Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET.  This is excerpted from my recent interview with Jill Nelson, CEO and Fouder of Ruby Call. Her company provides virtual receptionist services to small businesses throughout North America. For more info: www.CallRuby.com

SmallBizLady: Jill, what prompted you to start a remote receptionist company?

Jill Nelson: My aim was to help small businesses become more efficient by “offloading” their phone duties. As with many start-ups, those days were both exciting and filled with a lot of worry about whether the money would run out before we made a name for ourselves and clearly articulated the value of our service. Thankfully, we found a small and dedicated customer base who were willing to share how we helped them grow their businesses.

SmallBizLady: There are a lot of virtual receptionist services out there, what makes Ruby unique?

Jill Nelson:  It isn’t about just answering phones; it’s our naturally friendly receptionists making real connections to customers’ callers. We establish and keep alive those real human connections that can easily be lost in today’s technology-focused environment. The virtual receptionist fosters a people-powered culture that empowers employees to use their natural talents and ideas to deliver WOW-worthy service.

SmallBizLady: What sparked the growth of Ruby?

Jill Nelson: Primarily, the growth started and continued through friendly and well-trained receptionists. Capitalizing on the real need and hunger for more than the simple mechanics of answering the phone and taking messages – every small business deserves a cheerful, professional receptionist to help their callers – and Ruby Receptionists was born!

SmallBizLady: You’ve mentioned culture and service as key factors in your success – is there a direct correlation?

Jill Nelson: A service-driven culture fosters happy customers and employees that translates to increased revenue and business growth. Research shows that 78% of customers will recommend a brand to others if satisfied by their customer experience valuable to growing a business – it’s estimated the cost of acquiring a new customer is from 5-25 times more expensive. Bottom line, work hard to keep the customers and employees you have!

SmallBizLady: How do you create a culture of service?

Jill Nelson: It starts with knowing what you stand for and hiring people dedicated to those same values. Find people who live to make connections and sees every phone call as an opportunity to make a small difference in their day – a powerful reason to want to come to work. Also, it’s important to create a workplace where employees are excited to come to each day and are inspired to learn, grow, and connect with others.

SmallBizLady: Jill, if you were to start over, what would you do differently?

Jill Nelson:  I would determine how the idea is meaningful to me.  What does it stand for? Then, nail down our core values such as: Practice WOWism, Foster Happiness, Create Community, Innovate and Grow. These types of values and being mission-driven will perpetuate real, meaningful connections that propels growth.

SmallBizLady: What are some successful tips to creating core values?

Jill Nelson: Identify what your customers are struggling with to keep their doors open.  Have confidence that your service will be invaluable for the company to survive. Be incredibly focused on delivering what is important to both your team and your customers. Start incorporating the values into everything you do, which can help grow your customer base.

SmallBizLady: When incorporating values, how does that impact decision-making?

Jill Nelson:  Oftentimes, after identifying your core values, decision making has never been easier. With each decision – whether it involves your service, technology, budgeting, hiring, or your culture – look to your core values to make sure the choice made reflects what you believe in. Always ask… “Does this align with our core values?” if the answer is no, move along.

SmallBizLady: Jill, what’s one trend that really excites you?

Jill Nelson:  The phone call renaissance! Consumers can interact with companies may ways, it’s surprising that the preferred method is the old-fashioned phone call!  Research shows people in the market for goods and services are making more phone calls than ever—giving small businesses a profound opportunity to make personal connections over the phone, helping them win new business and create raving fans.

SmallBizLady: What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Jill Nelson: After surveying our employees for the first time in 2005, I learned that the employees were happy with their salaries and benefits, but they did not feel like they were making a difference. Although, we received compliments from our clients on how we had positively affected their business and gotten a new client because of the receptionist. This was a turning point in the company. We stopped hiring based on experience and started looking for people who saw 250 calls as opportunities to make someone’s day.

SmallBizLady: As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you would do over and recommend to others?

Jill Nelson: Get out of the way to avoid creating bottlenecks. Make sure you hire really fantastic and qualified people who were excited about what they do to avoid hampering your teams. So, my advice is “get out of the way”, and empower your team to do what you hired them to do.

If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9 pm ET; follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter.

Here’s how to participate in #SmallBizChat: http://bit.ly/1hZeIlz


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