Call Ruby is an Awesome Virtual Receptionist for Solos and Nimble Small Firms

ruby-receptionists-review

Answering the phone is one of my least-favorite parts of having my own business. The phone is always an interruption, and I am rarely prepared to have a productive conversation with opposing counsel who wants to argue a point of substantive law, or a client who wants a detailed analysis of a brand-new business problem. These are all reasons why answering your own phone may not be a good idea.

For a while, I worked with a virtual assistant who did a fantastic job of answering the phone, managing our intake process, and much more. But I’ve since scaled back my practice, and I don’t need that much help—nor can I afford to pay for it. After answering my own phone for a few months, I was ready to hang it up for good, so I decided to give Call Ruby a try.

Enter LAWYERIST or mention Lawyerist when you sign up, and Ruby Receptionists will waive the $90 setup fee if you decide to stay on after the free trial!

How Ruby Receptionists works

Call Ruby is a Portland (OR)-based virtual receptionist service. (It keeps hours that work for business hours coast-to-coast.) You get a phone number that you can use, or you can just forward your regular number so that Call Ruby gets your incoming calls. (Couple Call Ruby with Google Voice for some seriously powerful options.)

The receptionists are a bunch of cheerful, highly-caffeinated women who answer the phone and handle calls according to your instructions. For example, my instructions are to capture name and phone number for every caller, take a short message, and forward the call to me if the caller asks to be put through. This last bit works just like it would if you had a receptionist sitting at your front desk. A Call Ruby receptionist calls me and announces the caller, and I can take the call, ask them to take or convey a message, or whatever.

You can change your instructions by phone, email, or app. For example, if you are going to be out of touch all afternoon, you could update your instructions from the app and tell Call Ruby to hold your calls. Or forward them to a different phone number. Or whatever. You can get pretty detailed.

Call Ruby can also make outgoing calls. We recently had a baby, and I prepared an email to Call Ruby with a list of people to call in order to cancel appointments. When we left for the hospital, I sent the message, and got an email a few minutes later letting me know that they contacted everyone on the list and let them know I would be in touch to reschedule as soon as possible. (They also sent a lovely gift for my new baby, which was thoughtful—that just seems to be how Call Ruby operates, though.)

Working with Ruby Receptionists

All in all, I’m thrilled with Call Ruby. Working with Call Ruby reminds me of my great experiences with Freshbooks, another great company with an awesome product and outstanding customer service. Call Ruby‘s plans start at $219 per month (which is all I’m likely to need), and for that, you will always have a cheerful, polite, and professional person answer the phone, because you are rarely all of those things at once, even when you are actually available to answer the phone.

Pricing

My only complaint is that I generally need about half the minutes of the smallest plan, and unlike Freshbooks, Call Ruby won’t create a custom plan for me. That means that if I want to stay with Call Ruby, I have to pay for about twice the minutes I need. So I am still looking at alternatives. For example, the Total Attorneys pay-as-you-go virtual receptionist service charges about $4 per call, instead of charging per minute. I expect 40–50 calls per month, which would be about $140–200 with Total Attorneys. That’s not a clear advantage on price (depending on the actual numbers of calls in a month, obviously), but the Total Attorneys service is available 24/7, not just during business hours. On the other hand, Total Attorneys doesn’t offer quite the same flexibility. It doesn’t appear to handle transfers personally (calls are simply forwarded according to your criteria), and it doesn’t appear to have the ability to update instructions on the fly.

I just got an email from Kevin Chern at Total Attorneys clarifying some of features of the Virtual Receptionist service. Kevin says that forwarding works the same as it does with Call Ruby. The receptionist will a “warm transfer” by speaking with you before handing off the caller. You can also update your instructions on the fly. In fact, Kevin says that Total Attorneys will customize their procedures to your liking. Which leaves price as the main difference between the two services, after all. If your callers tend to spend more time on the phone, or you don’t get a lot of calls, you will probably spend less with Total Attorneys. If your calls tend to be quicker, you might be better off with Call Ruby. Keep your eyes peeled for a review of the Total Attorneys service in a month or two, once I’ve had time to try it and reflect on the experience.

For now, I’m going to spend another month or two with Call Ruby, and see where my usage falls. If I consistently get about 50 calls per month, I think the extra flexibility of Call Ruby is probably worth paying a bit more per month. Plus, I’ve had really great experiences working with Call Ruby so far, and I really like working with companies that treat me well. Call Ruby’s obvious effort to go the extra mile (or three) has made me a truly delighted customer. (I’ve never tried working with Total Attorney before, so it could be just as awesome, for all I know.)

Benefits for solos and small firms

Call Ruby is an awesome solution for solo practitioners who don’t need or want the overhead of a full-time employee, and for small firms that don’t need or want to pay for someone to spend all day sitting at the front desk (or that don’t have a front desk). In any case, the first 14 days are free, and getting set up is a piece of cake, so it’s definitely worth a try, especially if you don’t already have someone to answer your phones.

