Ruby Receptionists: Still Awesome, Not Perfect

Many Lawyerist readers have praised Ruby Receptionists. So, when our phone volume got too high, we took advantage of Ruby’s free trial period. Unsurprisingly, we found Ruby’s service to be top notch. But the service isn’t perfect. I’ve encountered a few issues, and come up with a solution to cut down on costs.

Why You Should Hire Ruby Receptionists

The simple answer is peace of mind. Let’s face it, the ladies at Ruby are top notch customer service professionals. They are nothing but courteous on the phone. Seriously, these people have “nice-off” competitions. In fact, I sometimes feel bad when I’m a bit short with them, even when it’s necessary (see below). Multiple people have complimented me on how nice my secretary is. I’ve also been told she has a “very nice voice.” Which I found to be a weird compliment, but I graciously accepted it on “her” behalf anyway.

The high quality of service lets me spend my day not worrying about the ringing phone. Having Ruby answer the phones lets me stay focused. I don’t have to worry about missing a call from a prospective client or having to deal with a client’s problem while I’m up to my elbows in another project.

As Sam discussed in his initial review, you can send Ruby detailed on-the-fly instructions for how to handle incoming calls. This is particularly effective if you will be out of town. For example, when I went out of town for a wedding recently, I told Ruby to take messages unless the call was from a judge or a couple select clients. That let me enjoy the wedding and not feel guilty having my partner answer the phone all the time.

What I Don’t Like About Ruby Receptionists

The Price

This is the main issue with Ruby. Their smallest plan includes one hundred receptionist minutes and will set you back $229 a month. Every minute you go over costs $2.29. When I signed up for the free trial, 100 minutes seemed like a lot of receptionist time. After all, once the call is transferred, the timer stops running. But I’ve found the time gets eaten up quickly if you have any kind of client volume. Doubly so if Ruby is screening some of your clients.

In our two week free trial, we used 195 receptionist minutes. We don’t really want to pay $379 a month for 200 minutes, so I thought that might be the end of Ruby Receptionists for the firm. As it turns out, Ruby gives you the call data. So the nerd in me set to analyzing how we used up so much time in ten days. As it turns out, a huge majority of the time came from two clients. In total, they used over 100 minutes. That is a problem. Below I discuss some strategies we are using to deal with the problem.

The Accuracy

I noticed that with a few calls, Ruby Receptionists got a last name wrong. It wasn’t a big deal. I’d say maybe three or four calls over the ten day trial had wrong last names. Also, on at least three occasions callers were identified as “new clients” or “potential clients” when they were already clients of the firm. I’m guessing the latter is from how my clients introduced themselves, but I can’t be sure.

Not Knowing

This is less a gripe with Ruby than with my own anal-retentiveness. At the end of the day I can see who called in. On at least half the days there are calls that Ruby Receptionists handled without forwarding the calls to me or my partner. When it’s a number that I don’t recognize, I can’t help but wonder what the call was about. I think it will just require letting go and trusting in Ruby Receptionists to handle things appropriately. After all, that’s what they’re there for.

How to Reduce Costs with Ruby Receptionists

In order to keep our minutes at a reasonable level, we are using three strategies:

  • Route calls: With RingCentral we pay $40 a month and can create call lists for problem clients, VIPs, or whomever we want. Most people get routed through Ruby, but some go right to voicemail. Others, like judges’ chambers, get pushed directly to our cell phones.
  • Constantly update whereabouts: Ruby Receptionists allows users to update their whereabouts via e-mail, the web, or an app. This is critical. If I’m walking into a meeting, I tell Ruby. If I need to drill down and write for an hour, I tell Ruby. This keeps them from wasting time calling my phone and having me pick up only to tell them to take a message.
  • Don’t allow small talk: When a Ruby receptionist calls, she cheerfully says on the phone, “Hi, this is Hillary from Ruby,” and then pauses. As a human being, it’s completely natural to say “Hi Hillary, how are you?” or make some other quick small talk. I quickly realized that this makes calls take longer, and results in clients staying on hold longer. It feels horribly awkward, but now when they call I just say hello and wait for them to continue after the pause.

There are other ways to cut time that we haven’t used. For example, you can have Ruby send people to voicemail exclusively instead of taking a message. After all, taking a message is time consuming. The down side to this is that you have to then listen to the full voicemail. Depending on your practice and your clients, that could become a tedious task. So far we’ve found that having Ruby take the message saves us time in the long run, even if it does mean a few extra seconds on the phone.

Summary

Ruby Receptionists

Reviewed by Josh Camson on .

Summary: Ruby Receptionists continues to impress with their service and value. The only down side is their up front cost.

Breakdown:

  • Price: 3/5
  • Ease of us: 5/5
  • Courteousness of staff: 5/5

Overall score: 4.5 (out of 5)

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

    I realize that, on the one hand, $379 is a lot of dough to shell out every month. On the other, it’s a lot less than you would pay your own receptionist. If you are considering answering your own phone to save money, you’ve got to consider whether that will actually save you money. Are you actually going to pick up the phone whenever it rings? Are you going to be cheerful? Is there something more profitable than answering the phone that you could be doing?

