Receptionist Etiquette Tips & Tricks Presents: The Cranky Customer

From the server standing table-side, pen and smile at the ready.

To a coffee-toting construction crew, rising before morning.

Across our endless sea of industry exists a single, universal challenge. One that has stood the test of time and innovation, alike.

Behold: the cranky customer.

As any rookie or seasoned vet in the vast arena of customer service can attest to, interacting with a less-than-impressed buyer can be intimidating, stressful, or even a bit scary. Especially when a customer’s frustration is a direct result of something your company did (or did not do).

Thankfully, with a little etiquette magic and wisdom from the professionals, there are ways to power through these moments with poise and empathy. Plus, as a business owner or employee on the front lines, your genuine desire to fulfill a customer’s needs is the most important asset in curing a cranky customer.

Which is great news, as your success may be hinging on it.

Enter: The Reach of the Customer

In a time not so long ago, stories of lackluster customer service traveled at word-of-mouth speed. This is meant quite literally. Information passing through the phone or in person was (and remains to be) powerful in coloring a company’s reputation.

So, what’s changed?

Two words: social media.

From websites devoted to customer evaluations to the not-so-formal but far-reaching Facebook post, the consumer soapbox has been taken to a whole new level. What’s more? Your potential new customers are paying attention.

Think about it: if you’re in the market for a product, are you more inclined to call a company with mediocre ratings and “meh” reviews, or a business boasting five-star testimonials and a trusting customer base?

In short, your customer service offering bears weight and the words of consumers have a profound impact on your business.

In failing to satisfy the needs of a reasonably grumpy guest, the opportunity to convert a non-believer into a *gasp* brand ambassador is lost.

Etiquette as a Superpower

Here at Ruby, receptionists have an eerie ability to temper the testy. We answer for over 8,000 companies and a single receptionist can take upwards of 250 calls a day. With a sample size like that, we’re bound to get some sour grapes from time to time.

What have we learned over the years? A sincere desire to turn someone’s day around (and leading with a little empathy) can have tremendous results. In showing customers that their experience matters and working to remedy the situation, you’re strengthening the foundation of their trust in your brand.

Big time brownie points.

And potentially a few future referrals.

So how do we do it?

The next time you set out to improve a customer’s mood, give these tips a try:

  • Listen. Customers want to tell you what’s wrong and are, in turn, giving you the chance to fix a problem before they walk away from your business. Give them room to explain, complain, and tell you what’s bothering them. Refrain from interrupting, and when it’s your turn to speak…
  • Acknowledge frustration. A little empathy goes a long way and ultimately, we all just want to be heard. Slip in phrases like, “I can certainly see why you’re upset! I’m going to do everything I can to help get this resolved.”
  • Let them know what you can do. We can’t emphasize this enough. In any situation, speaking to what you’re able to do for a customer is infinitely more helpful than breaking down what you cannot. However, if you are being asked to do something that lies outside of your realm, we recommend you…
  • Frame your role. If you’re not the expert your customer is looking for, briefly explain what you actions you can take, and assure them you’re doing everything in your power to help.
  • Apologize, and make it count. A simple “I’m sorry” isn’t enough. There’s a whoooole post dedicated to apologies here.
  • Offer a solution and stick to it. With the exception of losing your cool, failing to do what you say you’ll do—especially when tensions are already high—is a surefire way to obliterate any chance you had at repairing a damaged relationship. 
  • Follow up! Even if a customer leaves your office or ends a phone call singing your praises, seal the deal after the tides have calmed with a hand-written note. Never underestimate the power of a proper WOW.

Ruby to the Woo-scue

You know tending to the needs of your customers is key to a successful relationship. And that sometimes, you’ll be wooing your way back into good graces.

But, how do you manage this while running your business?

Are unanswered phone calls the root of your customer’s frustrations? Or are you losing the opportunity to right a wrong to an impersonal voicemail box?

How many customers are calling your competitors when they don’t feel taken care of?

Fortunately, there’s a solution.

With our small business roots, Ruby understands the plight of the entrepreneur. When you’re wearing a thousand different hats and dealing with everything from billing to process improvement to delivering your actual product or service, making time to pick up the phone and connect with your customers can be tough.

That’s where we come in. Delighting callers and preserving connections while building up your reputation for a stand-alone customer service experience is what we’re here to do. Our mission is to help you grow, one happy caller at a time.

 

Curious about how we turn rings into relationships? We’ve whipped up a resource that is sure to help you turn callers into clients.

