What Does a Virtual Receptionist Do?

What is a virtual receptionist? What does a virtual receptionist do? How does a virtual receptionist differ from an answering service or call center? What makes them “virtual,” exactly? And what are the benefits of a virtual receptionist for your business?

You’ve got questions—we’ve got answers. I could run through each question and give you a dry explanation, but it’s probably faster (and more fun to read) if I show you what a virtual receptionist does.

A Call With a Virtual Receptionist

Imagine this: You’ve just placed a call to a business. Let’s say it’s your local printer—you need fliers printed for a last-minute event. As the phone rings, your heart rate rises a bit with anticipation:

How long will this take?

What kind of customer service are you about to experience?

Will the person on the other end be able to help you? Are they going to answer?

Will you even be talking to a person, or are you about to encounter something else entirely—one of those automated systems that seems to offer every help option except for the one you need?

But then someone answers—a human being.

“Thank you for calling ABC Printing. This is Danielle. How may I help you today?”

You tell Danielle about your last-minute order. She listens to your explanation, making you feel heard.  When you ask about the printer’s hours, and a couple of basic FAQs, she has the answer ready. Then, she offers to transfer you directly to the sales manager.

You say sure, that sounds good.

Within a couple of minutes, you’ve had your questions answered, you got in contact with the sales rep, placed your order, and you never even had to talk to a robot. Customer service: complete.

Ready for a twist? Danielle isn’t actually located at ABC Printing’s offices, nor is she technically an employee of the company.

Danielle is a virtual receptionist.

Shocker, I know. “But she seemed so real!” you’re thinking. “She was able to handle the call so effectively!”

That’s because Danielle is real. (Well, she’s a fictional construct for this blog post, but you get the idea). And the reason she can seamlessly provide customer service for a company she doesn’t work at is that she’s been thoroughly trained to do it. Danielle is a human receptionist, the same as any professional who takes calls and coordinates other forms of business communication for a living. She’s “virtual” in the sense that—to a customer or client—she’s virtually identical to an on-site receptionist.

Over the phone, a virtual receptionist can do pretty much everything a conventional receptionist does, including…

    • Answering calls
    • Representing your business to callers
    • Transferring calls
    • Scheduling appointments
    • Taking messages
    • Collecting and relaying information on your behalf
    • Making outbound calls
    • Resolving basic customer/client issues

See the impact of a virtual receptionist service on your bottom line!
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How Virtual Receptionists Differ from Other Answering Services

A virtual receptionist is not

  • a call center. Call centers are built for size and speed. They’re used by businesses that need to handle a high volume of low-complexity calls at once—as quickly as possible. In contrast to virtual receptionists, who provide personalized customer service experiences, call center agents typically work more or less exclusively from pre-written scripts. Call center teams are much larger than virtual receptionist teams (think 200 people versus 20) and tend to undergo less intensive training.
  • an interactive voice response system (IVR) or other automated solution. Again, don’t let the word “virtual” confuse you—virtual receptionists are living, breathing humans. They can understand more than button presses and programmed conversation strings, and they can do more than transfer a caller or offer rudimentary self-service assistance. Virtual receptionists adapt their approaches to every context and caller, meaning they can handle urgent requests on the fly and work around unforeseen obstacles.

The Benefits of a Virtual Receptionist

Given the premium customers place on personal connections, as well as the ways in which excellent customer service is a key differentiator, practically any business can benefit from having a virtual receptionist available to answer calls. Indeed, recent customer service trends suggest phone calls are more important than ever.

That said, virtual receptionists are especially advantageous for small and growing businesses. Consider a few reasons why:

Virtual receptionists can answer calls when you’re busy. Your time is valuable. Don’t let incoming calls get in the way of your and your team’s productivity. A virtual receptionist can engage with prospects, handle customer issues and inquiries, and collect critical information when you’re otherwise preoccupied.

Virtual receptionists can answer calls when you’re closed. Not every call comes in during the bounds of normal working hours. Rather than allowing potential sales opportunities go to voicemail or sacrificing your personal time (and sanity) attempting to make yourself available, leverage the flexibility virtual receptionist services provide.

Virtual receptionists can help your business save money. You don’t need to hire a full-time, on-site receptionist to ensure excellent customer service. Virtual receptionists can fulfill the same role at a fraction of the cost of hiring and training an employee.

Virtual receptionists can increase your customer satisfaction rates. Human connections increase customer loyalty. Report after report bears this out. For instance, Invoca found that 80% of consumers are likely or very likely to become a repeat customer after a positive phone experience.

Ruby Virtual Receptionists

At Ruby, our live virtual receptionist services stand apart for the quality of our team and the depth of our platform. Over 10,000 business owners have trusted our virtual receptionists to represent them and their companies. And with an average 20% increase in sales inquiries and customer service satisfaction among Ruby customers, as well as 2–3 times quantifiable return on investment, it’s easy to see why. 

Learn more about virtual receptionists and discover what an industry-leading solution can do for your company.

Get The Ultimate Guide to Virtual Receptionists

13 Things You Should Never, Ever Say to a Client

Years of loyal business, created or ruined in minutes.

