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.

Incent, Inspire, Empower: Practical Situational Leadership with Rosy Rocha

In a recent post for the Small Giants Community blog, Ruby® Founder and CEO, Jill Nelson underlines the value of creating a service-driven culture. “Whatever your line of work, a service-driven culture fosters happy customers and employees, and that translates to increased revenue and business growth,” she notes.

If your business is anything like Ruby, establishing a culture of service is table stakes. We take our service-delivery pretty seriously and we couldn’t offer the unparalleled level of service we’re known for without Incent, Inspire, and Empower®, our unique management philosophy.

Meet Rosy, Ruby’s first bilingual team leader

There is perhaps nothing more daunting in your career than to start a brand-new team from scratch. Not only that, but also to pioneer a first-time service offering and lead your team in meeting company-wide service standards in an entirely different language!

Bilingual Receptionist Cultivator, Rosy Rocha is the intrepid Ruby responsible for creating and maintaining Ruby’s Spanish service delivery. And she’s relied heavily on Incent, Inspire, and Empower to get her there!

“As a manager of a team and Ruby’s bilingual service, the IIE philosophy gives me the opportunity to genuinely practice situational leadership. It helps me know each team member a little better and supports me in keeping them motivated and engaged!”

Incentives in Action

At Ruby, we incent around the things that matter (i.e. the things that help us deliver on our mission and keep us living our core values). How? This question is really all about where we place our time and resources. So, on the most basic level, we are committed to compensating our staff well by offering competitive wages and top benefits.

We also recognize our employees and their accomplishments at every opportunity. And we make sure that these recognitions are directly linked to our mission, vision, and values. A great example of this recognition is Ruby’s Five-at-Five Sabbatical Program, which employees become eligible for after five years of service.

A sentiment to our newest core value, Grow, the program helps Rubys realize a dream they may not otherwise have the chance to realize. Given five weeks and a little seed money, our employees have lived some pretty incredible dreams.

These things are obviously company-wide, so how do you find ways to incent employees at the manger level? Give your leaders the tools to get creative!

Rosy recently found a great way to reach an employee who was struggling with their timeliness. “Using my ‘incent’ tool I promised this receptionist hand-delivered coffee for every two weeks they went without a timeliness incident. This is such a small treat, maybe $4-$5 every two weeks, but it really helps having something to look forward to.”

Bring it home: Think about your business. How do you provide company-wide incentives to keep your employees engaged with your mission? Challenge your leaders to find personal ways to incent their team members!

Inspiring by Example

Hearing about the success of others, or seeing it in action firsthand, keeps employees motivated to strive for their own success. Ruby’s dedicated compliment email inbox, werock, is inspiration central! Every compliment a Ruby receives is recorded and sent in an email to the entire company. These emails are an inspirational reminder of the direct impact our mission of creating personal connections has on the world.

But sometimes, seeing someone else succeed in the moment can bring the biggest inspirational, “ah-ha” moments. Rosy agrees. “When I find that I have a receptionist struggling with guiding callers confidently, I have them observe another person on the team who had that same challenge and is now thriving in their role. This also keeps that model receptionist inspired to be an example of what their newer teammates can strive for.”

Bring it home: Inspiration comes in many forms. Make sure to find the right storytelling or success-sharing avenues for your business and encourage your leaders to inspire by example!

Providing the Tools to Achieve

When you empower your employees to not only have big ideas but provide them with the tools to execute on them, they feel more engaged and you may just find the answer to a question you didn’t even know you had!

Ruby provides each employee with a bank of culture funds each year to make Ruby a better place and create community. The money is theirs and they can use it all at once, piece it out, or join others and contribute it to a bigger project. Employees have used these funds to contribute to Ruby’s culture with fitness equipment, kitchen gadgets, and a host of one-of-a-kind events.

Rosy recently faced a unique challenge to find resources for employees who wanted to improve their Spanish. To help with this challenge, she called on one of her employees with an extensive background as a Spanish interpreter. “I know that using this experience makes her proud and fosters her happiness at work. I empowered this employee to brainstorm a solution to help those wanting to improve their bilingual skills. She now is the proud leader of Ruby’s Spanish Club. Knowing that she is empowered at Ruby to host her meetings in our office, to set her own schedule and style; she’s been able to foster her vision of the Ruby Spanish Club. And innovated a solution to one of my biggest struggles!”

Bring it home: What tools can you provide your employees to help them execute on their big ideas? Faced with a particularly sticky challenge? Think of ways you can involve your employees in the brainstorming process!

This post appears as part of our Incent, Inspire, and Empower series, where we share personal stories from Ruby’s leaders. You can catch last month’s post, Managing Mangers, here.

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Incent, Inspire, Empower: Managing Managers with Desi Vigil

Ruby® Founder and CEO Jill Nelson recently wrote a piece for the Small Giants Community blog sharing how Ruby has built a culture of service over the years. The key to doing the same in your business? Your leadership style.

