Are you looking for ways to grow your business and stand out from the crowd? Read this article by Ruby’s CMO, Molly Moore, on Shep Hyken’s Customer Service blog to learn about the immediate opportunities simply answering your phone and having online chat on your website can bring. These actions alone can help differentiate your brand in an increasingly crowded marketplace.
Right now, at this second, dozens of people want to get in touch with your business. Fortunately, you don’t need to do much to connect with them. If you have an online presence, such as a website or Facebook page, you’re probably halfway there.
But you already knew that. If your organization is like most, you’re already focused on digital marketing and website development. Perhaps you’ve invested in search engine optimization, content, advertising, or any number of the myriad strategies businesses use to stand out online.
So why aren’t you connecting with as many customers as you could be? Two words:
What Is Live Chat?
Live chat is a form of online communication in which people send messages to each other in real time. Think of it like texting, but over an internet connection rather than a telephone network.
You’re probably familiar with live chat, even if you don’t know it. If you’ve ever typed a word into Slack, WhatsApp, Apple Messages, Facebook Messenger, Google Talk, AOL Instant Messenger, or Skype, you’ve engaged in live chat. And if you’ve ever visited a website and were greeted by a pop-up box encouraging you to “chat now” with a support agent, you’ve seen a company’s live chat tool in action.
These tools aren’t merely for show—they can transform a business’s customer acquisition numbers practically overnight.
Why Does Live Chat Matter?
Consider the following:
- 42% of all customers prefer chat over other communication channels, such as email (23%) and social media outreach (6%). [source]
- 73% of consumers are satisfied with their experiences on live chat—that’s the highest level of all customer service channels. [source]
- Compared to other prospects, live chat prospects are 4.6 times more likely to convert into customers. [source]
Given these kinds of statistics, you’d think service-oriented businesses would be zeroed in on live chat. And yet, approximately only 14% of companies use it. That means 86% of businesses—likely including your competitors—either undervalue chat or don’t know about it at all.
Sounds like a major opportunity for you to differentiate.
But that’s only one of the many benefits live chat can offer. With a simple, unobtrusive chat window, your site can…
- meet customer demand 24/7,
- take sales and support pressure off of your team,
- generate new leads for your business,
- help you overcome common customer objections as they arise,
- answer visitors’ frequently asked questions,
- gather a broader and more accurate set of customer data,
- and much more.
That said, effective chat is about more than installing a widget on your website. To see real results, you need to do things right. Bots, forms, and outsourcing simply don’t work. In fact, shortcuts can actually turn would-be customers away.
Live Chat Insights and Best Practices
So, how do you do chat the right way? Download our new ebook, The Ultimate Guide to Chat, to find out!
Inside this free resource, you’ll find detailed, data-backed insights, with chapters covering…
- The expectations of the digital customer
- The difference between an AI and live chat experience
- How live chat can boost your bottom line
- What to consider when choosing the best live chat solution for your business
Discover how you can use chat to transform your business and start generating leads from your website daily.
Remote Receptionists for Better Control, Productivity, and Service
The landscape for financial service professionals has been shifting over the years. The adoption of smartphones and the use of social outlets has impacted the ways advisors connect with their clients. Most people are digging for details about businesses by using their hand-held mobile devices, which puts the capacity for making a phone call merely a click or tap away.
Mobile search will drive more than 73 billion inbound sales calls to small and large businesses in 2018. Looking ahead, it’s predicted that a whopping 162 billion calls will be made to businesses in 2019. Phones will be ringing off the hook!
Potential clients are calling for something they can’t obtain in a web/mobile search alone. Popular reasons people are calling include: quickly getting an answer (59%), talking to a real person (57%), and getting more information (54%)—plus many find it’s convenient to call (42%).
They call because they want to know they’ve been heard and are kept up-to-date on important portfolio items. This is especially relevant as the financial market is unpredictable; when shifts happen, clients are looking for answers—from a real person. Fostering those personal relationships can reduce the risk of clients moving to another advisor.
How can all this dialing drive better results for financial services professionals? First, let’s explore expectations of these callers.
Aligning Customer Experiences with Expectations
While call volume is growing, there is increased expectation for quality customer service. The Spectrem Group reports that 57% of Millennials and Gen Xers say it’s important that their advisor calls them regularly. 87% of Gen Xers expect advisors to respond promptly to inquiries and questions, as do 58% of Millennials.
