Five Easy Ways to Stand Out From the Robo-Advisor Crowd

In a world of technology investment apps, the human touch is a critical differentiator for financial advisors seeking to keep current clients happy and earn new business. Research proves clients want real, person-to-person  communication that apps can’t provide. The Spectrem Group reports that 57% of Millennials and GenXers say it’s important that their advisor calls them regularly, and 87% of Gen Xers expect advisors to respond promptly to inquiries and questions, as do 58% of millennials.

And yet, robo-advisors remain a real threat, especially when it comes to next-generation investors. 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.

Whether next-gen investors are tempted by cost-effective robo-advisors or good old-fashioned human competition, the risk of losing new inheritors is real. So, how do you separate yourself from the pack and keep the clients you’ve worked so hard to earn? By building trust—and luckily, little everyday actions can help create meaningful connections and show clients the value of your service. Here are five you can implement today!

Communicate with gratitude.

Whether in person or over the phone, make the most of every exchange by using appreciative language, listening, and getting to know your clients. Follow your client’s lead: If they’re up for a little friendly chitchat, engage them and take advantage of the opportunity to build rapport, and if they’re more down-to-business, use the opportunity to showcase your expertise. Regardless of where your conversations take you, aim to express gratitude. The words “thank you” never go out of style!

Build a repeatable process.

After a phone call or meeting with a client, a follow-up email is a good opportunity to reiterate information and make sure your client is heading in the right direction. Forget to mention a bit of helpful info during your conversation? Include it in your follow-up. Don’t have anything specific to relay? Send a thank-you email anyway—or even a personal card! A simple “It was great to talk to you” goes a long way.

Customize and connect.

When’s the last time you received a handwritten note in the mail? It’s rare these days—and that’s what makes it so special. Mailing personalized messages to clients is an easy and inexpensive way to show you care. Try sending a card to commemorate a client’s service anniversary or birthday, or simply to say, “Thank you for your partnership.” Try keeping a stack of cards and stamps handy and set aside time to pen a few notes each week.

Create an exceptional experience.

Every time a client calls, you have the opportunity to enrich a relationship. And for potential clients, that first call is critical: According to Invoca’s report, The State of the Mobile Experience, 74% of callers will move on to another business after one bad phone experience. With all the time you spend networking and all the money you invest in marketing to get your name out there, you surely don’t want to make a poor impression when an important client calls. Next-gen investors are looking for responsiveness that your trusty voicemail can’t deliver—but, of course, you can’t always be available to pick up the phone. A virtual receptionist service is an affordable solution that ensures every call is answered by a friendly professional. Even if you have a dedicated in-house receptionist, a virtual receptionist service can be a great safety net, providing overflow phone coverage as well as coverage during breaks, vacations, emergencies—whenever you need a hand!

Set yourself apart with a virtual receptionist.

Financial advisors often find that leveraging a virtual receptionist helps give that human touch clients are looking for. For Bob Pedrick, Executive Vice President at Chartered Advisory Group, virtual reception has proven an invaluable asset. Pedrick says his virtual receptionist service “brings extraordinary value and efficiency to our practice. When our clients call, a super nice person—not a machine—answers the phone and is able to connect that client to us no matter where we are.”

Set yourself apart from the robots of the world and have a real person answer your phone. Test our service and experience the Ruby difference for yourself!

Experience Ruby

6 Essential Marketing Strategies to Grow Your Small Business

Free Marketing Webinar

As a small-business owner, it’s all up to you. Your passion is running your business and making it successful. But with only so many productive hours in a day, you need to make smart decisions and strategic efforts that help your business survive and thrive.

Join us for our free webinar, 6 Essential Marketing Strategies to Grow Your Business, presented in partnership with Entrepreneur.

The strategies outlined in this webinar will build upon each other to help you:

  • Legitimize your business.
  • Establish your role as a thought leader in your industry/market.
  • Give you an actionable go-to-market strategy to grow your customer base and establish a foundation for long-term success.
  • Provide exceptional customer service to retain customers for repeat business and/or give referrals.

