6 Ways to Sharpen Your Customer Service Skills

what is a virtual receptionist

If you’re drawn to a career in customer service, you likely have a natural inclination for compassion and a desire to make a positive impact on others. Stellar service requires balanced, adaptable energy, plus the ability to bring your best self to work every day. It also requires you to keep cool in the face of unpredictable or challenging situations and personalities.

Maintaining your genuine desire to give–without burning out–means cultivating both professional development opportunities and self-care practices. Following are a few tricks to sharpen your skills on the job…and find more personal fulfillment in the process.

1. Understand Your Customer

Empathy allows you to create a genuine connection with your customer. It enables you to serve with a palpable sense of enthusiasm and dedication.

The dictionary definition of empathy embodies the basics of establishing any great relationship: understanding, sensitivity, like-mindedness. Even the word “chemistry” gets a shout-out. So, keep in mind that empathy is well within anyone’s grasp.

Have you ever had to wait on-hold forever? Or stood in line for what felt like hours, ultimately feeling twice as impatient about your issue as when you arrived? Probably. You can draw on this simple awareness to relate to your customer’s frustration and better position yourself as their advocate.

A solid understanding of your company’s offerings also helps you better empathize with customer needs. You can better speak their language and relate (as well as problem-solve) at a deeper level. At Ruby, we’ve built our business on the principle that meaningful connections are number one when it comes to a high-touch customer service experience.

2. Add to Your Toolbox

Whether you’re looking for ways to enhance your listening skills, new conversation starters, or tips on how to turn a tough call around, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

To keep your skills fresh and your energy creative, continually make time to learn. Spend a weekend at a professional development class or seminar. Watch a video online. Read a book or an article. There are hundreds of resources on customer service topics that may open you up to a new way of doing things. YouTube, Udemy, Lynda or your local library are just a few places to start.

Before you begin, ask yourself: In what areas of my work/role would I like to grow? What are situations that challenge me or expose my opportunities for growth?

Once you’re clear on your goals, the perfect resources are practically guaranteed to jump in your lap. It’s exciting to find fresh ways to surprise, delight, and support your customer, while keeping your own passion ignited, too.

3. Get Out of the Office…and Out of Your Comfort Zone

We are creatures of habit, repeating patterns day after day. While the comfortable is cozy, it often blocks our ability to receive inspiration. Your work environment is a major component of your mood and mindset. Change up the scenery during your workday. Enjoy lunch away from your desk. Take a walk outside. Check out a mid-day yoga class.

Trying new things in your personal life can also yield transformative results in your work. When we expand beyond our routine, we’re challenged to get over fears, let go of limiting beliefs, and tap into our potential. When’s the last time you did something for the first time?

Maybe it’s an improv or dance class, rehabbing a vintage guitar, getting artistic with a pottery project or cooking an exotic recipe. Living on the edge of your comfort zone helps you to think on your feet.

4. Discover Ways Keep Your Cool

If you’re not in the flow, it’s tough to be a rock for every customer who needs your support. But how do you stay positive when your day consists of dealing with person after person, and problem after problem?

One solution is to develop the right tools. Maybe it’s a breath exercise. Perhaps it’s a five-minute meditation practice, a brisk jaunt down the stairs and back, or a relaxation app or game on your phone that gets you back into your zone.



Find the thing(s) that work for you. Make sure they are specific. Then practice them, daily, until they become a habit. It may surprise you how these rituals help you regain your calm and re-energize your workday.

5. Find a Mentor and Expand Your Network

A mentor can be a game changer in opening you up to new ideas and possibilities. Having someone in your life with experience that differs from your own is invaluable to growth.

Maybe they’ve achieved certain goals you aspire to or you admire their communication skills. Invite them to coffee. You’ll be surprised how many people want to help you when you’re open to asking.

Networking is also a powerful way to elevate your skills. Engaging in a community–both within your profession and in other industries–gives you new insight, knowledge and a more holistic view.

6. Remember Your ‘Why’

A good practice for clarity about your relationship with work is asking, “What’s my ‘why’?” What motivates you to do the work that you do? What drives you to get out of bed and into the world every morning? What’s your superpower?