That’s the power of a phone call or online chat exchange. Every conversation with a client, customer, or prospect is a moment that could shape your company’s future—for better or worse. It’s an opportunity to either win someone over or lose them to a competitor, to establish trust or sabotage a relationship. And the outcome, positive or negative, can result from seemingly minor decisions and inadvertent behaviors.

Frequently, it comes down to a few words.

With that in mind, and in the interest of helping more small businesses avoid catastrophic client interactions, here are a few all-too-common phrases to avoid:

1. “I don’t know.”

Unless you run a psychic reading service, you’re probably going to encounter questions to which you don’t have an immediate answer. That doesn’t mean the other person needs to know that you don’t know. Skip the shrug and move on to helping the client or prospect get the information they need.

What to say instead: “Good question! Let me put you in touch with someone who can answer it.”

2. “I’m not sure.”

Like “I don’t know,” “I’m not sure” is a useless acknowledgment of doubt. Moreover, it can cause you to seem disorganized, unprofessional, or lacking in confidence. It’s better to focus on the positive assistance you can offer. (Learn a simple strategy for dealing with uncertainty.)

What to say instead: “I’ll be happy to find that out for you.”

3. “I can’t.”

During an interaction with a client or prospect, your job is to keep the conversation moving. “I can’t” is a dead end. Think of what you can do and offer to do it. There’s always another route to take—perhaps it’s providing an alternative option, following up later, or even just listening and acknowledging the individual’s concerns.

What to say instead:
“I know who can help you with that—let me connect you with them.”
“I can do that! One moment please.”
“Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention. We’ll work on resolving it as quickly as possible.”

4. “That’s not my problem.”

Also said as “That’s not my job.” Regardless of your role, department, or area of knowledge, every client or prospect concern should be your concern when you’re involved in the conversation. Again, demonstrate what you can do rather than what you can’t (or would prefer not to).

What to say instead: “Our specialist [name] would be the best person to help you with that. Can I connect you with them?”

5. “You’re wrong.”

No, the customer isn’t always right. But you don’t need to go out of your way to tell them that. Use a misunderstanding or potential conflict to demonstrate empathy, check your assumptions, and gently educate your client or prospect if necessary.

What to say instead: “It sounds like you’re experiencing [specific problem, reiterated back to the client or prospect]. Is that right? Here’s what I can do to help.”

6. “Calm down.”

Urging someone to relax tends to have the opposite effect. Phrases like “calm down” turn what should be a collaborative exchange into an adversarial one. No matter how angry or upset your client or prospect might be, it’s up to you to deescalate the situation. Rather than telling the other person how to feel, acknowledge their emotions and guide them to a resolution that will naturally result in them feeling better.
What to say instead: “I can see why you’re upset, and I’m sorry for any frustration this situation has caused you. Here’s what we can do to fix it.”

Wondering why any of this matters? Discover the ROI of real, meaningful personal connections!

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7. The wrong name, pronoun, or form of address.

Referring to someone by the wrong name or identifier is not only embarrassing, but disrespectful—and potentially discriminatory. Know the name of the person you’re talking to, as well as their preferred pronouns (e.g. he, she, they) and forms of address (sir, ma’am, Ms., Mx., Dr., etc.). If you’re not sure how the client or prospect identifies, consider asking. One easy way is to state your pronouns first, thereby offering the other person the opportunity to do the same. 

Many professionals have taken to adding their pronouns to their email signature. A simple (she/her/hers) under your name will do!

8. “We’re too busy for that.”

Busy-ness is great for business—until it gets in the way of new business. Like “I can’t,” “we’re busy” is a dead end. Don’t simply tell a client or prospect they’re out of luck. Instead, set communicate your availability, set realistic expectations, and schedule a follow-up if possible.

What to say instead: “I’m afraid we can’t do that right now, but I would be happy to help you as soon as we can. The next opening we have is [on/around date]—will that be all right for you?”

9. “Just a sec.”

There’s nothing wrong with taking a brief pause to meet a client or prospect’s need. That said, this specific phrase is a little too informal. Trade it for a classier “one moment, please,” and let your professionalism shine.

What to say instead:
“One moment, please.”
“Happy to help! I’ll need to [engage in a certain action] first. Could you give me one moment?”

10. “Hold, please.”

The flipside of “just a sec,” this phrase is too formal—and somewhat cold and robotic. It’s also framed as a command rather than a request. Before placing someone on hold, be sure to ask their permission first. If they decline, respect their decision—don’t press the “Hold” key.

What to say instead: “May I place you on hold for a moment?”

11. “They’re on the other line right now.”

Sure, it might be true that Ms. Smith is on the other line, but maybe don’t tell your caller that. Otherwise, they may infer that Ms. Smith will return the call as soon as she’s off that other line—which might not be true. Another potential hitch: your caller might ask to wait on hold until Ms. Smith is available, and if you’re not sure Ms. Smith wants to talk to your caller as soon as she’s free, trouble could be ahead.

What to say instead: “I’m afraid [name] isn’t available right now, but I would be happy to take a message! Is there anything else I can help you with in the meantime?”

