questions every time with Ruby.

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

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

Discover what makes Ruby special.

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¿Hablas español? You might not, but your customers do. With over 41 million native speakers and 12 million bilingual speakers, the United States is the second-largest Spanish-speaking country in the world—and we’re on track to become número uno by 2050

This poses both opportunities and challenges for growing businesses. On one hand, multilingualism is undeniably good for us as individuals and as a society. Compared to monolinguals, people who can speak more than one language are, well, smarter. They learn better, solve problems easier, understand the world more deeply, and exhibit more cognitive resilience. 

Organizations with multilingual workforces can tap into their collective brainpower to stand out and become industry leaders. As Microsoft points out, language diversity leads to innovation, ultimately fueling business growth.

On the other hand, there’s the issue of the language barrier. If you’re not already multilingual, learning a new language can be—how should I put this?—hard. Really hard. Children seem to be natural linguistic sponges, absorbing new words with little effort. Adults, not so much. If you’re over 18—or over 50—it can take months or years to become fluent in a different language.

Do you need to learn a new language to run a successful business?

Plus, let’s face it: most business owners are simply too busy as is. When you’re spending 40, 50, 70, 100 hours a week working, hustling, making connections, managing employees, wrangling technology, and navigating disruptions like—I don’t know—pandemics, the last thing you need is that Duolingo owl shaming you for not learning Spanish faster. 

Consider the fact that the average lawyer spends only 29% of each workday on billable time, using the rest of their hours to manage administrative tasks and business development essential to their practice’s survival. 

Good luck fitting vocabulary lessons into all that.

The struggle is real.

These aren’t just concerns for people, like attorneys, who rely on their words. The limitations of time and learning ability are obstacles for any business that serves clients or customers who speak different languages, but they can be particularly vexing in professions where language isn’t a prominent focus. 

When your job is to install HVAC systems, clean homes, repair cars, or engage in another hands-on activity, it doesn’t really matter what language you speak—until you’re doing something besides the work itself. I’m talking about booking appointments, explaining your services, collecting payments, and engaging in all the incidental but crucial forms of communication speakers of the same language take for granted. 

Customer satisfaction suffers as a result. Look at reviews of practically any home services business and you’ll find at least one person frustrated with the language barrier. 

Overcome the barrier with Ruby.

So, what’s a time-strapped monolingual to do in an increasingly bilingual world? 

How can you ensure you’re not leaving any customers or clients out—that you’re delivering the same quality of service to everyone you do business with, regardless of which language they speak?

How do you communicate respectfully, professionally, and authentically across the language barrier?

I’m glad you asked! You don’t need to hire new employees, try to translate conversations on the fly, or listen to language tapes while you sleep in the hope that you’ll learn subliminally. Ruby’s bilingual answering service can delight your callers in English and Spanish.

With Ruby, you can be sure that Spanish and English-speaking callers are receiving the same continuity of care, as our team of bilingual virtual receptionists can handle customer inquiries and communicate about your business on your behalf.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Your incoming calls go straight to Ruby, and we greet your customers in English, Spanish, or both.
  2. Ruby’s bilingual virtual receptionists ensure your clients feel at home and heard in their preferred language.
  3. We can connect callers directly to you, take a message, and more—all based on your directions.
  4. Your virtual receptionists will keep you up-to-date on your messages with an email, text, or Ruby app notification.

Our receptionists ensure your clients and customers feel comfortable, understood, and taken care of. They’ll trust you—and you can trust us to make it happen. It adds up to better, more inclusive customer service, along with more time in your day to focus on your business… or those language courses you’ve been putting off.

Learn more about Ruby’s bilingual answering service.
For more information about how bilingual professional answering services can help your business, check out our explainer.

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Blog Post Template

Reading time:

Before the dawn of the digital age, there was only one way for businesses to connect with customers over the phone—someone had to physically pick up the receiver to answer the call.

Nowadays, between phone trees and auto-attendants, employees and business owners need not worry about a ringing phone and can rest assured that callers will have the pleasure of pressing “0” until their thumb falls off.

  1. This is a list
  2. This is a list
  3. This is a list

Or, hang up the moment they hear a recording on the other end of the line. And then return to their Google search, immediately clicking to call a competitor.

Asset Title Goes Here…

Learn about all the little ways Ruby can make a big difference for your business.

LEARN MORE

H2: What is a virtual receptionist?