This webinar will be led by Ruby’s Chief Marketing Officer, David De Rego. With more than 30 years of experience growing service and technology companies, De Rego is passionate about driving brand awareness, positive customer experiences, creating demand and viral growth.

This webinar took place on June 7th, 2018 but the knowledge lives on!

Download Recorded Webinar

Ruby Goes to Bootcamp

marketing agency answering service

Managed service providers (MSPs) and a variety of tech professionals gathered at the IT Sales and Marketing Bootcamp conference to talk business. The event boasted seminars delivered by prominent marketing consultant Robin Robins, and the opportunity to learn from peers within the tech industry. For the third year running, the Ruby® crew attended the event, eager to engage with fellow technology and service focused companies.

While chatting with MSPs, the value they place on quality customer service became clear. Most calls received by these companies are either current customers phoning in for technical support, or prospective customers seeking product information. While answering every call is an ideal practice for most companies, this isn’t always feasible.

Through our conversations with MSP business owners, the Ruby team was able to identify features of our service that prove especially valuable to MSPs striving to provide a delightful experience for their callers:

  • A live, remote receptionist to answer every call. Customers phone in to speak with a human, not an auto attendant. Greeting callers with a live and friendly voice is key in setting the stage for a trusting relationship. From the way we say hello to call-handling specifics, Ruby tailors our legendary service to the unique needs of each company we partner with. We strive to provide callers with the in-house experience they called for.
  • Accurate intake information. For customers in need of tech support, giving information to a real person leaves them feeling heard rather than wondering if a technician received their voicemail. Ruby can route calls or open support tickets through an open webform. By collecting accurate information for techs to follow up on, our receptionists help to streamline business efforts while creating memorable customer experiences.
  • Increased sales. A missed call is a missed opportunity. If a potential new client’s call goes unanswered, they may not wait for a call back before moving on to a competitor.

Having the opportunity to connect with tech professionals at the Marketing Bootcamp was a priceless experience. We were granted a view into how Ruby can help MSPs cultivate meaningful connections with their customers, growing their business one call at a time. This conference was one for the books!

Learn more about Ruby for marketing professionals

Incent, Inspire, Empower: Creating Engaged Employees in a Virtual World

Creating Engaged Employees in a Virtual World

A recent Gallup analysis found that only 15% of employees worldwide are engaged with their work. According to Gallup’s definition, engaged employees feel a profound connection to their work that drives innovation. In fact, this select group is more likely to see above-average productivity rates by an impressive 38%. The numbers speak for themselves–employee engagement is a valuable investment with the potential for big payoffs, no matter what stage your company is at.

But it’s the silent majority that, according to Gallup, offer “the greatest untapped opportunity for businesses to improve their performance and profitability.” These disengaged employees meet expectations, but lack the initiative or motivation to go above and beyond.

So, what’s the Ruby® recipe for keeping our employees engaged? Three simple principles: Incent, Inspire, Empower®. Through this three pronged approach, we keep the spirit of Ruby flourishing even as our company grows and our teams expand. “The goal,” as our CEO Jill Nelson wrote in the Small Giants Community blog, “is to make it second nature for everyone on staff to go above and beyond for customers in their own way.”

What does Incent, Inspire, Empower look like in action? Holly Smith, one of the cultivators leading Ruby’s WOW receptionists, uses our Incent, Inspire, Empower philosophy to tap into the potential of the individual through our connection to the bigger picture.

Incent is More Than a Reward

Holly S., Cultivator

Incentives come in many forms at Ruby Receptionists. External motivators like our Core Values in Action Awards and our Five at Five sabbatical program are important opportunities to recognize the Rubys who make our WOW service a reality. These moments strengthen the Ruby community and allow us to practice the values that drive our company across all levels, Foster Happiness, Create Community, Practice WOWism, Innovate, and Grow. But cultivators like Holly know that the most effective motivator comes from within.

Incent isn’t just about rewarding someone for doing a good job,” Holly says. “It’s about educating an employee so they understand how their work is instrumental to the success of the business.”

Every quarter, team leaders like Holly nominate receptionists who live and breathe our commitment to WOWism for the Legendary Service Award. These Legendary Receptionists are excel in every area of service, and we celebrate their contributions with a plaque and a bonus that recognizes the value they bring to our company.