12. “Just between you and me…”

Camaraderie with a client or prospect is a beautiful thing—unless it comes at the expense of your team. No issue is worth throwing someone you work with under the bus, so to speak. The same goes for company policies, values, trade secrets, or anything else your organization holds dear. By sharing confidential matters or your unfavorable opinions with someone outside of your business, you risk that person perceiving you as dishonest or untrustworthy.

What to say instead: Nothing. Raise your concerns with members of your team or keep them to yourself.

13. “I’m not in the mood for this.”

We’ve all had bad days. You don’t need to keep those feelings to yourself, but you definitely shouldn’t share them with a client or prospect. If a conversation is too taxing, consider asking a colleague for help or returning the call or chat request at a later date.

If you’ve got a cranky caller that is testing your charm, we’ve got a list of tips to help with that. 

Keeping up with client and prospect requests can be tough for any growing business. You don’t need to do it all alone. When you work with Ruby, you gain a team of friendly, professional, thoroughly-trained customer support agents who are available when you need them.

Check out our Ultimate Guide to Virtual Receptionists to learn more about how Ruby can elevate your customer service experience and support your in-house team!

Download The Ultimate Guide

How to Reduce Sales Friction

In theory, sales should be easy. A customer wants something, your business has that something, and so you sell it to them. Rinse and repeat.

In reality, of course, selling is almost never that easy—especially for a small business. You have to generate leads, qualify those leads to determine if they’re real prospects, carefully approach your prospects, pitch your product or service in a compelling way, overcome any objections, and close the deal. It can be a long, demanding journey littered with potential obstacles and pitfalls.

While many businesses dedicate significant time and resources toward optimizing the sales process, they frequently—and inadvertently—make things even harder for themselves. How? By increasing sales friction.

What Is Sales Friction?

Sales friction is anything that gets in the way of a customer saying “yes.” It can happen at virtually any point in the sales process. A slow or unresponsive website causes friction for someone researching your company. An untrained salesperson causes friction by not being able to answer a prospect’s questions. A point-of-sale system that won’t accept a customer’s credit card causes friction in what should be the painless final stage of a transaction.

Consider some other common sources of sales friction—how many of the following might apply to your business?

  • missing or hard-to-find business contact information
  • unnecessary or redundant customer relationship management (CRM) systems and steps
  • CRM systems that contain unclear or incorrect information
  • sales and marketing messages that are irrelevant or flood prospects’ and customers’ phones and email inboxes
  • outbound calls that disrupt the lives of prospects and customers
  • communication problems between sales and customer service staff
  • sales and support unavailability
  • delays in following up with prospects and customers
  • missed deadlines and unfulfilled promises
  • complicated payment processes

The list goes on. Indeed, virtually every decision your company makes can either facilitate or impede sales growth. And while eliminating sales friction entirely may take a thorough audit of your organization, there’s at least one major source of friction you can fix today: the lack of a live chat window on your website.

How Does Live Chat Reduce Sales Friction?

Live chat is a valuable and highly underrated sales and customer service tool. It’s easy and cost-effective to implement, a majority of consumers like it, and relatively few companies use it.

On top of that, it can address multiple sources of sales friction, including the limitations of business hours, inefficient lead generation, customer objections, poor customer data collection, and more.

Get 5 Reasons to add live chat to your website!

Here are just a few ways how:

Generate More Leads

Live chat specialists can be trained by experts in your company’s field, making them capable of handling the types of qualifying questions necessary to generate real leads. Chat specialists are proven to generate more leads than other sales tools and strategies. In many cases, these leads would not have otherwise been created.

Overcome Objections in Real Time

As business-to-consumer communication has shifted away from face-to-face interactions and into the digital world, companies have lost the ability to overcome objections as they arise. More than a third (35%) of salespeople say overcoming price objections is one of the biggest challenges to any customer relationship. Live chat gives you the chance to address customers’ specific concerns in real time. With trained chat specialists available around the clock, there’s no need for protracted, back-and-forth messages and phone calls.

Gather Better Data About Your Customers and Prospects

Get ready to say goodbye to those old-fashioned website forms that only convert a small fraction of your website visitors. Live chat specialists are able to build relationships with customers from the moment a chat begins—before your company even needs to request information. Agents can be trained to gather specific data, answer questions throughout the process, and clarify any misunderstandings that may occur as they occur.

Always Be Closing

With live chat, customers don’t have to commit to an appointment before interacting with your company. They can chat in to ask a simple question, at any time that’s convenient for them, even when a phone call would be awkward or inconvenient—e.g. while sitting in a conference for work, waiting at the DMV, watching the kids at soccer practice, and so on. Chat agents are live on your website while your office is closed, so you’ll never lose out on a lead or sale regardless of when opportunity comes. Sunday at 7pm? No problem for a live chat agent.

After implementing live chat on your company’s website, you can expect a higher conversion of web visitors into new customers. In our experience, after handling thousands of chats, our average company client sees a 40% increase in sales inquiries.


See how live chat can turn your business website into a lead generation and sales machine.


Download our free Ultimate Guide to Chat

4 Outbound Rules You Need to Start Breaking

Some rules are like un-forked fried chicken:

In Gainesville, Georgia, it’s illegal to eat fried chicken…

…with a fork. A confused tourist got arrested for that in 2009.

Here’s the point.

Some rules are made to be broken, or at least ignored.