Virtual receptionists work remotely, offering callers the opportunity to connect with a real, live person that represents your business. Unlike automated phone systems, virtual receptionists delight callers and customers while performing tasks an in-house hire would do, such as:

A little bit of tech magic and loads of coffee.

H3: What does a virtual receptionist do?

This is a link

While the above statement is absolutely true and I am tempted to just leave you with that, here is a quick break down of what this process looks like for you, your virtual receptionist, and your caller:

  • This is a list
  • This is a list
  • This is a list
  • This is a list
  • This is a list

Try Ruby Risk-Free

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Founder Jill Nelson Remains on Ruby Board

Sixteen years after founding Ruby®—CEO & Founder Jill Nelson is retiring and will be replaced by incoming CEO Kate Winkler. Kate, an experienced C-Suite executive and self-proclaimed “data junkie,” brings an entrepreneurial spirit and extensive knowledge in customer experience, software and telecommunications, which provide the foundation for the highly-personalized services Ruby provides to more than 10,000 small businesses across North America.

Said Nelson, “It has been my distinct pleasure to help tens of thousands of small businesses grow. While I remain active with Ruby as a board member, I know Kate will continue to be an incredible advocate for small business, and I am honored to welcome her as the new CEO to lead Ruby through the next stage of growth.”

Read the full press release HERE

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We’ve all done it: Hung up when confronted with leaving a voicemail. Calling a business and being asked to leave a voicemail is something no one wants to do. Roughly 76 percent of people will hang up when asked to leave a message.

As you know, real estate is a competitive business that thrives on customer service. The moment a client hangs up, they’re calling your competitor. Is that a risk you’re willing to take? If not, there’s a solution: answering services for real estate investors.

Why should real estate investors use an answering service?

Relationships are a critical piece of real estate and begin with the first phone call. How a potential client is greeted on the phone will make the difference between them becoming your client or someone else’s. Research shows that clients remember the first and last minutes of an interaction more vividly and longer than the rest of it. 

Live virtual answering services for real estate investors, like Ruby’s, answer calls on your behalf. They’re trained, real-life people, available on-demand to professionally represent your business. From answering the phone, transferring calls, taking messages, scheduling appointments, answering questions, and more, Ruby’s receptionists are experts at making your clients feel important and convey the same level of care as you personally would. 

Why is it hard to build client relationships in real estate? 

Building and maintaining relationships with real estate clients isn’t always easy. It’s a competitive business with unconventional hours and out-of-office site visits. This is to say, answering the phone isn’t always possible for you and that’s OK. An answering service is like a life jacket for your relationships — at the minimum, it will help keep them afloat. The best services, however, can act do much more than that.

How Answering Services Can Help Real Estate Investors 

Getting back to clients in a timely manner is critical in real estate. People looking to purchase a home are making a huge financial and life decision. Many are anxious and sometimes rushed due to a job change, health concern, or some other life-changing event. The annual survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors found that 75% of recent homebuyers interviewed only one agent. You want to be that agent. 

Answering services for real estate investors create a seamless phone experience for clients. 

  • There is nothing automated about this service. A live human voice answers, greets, and talks to clients. 
  • You have extended and odd hours and can’t be available at all times. Answering services can. Ruby’s virtual receptionists are available 24/7/365. 
  • This service streamlines calls and transfers messages. 

Show Clients They’re in Good Hands 

Clients turn to you for guidance and support in the home-buying process. Many times, clients may feel scared and indecisive. They look to you to be a trusted source and advisor. They want to know you have their best interests in mind, not just your commission. 

When a client calls your office, you want to exude that same culture and feeling you present in-person: honesty, enthusiasm, and competency.. A live answering service helps to establish all of those traits by offering a warm reception, knowledgeable responses and consistency of service. Learn more about Ruby’s real estate receptionists

Your Time Matters, Too

Your time is valuable — and you don’t have a lot of it. Most likely, your clients feel this way, too. One way to make clients feel valued is by being available and responsive. We know this isn’t always physically possible for real estate professionals, but with an answering service, it can be. 

By valuing your own time, you’ll be able to put your focus where it should be: site visits, showings, negotiations, face-to-face relationships, and other higher-order elements of your business. Need ideas on how to free up your time? 

  • Schedule your calendar efficiently
  • Streamline staff training 
  • Communicate via technology 
  • Prioritize messages

Ruby’s Call Handling Guide can help you make the most of your time.

