Investing in Clients: Strategies to Improve and Strengthen Relationships

Remote Receptionists for Financial Companies

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.”

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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.

Free eBook: The Power of First Impressions

Making a great first impression

First impressions are one of your most powerful resources—or one of your biggest pitfalls. From your first interaction with potential customers, you’re laying a foundation of trust. A foundation that is key to ensuring a long-lasting customer relationship.

Get our tips and tricks on creating strong first impressions directly from Ruby’s VP of Customer Success, Christina Burns!

In our free ebook, we discuss:

  • Creating a foundation of trust with your customers
  • Small ways you can make a great first impression every day
  • The importance of connection

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Ruby Visits Heckerling 2017

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!

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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.

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!

One Big Change that Will Set Your Business Apart

Showing Your Customers Love

When you look at leading companies in your industry, what do you see? Maybe they have more employees, or perhaps they’re working with a larger budget. If you’re just looking at the numbers, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. The easy solution? Look beyond the numbers! Keeping up with the pack and remaining a part of the conversation starts with one key focus: your customers.

The Golden Rule

Your customers are at the heart of your business. In fact, it’s likely that they’re the reason you went into business in the first place. And even if you’re confident that your product or service provides value in your customers’ lives, standing out in the crowd isn’t easy.

Get back to the basics. Rather than focusing on what others are doing, focus on your business. Start with taking an inventory of certain areas of your operations:

  • Look at your processes and procedures: Are operations running smoothly? Are products and services completed and delivered on time? Are they producing the results you promised?
  • Look at your people: Are they empowered to deliver exceptional service to your customers? Are your team members excited about coming to work every day? Are they doing what they say they’ll do? Do they feel personally connected to your mission?
  • Look at your products or services: Is there still a need for your products or services? Can you start taking steps to update, modernize, or improve the value you bring to your customers?
  • Look at your progress: What steps are you taking to achieve the goals stated above? Document them! It’s easy to forget the results of a campaign or the decisions made in one meeting when you’ve got so many balls in the air.

All of these questions are aimed at ensuring that you’re providing your customers with an amazing experience that is unique to your company. That’s one of Ruby Receptionists’ specialties — creating meaningful connections with their customers and responding in thoughtful, personalized ways, like one receptionist did when putting together a package for a customer with a case of food poisoning.

These small touches don’t take much extra effort, but they go a long way toward making you stand out. The more opportunities you find to personalize your service and give your customers an exceptional level of care and attention, the more you’ll be at the forefront of their minds.

Walk the Walk

Now that you’ve asked the right questions, it’s time to put your findings into practice. Try these tips to shift your focus from your competition to what you can do to engage your customers.

Create a Culture of Exceptional Customer Service

Exceptional customer service doesn’t always have to take the form of a gift. For a customer who’s had a less-than-great experience elsewhere, it’s more important to deliver the right product or service at the right time. The biggest thing to remember? Keep your word. At Ruby, this is called, “do what you say you’ll do.” Consistency is key when building customer trust and following through on your promises is table stakes for providing exceptional service.

Make Genuine Customer Connections

The first step to making genuine connections is opening yourself up for communication. Make sure you’re accessible on all the channels your customers are using. Are you an online business? Make your contact us page easy to understand, create profiles on popular social and professional platforms, and make sure you respond promptly to messages. Brick and mortar? Consider setting your hours based on the times your customers are available and may be looking to come in. Take a genuine interest in your customers and don’t be afraid to chat with them about topics outside of the traditional customer relationship. Remembering that a customer is a fan of a particular sports team can go a long way when they make the make playoffs and you send a note of congratulations.

Tirelessly Search for Ways to Add Further Value to Your Customers’ Lives

Once you’ve opened these avenues for communication, use them to take the customer experience to that next level. Create outstanding content that they can’t find anywhere else. Teach them something new. Take them behind the scenes. Entertain and engage them. You’ll become a resource for the information they crave, and they’ll keep coming back to see what you have to say.

If there’s one thing that will set your business apart, it’s the way you treat the people who keep your business in business. Anyone can provide a product or service but your special brand of customer care is uniquely you. Give them something they can’t get anywhere else and they’ll keep coming back for more.
Gabe Arnold

 

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.

 

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The Most Important Step to Business Growth

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

 

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.

 

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How to Handle an Angry Customer

Anger happens. It’s a natural response to frustration that researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara describe as a “bargaining emotion.” Internal anger is a defensive response to perceived unfairness. And the anger we express externally is our (admittedly not always productive) way of communicating our desire to resolve the situation.

When you represent your company, a game plan for addressing customer anger is key to successful customer service. It’s important to provide your customers with the opportunity to air and resolve their grievances, which helps you maintain your online reputation and provides valuable feedback for your business. Best of all, when your customer service teams are trained to handle angry customers, you have the opportunity to turn them back into happy customers.

With a few strategies, you can equip yourself to turn negative customer interactions into positive customer experiences.

1. Don’t take it personally

Stellar customer service is all about creating personal connections. But in difficult moments, it may be more effective to take the personal out of the equation—allowing you to better address their frustrations. Remind yourself that they’re frustrated with a product or a service, not with you personally. A little breathing room will better equip you to address your customer’s concerns head on.

2. Listen

Even if you’ve heard it all before, remember that your customer hasn’t had the chance to say it all just yet. To be sure you fully understand their concerns, give the customer room to express their point of view. Allow your customer to finish their thought before interjecting with a helpful solution. Often all they need is to feel heard, and more importantly, to feel like you care enough to take proactive action that will help them.

3. Empathize

Once your customer has had the chance to speak, repeat and rephrase your customer’s concerns to show that you heard them. If you’re unclear about your customer’s concerns, ask follow up questions to be sure that you’re fully comprehending their point of view. Demonstrating that you are attentively listening establishes that you and the customer are on the same page working towards a solution. A little bit of empathy goes a long way.

4. Apologize

Apologize for their frustration and mean it. As the representative of your business, it’s important to acknowledge faults and express your regrets.

Additionally, let them know that their complaints will be taken into account moving forward, that your company will learn from them. An authentic willingness to learn from mistakes and take complaints seriously can turn a customer relationship around.

5. Stay Postive

It can be difficult to maintain a upbeat attitude in a difficult situation, but a little positivity can go a long way. Your confidence in yourself will instill your customer with confidence in you and your problem-solving skills. And your positivity, when genuine, will put your customer at ease.

How have you turned a negative customer interaction into a positive brand interaction? Tweet us @callruby and share your story!

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