Incent, Inspire, and Empower® is Ruby Receptionists’ management philosophy. It’s how we create true commitment and ensure each employee is poised to succeed by delivering on our mission to preserve and perpetuate real, meaningful connections in our increasingly technology-focused virtual world.

This philosophy ensures that our employees own their personal service delivery and are encouraged to think outside the box. There’s no idea too big, no risk too daring. Sounds great in theory. What about in practice? Ruby’s employee engagement score from spring of 2017 shows the proof is in the pudding. The results indicated that over 90% of Ruby’s employees were highly engaged and engaged.

So, how do you encourage your leaders to inspire with this mindset?

The Most Crucial Employee Touchpoint

A Gallup study from a few years ago notes that “managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores across business units.” If you’re unfamiliar with Gallup, they are a research-based consulting company whose bread and butter is measuring trends in employee behavior and attitudes. They also publish the State of the American Workplace report. This crucial manager-employee relationship is the driving force behind Incent, Inspire, Empower.

Management Styles at Ruby Receptionists
Desi Vigil, Ruby Cultivator Coach

“To me, it means encouraging our leaders to go above and beyond regularly for their receptionists because they want to, not because they have to,” says Ruby Cultivator Coach, Desi Vigil. (Cultivator is the title for our receptionist team managers.) “We’ve created a culture here at Ruby where every individual is caring, supportive, and willing to push themselves to think outside the box when it comes to going above and beyond for their team.”

Incenting Around the Stuff that Matters

It all starts with providing your managers a solid foundation to support their own service delivery when it comes to their teams. In the case of incenting employees, Ruby makes sure to incent around the things that really matter to us.

A great example is Ruby’s Core Value in Action Awards. These awards celebrate those Rubys who are living our core values in exceptional ways. Why is this important? Our core values make us who we are. They are what drive us. That’s why we incent our employees with company-wide recognition for truly remarkable examples of our core values in action.

Following this example, our leadership team is empowered to incent their employees, both as a team and on an individual basis. Desi recalls a particular situation where a Cultivator came to her for advice on ways to incent a team member for going the extra mile to work on accuracy goals.

“My Cultivator had great ideas, but they were all around food, treats, gift cards, etc. Those things are great (and necessary at times), but I encouraged them to think of other ways they could incent this individual.”

To Desi’s point, it’s tempting to assume that incentives always include food, money, or other tangible rewards. Yet, some of the most impactful incentives have nothing to do with “stuff.”

Your Turn: What matters most to your company? Provide your leaders with the tools to incent their employees on the things that lead back to your mission, your vision, and your values.

Finding Inspiration

We’ve learned (and the research shows) that employees want to feel a sense of purpose and understand the difference they make. Sharing stories of our success and demonstrating Ruby’s sweeping impact are how we aim to inspire.

On a foundational level, Ruby has several storytelling platforms that we support internally to inspire our employees. From a dedicated email inbox for compliments to an internal blog featuring stories of employee success, storytelling is a huge part of Ruby’s culture.

For Desi, an inspired employee “shares their stories of triumph with their peers and congratulates others on their successes.” This creates a culture where employees build each other up and become their own biggest champions.

Your Turn: Are your leaders modeling the behavior you hope to see in your employees? Encourage your team to lead by example and find ways to share the stories of employees who are getting it right.

Empowered to Forge Your Own Path

Empowering your employees is all about getting out of the way and letting them work their magic. At Ruby, we use well-made processes to create reliability, efficiency, consistency, scalability, and accountability. These foundations are the nuts and bolts that keep the company running smoothly.

But Ruby wouldn’t be Ruby without our amazing people! Empowering our people to break the rules and use their unique personalities and talents to deliver on our mission is what sets us apart.

Desi’s job is to empower our leaders to empower their team members, encouraging them to find unique ways to deliver on our mission. At the end of the day, it’s all about trust. Empowered employees feel trusted to make decisions and are given the tools and resources to execute. These tools include everything from the technology they use to our feedback processes.

A little trust goes a long way! The last thing you want to do is constrict your staff with policies, procedures, and scripts they must follow. Take a step back, empower your employees to succeed, and encourage them to make their own mark on your company’s culture.

Your Turn: At Ruby, we use systems and standards to create a foundation that incents, inspires, and empowers Ruby employees to use their own personalities to live out our mission. What will you do next to improve your own management style?

This post appears as part of our Incent, Inspire, Empower series, where we share personal stories from Ruby’s leaders.