Today we’ll focus on the unwritten rules that’ll slowly crush your profits unless you break them first.

This is how to bring your outbound system to the next level, by breaking foolish rules.

Rule-to-Break #1: “It’s Okay to Have a Slow Season.”

The most deadly company-killer is a poorly managed slow-season.

All but the best of your competitors have bored individuals filling in their time with brainless busy-work just to look productive during the slow season.

That’s a valuable opportunity for you, for obvious reasons.

Who wrote the unwritten rule that certain months should be a slow time for your company?

It’s a rule that needs be broken.

The slow season should be your fast season.

When the demand starts to fade, turn up your marketing, full force. Things should actually get faster.

Because this is the time to gain on your stronger competitors and overtake the weaker ones.

You need to drum up the demand that forces you to hire more techs, plumbers, and/or electricians.

That’s how you grow.

And what’s the best way to do that?

Transform your “slow season” mentality into a “fast season” mentality.

Now, here’s how to build more business even when you’re slow.

Rule-to-Break #2: “We Hire Normal CSRs Like Everybody.”

We’ve all heard about the legend of Achilles. He was an extraordinary hero; skilled, powerful, just about invincible.

That’s what we’re looking for.

But instead of fighting skill, we’re looking for modern day sales prowess. Heroic work ethic. Top of the line customer service, discipline, and communication.

Ultimately, a new breed.

I’ve never hired a customer service rep to answer the phone.

Instead, I hired outbound people.

Great outbound people are rare. They’re CSR workhorses who can hit the phones non-stop and sell like a machine.

Not many people can pound out 100+ calls a day while answering the phone just as good as anybody.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s very difficult to find people with that kind of personality and skill. But it pays off.

Because they’re the ones who’ll transform your slow season into a fast one.

Here’s another rule to break.

Rule-to-Break #3: “We Only Pursue Recruiting When We Really Need to.”

Push yourself, the owner – whoever recruits – push them to recruit harder.

Make your hiring process more efficient, and a much higher priority.

Here’s something to think about.

I’d definitely try this if I started over again – I’d acquire lead lists. Not for sales. For recruiting. I’d get lists of techs and have my team call them, non-stop. That could create a bottomless recruiting pool of talent.

Keeping your pipeline full is far from easy. For most people, it’s far from fun. But people are the lifeblood of your company.

If you’ve hired a strong team, you’re halfway there. Now you need to lead them.

Rule-to-Break #4: “My Team’s So Good, They Don’t Need Coaching.”

Outbound calling yields regular house visits. That’s good. But are they calling correctly? Are they pushing themselves?

What’s inspected is respected. Set your expectations and hold your people accountable to hitting their KPI’s.


► Their conversion rate on inbound; how many they made, how many they booked.
► How many emails they sent out.
► Total calls booked.

Focus on getting each individual to beat your company average instead of goals.

Always, always focus on your people. Steer them away from the “us vs the company” sort of mindset. That’s toxic. Treat them good and they’ll treat you good – if you’ve hired good.

And balance that with quality accountability, because even the best have low-performance stretches that you can coach them out of.

Here’s yet another rule to break.

We don’t do many service checks in the off season.

That’s lame in the sense that it literally cripples your company.

Let’s flip that around to create the #1 rule to keep.

#1 Rule-to-Keep: Hit Your Marketing Hard in the Off-Season.

Your techs don’t like it because they’ve adjusted to a poorly constructed system.

It’s up to you to lead them out of that system.

You should hit it hard during the “slow” season with both your outbound people and your techs, plumbers, and/or electricians.

Which brings us to system checks: Do your system checks in the slow season.*

Because you want to be fresh on your target market’s minds when things start picking up.

If you’re hitting the phones hard and making house visits in, say, March and April (the end of our off-season here in Kansas City), guess what?

When May and June roll around, and people start needing your services, who do you think they’re going to call? Yep. You, because your company has been freshly planted in their heads.

Throughout the year, keep your eye on plumbing and electrical system checks. As you grow, you’re going to have slow days. That’s just how it is. But you need to have them go out consistently so you can keep growing, and have less of those days.

QuickTip: February is a difficult month because you can’t check the freon. Just don’t check the freon on 5 years or younger. Give it the stamp of approval. Move on. Keep those system checks rolling. It’s also a good way to have new techs practice and learn through experience.

The same goes for the plumbing side of things, but you’re doing system checks in June and July, or whatever your slow season is.



*Always call it that. If you call AC checks, well, AC checks, in the cold season, people are going to think “why do I need to check the AC, it’s not even warm,” and they won’t do it. Instead, check everything at once and call it a system check.

The Single Biggest Problem With Most Contractors’ Websites

Every day when I sit down at my desk to start the day I ask the same question:

What is the single biggest problem plaguing most contractors’ websites and how can I best solve that problem today?

The reality is that the list of problems for most websites is fairly lengthy.

For example:

  • Website is not optimized for mobile
  • Website does not feature an easily accessible phone number
  • Website has poor SEO
  • Website lacks a constantly updated blog with unique content
  • Website displays generic, boring, feature-heavy content
  • And on…
  • And on…

However, every morning I go back to one problem that stands above all others.

…and that problem is:

The website is not focused on producing a desired action from the visitor.

