It’s a strange world we live in where it’s considered inappropriate to call without texting first. Isn’t placing unannounced calls exactly what phones are for? I remember the days where I could call my friends or even prospects out of the blue and it was totally fine. Regardless, the phone is often still your first touch point with prospects and their first impression of you. No one knows better how to capitalize on the opportunity of the inbound phone call than Jill Nelson. Jill is the Founder and CEO of Ruby Receptionists and my guest for this episode. She is an award-winning businesswoman who started Ruby in 2003 and had scaled it to a thriving company with over 500 staff achieving double-digit growth every year since its inception. She offers virtual receptionist services to business owners and so far, her army of 400 receptionists have answered 50 million phone calls. If you care about customer experience, then you’ll absolutely want to hear what Jill has to say in this wide-ranging conversation. She reveals her secrets to mastering the prospect’s first impression, how to wow customers and her secrets to the perfect phone script.
Jill is passionate about building a one of a kind company. As a CEO, Jill has founded Ruby in 2003 seeing double-digit growth every year since its inception. Ruby Receptionists deliver personalized live receptionist and chat services to thousands of businesses across North America. Jill was an Ernst & Young PNW Entrepreneur of the Year and Oregon’s 2017 Technology Executive of the Year. Jill, it’s such a pleasure to have you on the show.
Thank you so much. I’m a huge fan and as you know, you’re part of that double-digit growth story. It’s great to be on your show and to chat with you.
You built a big successful business. I believe that you started essentially at your kitchen table.
I had to go all-in because we are a live receptionist service. I had to buy a fancy phone system and sign my life away for a phone contract. The day we launched our service, we were in a little tiny sculptor’s studio but that’s what we did in order to have commercial service, almost like the kitchen table.
You bootstrapped from the beginning and you built up the company. Do you want to share any numbers that will help people understand the scope of your business?
We serve 10,000 small businesses and we have over 600 full-time employees that deliver that service, from nothing to over 600. It’s been a crazy hockey stick year-after-year experience.
You’re privately held. Do you have big investors, VC investors or anything?
In 2014, we did what we call a recapitalization and so we are private equity-backed. They pillow infusion into the business, but what they did was help us figure out how to take what we had was special and take it to the next level with the technology-empowered part of the service.
It is technology powered but it’s all about personal connection and having that first impression be out of this world. Let’s talk about that. What’s so important about the first impression when somebody picks up the phone and they call your business and they get a voicemail maze or they get the runaround or they don’t get stellar customer service? What’s that costing a business that’s investing in all this marketing, advertising and then blowing it at the last minute?
When customers are getting voicemail and they’re not getting a human, all those marketing dollars are going right out the door. Studies show over 65% of people that get voicemail don’t leave a message and they move on. As much as we live in the era of the internet and the computer, phone calls win business. When we answer the phone and when we provide a great experience, 29% of all sales opportunities result in a sale when it’s over the phone. It’s a powerful sales enablement tool. We help all of our marketing customers make their services better when they have their clients use us as well. We also help small business owners have a piece of mind that they can focus on their business and we’ll help make a great first impression. It is a completely human service, but it is our proprietary technology that our receptionists use that’s connected to our customer mobile apps so that we sound like we’re in our customer’s office. We can be helpful and useful and do exactly what our customers would like with the phone call as we’re providing that friendly service.
It’s essentially like your team is embedded in your clients’ business.
By doing that and using the technology, it enables our 400 receptionists to essentially sound like we’re in the office. It enables small business owners who would not be able to justify the cost of a full-time receptionist, not only get that daytime coverage, they get 100% coverage from the early mornings into the evenings and weekends. They know that their receptionist is never taking a break or going to lunch or even taking a sick day. We’re there for our customers at merely a fraction of the price of a full-time receptionist.
You eat your own dog food so to speak in terms of providing a stellar first impression for people who call your number. You drive a lot of the traffic coming into your website to the phone because it’s such a great experience. You get the highest conversion rates and you get the outcome that you’re after, the long-term with clients with the high LTV.