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Ruby’s Guide to Vacation Autoresponders

Office Etiquette: Vacation Autoresponders

Vacation season is here—time to kick back, relax, and reply to client emails from a new and exotic location. Wait—what? No! Cut the proverbial cord with your work email account during your next getaway. A thoughtful autoresponder can give you peace of mind while you’re miles from your desk! Follow these guidelines to keep your clients happy and informed when you can’t reply right away:

Make it warm. You may not be able to email your clients while you’re snorkeling or or trekking a mountain trail, but you still care about them. Show it with your tone! Use a friendly greeting and closing to ensure the tone of your auto-reply is top-notch. A general greeting like “Hello!” does the trick for starters, and a closing like “I look forward to getting in touch with you soon!“ is a nice way to wrap things up.

Let ’em know when you’ll be back. Don’t leave your clients hanging—let them know when you’ll be getting in touch with them.  If you suspect you’ll be swamped when you return to your inbox, factor in a bit of a buffer time. If you’re back Tuesday, for example, you might say you’ll be happy to get in touch Thursday. Replying a little earlier than expected is always better than keeping correspondents waiting.

Point ’em in the right direction. Is there someone who can help while you’re out? Including that person’s contact information will put your autoreply recipients at ease, even if they don’t use it. Everyone likes to know they’re taken care of! If you don’t have a back-up buddy, consider including emergency contact information, or giving those who have it the okay to use it (“If you need anything urgently, please don’t hesitate to call my cell phone.”)

Altogether, your autoresponder might look a little something like this:

Hello!

Thank you for your email. I am out of the office on vacation, and I’ll be back Wednesday, August 12. I look forward to catching up with you then! If you need anything while I’m out, feel free to email Kendra at hello@callruby.com

Best regards,

Ruby

And remember: When you’re back to business as usual, be sure your auto reply is no longer active. You may be able to create a schedule for your autoresponder ahead of time, but if not, set a reminder to turn off your autoresponder.

Now for the best part—enjoying your vacation!

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3 Simple Ways to Connect With Any Customer

Customer Service Tip: Connecting with Customers

Every interaction with a customer is an opportunity to create a personal connection. Make your company memorable to customers with these super-simple steps!

Introduce yourself. Whether you’re chatting on the phone or meeting face to face, make an introduction the first part of your routine. This may seem obvious — of course you’re going to introduce yourself, right? But consider how a receptionist typically interacts with an office guest:

Guest: Hi, I’m here to see Anne. My name is Luke Davis.

Receptionist: Thank you, Luke! I’ll let Anne know you’re here. May I offer you coffee or water?

This exchange is, of course, perfectly pleasant, but the addition of a personal introduction makes it all the warmer:

Guest: Hi, I’m here to see Anne. My name is Luke Davis.

Receptionist: Thank you, Luke! I’m Tracy. It’s wonderful to meet you! I’ll let Anne know you’re here. May I offer you coffee or water?

Mirror or complement a customer’s tone. Friendly, talkative customers are a connection-maker’s dream — all it takes is a bit of chitchat to make a great impression! When a customer engages you in conversation, make the most of the opportunity and enjoy a little banter. Likewise, if a customer has a down-to-business tone, an upbeat yet concise communication style is ideal. When customers seem upset or have complaints, allow them plenty of room to vent. Listen carefully, reiterate the issue in your own words to show your understanding, and gently assure the customer you’ll do all you can to rectify the situation.

Use powerful words. Even a brief exchange with a customer can be impactful with the right word choice. Certainly, absolutely, and definitely are powerful synonyms for yes (and a they carry a lot more weight that okay or all right).

Thank you, you’re welcome, I’ll be happy to and I’d be delighted to are music to a customer’s ears. Positive phrases like these showcase your confidence in yourself and your company, as well as your dedication to a stellar customer experience. By making your words count, you let customers know you care!

Photo via Flickr user Ian Muttoo

Paging Dr. Ruby: What’s Your Phone(side) Manner?

Paging Dr. Ruby

We received a wonderful comment from blog reader Samantha requesting a bit of advice. Says Samantha, “I’m the nicest person, but sometimes my choice of words makes me seem rude or in a hurry.” We’re so glad you found our blog, Samantha! Learning how to make the best impression over the phone is an important skill, and thankfully it’s an easy one to master with the right tools.

In honor of Samantha’s question, today’s post includes some of our favorite must-have habits for WOWing callers.