Stay with me here.

Most of our websites allow more than 95% of visitors to leave without “converting” or producing a desired action. Desired actions include a phone call to the office or the visitor clicking the “Schedule an Appointment” button.

Of course, this is a tremendous inefficiency in our businesses and represents a significant opportunity for growth. Imagine if we could lower the 95% to 93%…

That’s 40% more website visitors taking action!   When more people take action on your site, you have more revenue opportunities and sales increase!

So, now that we know the problem, what is the solution?

***Engage your visitors to live, in real time with online chat!

When you provide an option for your visitors to chat with your business, you are decreasing the barriers for that visitor to start a relationship with your company. In turn, your company will interact with more visitors, have more sales conversations, and create more opportunities for new customers.

I Need Technicians! — Recruit Techs (Plumbers, Electricians, HVAC & Other Home Service Techs) Much Faster

Recruiting technical roles is one of the largest pain-points in managing a residential service business. It actually makes me sad when I listen to the news and they say it’s hard to find a job.  I’m thinking – “Go be a plumber or an HVAC tech!” Just about any tech in the home service industry!

After having great success with hiring for these technical roles over the last several years, I thought it would be helpful to share my methodology. I have used Linkedin, Craigslist, BirddogHR, Facebook, gone to supply houses, offered recruiting bonuses, and even hired a designated recruiter. After using each avenue to recruit, I have learned there is no “magic bullet.”  No one method is superior to another, just different. Please allow me to share my method of success for recruitment and its corresponding pros and cons.

Note: These methods work wonders in HVAC, plumbing, electric, and many if not all other home service industries.

Linkedin- Linkedin is great for salespeople and more advanced roles inside your office like HR or Marketing. I have hired all three of these positions using the Linkedin Job Postings.

Pro: This is designed for genre recruiting because it delivers your posting as a recommendation for people that fit that genre. If you are looking for a marketing person, then you’ll be able to attract a chunk of marketing people because that genre fits into the framework.

Con: It doesn’t work for a lot of management roles. I tried to hire a HVAC Service Manager from this and that’s not really a genre that Linkedin catches (it was a total waste of money) – And it costs upwards of $400+ to post a job on Linkedin.

Craigslist- In many ways, this is my secret weapon of choice, but I’ll spill the beans here. Posting is fine and it’ll bring you candidates, however, calling people that are offering plumbing, hvac or electrical service is where you’ll really excel. I cold-called all of them weekly. I told them, “I just want to tell you what our company is all about”– more on this in a bit. These people aren’t job hunting, but they do feel alone. They don’t have a network of people that can empathize with their situation. Many of them would actually sit down with me because I was in the industry.

Pro: I hired many people from my cold calling efforts. Not all of them worked out, sometimes they had a hard time wrapping their mind around the price or the pay structure, but the quantity made it work. I had one major success, he was a million dollar service plumber and best in the company at sales, work ethic, and attitude. Additionally, I had many other wins including earn-outs situations for their usually small customer lists and phone numbers. Additionally, posting for Entry Level Plumber (Electrician or HVAC Technician) was a fantastic way to find drain technicians or apprentices. It’s free to call “competitors” and only $25 for a Craigslist job posting- just make sure you are posting weekly because your listing gets buried fast.

Con: You have to kiss a few toads here. This is a quantity play, not always quality. Posting here is a good way to fill the pipeline and keep your Technicians Sales Engine going.

BirddogHR: This is not a magic bullet either. This is mostly a CRM/pipeline in my mind. It’s a great tool for posting, too. More importantly, it is a great place to track and house all the applicants in your company. The MOST important part of recruiting and using this tool – or Zip Recruiter (same thing)-  is making sure you are following up with every single lead. (more later)

Pro: This is such an easy way to post for jobs. It hits Indeed and a few dozen other random sites. You can refresh job postings every 30 days with zero effort and refreshing them is important. You will see huge influxes at the beginning of these refreshes because it pops to the top of all the boards. It is a great way to house all your applicants, easy to search them, and organize what you’ve done with each one.

Con: Maybe it works too well as an always running piece of recruiting because I’ve noticed that it almost becomes white noise if you don’t make it a priority. Be deliberate about checking this all the time so you don’t leave any applicant wondering. They almost tote this product as a one stop shop (I would argue that it might be this way for many businesses), but it’s not for our industry. To hire plumbers, HVAC techs, electricians and other home service techs, you have to do all things.

Facebook: Social media is great because you can hit a lot of people quickly. However, it’s very difficult to target a specific kind of person with the technical experience you want. Facebook ads are great for attracting green technicians –that person working in the stockroom at Michael’s, wondering what they’re going to do with their life. Target your post knowing this: If you ask for a guy/girl with a lot of experience you probably won’t find him/her.

Pro: Pretty cheap for the amount of impressions you get. You are exposing someone to your ad when their defenses are down (you are more likely to have someone digest it that way). People can share what you post if it’s compelling enough and then you’ll get real traction.

Con: Probably not going to get you someone that can just start in a truck right away. Use some level of creativity if you want the viral effect.