Since day one, we have used our own service and we have grown most predominantly through word of mouth referrals, if we can get those customers to pick up their phone and give us a call. Now, I’m looking forward to talking a little bit about our new venture into providing that same personal connection. On chat, if we can get those potential customers to engage with us, we win them over and they get to experience it for themselves.If we limit our employees to following a script, that's no better than a computer. Click To Tweet
Let’s talk a little bit about how this first impression can be cost-justified and monetized. It is such an incredible opportunity that I think many businesses miss. They’re not thinking in terms of, “If I put $1 in, I get $5 out,” like they do when they’re investing in Facebook Ads, in Google Ads or even in SEO. How do you quantify the ROI of a virtual receptionist or even the receptionist in general?
Above all else, whether I convince your audience to use Ruby or just answer their phone and be nice, then I’ve done my job. Even if you are answering 80% of your phone calls, you could be leaving enough revenue off the table or on the table that it’s the difference between success and failure for your typical small business. Think about a typical business, let’s say a roofer. A typical roofing job is $7,000 and let’s say they have a 30% chance of winning the sale if somebody gives them a call, and 0% chance of winning the business if they don’t answer the call. They go right on to their competitors. If you’re answering 70% of your phone calls, you’re missing 30% of your revenue opportunity but 10% is sales. If you can imagine if you had one additional job per week or perhaps even per day, depending on the nature of your service and how many phone calls, it literally can add up from somewhere $250 to $1 million of additional revenue. For small businesses that are typically right in that range, that’s a material difference that can determine success or failure if you follow it.
If somebody calls to inquire about your services or products and they don’t get through, they get your voicemail. They get maybe not even the most stellar customer service because you’re using some answering service that doesn’t understand your business. Then they’re not likely to stay to try you out and see that this is a good investment. Do you have any methodology for calculating the ROI and the opportunity costs of not handling this?
We have a calculator that you can put to your own business. You can plug in the number of phone calls that you receive on a given day and think about the lifetime value of a particular customer. What you pay to get that customer, what the difference between getting all of the missed opportunities and not getting all of the missed opportunities and what that can do to impact your business. That’s a special calculator that we’ve edited and packaged for your audience and we’re excited to give it to your audience.
We talked about this that this is something that you are going to create special for our audience. Thank you so much for that. There’s a webinar that is on this topic that you offered called The ROI of Personal Connections. Would you be able to offer my audience a replay of that webinar as well?
We have a landing page specifically for your audience. It’s CallRuby.com/MarketingSpeak. All of the things that we’re talking about, including a special code for the ability to sign up for Ruby with an incentive will all be on that landing page.
Thank you so much. That’s CallRuby.com/MarketingSpeak for the free gifts, the ROI calculator and the webinar replay. The special offer code will be available there too if you end up signing up. How have you applied the power of the first impression in your business in ways that are innovative? I know you alluded to the fact you have some technology that helps you to be more effective. I would love to get some tips that are out of the ordinary in terms of making a powerful impact in that first call.
Our secrets are no secret. It’s a commitment to execution that delivers. It starts with the people. We understand that for our employees to deliver what we are selling, they absolutely have to feel committed and empowered to help our small business customers grow. First and foremost, it’s about aligning our employees to our mission, which is that we are about keeping alive that personal connection that’s increasingly lost. It starts with the people and then it’s about treating them well, reinforcing them and rewarding those things. Then we have the technology. Our technology and the way that we design our workforce gets us perfectly balanced so that every single solitary phone call is answered live. That’s part of the equation is answering the phone call and the callers not being greeted by a hold message.
Over 98% of all of our phone calls are answered within four rings and they’re always greeted by a friendly receptionist. Some of our cool technology features, depending on the time zone of our customers, the greeting will be good morning, good afternoon or good evening and to ensure that we’re always pronouncing our customer’s company names correctly. A little audio whisper and the receptionist’s ear ensures that we know exactly how to pronounce the name and then we have all kinds of information at the receptionist’s fingertips. The next thing out of the caller’s mouth, we’re not responding with a script. We’re listening and we have the tools to know exactly how to engage and that includes even one of many caller’s favorite subject, which is talking about the weather. Another secret sauce is yesterday’s weather, this day’s weather and tomorrow’s weather show up in the receptionist screen for the customer that we’re working with. It’s one of those things that we learned through taking over 50 million phone calls that people like talking about the weather.