It’s critical to ensure a good experience that meets or exceeds caller expectations. Understand that they want to speak with a live person—they don’t want to reach voicemail or an automated system. They are calling to talk to someone who can help them.
When to Connect and When to Stay on Task
Should you answer the calls yourself? Between client meetings, creating new investment plans, and personal appointments, sometimes there just isn’t enough time in the day. How can you handle incoming calls personally without compromising your productivity, flexibility, and focus? Do you interrupt a client meeting to answer a call? Do you let it go to voicemail? Consider how those behaviors are perceived by your clients and callers, and if you are missing out on connections.
Can You Share the Incoming Calls with Your Team?
You must be confident that team members are equipped and have the bandwidth to help callers or route them properly. Keep in mind the costs associated with having your team answer phone calls versus focusing on higher value-added tasks. It can work if you and your team are ready to make this part of everyday practices.
Should You Hire an In-House Receptionist?
Take the insights of Wheelhouse Wealth Advisors, for example. “We realized the importance of having a live person answering our calls,” says John Postizzi Jr., Branch Manager, Financial Advisor at Wheelhouse. “We knew we didn’t want to hire an in-house receptionist because in this line of business that’s no small undertaking. It would require a thorough screening process and fingerprinting in order to deal with all of the sensitive information related to this line of work.”
Designed to help you best serve your clients, a remote receptionist gives financial service professionals the flexibility to run your business in a way that best meets your needs and your clients’ needs. That real, human touch helps you create meaningful connections with callers. Plus, you gain the freedom to work the way you want—in the office, on the road, wherever!
What’s a Ruby Receptionist?
If you’re interested in experiencing the difference a quality remote receptionist service can make for your financial services business, Ruby® Receptionists is here for you! We serve many financial service professionals from small boutique brokerages to LPL and our partners NAPFA and FPA. We’re the front-line voice for more than 7,000 businesses in the U.S. and Canada, and passionate about helping small businesses grow and keeping those essential human interactions alive.
Work Smarter When and Where You Want: 5 Benefits of a Remote Receptionist
Did you know most inheritors change financial advisors? PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates $30 trillion will be passed down to new wealth inheritors by 2020, the vast majority of whom won’t stick with their parents’ advisors. According to wealth management strategist April Rudin of The Rudin Group, a whopping 98% of heirs change advisors soon after receiving their inheritance. This presents obvious challenges to financial professionals—and opportunities. By learning what appeals to next generation investors, you’ll boost your odds of retaining new inheritors as clients and attracting heirs seeking new advisors.
So what is the next generation looking for? Young clients want to stay connected and informed, and they’re looking for more than quarterly reporting and occasional check-ins. To build trust with next-generation investors, advisors need to show they’re available and ready to help whenever needed. Outstanding customer service and responsiveness are key. That may seem like a tall order, but with the right planning, you can lay the groundwork for strong client relationships that pass inheritance test. Here are three ways to get there:
Exceed Professional Expectations in the Everyday.
Each client touchpoint, no matter how small, is a chance to show you care. Think about your current systems and brainstorm ways to improve. Could your client acquisition process be more streamlined and user friendly? How might you make in-person meetings more comfortable, informative, or convenient? Aim to go the extra mile in everything you do, even if it’s as simple as ensuring you always have warm coffee and chilled water on hand to offer office guests. Put yourself in your clients’ shoes, anticipate their needs, and do your best to meet those needs proactively. Then, find ways to do a little something more—like sending a handwritten thank-you card after every meeting. Over time, little niceties add up to lots of trust!
Host Client Appreciation Events.
What better way to show clients you care than by throwing an event in their honor? Whether it’s an informal information session or a little happy hour at your office, try adding a client appreciation event to your calendar. Not only are appreciation events a great way to celebrate your devoted clients—they’re an ideal opportunity to win new clients! Encourage clients to bring a friend or two, giving you the chance to mix, mingle, and network.
Be Predictably Excellent.