  • Speak in an inviting tone. From word one, aim for a tone of voice that says I’m friendly, professional, and so glad you called! I’m here to help you. A surefire way to ensure a welcoming tone is to smile. Pretend you’re face-to-face with your caller, and show your grin as you speak!
  • Match your caller’s pace. If your caller is brief and to-the-point, strive for concise, pleasant responses. Likewise, take your time with callers who speak more slowly, or those for whom English may not be their first language. A fast rate of speech can sound intimidating or confusing to a slower-talking caller, so if you know yourself to be a fast talker, take special care to slow down when your caller’s pace does.
  • Ask permission. When asking questions of your caller, begin with May I, as in May I ask who is calling? or May I place you on hold for a moment? Skip commands like I need your name and Hold, please. And when a caller gives you what you want, be sure to…
  • Say thank you! These beautiful little words never go out of style! Pepper thank you into every conversation.
  • Be enthusiastic. Look for opportunities to use powerfully positive words like absolutely, certainly, wonderful, I’ll be happy to, and I’ll be delighted to.
  • Show what you can do (and not what you can’t do). Don’t worry about having the right answer to every question. Instead, be prepared with an upbeat reply that shows your dedication to finding the answers: That’s a great question! I’ll do my best to find the answer for you.
  • Lend a hand. When you need to verify or clarify a piece of information, try prompting your caller with your best guess: Thank you! Is that Tara with a T as in terrific?
  • Be extra nice when you need to ask twice. If you’re having a hard time hearing your caller, pour the politeness on thick: I apologize — I’m having a bit of trouble hearing you. Would you mind repeating that? (Sounds a heck of a lot better than Uh, what?, right?)
  • Say thank you again. Seriously, these two little words are your best friends —  use them liberally! Saying thank you is the perfect way to show your friendliness and dedication to service.

Do you have burning questions for “Dr. Ruby”? Share away in the comments below — we’d be happy to answer them in a future blog post!

Balance Professionalism with a Dose of Friendliness

Client Compliment

What image comes to mind when you hear the word, “professional”? A buttoned-up, unemotional approach to service perhaps? The thing is, professionalism doesn’t have to be stuffy! In fact, adding some warmth and friendliness to your professional interactions  can work wonders to make your customers feel comfortable.  Here are a few quick and easy tips to soften a hard professional line:

Here are a few quick and easy tips to soften a hard professional line:

  • Freshen up your email. Skip impersonal, antiquated phrases like Dear and Sincerely when corresponding via email. Instead, try friendlier openers like Good Morning Susan or Hello Jason. Best wishes and Kind regards are excellent closings because they are both professional and kind, but not overly personal, like Love or Yours truly.
  • Address customers the way they address themselves. Unless a customer introduces themselves as Mr. or Mrs. so and so, it’s generally safe to assume that they’re comfortable being on a first name basis with you. Addressing people by first name adds a touch of familiarity, and feels lot more personal too.
  • Put a face to a name. Even if most of your business takes place over the phone, email, or the Internet, you can still find ways to show that you are indeed a real human being! At Ruby we welcome new clients with a handwritten notecard and a photo of a few of the smiling faces who take their calls every day. Also, when a Ruby has a memorable experience with a client, they’ll send a short, one minute video of themselves to highlight the interaction using a fun service called Vsnap. It’s like a video notecard, and clients love seeing the person they just connected with face to face.
  • Recall past conversations. Speaking of connections! If you listen closely, you’ll find that people offhandedly share all kinds of information about their lives. When your customer mentions an upcoming vacation or their kid’s basketball game, jot it down and ask how it went the next time you chat. They’ll surely be delighted that you remembered, and you’ll show that you’re there for them, even from many miles away.

There’s no better path to likability than by putting your most professional foot forward while also being personable and approachable. How do you balance friendly professionalism? Tell us @callruby on Twitter!

How to Make Every Office Guest’s Experience Great

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How do guests feel when they enter your office? Establishing a greet, seat, treat routine can help create positive experiences for your guests and great first impressions of your business. Here’s how make sure anyone who walks through your door feels welcome:

Greet

A warm greeting can be much more than mere formality. Who’s to know whether your office guest has heard a friendly word from anyone today? You may be in the special position of turning someone’s day around with your kindness, and that’s an opportunity too amazing to pass up! There’s no easier way to establish a real, human connection than eye contact and a smile, and for that, you may not even have to wait until your guest walks through the door.

Got windows? Take advantage of them, and flash your smile at anyone whose eye you catch. Sure, the occasional passer-by may be graced with your grin, but it’s great practice for actual guests, and it’ll make you feel good, too. There’s no such thing as a wasted smile! If you’re on a phone call when a guest arrives, politely indicate that you’ll be with the guest in just a moment (a friendly wave does the job nicely). If you’re not on a call, give your guest a warm greeting like “Good morning! How may I help you today?”

Seat

This one’s easy! Offer a guest a seat in your lobby: “Please make yourself comfortable! I’ll let Ms. Smith know you’re here.”

Treat

Anticipating needs is a great way to wow a guest, and in this case, doing so is incredibly easy: Offer your guest something to drink. If you don’t have a watercooler handy, it may be helpful to keep a pitcher and glasses stocked at your desk. If you’re able to offer coffee, tea, or something to nibble on, add that to the treat list as well!

Clearly, the greet, seat, treat method is a simple one. But these little gestures of kindness can be incredibly impactful to your guest and your company. Positive experiences mean repeat business, and friendly connections go a long way in today’s world!