Answering within four rings, that’s important. I also hate it when I get an immediate pickup on the other line and then they ask, “Can I hold please?” I hate that. Do you guys have to do that sometimes?
We avoid it at as much as we possibly can. A very tiny fraction, something like 2% of calls do get asked to be placed on a brief hold. If the caller says no, then we honor that. On average, they are on hold for less than eight seconds. That’s our stopgap because we literally have no voicemail, no automated hold, for those rare instances where there’s an unusual spike, that does happen. I hate it too and we work very diligently to minimize that.
2% is impressive. 98% you don’t ask them to go on hold. You said not having a script. What does that mean? If somebody has a script that then they sound stilted or fake when they’re talking to you. Is that essentially what it’s about?
We are about the personal connection. We help our small businesses win business by making their callers feel heard, making them feel trusted and making them feel like we want their business. If we limit our employees to following a script that’s no better than a computer. Many would argue it’s worse than a computer because they’re not using the human part of them. Frankly, computers are less expensive and more accurate than humans. We follow decision trees. We have information and we know the most important call is a potential new client or a current client of our customers. When that happens, we know right where to look to know exactly what our customers want us to do to win that business and then we act from there.
I want to talk more about your marketing because you’re doing some innovative things. You’re doing some things that allow you to grow and scale quite significantly. I love the company culture you’ve created and it’s a feel-good company. I’m impressed by you and enjoyed working with you. One I noticed that was cool is your radio ads. You’re advertising on a SiriusXM. How are you differentiating from all the other radio ads out there?Know exactly what your customers want you to do to win that business, and then we act from there. Click To Tweet
There’s that emotion where we’re like, “Who hasn’t been there?” where they get a voicemail greeting and saying, “Your call is very important to us.” You’re going, “No, it’s not. If I was important to you, you’d be talking to me.” We capture that notion that, “That phone call is important.” With Ruby, a lot of what we’re having to do is educate. People have forgotten how important the human pieces. When we’re reminded of that and especially small business owners go, “There is a company that does get it. They’re out there.” Our virtual reception isn’t the most common thing. We have a lot to accomplish with our marketing. Capturing their attention with something that’s fun, engaging and speaks to the listener is part of that radio strategy.
You drive people to call you. Do you have a special way to track the leads coming from the radio ads?
We try pretty hard. We have unique phone numbers but at the end of the day, people will hear our ad on the radio and they’ll remember the name, that whole attribution challenge. One of the lessons we’ve learned is when we realized that we weren’t investing in our brand placement online. We were losing some of that radio opportunity because people were searching for us because of the radio ads. We do our very best to track and at the end of the day, we do want people to call us because when they call us, they get to experience the service. That creates its own attribution challenges. We’d rather have that opportunity and figure out the attribution by simply asking people on the phone.
They get to try before they buy. They get to taste test what it’s like to work with your company because they’re on the receiving end as the prospect. Then you lose some of the attribution capability because they’re not necessarily ready to call the number that you specify in the radio ad right then and there. You also can get multiple touch points where they find you from a Google search, either through SEO or through an organic listing or through a paid listing, through Google Ads. Then presumably you have tracking with the Google ads as well. You have to call tracking there. Is that setup?
We do. It is still limited in its capabilities because once they Google Ruby, then it’s our regular number. We try, we’re always looking to be better and know exactly where all of our leads and interests are coming from.
If somebody hears you on the radio ad and then two weeks later they google you, then they click on the ad and the Google results, they’ll get a call tracking number that’s unique that will attribute that lead to the Google Ad campaign even though that wasn’t the first touch point, it was the radio ad. It’s a common problem and one that you don’t want to solve by driving everybody to the online experience. You want them to pick up the phone. What marketing channels are you utilizing and to what degree? I know SEO is part of it.