Supply Houses: This is super old school. It’s more of a time suck than anything else if your plan is to hang out and build up your network. The technicians coming and going from the supply house already have a job to go to that day and are making money. What does work with Supply Houses is posting a flier with your recruitment bonus on it, I even put the little cut pieces of paper at the bottom of the flier for easy tear-and-call functionality.

Pro: If you have a contact at a supply house and all the technicians know them, they can be super beneficial to feed you leads. There is always a cork board next to the front door you can post information on (make sure to replenish it because it will be torn down, often.)

Con: Good and loyal technicians do not want to be seen talking to their competitors, management, or ownership. If someone does come up, it might not be the attitude of the person you want on your team.

Recruiting Bonus: Most of us have built pay-for-performance environments in the residential service industry. It’s natural then that giving them an incentive to recruit goes a long way. I like to also encourage retention on this. The referring plumber or tech can get $2500 after 90 days and then $1000 for each year their referred plumber or tech stays. I only use this incentive for technical roles.

Pro: People tend to hangout with the people that look and act like them. If you have a performer, then you would do well to hire their friends. Your employees want to work with good people. Very few employees will choose an incentive over poor work relations as a long-term strategy. They are more likely to bring in quality candidates.

Con: You have to make it rewarding to bring people in, meaning: Techs need not worry about having less work by recruiting for you. If they work less as a result, the incentive failed. And make your company an environment they will want to refer into! If everyone is worried about being fired or the next change, they won’t bring their friends into that environment.

Designated Recruiter: For many of you, I know that hiring a person to only recruit is difficult because of your company size . I would argue, however, that if you have good management, then you can hire someone for around $13.00/hr. Also, you can look to fill the position on a par-time basis. Maybe someone in school would be a good fit? It’s a hard position to find, but once you find someone that “gets it”, they will pay off in a big way.

Pro: This person can grind for you! Cold calling is not for everyone. If you can find someone that can deliver on par or better than you, then it’s a perfect situation. Managing all the channels above isn’t easy while trying to run a business. A dedicated recruiter will, at the very least, relieve some of the hiring pressure for you. They can handle the grunt work, leaving you to be the face that meets with prospective people (if that is your desire).

Con: It’s hard to find this person. It’s someone that has the ability to make something from nothing. I have found that people who are good with phone sales have this something-from-nothing ability. The cost is a not beneficial if it’s not done right. Like many things in our businesses, it becomes an overhead headache. A super dynamic person or a pretty good person, coupled with super strong leadership, is the key to success here!

The Pipeline

I thought of my recruiting efforts as just another sales department in the company. I built up a pipeline of leads and I chased them until I lost them or won an employee. A with all sales departments, you need to constantly be feeding the machine with leads. You need to aggressively do all the things above on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

I had a revelation one day last year. I heard about a fantastic HVAC salesman from another company and I was told I should go after him. I worked hard and finally got to sit down with him. We talked about the typical sales vetting things and then he dropped a bomb. He disclosed that he already applied for my company 2 months prior. He said he would think about my offer, but he eventually said, “No.”. He had already did given us a chance, but we “wouldn’t interview” him. Lesson: Never stop reviewing your applicant pool. It’s your pipeline! If you stop talking reviewing your applicants, this could result in some major misses. From that point forward, I reached out to every single applicant that applied for technical or specialty role in our company. If you are swamped and have “no time” or you are in a seasonal lull and “don’t really need anyone”, you still need to talk to your applicants. Often, you get the best candidates applying in your seasonal lulls because their current company can’t provide them with enough calls.

To recap, your recruitment should be thought of as another sales channel in your growing business. Don’t take your foot off the gas. –ever.If you stopped taking calls into your company for one day, what would be the impact to your sales? It’s no different for recruiting.

“I just want to tell you what our company is all about”

This is more or less the phrasing I used when asking prospects out to coffee or lunch. I never used the word interview. What comes to mind when people hear the word ‘interview’ is typically an objection, at least in most gainfully employed people’s minds. But having a conversation over a cup of coffee is no big deal. Get the prospect off-site, comfortable, and make it casual. The off-site is another key. The best guys are typically already employed and they don’t want to have their work truck or van seen in their competitor’s parking lot. Having their truck at Panera is not big deal.

My goal with recruitment was to build as much of the pipeline as I could into relationships. I would always gauge the interest of the prospective employee. I would either offer them a job on the spot or often times just leave it at, “Let’s do this again!”, or, “If you ever need anything give me a call.”. Throughout our meeting, I would ask them about themselves, tell them about the company, and then share personal things about myself. I focused on building the relationship so that the chance of them wanting to meet with me again was greater. Ultimately, my goal was to be the person they called on the worst day at their current employer, asking if I was still hiring (it happened more often than you think).

Last Piece

This is my shameless plug: make it as easy for applicants to connect with you online. I have found that an putting a chat service on your website can benefit your company in a number of ways. A online chat service can…

  1. Deliver you additional leads from engaging new customers while they are on your website.
  2. Provide a fantastic customer experience for repeat customers while they are on your website.
  3. Interact with possible applicants that come to your website to check-out your company.