As a longtime Ruby, Holly knows that the Legendary Service Award is more than just a milestone. The Legendary Service Award honors the core characteristics of an engaged employee, innovation and commitment. So when Holly encountered a team member who set her sights on the Legendary Service Award as the next stepping-stone in her path to success, Holly recognized a teaching moment that would have ripple effects far beyond the upcoming quarter.

Thought starter: How do you connect your employees to their contributions? Communicate that their work matters and be sure to articulate how it matters.

Inspire Growth

To encourage this driven team member to grow into a legendary receptionist, Holly “taught her about how Ruby Receptionists functions as a business.” By connecting the stellar service our receptionists provide with the experience of our callers and the material business needs of our customers, Holly challenged this receptionist to think about her role and her path in a different light.

Once this receptionist saw the big picture, she saw opportunity for growth. As Holly tells it, “[she] began to be excited and tell me about what she could do better. Each skill she learned lead to a new skill she could improve. She was inspired and empowered to use her abilities, intelligence, and past business experience to create a better company.”

Goal setting is an important practice in any area of life. But it’s also important not to let the future distract from the present. Our receptionists take pride in the WOWism they practice every day and take responsibility for their personal service delivery. When employees take ownership of their work, they proactively look for opportunities to grow.

Thought starter: How do you encourage your employees to take ownership over their work? Find a common goal and encourage them to forge their own way toward it.

The Ripple Effect of Empowerment

Empowering our teams to explore creative solutions is the foundation of exceptional customer service. Practicing employee empowerment isn’t limited to customer-facing interactions. By empowering our team leaders to practice their unique management style, cultivators like Holly are able to effectively lead our receptionists to reach their potential.

As Holly’s team member honed her service delivery and challenged herself to find new ways to WOW, she also grew into a leader who in turn empowers other Rubys to do the same. “She shares her experience and advice with other Rubys,” Holly says, “and is officially someone other receptionists can observe to learn from.”

We’re proud to share that this receptionist went on to earn the Legendary Service Award. What can we say? She learned from the best.

Thought starter: Do you foster a supportive work environment? Empower your employees to help each other at every level of the company.

S Corp vs. C Corp – Insights for Business Owners


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 Milkshake Solution to Your Product Development Puzzle

In the harried pace to stay ahead in product development, how thorough is your research phase? Are you confident you’re onto the next big thing that your customers actually want or need? Seth Godin says, “Don’t find customers for your product. Find products for your customers.

Product Development - The Milkshake Theory

They want it faster, shinier, first, or free – or do they?

Chasing market share in product development often becomes a competitive quest for being faster, being first, having a whiz-bang feature, or coming in cheaper. Yet, only an evidence-based understanding of your customer can temper the confirmation bias of product development, says a Medium article, explaining the maxim ‘We only make products for ourselves.’ “This is one of the reasons why so many products fail to resonate. They’re created with a hypothetical customer or with no customer at all.”

Key takeaway: Engage your customers in product development. Are there caveats to consider? You betcha!

Henry Ford said it best when he claimed, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

Gaining feedback directly from customers about their needs and wants is essential. However, the thinkers and dreamers in UX, product development and marketing are the ones charged with casting a vision of what could be, of finding meaningful ways to be different, and discovering new ways to delight customers.

What delights today may come to be expected tomorrow. When first introduced, cup holders in cars may have been a “wow” feature.. Are you impressed by them now or do you expect them as standard?

Key takeaway: Anticipate and exceed customer expectations, constantly.

Stay curious about your customers

Whether it’s faster horses, the next great cup holder, or the proverbial sliced bread, it’s necessary to go beyond product research in the development of products and services. Stay curious. Explore customer behavior! What makes them tick? (Hint: Look beyond customer demographics.)

We are humans, fueled by feelings, motivated by a myriad of influences from physical (hunger, pain) to emotional (nostalgia, peer pressure). Engineering a product without taking into account the world your customers live and work in to help you understand how and why your customers engage with your company is short-sighted.