Practice Management

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  • http://www.thekaiserlawfirm.com Matt Kaiser

    I am a huge fan of Call Ruby. I’ve used them for more than two years now. I hear you on the pricing, though I feel like the service you get is leaps and bounds better than any one else who can handle your phones.

    I had a judge ask if I had hired away the receptionist from the British Embassy. Ruby gives a confident professional impression to callers — I think they’re really worth the money.

  • http://www.AschemanSmith.com Landon Ascheman

    If they were 24/7 I would go with them – especially with this review and knowing they would work with Google Voice.

    As it is, I don’t mind the occasional odd call, and to be able to answer the phone and let the person know they are talking to an attorney right away seems be well appreciated.

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/randallryder/ Randall Ryder

      I’ve found that answering the phone has led to a higher conversion rate. As Landon noted, clients seem to appreciate talking to an attorney right away. It builds an immediate rapport with the client.

  • http://www.PAinjurycase.com Dave Schreiber

    To me, building the client’s trust in the first 30 days of the lawyer-client relationship is key. But that means be very accessible and showing to them that you are on top of the file. So, even with our office manager or a paralegal answering many of the initial calls, I try to have them put through most of the calls to me. I agree with Sam that it is a big interruption to your day and it’s difficulty to get bigger projects like a brief or outline for a deposition done but I see the clients as my most important asset and keeping them happy is important. I end up not attempting to do those bigger projects during peak office hours. Instead early morning or off-hour times are when I do those.

  • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

    Even if you want to talk to every potential client, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should be the one to answer the phone. There’s a lot to recommend a cheerful, professional receptionist, even if you want all potential clients to speak to you directly.

    Call Ruby would be happy to identify potential clients for you, and put every single one through right away. Which means you could focus on those calls, but skip the telemarketers, opposing counsel, and other people wasting your time with interruptions. In fact, it would be pretty awesome if I knew that every time the phone rings, it’s a potential client. I would be excited to pick up the phone, instead of dreading it.

  • http://smartbusinessrevolution.com/ John Corcoran

    Great review, Sam. And very helpful. $219/month + is a lot to swallow, but considering you are really getting more than just a friendly voice answering the phone, it’s worth at least trying the free 14-day trial.

    I had a great experience using Google Voice “lite” (I didn’t use a Google Voice number, but just used the GV features for voice mail & transcription using my regular number). How does Call Ruby work together with GV?

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

      I’m using GV for my firm, and it is working fine with Call Ruby’s system. Plus, it gives me even more options. For example, I only have my number ring Call Ruby during their business hours. Otherwise, it rings my phone so I can answer if I want to, or get the voicemail transcription.

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

      On the cost, I definitely agree that $219/month is a significant cost, but I am confident that I can convert more potential clients to clients with Call Ruby than without it. Most of my potential business clients are “shopping” for a lawyer, and the first impression matters a lot. If they get a voicemail message or me when I am not at my best, I could lose a client instead of gaining one. It doesn’t take much new business to justify $219/month.

      Plus, I was paying $400-500 to my virtual assistant when Randall was still with me, so I’m saving a ton, by comparison.

  • http://lawyerist.com/author/jennifergumbel/ Jennifer Gumbel

    This also is a nice reminder to me about the value of good customer service. People are willing to pay if they have friendly people who get the work done and go the extra mile.

  • Jen Stark

    Do they have a “call brent” or “call jason” counterpart. My clientele might appreciate the variety of a nice, efficient male counterpart? It may also cause potential clients to want to book an appointment. just askin….

    jen

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

      Not that I know of. Call Ruby uses all women receptionists (presumably with similar voice qualities) to make the service feel more uniform to callers. That way, they are less likely to notice that they get a different caller each time.

      Also, I think it would have to be “Call Jeeves.”

      • Jen Stark

        Call ” Nigel”

  • http://www.jeffparkerlaw.com Jeff Parker

    I love callruby.com and have been a user for about two years now. My complaint is the opposite — they don’t have a plan big enough. My average monthly bill is $1,000-$1,200 and the $600 plan is the biggest option available. I need a plan with about twice as many minutes.

    The bottom line, though, is that Ruby is still far cheaper than hiring an on-site receptionist, and you get better service! After quickly going through the last three “best of what’s available” receptionists I had a few years ago, I will never hire another one. The expense of training, limited hours, lunch breaks, sick days, excuses, excuses, and more excuses. Ruby answers from early in the morning until late at night, six days a week. It’s all they do, and they do it the best! They are fantastic!

  • Jennifer Johnson

    I can’t say enough good things about Ruby. As a true solo, they are a life-saver and money well spent. They always go above and beyond – even doing things like assisting clients in using my online scheduler when the client doesn’t have access to a computer.

    I answered my own phones for several months before hiring Ruby and it was not fun. Hiring Ruby has probably been the best investment I made for my sanity.

  • Justin McLeod

    Great piece! I had never heard of Call Ruby before reading your post. As a solo starting out with little cash-flow it is great to know I can get calls answered and screened for a fraction of the price of a temp or full-time secretary. Thanks again!