You helped us make the bridge to engaging and building audience. A few years ago, every dollar we spend on marketing was for direct customer signup, direct demand. That got us pretty far. Our word of mouth marketing is still the number one performer and pay-per-click. That’s the only method of advertising I use back in 2003 when I stumbled on it, one of those late-night hours starting the business and going, “What’s this?” I could pay $0.10 for a click. We’ve shifted our strategy. It’s about, “If you have an immediate need, great. Let’s ensure that we’re there to dazzle you and get you signed up and instantly using our service.” We launched an Experience Ruby page where you can literally put in your information and you can have an account that works for four hours. You can use and see what it’s like when we’re answering for your company without any obligation.
We’re pretty passionate about the value of a phone call and helping our small businesses grow. We did a customer survey and the majority of our customers have seen over a 20% lift in their revenues since signing up with Ruby. The majority claimed an over 20% improvement in customer satisfaction and customer happiness. It’s real ROI. They also claimed a 2X to 3X ROI on their dollar spent with Ruby. This is the era of the internet and sometimes people don’t understand how important the personal connection is in winning in business. We’re on this education, almost evangelical, about the value of the personal connection and getting audiences to listen. We’ve shifted to a strategy where we’re trying to provide helpful information to our small businesses and potential customers about how they can grow their business through providing an exceptional customer experience.
It’s educational marketing.
We’re doing both right now, but over time I think the longer play is to build the audience. We’ve got all kinds of awesome stuff to talk to them about and share with them.
Content marketing is about adding value to the prospect whether or not they become a customer. They could be a referral source. They could be an advocate without being a paying client. You can also go earlier on in the buyer’s journey to where they haven’t even decided the buying criteria. They haven’t even decided that they want a receptionist or that they need an extra staff person or that this is an area of the business that needs to be focused on. A great analogy to this, I think I’ve shared this with you on one of our past calls is that if you think about selling baby furniture online, for example, like bassinets and cribs and so forth. The obvious keywords to target would be bassinet, baby crib, baby cribs. Then earlier on in the buy cycle, the expectant parent is searching for other things before they think about the furniture. Let’s say right after the ultrasound where they find out the baby’s sex, they’re like, “I’m going to go on to Google and search for,” what do you think the keyword is?
Not furniture, but baby names.
That’s orders of magnitude more popular than baby furniture-related keywords. Somebody who’s not familiar with this concept might say, “That’s silly. I can’t monetize baby names. I don’t sell baby names. I sell furniture.” Then if you bring them in, that’s exactly your target audience. They’re expectant parents for the most part. Then you can soft sell them on something that is going to help influence their buying criteria such as an essential nesting checklist and a free download. They give their email address and in exchange, you give them this valuable document that helps them make better buying choices later on when they’re ready to outfit their baby’s new room. You could do the same thing with your content marketing. There are so many areas in relation to the customer experience that they could shore up and address. They’re not even aware. They don’t know what they don’t know.
We are passionate about that exceptional customer experience to win business. Small businesses, that’s almost always in any business survey, it’s always top of mind is, “How do I grow my business? How do I get more customers?” Sometimes it’s that simple. We have that information to share and we are passionate about that, whether or not someone’s doing it themselves or engaging Ruby.Technology allows us to be efficient, accurate, reliable, and consistent. Click To Tweet
With the 50 million phone calls that you have, that’s a lot of data. I could imagine that you could mine that data for interesting trends and insights into what works and what doesn’t.
For example, Americans make 20% more phone calls on Mondays than they do on Fridays. It’s funny sometimes, workforces like to come to work on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and not so much Mondays. If that’s your workforce and those people come to work on Monday ready to do business, you want to make sure that you are properly staffed to handle that. That’s one of the things that we’ve seen. The phone calls are very pretty predictable and weather impact things a lot. There’s a little bit of seasonality during the summer. People make phone calls a little bit later in the day. They follow the sun. It’s very slight but with 50 million phone calls, you see the trends.
