How do you deliver such incredible customer service that people are so touched that they'll come back to you again just to experience the service? Ruby Receptionists, a company I admire, does it consistently in a matter of seconds—and without face-to-face contact. Based in Oregon, they offer live, virtual receptionist service (in both English and Spanish) with infectious happiness and cheer. They do an amazing job keeping track of customer preferences and details. Their receptionists and service are so pleasant and make such an impression that, in my experience with them, callers put through to me have made their first question, "who answers your phone?"
Christina Burns, Director of Client Happiness at Ruby Receptionists, shared insights on how the company creates great customer service and happy employees—and how to apply that insight in your organization or even in personal, one-on-one meetings.
Question: There’s a difference between giving a customer everything they request and delivering memorable customer service that leaves a positive impression, and Ruby Receptionists delivers the latter. Where does that culture start?
Answer, Christina Burns, Director of Client Happiness at Ruby Receptionists: We talk a lot about core values around here, and it’s not just lip service; our core values are at the center of everything we do. That’s truly how a culture of creating meaningful connections flourishes: by defining your values, living them, and using them to guide your decisions. Since our core values (Foster Happiness, Practice WOWism, Create Community, Innovate, and Grow) are such a strong focus for us culturally, those lasting impressions happen naturally!
Q: I think the most impressive thing about how Ruby Receptionists delivers such infectious happiness is that it happens in just a few seconds, it’s never face-to-face contact, and yet, it leaves a lasting impression. If someone is talking to a Ruby Receptionist, you can hear the smile over the phone. Ruby Receptionists literally make people’s days better! What goes into creating that kind of impactful, positive contact?
A: At Ruby, we truly aim to Incent, Inspire, and Empower™ our people. We build those meaningful connections into everything we do—we incent and reward people for creating those experiences, we inspire them by sharing those awesome connection stories at every turn, and we empower every member of the team to go out and build relationships with callers and customers alike—and the payoff is that we’re building lasting relationships with our customers, regardless of the virtual nature of our business.
At the end of the day, it’s all about focusing on the outcomes you want to achieve, and building your goals around those outcomes. It might feel strange at first, but it’s truly where the magic happens! If you want to create long-lasting impressions for your customers, think about ways to integrate that into your brand, and make it the core of your company’s mission. The rest will fall into place!
Q: A lot of us would like to be able to leave the kind of impression Ruby Receptionists leave, even if we’re not in customer service—if we’re just meeting people at an event, for example. What tips can you share about delivering that kind of lasting impression in a few seconds?
A: Smile! You’d be surprised at how disarming a genuine smile can be. Body language in general is a big piece of the puzzle, whether you’re speaking with someone in person or over the phone. Really make sure you’re fully engaged in the conversation and practice some active listening. Respond with genuine interest and curiosity.
One thing we talk about a lot here at Ruby is matching the pace of the person you’re speaking with. Are they speaking in short, clipped, sentences? They’re probably in a bit of a hurry—keep your chit-chat brief and get them to the person they’d like to speak with. Conversely, if they’re being a bit more conversational, take a moment to connect! It’s all about reading the situation and responding appropriately.
Q: In creating good customer service, there’s a balance between process and autonomy—The Ritz Carlton, for example, has been known for giving employees autonomy to give guests exceptional care at the company expense, and yet there are processes in place to make sure details about each customer are noted, and are handed off and shared with other staff members. I’ve noticed the same patterns in my experience with Ruby Receptionists. Is it important to have both process and autonomy? What’s essential to have with both?
A: Absolutely! This is where Incent, Inspire, and Empower™ comes into play. By building that fantastic customer service into your brand, mission, and values, you’re already in the first stages of creating “process.” The next step is to make those values tangible and measurable so team members can truly connect with your values and mission, and then you can build goals around that.
Ruby’s WOW gifts are a great example of this. We allow any Ruby who has made a connection with a customer to purchase a gift for that customer in order to perpetuate that connection. If, for instance, a receptionist finds out that a customer is under the weather, they might send them a little “Get Well” gift. There’s complete autonomy to do that, but there’s process too. Our process is to track who we’ve sent gifts to and what they’ve received, to ensure that the same customer isn’t receiving the same gift over and over again. We also track if we receive a response from the customer and make sure to share those positive responses and thank yous with the whole team.
So, again, it’s all about outcomes. I think the important thing about autonomy is that allows people to feel empowered to make these decisions on their own. It’s important that team members feel excited by the notion of making a connection! Process is important too, because it ensures accountability. Whatever the process, it certainly shouldn’t impede upon inspiration and empowerment!
Q: What do you think is the single most important thing to make sure a culture of great, happy customer service thrives and endures in an organization?
A: Never stop talking about it! It should be a part of everything you do. Build it into your brand, mission, and values, and continue perpetuating that culture by sharing stories of WOW-worthy moments with staff. If you’re Incenting, Inspiring, and Empowering people to deliver great service, your culture of great customer service will absolutely thrive.