Take Me There

 

 

 

Exceeding Customer Expectations in the Digital Age

Guest Post by FieldPulse CEO and Founder, Gabriel Pinchev

Building your contracting business takes a tremendous amount of effort. It requires three things: finding and selling to new customers, delivering great service, and managing everything behind the scenes. For each area, focusing on the customer experience throughout their lifecycle (or customer journey) can bring significant returns.

The customer lifecycle is the journey a customer goes through in deciding to buy a product or service. For example, if Sally needs her home painted, she starts with an idea of what she wants. She’ll spend some time on the internet researching then talk with friends. She finds Professional Painting Co. and contacts them for a quote, either on the phone or a contact form on the company’s website. Sally accepts the quote and the service is rendered. Afterward, she has an opinion on the service and shares her perspective with a friend and posts an online review. All of this is the customer lifecycle.

In a Forbes article on revisiting the customer journey, the author points out that there are many points where the company has little control. Instead, the company’s job is to satisfy the customer to the point that they become an advocate. In a world of social media, having digital advocates help spread the word about your company is priceless.

The key to growing a business in the digital age is exceeding customer expectations.

But what are those expectations, and how can you use technology to achieve this?

First Contact

Before your future customer even reaches out, they’ve spent time learning about you. Today, that usually means an online search or asking friends and social media groups for a recommendation. Because of this, you want customers that are not only happy with you, but that are willing to promote you. All of this starts at the first point of contact.

When a prospective customer reaches out to you, they’ve already made up their mind that you’re worth spending time talking to. They’ve done their research. So now it’s important to give them the exact experience they’re seeking.

Whether your first point of contact is from your website “Contact Us” form or a phone call, this is your chance to make the right first impression. According to Consumer Reports, 72% of callers who reach an automated answer will hang up without leaving a message – and potentially call a competitor. If you don’t respond quickly, you lose the opportunity. Today, people are looking for instant gratification. Answering the call or responding to the email right away is the first step.

Build Rapport from the Start

Throughout the sales process, it’s important to build a real relationship with your customer. Remember the Golden Rule – treating customers like you would want to be treated goes a long way.

Even when you find ways to specialize your business and stand out from the crowd, your customer will almost always have another option. Keeping updated information about your customer in CRM (customer relationship management) software is a good place to start. FieldPulse is a CRM solution built specifically for contractors. With CRM software you can keep contact information together with appointments, past work records, photos/documents, and more.

By keeping track of your customer, and having quick access to all of their details, you’ll be able to provide better service. Having a team that’s connected to that information at all times will take you even further. The level of service you can provide will set you apart and help you win more business.

Wow Them While Delivering the Work

Your reputation is built on the quality of your work. Beyond the quality of the work, your customer has high expectations around communication. Keeping customers in the loop during every step is important. This means sending confirmations when booking, a reminder before the appointment, day of notifications, and follow up after the job is done.

 

Customer Communication

 

Being consistent is key. You’ll want to make sure you have a system in place to manage communications. That system can be contractor software (and that’s definitely recommended), but a standardized process that everyone on the team follows is a great place to start. Make sure that you’re staying in touch with your customers at every step.

Build an Ongoing Relationship

Once the work is complete, it’s time to build onto the relationship you’ve started. This part is so important because it’s what takes a happy customer and turns them into a promoter for your business.

Word of mouth, social media mentions, and reviews will bring you more business. Unfortunately, a happy customer doesn’t always volunteer to spread the word. Instead, you’ll want to follow up with them. Keep them on an email list. Call them two weeks later and ask them about the work that was done.

Tell your customers that you appreciate referrals and online reviews. They need to know how they can help you. When they do, you’d be amazed at how many more reviews and referrals you’ll get.

Parting Thoughts

Everyone has service expectations, and your customers are no different. By using the right kinds of technology and services to support how you do business, you’ll be able to exceed those expectations. Having someone answer the phone every time and having the tools to track and communicate with your customers (and your team!) are two great ways to exceed customer expectations.

 

About Gabriel Pinchev:

Gabriel is the founder and CEO of FieldPulse, a field service software that lets you run your entire contracting business from a single app. FieldPulse helps contractors go digital with tools to handle everything from customer management (CRM) and estimates/invoices, to scheduling and dispatching, team timesheets (and GPS location), and much more – available in the office or on-the-go.

Improvements to Your Ruby Call Activity

Here at Ruby, we’ve made some exciting changes based on customer feedback to bring even more call data to your fingertips.

Next time you check the app or website, you’ll see all outbound and forwarded calls right alongside your receptionist handled activity. That’s right! Every business call record in one place.

We’ve made it easier than ever to see your latest activity at a glance by showing the caller’s name, call type, and a timestamp on the Home screen of the app, as well as the site’s dashboard!