Handling another person’s finances is a big responsibility, and for clients to trust you with that responsibility, they need to know they can depend on you. One simple way to demonstrate your trustworthiness is by creating a consistently positive phone experience. Although you may not always be able to speak with a client when they call, it’s important to have someone available to answer live during business hours. A remote receptionist service can ensure your clients always reach a warm, caring person when they call—and such services are a great option to cover breaks, vacations, and overflow if you have an in-house receptionist. Financial advisor Chun Lee relies on a virtual receptionist service because, as he says, “My clients’ needs are what matter most to me. Knowing that [my service] is always there, answering my calls and taking care of my clients in a professional and friendly manner, gives us both peace of mind.”
The 2017 Tax Act made major changes to the US tax system, and as a result, many business owners are wondering whether they should structure their businesses as C corporations or S corporations. Which choice makes the most sense for your business? We sat down with CPA Bob Russell, who files between 900 and 1000 tax returns a year, for his input.
In your opinion, what are the important differences between C and S, and what should business owners know if they are going to reorganize themselves as C corps?
There are two important factors when considering reorganizing from an S corp to a C corp. The first and most important is the double taxation issue. The corporate tax rate was changed to a flat 21% under the new tax reform, changing from the graduated rates experienced by C corps prior to 2018. So in the simplest scenario, if a C corp has a net income of $100,000, the corporation will pay $21,000 in federal income tax. Now, when the corporation declares a dividend and passes that same $100,000 to the underlying shareholders, they will be taxed again on the same income at their personal income tax rates. Dividends are not considered operating expenses of C corps, so they get no deduction against future income for payment of dividends. Even at the lowest personal rates, this results in a total tax rate of 31% taxation on the same $100.000.
My experience is that very few people who have money to invest in the stock of a C corp fall in the lowest tax brackets, so a more realistic expectation is that the total tax would be closer to 43% for federal income tax purposes. With an S corp, the $100,000 of net income under our example has no tax at the corporate level, and flows directly to the underlying shareholders and is taxed at their individual rate. In addition, under the new tax reform, this will be considered qualified business income, subject to 20% reduction mentioned later in our discussion.
The second consideration is once you have revoked your Sub S status with the IRS, you cannot reapply for five years. That means you should carefully consider the future of the corporation and determine if revoking your S election is the best long-term strategy.
Do you anticipate that you will be filing more C corporations now that people are reacting to the tax reform?
I don’t anticipate that. The issue with C corporations is still double taxation. Even with the reduced tax rates that C corps are going to benefit from under tax reform, the total tax burden can still exceed the tax burden of the underlying shareholders if the income was passed directly through to them and taxed at the individual rates, as is the case in an S corp.
Would you say there are positive aspects of this tax law for small business? If so, what are they?
There are definitely some positive changes for small businesses. The most impactful change is the 20% reduction of qualified business income. This reduction is going to apply to all business entities including sole proprietors, partnerships, LLC’s and S corps. This reduction is an attempt to compensate non-C corp entities for the reduction in the corporate tax rate under the new tax reform act.
What do you think are key things small business owners should keep in mind during this time?
Above all else, don’t panic and make a change based on emotion. It is easy to listen to the soundbites and think that C corps are the best answer for everyone. However, they should carefully consult their tax advisor to fully understand all the implications that impact their particular situation before making any changes.
Secondly, some changes that have taken effect may affect their operating strategies. Meals and entertainment are no longer deductible unless for the benefit of employees, i.e. Christmas parties. Also, unreimbursed expenses that their employees incur are no longer deductible by those employees. Consider implementing an accountable plan and making those expenses business expenses, and therefore fully deductible. Be creative with your employees in determining their overall compensation plan.
We hope this gives some insight into what these changes mean! When choosing your business entity or correctly structuring your company, talking to an accountant or business lawyer is a great idea. Here’s to your success!
Bob Russell is a self-employed certified public accountant practicing in Oregon since 1982, focusing on individual and small business taxation. Currently our practice services approximately 900 individual, partnership, and corporate accounts. Areas of emphasis in our current practice include manufacturing and construction industries. Bob graduated cum laude from Southern Oregon State College with a Bachelors of Accounting and a minor in Economics. Bob resides with his wife of 34 years on seven acres in the Beavercreek area, and enjoys hunting and golf in his spare time.
The Ruby crew had a great time at the 52nd Annual Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning in late January, and I wanted to share a quick recap of the fun and informative experience.