If you’re drawn to customer service because you enjoy connecting with people and making their lives better, try keeping a Happiness (or Gratitude) Journal. Journaling has caught on like wildfire, and with good reason. Numerous scientific studies have shown the benefits, which range from when you bring awareness to what you appreciate, your mind and body both take note and prime you to attract more of the same.

Once you move away from customer service as a chore or a transaction, you’ll tap into that place within you that innately desires positivity and meaningful purpose. When you remain tuned in to that vibe, happy and satisfied customers are sure to come along for the ride.

If you want to provide an exceptional customer experience but are a little preoccupied running a business…Ruby can help with that. Check out this ebook to learn how we can turn your callers into clients.

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Receptionist Etiquette Tip: Skip That “At” for a More Professional Exchange

Skip that 'at' for a more professional exchange!

Ah, grammar. In school, you may have been scolded in the past for ending a sentence with a preposition, but it turns out there’s actually no real rule against it. (Get all the details on this grammar myth here.) However, communication counts, and our virtual receptionist staff strives to make every interaction a professional exchange. To do so, there’s one pesky preposition we typically nix from the ends of our sentences: at.

Three common examples of when Ruby’s phone answering pros would pass on ending with a preposition:

  1. What is the best phone number to reach you at?
  2. When should we meet at?
  3. Where is the conference going to be held at?

What do these three sentences have in common?

The at can be lopped off of all of them without changing the meaning, and they sound a heck of a lot better without it. Check it out:

     What is the best phone number to reach you?

     When should we meet?

     Where is the conference going to be held?

A Small Step for Big Impact: It’s Easy to Have a Professional Exchange!

It’s amazing how one little change makes such a big difference! While there’s technically nothing wrong with ending a sentence in a preposition, our virtual receptionists have learned that ending in at rarely adds anything but awkwardness to a sentence. Since a lot of folks view the preposition myth as fact, and ending a sentence with at can sound a little unprofessional, our receptionists usually skip it when answering phones.

Looking for a few more pro-tips to really elevate your customer service offering?
We’ve got just what you need.

Learn how to turn callers into clients with our handy (and free!) ebook.

Give Me The Goods

Receptionist Tips for Answering the Phone: 3 Ways to Make Your Company’s Greeting Great

First impressions: you never get a second chance to make them, and at Ruby® Receptionists, we’re all about making them great.

For our virtual receptionists, answering the phone is a chance to show off our super-friendly stuff. A company’s greeting plays a key part in making an impeccable impression on a caller, and we love helping new clients craft greetings that wow!

Without further ado, here are three Ruby-approved elements to use when answering the phone:

A greeting.  

I know, you’re shocked.

But, first things first: simply stating your company name isn’t enough. Begin your company’s greeting with “Hello,” or “Thank you for calling,” or, if most of your callers are in the same time zone, try “Good morning/afternoon.” Better yet, combine two or three of these options in your greeting!

Welcome your callers with a few warm words before saying anything else. A little courtesy goes a long way!

Your company name.

Now, “Hello” is a great way to begin a greeting, but it does not a greeting make. If your business is answering the phone with “Hello” alone, call a company meeting pronto and nix that nuttiness. In fact, a plain “Hello” can be confusing to callers, and it’s likely to make them question whether they’ve dialed the correct number. Always state your company name when taking calls. You’d hate to have a potential client hang up on you because they think they’ve misdialed, right?

An offer of assistance.

“How may I help you?” Ah, what beautiful words. Let your callers know you’re raring to make their day by rounding off your greeting with a question. “How may I help you today?” and “How may I assist you?” are two rock-solid options. Are you routing calls rather than addressing questions when answering the phone? Perhaps try “How may I direct your call?” Is there a question you need to ask every caller? Ask it! (“May I have your account number please?”)

Because every customer wants to feel considered, ending your greeting with a helpful question makes for a great customer experience every step of the way.



Your Gleaming Greeting:

After all is said and done, here’s what the finished product should look like, er…sound like, rather: “Good morning! Thank you for calling ABC Company. How may I help you today?”

I feel good just reading it. Sure beats the heck out of “Hello”!

 

Make a lasting first impression and start turning callers into customers today!