There’s a ton of value-building aspects with an online chat service. I have looked at a few myself and I would definitely rate HomeServiceChats as one of the very few (if any) chat companies that offer unique service to our industry. Installing chat software on your site is like having a potential applicant walk into your office and the receptionist says, “You are going to love working here! This is the best job I’ve ever had and they treat us so well!” –it just makes sense! If you have any questions on the above material, don’t hesitate to reach out 401-992-4287.

Top 4 Lead Generation Strategies for Contractors

Construction receptionist

In 2018, 97.3% of all leads for contractors were driven using this single marketing method…

If only it were that easy.

That said, there are four marketing concepts that nearly guarantee lead-gen success.

And that’s incredibly important, because like all of us, you have competitors who are working night and day to snatch your company growth and pocket it.

Now, there’s a small galaxy of tactics you can use to follow through on the following concepts — marketing can get stupid-complicated, really fast.

So we’re going to keep it smart and simple.

If you use these proven lead generation habits in pursuit of the subsequent methods, you’ll successfully generate leads a solid 8 out of 10 times. (You’ll see what I mean. By the way, when I say leads for contractors, I’m talking about home service companies like plumbing, HVAC, electrical, roofing, landscaping, etc.)

The Foundation: Up Your Lead-Gen Chances by Over 500%

  • Lead Generation Strategy

Company owners who document their lead-gen strategy are 538% more likely to successfully generate leads than owners who don’t. But that’s just the bird’s eye view. Let’s get on the front lines on a more tactical level.

  • Lead Generation Tactics

Company owners who document their lead-gen processes are 466% more likely to successfully generate leads than those who do not. That’s really good. But we still need to dig deeper.

  • Lead Generation Objectives

Finally, owners who set lead generation objectives — smart goals — for their company are 429% more likely to successfully generate leads than those who don’t. And lastly, 81% of the people who set specific objectives also achieved them.*

Now, let’s jump straight into the top 4 ways to generate more leads for contractors:

The Hub: Turn Your Website Into a Contractor Lead Machine

Your website is the hub of all your online lead-gen efforts.

It’s 2018. Newspapers, commercials, and outdated websites are heading in the direction of Alexander Graham Bell and dubstep (they’re either dead or dying).

Your customers are all online, and most of them will find and research you online. That is, on their phones. Tablets. Watches. Crazy times. Having an outdated website in this market is like hiring a sales rep who can’t count to ten without taking off his shoes.

Your website should be your digital CSR.

It should be prepped and ready to serve every visitor that steps through it’s programmable doors.

Not only that, it should be able to a) reach out to pull in new customers (by sending blog posts to your marketing list for example) and b) convert them instantly, in real time once they get there (see below).

This is how.

  • Build a regular blog and email list. First, the numbers. B2C companies that published 16+ blog posts each month pulled in 4.5X more leads than companies that published between 0 – 4 monthly posts.*

Your blog is one of your best excuses to reach out to your customers and potential customers every week. Think about it. If you texted them every week, or randomly called, they’d get mad, right? But with a blog post, you’re giving them something valuable.


This does two things. First, it reminds them that you exist, keeping your company at the top of their minds. Second, with each new post – if they’re good posts – your reputation as a leader in the industry grows, and the goodwill they have toward you grows as well.

  • 24/7 live chat. How much traffic does your site get each month? If live chat can book even 1% more of your website traffic (when realistically, it’s closer to 15%) think about the revenue your company could generate.

I like using every tool in the toolbox, as long as it’s profitable. Live chat is a very profitable tool and there’s no two ways about it. Whether you do it in-house or hire a live chat team, you should be using it.

Amp Up Your Google My Business & Facebook Pages

As a rule, sales friction is your most bitter enemy. Wherever you see it, you need to squash it like the parasitical bug it is.

Sales friction is simply whatever makes it harder for your customer to do business with your company. (Slow response times, bad website user experience, slow pages, no “click to call” buttons, no instant chat service, etc.)

Now, I’m going to tell you something important. Most companies are behind the learning curve when it comes to their online platforms. This represents a massive opportunity for your company.

The key is to cut the sales friction from your online platforms, and the best way to do that is to man those platforms with 24/7 live chat. That way, instead of having to visit multiple sites before finding a way to communicate with you (most customers will start their research on Google and find your Google my Business page), the moment they land on your Google my Business or Facebook page and read your reviews, is the same moment they can talk with your company to learn more and book an appointment. (If you have any questions about online chat and want an answer NOW, chat with my team in the chat box below — they’ll take good care of you.)

To convert your leads immediately, get those pages loaded with social proof as well. Aside from your digital CSR, that’s what convinces them to do business with you.

Reviews are little trust bombs that blow up every time someone visits one of those pages. Gets credibility and social proof all over the place. It’s glorious. But you won’t generate many new reviews without asking for them. Make sure you have a smart system in place that incentivizes your CSRs and techs to ask for the review.

Plug Your Contractor Lead Leaks 

Depending on the company, a single lead could represent hundreds to thousands of dollars of new revenue.

A bad lead conversion strategy (or not having one at all), will result in a lead “leak,” where many of those leads fall through the cracks. (They aren’t followed up on, or are kept waiting for hours and even days too long, etc.) That could easily be thousands upon thousands of dollars down the drain every month.