Clay Shirky wrote in his book, Cognitive Surplus, about a team of researchers hired by McDonald’s. The subject? They wanted to improve sales of their milkshakes:

“Should the shakes be thicker? Sweeter? Colder? Almost all of the researchers focused on the product. But one of them, Gerald Berstell, chose to ignore the shakes themselves and study the customers instead. He sat in a McDonald’s for eighteen hours one day, observing who bought milkshakes and at what time. One surprising discovery was that many milkshakes were purchased early in the day. Berstell also garnered three other behavioral clues from the morning milkshake crowd: the buyers were always alone, they rarely bought anything besides a shake, and they never consumed the shakes in the store.

The key to understanding what was going on was to stop viewing the product in isolation and to give up traditional notions of the morning meal. Berstell instead focused on a single, simple question: “What job is a customer hiring that milkshake to do at eight A.M.?”

Key takeaway: Ask new questions. Embrace new insights.

Explore the role of customer behavior and feedback in your product development. Look beyond the features and attributes of your market offering and consider ‘what job are your customers hiring that product/service to do?’ What you learn may seem unusual or even run contrary to what you thought you knew about your products and your customers. Don’t deny what’s different. The unusual can be a clue to uncover your next competitive advantage and the key to unlocking greater customer delight!

Discover the Service Blueprint

The Power of First Impressions

This article was originally published on July 14, 2017 on Manta – Small business marketing solutions helping millions of businesses get found by more customers. Original article.

Improving your first impressions

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:

  1. Does this business care about its customers?
  2. Will I enjoy working with these people?
  3. 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.

Be Prompt

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!

Be Human!

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!

Download Our Free First Impressions eBook

Scary Customer Service Stats (and What to Do About Them)

Top Customer Service Statistics

Every small business owner understands the importance of treating their customers well—after all, there’d be no business without them! A recent Invoca study shows that for small business owners, the phone is a critical touchpoint. After a negative phone experience,

  • 74% of people are likely to choose another business
  • 70% are likely to complain to friends and family
  • 30% are likely to leave a bad review

Yikes! The good news: a positive phone experience is likely to turn 80% of callers into repeat customers. So how can you create those positive experiences? Here are three ways to get started today.

Make every word count.

Depending on the situation, a phone call with a customer could last 30 minutes or 30 seconds. For briefer conversations especially, word choice matters. You may only have a few syllables to show your appreciation, so lay it on thick! Speak in a friendly, inviting tone, and aim to say “thank you” at least once. Even a quick answer-and-transfer is an opportunity to brighten a caller’s day by being warm and gracious. Can you remember a time when an upbeat exchange with a grocery clerk or a smile from a stranger snapped you out of a moment of gloom? Aim for that in every customer interaction, no matter how brief.

Create a phrasing playbook.

Your company’s telephone greeting is an important first impression, so take care to craft a good one and ensure anyone who answers the phone is on board. While you’re at it, gather your phone answering crew together and talk about ways to create a consistently positive experience for callers. Whether you have a dedicated receptionist or everyone on your team pitches in to greet customers when they call, you’ll want to ensure each caller gets the same (awesome) service, and a phrasing playbook can get you there. Draft a list of words or phrases to avoid, and brainstorm alternatives. For example, Ruby’s talented remote receptionists are encouraged to stay away from dead-end statements that include “I can’t” and “I don’t know” and swap them with helpful alternatives like “I’ll be happy to look into that” and “let me find out.” Bottom line: there’s typically always something you can do to assist a caller, even if it’s not exactly what they’re looking for, so focus their attention on your willingness to help.

Be ready for that ring.

What’s the most important element of a good phone call? An answer! If you’re letting calls roll over to voicemail during your business hours, there’s no doubt you’re missing the chance to connect with customers, and likely missing opportunities to win new business. Here’s something you don’t often hear: “Wow, I really liked that recorded message—I think I’m going to spend a lot of money with this company!” Customer relationships are built on real, meaningful connections, and without a real person to pick up the phone and make those connections when customers call, you’re bound to lose out on some opportunities. So when you and your team are on the clock, ensure someone capable (and ideally excited) is on phone duty. And if you find you need a hand, your friends at Ruby are here for you!

 

Download Ruby’s Customer Service eBook

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