Receptionist Etiquette Tip: Great Answers to Common Questions

Ah, the art of the phone call. In the world of business, how your company says “hello” can set the tone for your customer experience — and Ruby’s live virtual receptionists are brilliant artists, to say the least. Through our years of answering calls remotely, we’ve learned a lot about which phrases work on the phone and which fall flat. For example, mastering some great answers to common caller questions is a surefire way to step up your answering game, while improving your customer experience!

Here’s a few of the questions we hear most, paired with our favorite responses:

Is she in? or Is she available?

Questions like these are usually a caller’s polite way of asking Will she talk to me?  Sure, you may know whether someone is in the office, but that doesn’t mean you know whether that person will want to accept a particular call. Rather than answering common caller questions about someone’s availability with a yes or no or I’m not sure, try saying Let me try her line for you. Then, try the requested party’s line. If the person you’re trying to reach is unavailable or declines the call, return to your caller and segue politely into message territory with this Ruby standard: She is away from the phone at the moment, but I would be happy take a message. May I have your telephone number?

When will he be in or When will he return my call?

If you don’t know the answer and your crystal ball is out of commission, this type of question can throw you off your game. Fear not, phone call fielders! We Rubys have found a reply that works in most cases. It goes a little something like this: He keeps his own schedule, but I will be sure to let him know you called. What is the best number for a return call?  Next, you might make your reply extra helpful by offering to have the call returned at a convenient time. Sure, there’s no way to guarantee that your co-worker will return the call at the specified time, but there’s always a way to say it better! The extra information will be helpful to your co-worker, and the extra question will show the caller you care about giving them a standout customer experience.

Anything else? These replies work every time.

Even the best receptionists face common caller questions that they’re unsure how to answer. Fortunately, this doesn’t preclude you from being helpful and sounding confident! When you find yourself faced with a confounding question, try one of these rock-solid responses:

Let me find out for you.

I’d be happy to look into that for you.

Great question! Let me put you in touch with the best person to answer it.

Great question! Let me have a member of our team return your call with the answer. May I have your telephone number?

 

Without a doubt, replies beginning in Let me and I’d be happy to are essential to the Ruby toolbox. Adding a Great question! is another handy trick. We’ve found it’s the perfect way to add some extra friendliness to an already great response, while helping your customer experience reign supreme.

Looking for more customer service clues? We’ve got’em riiiiiight here:

Secrets 

How to Make Your Apology Count

How to apologize

Everyone makes mistakes. But not everyone knows how to apologize like they mean it. At Ruby Receptionists, we know that the right apology can turn a tough moment around. It’s important to understand the difference between the apology you want to give and the apology you want to receive—they’re not always the same thing!

Have you ever received a “bad” apology? One that didn’t make you feel any better?

In her study of apologies, Stanford psychologist Karina Schumann writes that insincere apologies happen because “people are highly motivated to maintain their sense of self-worth and integrity.” It can be hard to own our faults and promise change, but that’s what effective apologies do.

Sincere apologies are an asset in any professional relationship. You can set yourself apart by asking yourself what you want to hear in any apology, rather than what you want to say in an apology.

To give an apology you would be happy to receive, adhere to a few simple principles:

  • Take responsibility. Simply saying “I’m sorry” or better yet “Please accept my apologies” acknowledges your mistake and expresses your regrets. Keep it short and sweet instead of justifying or minimizing the mistake.
  • Offer a solution. The hard part is over, but don’t forget to follow through. Demonstrate that your apology is genuine by offering a thoughtful solution.
  • Move forward. In Karina Schumann’s study of apologies, adults who affirmed their own values and worth were able to make more effective, solution-oriented apologies. So, move forward with the knowledge that your apology reflects your values and strengthens your relationships.

With a little sincerity, and thoughtfulness, an apology can turn a difficult moment into a meaningful connection. Demonstrate your values and your problem-solving skills by making an apology you would be happy to receive.

What makes for an effective, sincere apology to you? Tweet us @callruby with your favorite apology tip!

Learn More: Fess Up to Your Mess Up

The Secret to Charming Callers Every Time

Customer Service Tip: Charming Callers

Does the thought of answering your own phone make you a little anxious? Are you energized by data, facts, and figures—but not people? Are you looking for relief so you can focus on the work you’re most passionate about? If you’ve been nodding your head while reading along, it may be time to consider outsourcing your call answering.