    The price was initially a barrier for me, primarily because of the low volume of calls I get. But if you are already using up the base-level plan, I don’t think it should be a barrier for you.

  • Jay

    The profitability issue only comes into play if you are up to your neck in quality paying clients – in which case the cost would not be an issue. If you have excess time answering your own phone should not be an issue. I’m at a larger firm now, and even though I have a secretary she works for four attorneys. Thus, I answer my own phone now or let it go to my voicemail. I’ve not seen any negative issue with this from a productivity standpoint. It would create a better overall impression if I had a secretary that always answered my phone, knew the client and could answer easier client questions. Then again, I from time to time have clients say they like that I answer my own phone.

    That is a long way to say – I don’t see the value in a Ruby type of service.

  • http://utahcrimlaw.blogspot.com/ Joshua Baron

    We have a receptionist and we use Ruby as a back-up. It’s nice because it’s expandable. They’ve been reasonable with our minutes. I think we buy like 700. Our clients like them too. If they had anyone who spoke Spanish I would marry them, but we hired a Spanish-speaking receptionist.

    We’ve found that especially with potential new clients, they like to speak to a living person who can give them some idea of when they’ll get a call back.

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

    With RingCentral we pay $40 a month and can create call lists for problem clients, VIPs, or whomever we want. Most people get routed through Ruby, but some go right to voicemail. Others, like judges’ chambers, get pushed directly to our cell phones.

    If you’ve actually set it up this way, by the way, it’s genius.

  • Ken

    We’ve been using Ruby for two years for our small office. I agree with your comments 100%. One thing I can add that drives up the price is we are also charged for time when our clients are put on hold BEFORE they ask for us.

    How this happens: The call volume Ruby handles varies throughout the day, naturally. So as to not have too many receptionists with downtime, they hire fewer staff to keep them busy most of the day. Fine. But when call volume spikes, they can’t handle all the calls, so when they answer, they ask if the caller can wait on hold for a moment. The client says ‘yes’ and hears music on hold. After fielding the earlier calls in the queue, they come back to our client, ask how they can help them, and the call is handled as usual.

    Here’s the problem: We are charged for that extra 30 sec-2 minutes on hold before they ask how they can help them. (I’ve verified this happens by calling in pretending to be a client and then checking the calling and billable logs thereafter.) I called customer service to ask about this and they denied it happens. I said I looked it up and it does. She said, no, it doesn’t. Since there was really no where to go from there, other than leave them, I dropped the issue… yet it persists!

    If it affects 20% of our calls, it would add a good 45 min a month to our time, raising our usage from 20 min under to 25 min over, adding about $50/month to our bill for exceeding our minutes. This is currently what we see. (And, yes, paying the overage is still cheaper than upgrading to the next larger package.)

    Even though I’m highly confident the $600/yr we pay in penalties is due to time we never used, I stay with them because overall they do a great job. Just wish they could get the billing issue sorted. Ideally, we should all get a discount if our clients are placed on hold more than a minute rather than pay extra. But that’s not the way it goes with Ruby. A change to their billing software could probably fix it but they would make less profit and I doubt many clients are aware that it even happens. Plus, it would be the ethical thing to do.

  • http://www.callruby.com Katie Wilson

    I just came across your comment, Ken, and I am so sorry for the confusion! We answer 100% of calls that come in during our business hours live, and in the rare case that all of our receptionists are on other calls, we would answer with your custom greeting and ask the caller if we may place them on hold momentarily — just as an in-house receptionist would. (Although, at Ruby, if the caller says anything other than “Yes,” we would continue with the call as normal.)

    Typically, fewer than 3% of all calls are asked to be placed on hold, and we monitor this number closely throughout the day and also review it during our daily leadership meeting. When calls are placed on hold, it is usually only for a few seconds — often less than 30 — so generally, only half a minute would be added to the overall call time in these cases.

    We would be happy to chat with you further; feel welcome to call Happiness Cultivator (our term for Client Services managers) Christina Burns at 866-611-7829. She would love the opportunity to explain our process more thoroughly!

  • Jonathan Kleiman

    I am on 14 day trial. I just called them (yes, I called myself) to show some friends how great I thought they had been so far. I was pretty shocked.

    The instructions to CallRuby are to tell every caller that I am in a meeting and to take a message or offer voicemail. I asked for myself, and she said “hold on”. I was put on hold for over a minute. Then she said “I can’t reach him. Can I take a message?”

    This perplexed me. Then I realized that CallRuby bills at 30 second increments.

    This also explains why simple calls with messages like “Please call asap” were 1.5-3 minutes. It’s enough that a call marked “hangup” or “wrong number” costs 30 seconds.

    I won’t be moving forward because I have lost trust, which is a real shame, because I was otherwise very excited about the service. I saw the minutes flying, and I was thinking “Ok… well… $1500.00 a month is still better than a receptionist.”

    :(

    • Jonathan Kleiman

      To be very clear, the log for that call, during which I spoke to the receptionist for a total of 10 seconds, says “Call time 2:30, Receptionist Time 2:30″

      • Jonathan Kleiman

        proof