Here’s a simple way to fix that problem:

1. Call your leads immediately.

2. Text your leads immediately.

3. Email your leads immediately.

4. Call your leads every day for 10 days.

5. Email/text your leads twice in addition.

6. Establish monthly long-term follow-up for unscheduled leads.

The Email Campaign

Email marketing ROI is incredible. But you have to go about it in the right way, and it’s not always easy.

This is what we did. We created a newsletter. In this newsletter, we gave away things we knew our customers valued. Things they really wanted. (The giveaway should match the audience you’re giving to.)

In the middle of each of our branded newsletters, we planted the giveaway, followed by our promotional material.

We created the giveaway link with Survey Monkey.

The form was very simple:

Name, phone, and email.

One question. (How old is your heater? For example.)

And this is key.

We encouraged them to share the giveaway on social media. And they did.

Every time they shared, our email opt-ins increased. That’s one simple way to grow your newsletter/email list.

We spent $12k per year on the giveaways, to give you an idea. It was more than worth it.


How to Fix: “My CSRs Will Not Outbound” with 4 Concepts

This is the time of year that the phones are starting to slow… the A/Cs that were going to break have broken and no one really has money they are dying to spend on plumbing or electrical ‘nice-to-haves’ because school is just around the corner. It’s tough but it’s necessary to drum up the calls because if you don’t keep your technicians and plumbers busy then they will find someone that will and potentially move to another company OR they will sit around the breakroom sending negativity throughout the company. I’ve been there.

This is a very stressful position to be in. You walk into the customer service department and you ask them to try and call the service partners and get 10 more calls on the board for the next day. They groan and say “it’s Summer, no one will book” and you say “Please try…” Then low and behold, they were right and they are unable to book enough calls. This is not an uncommon issue. I visited companies in many different cities over the past 5 years and many of them had this same situation. We hire our Customer Service Representatives to answer the phones as their primary purpose but I think we are hiring them to do the wrong primary purpose.

I did a few things right and I think that making an outbound calling machine is one of those things. During my time at Bob Hamilton Plumbing, Heating, and A/C, I worked very hard at building the call center culture that complimented the marketing department. Here are a few things that radically changed the culture.

  1. Get a team that gets it. This is a hard piece to digest, but you might have the wrong people working for you. The Call Center can be a KPI driven powerhouse if you let it. Hold the team members accountable to their numbers and push out the people that do not do the work. I tracked lots of KPIs and coached the CSRs on them weekly. Conversion rate on bookable calls weekly/monthly, how many total calls booked weekly/monthly, percent of emails collected (free marketing material), how many outbounds made daily/weekly/monthly, and how many outbounds booked daily/weekly/monthly. Do not be afraid the get people on your bus that will get the job done. They exist and they are magnificent.
  2. DO NOT hire people to answer phones and then expect them to outbound. DO hire people to outbound and then expect them to answer the phones. Every time I hired a new CSR I would have them spend their first 2 weeks, sometimes more, only outbounding. I told them it’s the most important part of the job and after they get the hang of it, then I’ll teach them to answer the phones. We had professionals that worked for us and the professional piece of the job was calling out, not answering. Every person in our company, including the bookkeeper, could answer the phone and book appointments. True professional CSRs are experts at calling out to our service partners and getting them booked. It was hard and that skill was valuable to the company. Coming at them with that mentality gives them ownership over a part of the business and the attention for their good work pushes them to do more and work harder. Every time my CSRs weren’t on the phone with an inbound, they were calling out to someone on an outbound. The result was 5-6 CSRs making 300-400 calls a week EACH and booking hundreds of additional calls each month
  3. Change the words you use. One of my mentors in the industry has been Jim Hamilton, and he taught me this concept about 4 years ago. It changed my life. I don’t want to butcher his life-changing article so I’ll link to it because it’s published in PM Magazine: http://www.pmmag.com/articles/95870-the-words-you-say-can-ruin-your-business. I actually took the content of this article and I put it into our training material. Every CSR read it on their first day and we debriefed it afterward. And the language of ‘system check’ versus A/C check or Furnace Check did not stop with the CSR department. This is a whole company idea and your technicians have to understand the ‘why’ if it’s going to work. If you don’t explain to your technicians why they are doing a system check in August or in February, they will complain to the CSRs (that are working their butts off booking them) that they are a waste of a call- That breaks the whole program down.
  4. Outbound all year round! You can change the day that you are booking for based on a monthly calendar but you should never just stop calling out. Even during the heat of the season we were still calling out and booked the customers for a date further out. You know when you typically slow back down, so work smart and fill it early. We set different goals as far as how many to book but we never stopped. I am a firm believer in momentum and if you completely stop a train, it takes significantly more energy to get it back moving again. It’s fine to slow down or switch gears (book plumbing or electrical instead) but do not stop.

I think the Call Center is the heart of the company. They interact with the field, customers, suppliers, and more. If you put your time and resources into the Call Center then you will see huge differences in the effectiveness in every part of your company. I think they are the most overlooked and also the most crucial piece of a well run residential service company. I have many more ideas I would be happy to share in regard to the customer service department, including how to compensate them, how to coach them, and how to motivate them. Let me know if you’d like to set up a call and learn more, no charge! Although I might push you to use our chat service because you should be using us already!

Give us a call!