And not only that—we’ve simplified the app’s navigation and brought forward a feature that customers are using most—the dialpad. Look for it in the bottom center of your screen.

Check it out!

Of course, we couldn’t be happier to bring you these updates, but we won’t stop there! We know that for many small businesses, texting is an essential communication strategy and a growing trend. To ensure our customers have everything they need to stay connected, we’re launching the ability to text from your business number in the coming months. Stay tuned for this announcement, and much more!

Happy Calling!

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Is Your Customer Service WOW-Worthy?

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.

Inspired by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, our Service Pyramid starts with basic biz fundamentals and works up to the finer elements of our service.

Ruby's Customer Service Pyramid

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.

 How we coach around the art of personal connections at Ruby:

  • 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:
    1. Personalized. A Dodgers hat for the Dodgers fan excited for the Dodgers game.
    2. Appropriate. The items you send represent your company.
    3. Practical. The recipient should be able to use it.
    4. Timeliness. Send 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 happen 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.

Like this super adorable cookie basket we recently received at HQ:

Cookies received from a customer as a 'thank you' for great customer service.

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.

Interested in more tips on exceptional customer service? Check out our Using Words to Turn Callers into Customers eBook!

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WOW Story: Nobody Here but Us Chickens

Customer Service Chickens

Picture this: It’s Friday afternoon. Your co-workers have all slowly trickled out of the office, the closed sign is on the door, and the weekend is within your grasp. You’re just packing up for two days of fun when your desk phone rings. What do you do?

You could easily ignore the call, leaving the message until Monday. Or you could answer and see who Ruby has for you—just in case it’s important. If you’re Ruby customer Natasza, you definitely take the high road…with a big smile, to boot!

Ruby receptionist Rachel recently reached Natasza two Fridays in a row. These calls were Rachel’s last of the day in both instances and, in both instances, Natasza’s office was technically closed. But Natasza took Rachel’s call anyway and Rachel was struck by how chipper and cheerful Natasza always seemed to be, especially late in the afternoon on a Friday.

Rachel took the time to create a beautiful, hand-drawn, personalized notecard and share her delight with her favorite Friday customer. And she couldn’t have done it any better!

In true Natasza style, she responded with a notecard of her own, one-upping the original connection by adding a fun pencil and chicken flingers to the mix. (What are chicken flingers? Apparently, you stretch them on your finger and fling them across the room for endless office fun!)

Thank you so much for your kind words as well as your fantastic decorative card. It’s hanging in my cubicle. It’s a pleasure speaking with you when you call in. Thank you again for taking the time to spread cheer to me. I appreciate you taking the time. You’re the best.
Natasza

Clearly, Rachel’s kind words made quite the impact on Natasza. It just goes to show that you can never underestimate the power of a handwritten note. Now just watch where you’re flingin’ them chickens, Rach!

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Don’t Worry, Be Happy on International Happiness Day

Ruby Receptionists Service Pyramid

With titles like “Problem Solver & Happiness Maker,” “Service Kickstarter & Happiness Builder,” and “Happiness Cultivator,” International Day of Happiness is one of our Customer Happiness team’s favorite holidays!

While the Customer Happiness team goes through rigorous and continual training to ensure we’re prepared to support our customers and program beautiful instructions, a desire to fulfill our core value of Foster Happiness is something that can’t be taught. Here’s our manifesto:

We are a league of superheroes. We are leaders, advocates, and friends, who are masters of sharing Ruby® magic. We believe in simple and creative solutions. We embrace change and celebrate innovation, teamwork, and tacos. We act with integrity and assume charitable intentions. Together, we define, embody, and elevate the standards of world-class service.

Each of us is here because we have a calling to make people happy—and that extends to our customers, callers, and colleagues. We do this with help from the Ruby Service Pyramid®.
The base of the pyramid is Be Prepared with the Right Infrastructure. Our Kickstarter team works hard to ensure that our new accounts start off on the right foot by programming beautiful instructions for receptionists and providing new customers with everything they need to know about getting started with Ruby.

Next up, Do What We Say We’ll Do. Problem Solvers & Happiness Makers own the customer experience once they’re all signed up. If a customer needs us to start handling a new type of call, we’re there to program those instructions in a way that will remain consistent for our receptionists. If there’s ever a mistake or a misunderstanding, we’re there to ensure that those are corrected, and the root of the concern is resolved.

Foster Happiness is so important to us that it’s both a core value and a level of the Service Pyramid!

Customer Happiness is also there to Create Experiences. Receptionists reach out to Customer Happiness every day, to connect customer calls our way and to alert us of any updates that might need to be made. While Customer Happiness is located in a separate office, we make it our mission to connect with receptionists to create one large community as a company. This might be as simple as including a cute cat photo in my email reply, or sending a handwritten notecard to let that one receptionist who always makes me smile know that I’m thinking of them.