The way that AI works best is if you feed it a large dataset, then it provides a lot of fodder for that AI to figure out things. I could imagine there’s a ripe opportunity for you to implement some AI, take all that data that you’ve been collecting over the years and have some interesting things that come out of that.
There are trends around the Robocall solicitors. Are they growing or are they shrinking based on the trends and the laws? What percentage of callers are potential customers for our customers? We can do it in aggregate, but we’re starting to tag in a way and display in graph in a way that our own customers can know what kind of calls they’re receiving.
There’s like a dashboard where they can see how many calls they’ve gotten and what type of call it was and all that?
That’s right. We have our customer mobile app that has that information and we also had the same information displayed in an even more rich way on our customer website.
In the portal for the customers?
Yes, there are some cool things that we’re doing there.
Back to the Google Ads thing because I think it’s fascinating. That was a secret weapon for you at the beginning and it’s a key part of your marketing strategy. At the very beginning, you were doing your own Google AdWords.
It’s probably the reason that we started out as a national service because I’m in Portland, Oregon and the business was going to be a local business because that’s how I thought about it. I got these Google Ads up online before we even launched and we started getting phone calls from the East Coast. Our first employee loved getting up in the early morning hours. She had kids that were school age and she was like, “If I worked from [5:00] AM to [1:30], I could be home for my kids.” This was before we launched on day one. We switched up and that’s all because of pay-per-click that we’re a national company.
How long did you manage the Google AdWords campaigns?
Maybe seven or eight years. It wasn’t even until probably 2011 that we had a marketing director. For the first eight years of our business, we grew so fast but our technology was not yet developed that our bottleneck was not new customers. Our bottlenecks were figuring out how to onboard customers quickly, how to hire and train and get the technology to be stable and work for us. We didn’t have a marketing department at all until a few years ago.
Your limiter was not new customers, it was infrastructure. How do you scale team members? I can relate because prior to my company, an agency that had at our peak 65 staff across three different countries, including China in fact, it was hard to scale that business. The secret that got us to scale wasn’t hiring, onboarding or anything, it was a technology platform that I’ve invented. It was a cost-per-click based, pay-per-performance based SEO technology. We were charging $0.15 a click to companies like Zappos, Nordstrom and making millions of dollars off of that technology platform. We still were a consulting company, our agency as far as people saw us from the outside, but we were a software as a service company for the most part on the insider. More than the majority of our revenue came from that. That was a significant innovation that I came up with in 2003. That was a lot of the reason why our previous company got acquired but hiring good people was a limiter in that previous business. I’ve got a small team, fewer than ten people but finding good people, especially in a technical area such as SEO is very hard. What learnings have you gotten from this struggle?
I’m going to share our service pyramid. The lessons are in order to scale, technology is a huge piece of it because our technology allowed us to be efficient, accurate, reliable and consistent. That is the technology platform that we can instantly onboard a customer in minutes. It used to take days and technical expertise that involves logging into a traditional PBX. Our receptionist, whether it’s the first phone call or a thousand phone call they’ve taken for a particular customer, they will be able to deliver that same level of Ruby service. The technology is super key in us being able to scale. The people part of it is also key. One of the times we had to turn off our marketing, we realized that 40% of our receptionists were in their first 90 days and everything started breaking. Our service levels dropped.It’s really easy to hire people who love making a difference, who are genuinely nice people. Click To Tweet
We’re not able to do things according to our standards. That is one of the KPIs that we measure that we cannot be above a certain percentage of our receptionists in their first 90 days. We have what we call people-powered culture. All of our receptionist, site directors and what we call cultivators, those are our frontline supervisors are all former receptionist. Receptionists are infused in every aspect of the company, including we have coders who are former receptionists, QA, people in IT, L&D, our customer happiness and sales, all of those departments and marketing are former Ruby receptionists. That allows us to scale with the culture and service intact.
This service pyramid, is that a framework?