With all the hats you wear as a small business owner, it can be tough to transition between a tough negotiation with a vendor or reprimanding an employee, to pleasantly greeting a potential new client over the phone. Outsourcing your phone answering to a company entirely focused on delighting callers and creating a great experience means you never have to worry your bad mood will come through on a call.

Sound appealing? Here’s a few options to consider:

Forward directly to Ruby 24/7. If the sound of a ringing phone brings undue stress, forward your calls directly to Ruby and watch your anxiety disappear. Once you’ve forwarded your published number, calls will ring straight to Ruby and a group of friendly receptionists will handle them following your specific account instructions.

Customize your call-handling. During the new client onboarding process, you can decide on exactly how you’d like Ruby to handle your calls. Typically, we can either connect calls to you live, take messages or offer voicemail, or do a combination of both. If you’re looking to focus on big projects or client work, Ruby is happy to let callers know you’re away from the phone. We’ll immediately send over written and voice messages.

Are there some calls you’d like to take live and others you’d rather not? We can also connect certain types of callers to you while holding calls for others. For instance, many of our clients love when we connect potential new clients or emergencies to them live, and simply take messages for everyone else.

Read The Watercooler. Ruby’s blog is full of tips and tricks to help you deliver friendly, exceptional service when you do need to speak with clients. From phrasing to stress reducing time management tips, you’ll be armed with the knowledge to put your best foot forward—whether you’re a people person or not!

How Does Call Forwarding Work?

Woman on phone, silhouette.

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

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

How Call Forwarding Works

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

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5 Service Power Phrases You Should Steal

 

Words are powerful. They can create connections or put distance between folks; they can result in appreciation or frustration. Service power phrases are a way your business can make them work for you. It might sound simple, but a little intentionality goes a long way. At Ruby®, we’ve found careful and positive phrasing leads to quality customer experiences that build meaningful relationships with our clients, and in the long-term—loyal clients.

If you’re looking to beef up your customer service vocabulary, read on!

Five service power phrases for delivering exceptional caller experience:

1. Absolutely! Certainly! I’m glad to!

Simply saying, “okay” or “sure,” to a request is bland. Convey enthusiasm and energy by dressing up your affirmations so it’s clear you’re excited to honor your customer’s request! Positive language creates meaningful connections as you demonstrate how deeply you care for them and their needs.

2. In our experience, typically…

On the flip side, sometimes we find it’s best to say no to a customer request. What if they are asking for something outside of the scope of the service you offer? Perhaps they’re asking to implement something you can do, however, you know from experience it isn’t the best way to go. Above is an example of how service power phrases are a great way to reference your experience without discounting their own or making them feel silly about their request. It provides insight into the reasoning behind your “no” so that clients truly understand why something won’t work well. To really WOW your client, immediately segue into the options that do work so you can collaborate together toward a solution.

3. If I don’t hear from you by…. I’d be happy to follow up with you on….

Have you ever needed to follow up with one of your clients for extra information? If so, has your client ever said something like, “I’ll let you know when I have it,” with no clear timeframe? The key to making follow-ups a breeze is to be upfront about your timeline so expectations are clearly set for everyone. This phrase provides you with a solid date to reach out, and your client knows they can rely on your doing what you say you will if they haven’t quite gotten around to giving you a ring. Everyone is busy—if you can set the stage so your clients feel comfortable relying on you to help them get things done, they’ll surely appreciate it!

4. The best person to speak with is…

Picture it—you’ve answered a call and a current customer dives into their billing questions the moment you greet them. What your customer doesn’t realize is you’re a sales representative and not the company billing specialist. Have no fear! The above phrase allows you to defer to the right person politely—saving your customer time better spent chatting with the person who can help.

5. I’m happy to help! I’m here for you!

You may find yourself offering a customer further assistance at the end of a call or email exchange. To make this offer impactful, be expressive! Warm and welcoming language like the phrases noted above demonstrates your genuine sincerity in wanting to help. You care for your customers, and they’ll be inspired to reach back out to you because they know it.

Ready to look toward the new year and set some serious goals for your business? Flex your customer service muscle with a little help from our free ebook!

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