Moving our way up the pyramid, we find Give Them What They Don’t Even Know They Want. Let’s say we just added a new instruction to ask callers a few new questions when taking a message. Rather than adding the instruction and leaving it at that, our customer might get a call from the Problem Solver they worked with a few weeks later, just to check in and see how those changes are working out. It’s more than a passive exchange, it’s a full-circle conversation that the customer didn’t see coming.

If we’ve fostered happiness by mastering the Service Pyramid, then we reach the very top—Make Meaningful Connections. This is my favorite piece. There’s a customer I sent a handwritten notecard to as a receptionist back in 2016, just thanking them for making my day. This customer not only reached out through work channels to thank me, but stayed in touch personally after learning we had a few friends in common. To this day, we write each other now and then just to check in. He sends me articles that he knows I’ll be interested in, and I share pictures of events I attend with our mutual friends.

Now, this won’t happen on every call, every email, or even every face-to-face meeting. But the relationship and friendship I’ve built with this customer is the Customer Happiness special sauce—we foster happiness by taking a genuine interest in the lives of our customers and each other.

So, on this International Day of Happiness, I ask you to not only think of something that makes you happy, but take that and share it with someone else.

Learn More About the Ruby Service PYRAMID

WOW Story: Cold Hands, Warm Heart

Customer Love at Ruby Receptionists

At the beginning of winter, we are often more likely to welcome the crisp air, pulling our coziest sweaters and softest mittens from the depths of our closets. By February we start dreaming of a little more sun and a lot more warmth.

Ruby customer, Gwendolyn was stuck with a bad case of the winter blues. Who could blame her? She woke up one morning to a 31-degree day in North Carolina, a state with a typically temperate climate.

On this particularly frigid morning, she spoke with receptionist, Tyzoe. Gwendolyn mentioned that she was feeling pretty chilly and was finding it hard to be her natural, positive, upbeat self. Tyzoe asked Gwendolyn to do her best to stay warm and wished her well.

Of course, Tyzoe being a Ruby, this wasn’t the end of the story. Tyzoe jumped on Amazon and picked out a super-soft Snuggie to keep Gwendolyn toasty until spring.

Gwendolyn was truly touched by Tyzoe’s thoughtfulness and she reached out to show her appreciation. Her words speak not only to how amazing Tyzoe is but what an impact Ruby has had on Gwendolyn and her law practice.


A Warm Hello Tyzoe,

I arrived at my office to see a gift waiting for me. Now, who doesn’t love gifts? I am absolutely overcome with gratitude and joy. Thank you for the Snuggie. I love it, love it, love it. I have known from day one that I struck gold with Ruby Receptionists. My one wish in life is that I live my life in such a way that I am found worthy. I see in you the character that I behold. Being a lawyer isn’t what I do, it’s who I am. You too, are much more than your role at Ruby. I carry your kindness with me always.

And yes…

It is still cold. I know this beautiful Snuggie will not leave my side. ❤

Sincerely,
Gwendolyn


Fantastic work, Tyzoe! Your story has warmed my heart. (Pun totally intended!)

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WOW Story: National Lampoon’s Ruby Vacation

The holidays are a time for tradition; a time for nostalgia; and, if you’re last name happens to be Griswold, a time for some potentially groan-worthy movie references.

Ruby Receptionist, Tyler Griswold is certainly familiar with this annual phenomenon. And it seems he’s found a kindred spirit in customer, Jeff Griswold.

When Tyler remarked on their matching last names, he and Jeff began swapping stories of people connecting them to the fictional Griswold family from the National Lampoon Vacation films. To help Jeff get in the holiday spirit (and show his Griswold team pride), Tyler ordered a Clark Griswold desk ornament à la National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. It was holiday season, after all!


Ruby WOW Gift

Tyler, thanks so much for the Clark Griswold desk ornament. I love it.

We are entering that time of year when we Griswolds start to hear all of the Christmas vacation one-liners from people we meet. “Ha… no way… are you related to Rusty?! Is your dad Clark?” As Griswolds we must smile politely and feign laughter, pretending that we haven’t heard that same exact thing for the 6th time this week.

Hope this finds you well and thanks again,
Jeff


At least both Tyler and Jeff have a great sense of humor about their predicament! And honestly, there are worse names they could share…

Tyler, thanks for bringing that classic Ruby charm to Jeff! You’ve proven that sometimes sharing a laugh is the perfect remedy for a case of the Griswolds.

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