It’s similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and that it’s pyramid. At the base of the pyramid is, be prepared with the right infrastructure. If our phone system isn’t answering phone calls, we’re out of business day one. We’re not able to deliver at the highest level of the service pyramid. At the top of the service pyramid is delivering that personal connection. It’s Maslow’s Hierarchy in practice because the foundation essentially, you can’t go right up to the top and it’s balanced. It looks like traditional phones at the top of the pyramid, it’s a handset. Think of it as scales that balance technology and process with the people. The technology and process allow the scalability and consistency that allow us to do what we say we’re going to do. The people without the scripts that we hire that are truly empowered to make a difference in someone’s day and listen and make that connection, win that business, relies on the creativity and wonderful people that we employ and empower. It’s a delicate balancing act but it all works together and it’s served as well as a framework to scale year-after-year.
Is that something that like a free download?
Can you share a bit about your screening and hiring process? Do you get people to take any online assessments, anything like DiSC, Predictive Index, StrengthsFinder or anything like that as part of the process?
We have a basic screening in terms of some skills that are a requirement to be able to do the job. If you are not quite at that level, we have free resources. People that would like to be Ruby receptionist but don’t quite have the computer skills yet, we go get ready and then we’ll be happy to engage with you. I don’t think hiring’s the secret. 67% of our new receptionists come from employee referral. Our screening process is we do thirteen applicants for every receptionist opening even in tight job market. We do eight phone screens and three live interviews. The live interviews, we do a sit with. Receptionists and potential receptionists sit together. That potential receptionist gets to see what it’s like and make sure it’s a fit for them. The receptionist that’s hosting them is hosting them but there’s a lot of pride and protection around our culture and our service levels. Those receptionists are part of the decision process as well. I would contend that it’s easy to hire people who love making a difference, who are genuinely nice people. What’s challenging is to ensure that your policies and how you incent and what you reinforce, reinforces those things and not other things. We’ve made that mistake in the past too and learned from it.
Can you elaborate a little bit on that?
For example, we say that we’re about this personal connection but there was a time when people that got the biggest raises were the ones that answered the most phone calls. We had no ability, we had no recognition or any system that said, “The most important thing is our values and delivering that mission,” then we should probably incent on that. We’ve had periods where it seemed like because that commitment to all phone calls live, it seemed all we ever talked about was attendance. When we create policies that limit the trust and empowerment of the receptionist, that makes them feel not valued. They start to lose interest in making a difference for the company. On the flip side, every single employee is empowered to do anything that they can think of for our customers. We have a prepaid Amazon account that’s part of a wow station that any employee can buy anything for any customer, no questions asked. They just have to share the story.
Our entire customer happiness department from their first day to the most senior person there is empowered to do whatever it takes to be right, to do right by the customer. That makes our employees feel good and they know that we have their back that they should not be worried that they’re going to do the wrong thing. It’s a culture that reinforces the friendly, the caring and the personal connection. I would contend that most people when they’re hired start out that way, it’s sometimes in the interest of being safe and protecting, we limit employee’s ability to deliver that. That’s important thing to do is hire great employees. When they prove to not be able to be trustworthy, not trust everybody else, just know that they’re not a good fit for the organization. Don’t ruin it for everybody else.
Trusting that they’re going to do a great job and that they care, then they’ll rise to the occasion. What you described sounds somewhat very similar related to Zappos and the culture they’ve created. The focus on the customer reminds me specifically of a story that I heard of Zappos. I got to work with them firsthand in multiple occasions with my current company. They’re our clients for a while and then they were also clients of my previous agency. I don’t know if most people know this or not but if you’re in Vegas, you can get a tour of their offices. You have to make an advance appointment for it but anybody can come in and get a guided tour. The personality oozes out of the company. I’ve had multiple tours but the one that made an impact for me was the first time. They showed us around and there were many conference rooms and they were themed. There was one that was funny. It was a backwoods conference room theme.