Estate planning professionals gathered at Heckling to hear from experts in the field, learn all the ins-and-outs of the 2017 Tax Act and its practical implications, and explore tools and technology designed to help create outstanding experiences for their clients (like Ruby!). We heard from many attendees who really enjoyed the sessions, and we were delighted to be part of an important milestone: this year, Heckerling had its highest attendance yet!
We had the chance to mingle with other tech companies serving estate planning professionals, some of which were visiting Heckling for the first time. Here are a few standouts:
- Legacy Concierge facilitates closing electronic accounts, including government, insurance, credit, merchant, banking, email, airline, and social media.
- HomeLight uses sales data and reviews to find top real estate agents based on past performance. Their team describes HomeLight as “Moneyball for real estate.”
- Directive Communications Systems (DCS) is an estate management solution that helps attorneys and personal representatives organize and contact personal accounts to fulfill an individual’s final wishes.
We were lucky enough to meet some Ruby customers in person, too—one of the biggest highlights of the trip! We snapped this selfie with Ruby customer Thomas K. Chu, who chatted with us a bit about how our live remote receptionist service helps him deliver the focused attention his clients are looking for. Another customer, Tiffany O’Conner, stopped by the booth to say hello and grab a photo with Austin.
Many thanks to the talented presenters and wonderful folks we met at Heckerling—we’re looking forward to next year!
Don’t miss your chance to build trust with new customers. Make sure your first interaction is a prompt, positive introduction to your small business.
First impressions are one of your most powerful resources—or one of your biggest pitfalls. Those initial experiences a customer has with your small business are literally laying the groundwork for a foundation of trust. And that foundation of trust? It’s vital to ensuring a long-lasting customer relationship.
What happens in those first moments, for better or worse—from a phone call that goes to voicemail to a not-so-tidy lobby—gives your newest customers insight into their future experience with your business.
During those first moments, there are three questions your customers are asking themselves:
- Does this business care about its customers?
- Will I enjoy working with these people?
- Are they going to respond to my needs?
It’s critical that you answer these questions in those initial interactions because if you don’t, the customer is going to answer for themselves. You want a resounding, “Yes, absolutely!” for every one of these questions! That means thinking long and hard about where those first impressions occur, and examining these touchpoints closely. Is there room for improvement? Are you leaving any opportunities to surprise and delight on the table?
Most importantly, do customers experience confusion or discomfort at any point in the process? If so, immediately focus on those areas until that is no longer the case. After all, 78% of consumers have literally bailed on a transaction solely because of their initial experience!
And remember, we want our first impressions to form a foundation of trust and answer those three important questions. Confusion and discomfort are antithetical to trust (and certainly won’t make customers feel cared for), so don’t let those feelings creep in to those first interactions. Think of yourself as the guardian of trust in those first moments. Defend it with all of your might!
OK, so we know those first impressions are really important. That’s all well and good, but let’s get down to brass tacks here: What can you do now to ensure that your customers are experiencing a delightful first impression of your business?
Answer the Phone
Don’t let your phone go to voicemail during business hours—that causes confusion and frustration for customers trying to reach you. And avoid obnoxious phone trees at all costs. Keep in mind that 67% of customers have actually hung up the phone out of frustration with an automated system, likely moving on to a competitor who did answer their call.
When responding to emails or messages, always do so as quickly as possible. If you’re not typically able to respond to emails or messages throughout the day, be sure to include an auto-reply or other communication so that customers know exactly what to expect (and, again, help avoid any confusion). A friendly “I’m busy at the shop until 3 p.m., but I’ll happily respond to your email as soon as I’ve closed up for the day!” goes a long way to reassure customers.
Use Positive Language
Can something as simple as word choice have a dramatic impact on a customer’s first impression of a business? It seems silly, but it’s true! The words you choose can significantly affect a customer’s experience. If you want a customer to walk away smiling after their initial interaction, replace negative phrases such as, “I can’t do that,” or “I don’t know,” with something a little more positive such as, “While I’m not able to do that, I would be happy to…” or “Great question! I’d be delighted to find out for you,” and see what happens. You just might be surprised at the results!
Wait, what? Yeah, I said it: Don’t rely on robots to take care of your customers. Chatbots, interactive voice response (IVR), and other forms of artificial intelligence software are fine, but they’re not delightful.