Stay Connected with Clients

Your client relationships are the foundation of your success. Keeping your future and current clients informed — and being informed about what’s going on in their lives creates trust and confidence. That said, it can be nearly impossible to remember every detail about a client and their family, let alone organize a roster of them. This is where tools like message organization and customized notifications come in. Ruby can help integrate your technology, so you can:

  • Automatically sync calls, voicemails, and messages 
  • Track call dates and lengths for easy billing 
  • Gather key client details from inbound calls
  • Link client communications with specific contact and topics

As a real estate investor, serving your community is essential. Technology plays an important role here — it can help elevate your level of service through effective communication, engaging experiences, and constructive feedback. Your outreach efforts can be greatly helped by software that offers lead management and scalable support. See how Ruby can help!

Strengthen Your Real Estate Business with Ruby

No matter what you’re trying to achieve in your real estate business, delivering customized and personalized service will get you there. Using an answering service will not only help you forge and maintain relationships, but it will also allow you to manage your time efficiently. Get started with the Ruby real estate guide.

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I’ll let you in on a secret of business communication: speaking in a formal way doesn’t always make you sound professional. 

In fact, dear sirs and madams, one’s thoroughgoing and gratuitous reliance on the utilization of ostensibly pro forma linguistic habits can have the unintended consequence of causing said individual to stultify, obfuscate, and alienate.

See what I mean? Formality can sound dull, stilted, and old-fashioned. It can make you seem robotic—or like you’re overcompensating for a lack of confidence. And ultimately, it can push people away rather than drawing them in. 

But you also can’t talk to every caller the way you’d talk to your best friend. Professional business etiquette—be it over the phone, in person, or via text, chat, or email—is a delicate balance. It requires an awareness of context and a sensitivity to your audience. 

You want to be friendly and make a personal connection. But being too familiar, too fast, can make callers respond like Stephanie Tanner.

For callers, overly casual translates to “rude.”

What does proper business phone etiquette sound like? What does it take to answer in a way that sounds friendly, yet professional? 

It’s easier to answer these questions in the negative. Here are a few things not to say when picking up the phone:

“Hey.”

“Sup?”

“[Name] speaking.”

“Yes?”

“Who’s this?”

“What do you want?”

Notice anything about these kinds of greetings? They’re all abrupt and unhelpful. Not only are they startling to the person on the other end, but they fail to provide any useful information for anchoring the conversation. The most we’re getting is a name—nothing about what the answering party can do for the person calling.

The key to effective and professional business communication—or any form of communication, for that matter—is to focus on the other person. Make them smile. Make them feel comfortable. Listen to them. Serve their needs. Treat them how you’d want to be treated.

Of course, this is easier said than, well, said. Etiquette doesn’t come naturally for everyone, and calls don’t always arrive at opportune moments. You may be busy, tired, stressed out, or flustered when the phone rings. You might panic and start overthinking. 

Four tips for keeping business communication friendly and helpful.

Don’t worry—if you’ve ever engaged in a conversation with a stranger, you know how to do this. The next time you get a call, pause, take a deep breath, and remember these four tips:

1. Enunciate and use standard grammar. This goes for every medium your company uses to communicate with customers, from phone calls to email to social media. It can be tempting to respond quickly with a “thx! ur awesome!”—especially when you only have 280 characters to work with. Spelling out words completely and correctly and using proper punctuation is worth the extra time; your customers will appreciate the extra care and, more importantly, the clarity.

2. Stay positive. Expressive phrasing can make a huge difference in the tone of the conversation. “Absolutely!” and “Certainly!” sound much more enthusiastic than “Yeah” and “Sure.” You’re glad to have their business—don’t be afraid to show it.

3. Offer assistance. Keep on the lookout for additional ways to help. If you’re unable to do something, propose a different solution. “Let me…,” “I’d be happy to…” and “I’ll gladly…” are just a few effective solution starters.

4. When in doubt, think of Grandma. Here’s a fun and useful mental exercise: think about what it would sound like if you added “Grandma” to the end of your sentences. “I can’t do that, Grandma.” “What do you want now, Grandma?” Yikes! Just writing it makes me want to call my grandmother and apologize.
Balancing formality and a casual attitude can be challenging, but remember: it’s all about your customers. Your job is to make them feel comfortable and create a connection. After all, people do business with people they like. Plus, if you can delight your callers, you might just find yourself starting to enjoy talking on the phone.

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