They had the hind end of a raccoon mounted on the wall. I hope it was not real. I remember going into a one area that was a bunch of cubicles but there were themes to each area. The theme was Mexico and they had maracas. They’re shaking these things to greet us. They had these big sombrero hats that they put on and they were saying, “Hola,” to us. It was cute. There were different themes and different other areas. There was an area that they’re in the Star Trek and sci-fi and they had a life-size cut out of Spock or something. I forget the details of that but it was fun. You could tell that people enjoyed the culture and it wasn’t lip service. It was the real deal.
One story that was impactful for me that I heard years and years ago about Zappos is one of the customer service agents had taken a call from a customer. She bought shoes for her mom and her mom had some terminal illness. Her feet were swelling and by the time she tried on the shoes, she didn’t try them on or wear them right away. Her feet were swollen and they wouldn’t fit anymore. Her mom finally passed away. She didn’t return the shoes right away. She called months later and I understand that it’s well past the return date, “Can you make an exception?” Not only did the customer service rep make an exception but she followed up with a bouquet of flowers and a handwritten card that was not just signed by her but a bunch of other team members. That customer was so touched by that, she so happened to be a blogger who wrote about it. That blog post went viral and the customer service rep was just doing her job to the point where she knew that this was the right thing and not, “I hope we get some press or something out of it.” It was being a good human. That story reminded me of what you were describing.
She was just being herself. She knew that she was empowered to be herself. She knew that the company was aligned in that and that’s a beautiful story. The note card, sometimes we’re doing these big wild things but acknowledging a personal interaction with a notecard that’s a lost art and something that we’re also big fans of as well.
I was at Traffic & Conversion Summit and I heard of a tool, where you can mass produce hand-written notes. If you have 50,000 customers that you want to send a handwritten note to, you can do that. The stuff that’s out there is mind-blowing. There’s ringless voicemail. I hadn’t heard of that until a previous Traffic & Conversion Summit. I was always wondering why did the phone not ring? It went straight to voicemail. It was certainly a prerecorded message because they’re not that elegant. Most of them was voicemail the people that use the technology but that’s such a clever thing. Have you ever used that?
I’ve heard of it and we had considered using it. For us, if we let it ring before we get voicemail, then we can go, “You didn’t answer your phone. I could have been a new customer.”
You can make it very clear that this is an individual voicemail that I didn’t just record this once and I am blasting it out to thousands of people and hoping that they don’t pick up. Using ringless voicemail to bypass that possibility of them picking up is very interesting. You mentioned something called the Wow Station, what is that?
The Wow Station is a collection of essentially wows that over the years are repeated instances by the receptionist. Our receptionists are empowered to do anything they want for any customer. Over the years we get, “How come you’re so cheery this morning?” “I need another cup of coffee,” and receptionist sent enough of our Portland coffee and Ruby mugs that were like, “We restocked now,” and lots of conversations about the weather. In the winter there are mugs with coco and in the summer there are coolers with lemonade. A powdered lemonade that we might send about that we know we’re the receptionist. We do know births, we know marriages, we know office moves and we know what’s going on in your life. Many babies had been born over the years with all of our customers that we have our own Baby Wednesday that’s stocked in the Wow Station.
For those individualized things like one example was a customer had been in a car accident. Their insurance company had called about the claim and we were unable to put the call through. The receptionist put a nice little note in the message saying, “We’re sorry to hear about the accident.” Then went ahead and bought an emergency roadside repair kit. A couple of days later, our customer opens a package with a note card that says, “I’m sorry to hear you’re in an accident. I hope this never happens again. I’m glad everyone’s okay and just in case, here’s this roadside repair kit.” That kit came back to us and we use the Wow Station to brand it with Ruby wrapping paper and a Ruby note card. Even though it’s up to the receptionist’s creativity to think of whatever it is that might make that person understand that we’re part of their team and we do care about them and their business, the little nod to the Ruby brand is part of it as well.
How did you come up with the name Ruby?