Humans crave connection and interaction—even if they swear they’d rather send a text—so be sure to satisfy that craving wherever you can. Bots are limited in their capacity to assist, and even as far as they’ve come, it’s always painfully obvious when you’re interacting with one. Don’t cut corners where it matters most: Ensure that your customers are getting an opportunity to interact with a warm, friendly human, and you will be well ahead of the game.
Masterfully crafting these initial interactions will set you up for long-term success with your customers. If you want customers to trust you—and ultimately to feel loyalty for your business—don’t let those first impressions slip by!
The market is primed and ready for your new products and services. The possibilities are endless. The team is excited and ready to go. There’s no better time than the present to take the steps to scaling your small business.
What’s the secret to your success?
It’s pretty simple: people. Your customers, and the way you acquire and retain them, are the secret sauce for a successful business. Learn how to care for your prospective and current customers alike, and you’ll overcome the biggest barrier to scaling: finding the fans to support your growth.
Put People First: Focus on Current Customers
If you’re like most small business owners, you’re looking for a larger target audience. The wider the net, the more fish you’ll catch, right?
Truth be told, acquiring new customers is hard work. Studies have shown that the cost of acquisition is anywhere from three to seven times greater than the cost of retaining an existing customer. That’s why the first step is to take care of your current customers.
1. Build a relationship with your customers
When it comes to your current customer base, it’s wise to deepen the net. A tall customer base is made up of your faithful followers and friends; the people who know you, know your company, and know that you’re the go-to resource for purchases in your niche. These are the customers that come back to your business time and again. If you’re a car dealer, they are the ones that return to you for every vehicle purchase, while also recommending you to their family and friends.
Get to know them. Learn about customer likes and dislikes. Consider a brief survey, or take time to reach out and discover why they’re so loyal. As you grow, you’ll better understand their needs and how you can meet—and exceed—them.
2. Solve your customers’ problems
When customers are delighted, they’re likely to come back to your business again and again. Learn about their problems and challenges, ask them for honest feedback, and inquire about other problems they may be facing unrelated to your business.
Then, look for a solution. Whether it’s your product that solves their problem or you point your customers towards an existing solution, the support and care you’re showing your customers improves their lives. And customers will remember that. It builds loyalty in a way that feels authentic.
3. Add value to your customers’ lives
It’s not always about driving your customers to their next purchase. Don’t overlook the importance of utilizing digital resources.
I’m not talking about making a few posts on social media to sustain your growth. I’m talking about a coordinated content marketing plan that provides blog posts, emails, white papers, instructional videos and more, all with your customers’ lives in mind. Every resource, every communication, should be focused on your customers and their specific needs.
Some examples include:
- Show how to tackle a challenge with a step-by-step instructional video
- Create an email series that addresses issues your customers might be facing in their businesses
- Present your customers with information on industry trends that they may find valuable
Content ideas are around every corner. Start with your conversations with your customers and address the topics they’re talking about, their concerns. This establishes your business as a valuable source of truth in their lives, keeping you top of mind when it’s time for their next purchase.
Widening the Net: Focus on Future Customers
Of course, holding on to customers is only half the battle. Focus #2 is attracting new customers. That’s when all of your research and work comes into play.
- What have you learned about your current customers? Use that information to build a buyer persona. Who is your average customer? What does this person like? Where do you find this person? Apply the lessons you’ve learned from current customers to the customers you’re hoping to acquire.
- You’ve already learned how to build and maintain a relationship with your current customers. Now, apply those same principles to your prospective customers. Open up several lines of communication and be responsive on each of your different platforms.
- Give them great (and consistent) content that adds value to their lives. Unlike current customers who already have you at the forefront of their minds, prospective customers are just learning about your business. Give them content that informs and engages, and is highly shareable. As they start to see your name more and more often, you have a much greater chance of moving them along your funnel, converting them to faithful, paying customers and growing your business.
People are your business’ greatest asset. A fact which becomes crystal clear when remembering that the vast majority of Americans seek a personal recommendation when on the market for a new product or service.
Looking to grow your business? Make sure that your customers would recommend your company when the opportunity arises. Find new and innovative ways to connect with your current customers and add value to their lives. Apply the same concepts to your potential new customers, and you’ll create raving fans for life.
Gabe Arnold is the founder of Copywriter Today where you can get unlimited fresh content for all your marketing needs. If you want 250 free headline ideas for your next marketing campaign, use their free tool here.