Ruby is a name that was popular in the 1940s and 1950s. The original name was not Ruby. It was this WorkSource, Inc. which is a whole other long story. We engaged a branding company and they were right from the get-go. They were like, “Your business should be a woman’s name because your business is about the personal connection.” This was year one of business and they knew that. They could tell right off the bat me being female at all I was like, “That makes total sense.” It was a late-night viewing of the movie Down with Love that made me go, “I want our brand to harken back to an era where personal service was the norm but have a fun pop, modern feel to it. A nod to the technology and the times we live in.” That’s Ruby.
Is that on your website?
I don’t know that it is.
It needs to be because good marketing is good storytelling and you have so many great stories. I talked to you about this about having a history timeline for your About page instead of a few paragraphs, recapping what you do and your points of difference. If you walk people through that timeline, even before 2003, how did you go from whatever you were doing before to starting this company and then some of the big milestones, people will resonate with that. They relate and the expression, “Facts tell but stories sell.”
That’s in the works too because it’s a great idea.
I got that full credit to Greg Merrilees for that idea. I think you’re working with him for the site redesign. That’s powerful About page that I don’t see anywhere else, the timeline concept. What’s been the most impactful point of difference or strategy that you’ve gotten over the last whatever time period in regards to those areas, SEO, content marketing and storytelling even?
It is engaging with our audience even when they’re not at the point of purchase. That realization that maybe only 10% of customers are in that buying mode. Over the last six to twelve months, our website has changed from trying to get customers sign up and being a brochure site to thought leadership, valuable content and engaging with the audience. That’s something that you’ve helped us understand too. Tying those stories, making it about them, giving value to them and essentially warming them up over time.
Are you implementing NPS?
We have an insanely high NPS score. It hovers right around 70. We’ve changed platforms. We use AskNicely. We used to use SurveyMonkey and we transitioned to AskNicely. It’s got some cool features and even transitioning platforms, it’s still above 70.
NPS is Net Promoter Score and it’s a way to measure customer satisfaction and referability and identify the advocates. Thank you so much, Jill, for sharing your story, insights and lessons learned as you grew this business from the very beginning. For our audience, if you want to share that URL again?
On there is going to be the calculator for calculating your ROI, the first impression, the webinar replay on the ROI of personal connections and the special offer code to get a special deal if you sign up and also the Service Pyramid as well. Thank you, Jill. Get out there and take some action. Get a better customer experience for your prospects and do it right away.
Your Checklist of Actions to Take
☑ Make it my mission to build and strengthen trust and relationships with prospects and clients. Adding a personal touch to my business is what makes me stand out from my competition.
☑ Always be available to answer the phone and provide a great experience for callers. Keep in mind that I could lose sales opportunities when customers aren’t able to talk to a human on the other end of the line.
☑ Provide value by being engaging to my audience even if they’re not at the point of purchase. From a sales perspective, this will eventually warm them up and lead them to buy.
☑ Invest in a customer service department so that I won’t miss any messages or phone calls coming from my prospects and existing customers. Let them handle all the initial communication as I focus on my company’s future.
☑ Train my employees and get them aligned with the company’s mission and vision. They should be a great representation of my business when interacting with prospects and customers.
☑ Make it a habit to answer in 4 rings or less. Taking a while to answer calls makes it seem like you’re not ready to address callers’ needs.
☑ Track incoming and outgoing calls for every particular campaign and calculate the ROI and opportunity costs. Research tools that can help give me detailed analytics.
☑ Make sure that my company is properly staffed to handle phone calls on Mondays. Americans make 20% more phone calls on Mondays than they do on any other day of the week.
☑ Don’t just follow the call script down to a tee. Build some rapport with the caller by adding a little bit of small talk, showing genuine compassion, and making them feel like we’re happy to be of service.
☑ Turn callers into clients with the help of Ruby Receptionists, a customized call answering service for your small business that you control with the touch of your screen.
About Jill Nelson
Passionate about building a one-of-kind company, CEO Jill Nelson founded Ruby in 2003, seeing double-digit growth every year since its inception. Ruby delivers personalized live, receptionist and chat services to thousands of businesses across North America. Jill was an Ernst & Young PNW Entrepreneur of the Year and Oregon’s 2017 Technology Executive of the Year.