When you run a business, the lines between work and personal easily become blurred. It makes sense to add a business line to your smartphone to clarify those boundaries, but do the benefits of an additional line justify the expense? With feature-rich options like Ruby Receptionist, Grasshopper and Talkroute, how do you know which one is best for your business? Each service has its strengths. Here’s how to choose.
But First a Few Statistics
Customers use their smartphones for almost everything they do. When it comes to your business, they search for related keywords, compare your pricing to competitors, read reviews and browse your site. Google’s Mobile Path to Purchase report provides us with these key findings:
- On average, consumers spend more than 15 hours a week researching products on their smartphones.
- More than 50 percent want to make their transaction within an hour of their search. An immediate response results in conversions.
- A whopping 93 percent proceed to buy based on their search results.
- Google commissioned independent research company Ipsos to survey 3,000 mobile searchers to better understand the impact of click to call. They found 70 percent of them used click to call to help make purchasing decisions.
- 61 percent of mobile searchers say click to call is the most important part of the purchase phase.
- This year mobile search will lead to more than 70 billion inbound calls.
The statistics were consistent whether the search involved travel, restaurant, finance, retail, technology, automotive or local services. Click to call is one of the most frequently used features on search engine results pages.
Here’s the bottom line. If you’re where customers can find you (and all Spade Design clients are), a large number of them are going to call when they’re ready to purchase. What happens when they call decides whether they buy from you or from someone else. Your business line is directly connected to your bottom line.
Identifying Your Needs
Google’s report helps us better understand the reasons people call a business instead of looking for information on their website or trying to get it another way. More than half of the people surveyed said they called to get a quick answer, to talk to a live person or because they needed more information than they felt they could get from a website.
People also said they felt like they could get more accurate information from a phone call than was available elsewhere. Forty-two percent said they call businesses simply because it’s the most convenient way to get answers.
To decide which type of service to use for your business line, review information about the calls you’re currently getting.
- What types of questions do people typically ask? If most of them just want hours and directions, that information could be provided through a recording. If they want to know about inventory, make an appointment or to compare pricing that requires a person.
- What happens when your calls go to voicemail? How much revenue might you be losing when calls aren’t answered within a few rings?
- How much of your time are you spending answering and returning phone calls? Interruptions disrupt your concentration and cut into your productivity. Scroll back through your call log and calculate how much time you lose in a week and translate that into dollars.
- Do you already use a receptionist? If so, what additional functionality do you hope to gain by adding a business line to your smartphone?
Once you’re armed with that information, you’re ready to compare choices like Ruby Receptionist, Grasshopper and Talkroute.
What About Google Voice?
Google Voice is a popular choice because it provides call forwarding, voicemail, voice and text messaging and other features for Google Account holders in the United States and Canada. Using your account you can sign up for a free phone number for use on smartphones and computers. You get unlimited free calling inside the United States and Canada.
Calls to a voice number get forwarded to whatever device you sign in to your account, but you have to be signed in to get calls. Voice works as an answering service for businesses for whom missing a call can mean losing a sale, but there are drawbacks. Google Voice doesn’t offer dedicated support during service disruptions.
If things go wrong, any money you saved using the free service could be offset by lost business, unhappy customers and a damaged business reputation. Also, you don’t own your number. If Google decides to close Google Voice, your number might no longer be available. You can’t add toll-free numbers and Google stores your call data on their servers.
Ruby Receptionist provides your business with a virtual receptionist who is a live person. When people call your business number, someone who represents your business does everything you would expect an actual receptionist to do. To the customer, it feels like they connected with someone sitting behind the desk at your physical business address. The virtual receptionist can do the following:
- Answer the phone when customers call
- Transfer to a designated department or employee depending on what the customer needs
- Take messages and pass them on to the appropriate party
- Answer frequently asked questions
- Access your schedule to set up appointments
- Follow up after contact
A virtual receptionist is different from an answering service, and customers know the difference right away. Answering services are impersonal and can only do basic tasks like forwarding calls and taking messages. Ruby’s virtual receptionists receive training so they know your business and sound like they’re sitting in your office.
Why a Virtual Receptionist Beats Answering Your Own Phone
You may have been taking calls yourself because it just seemed like the most efficient thing to do. No one knows your business better than you do. You might reason a receptionist would have to forward a large number of the calls to you anyway, so why not just take them to begin with. Don’t customers appreciate getting straight to the expert?
Not always. When the owner answers the business phone, consumers tend to wonder why. Is it because you aren’t successful enough to pay an employee to field calls? Is it because you don’t have enough business to keep you busy doing what you do?
In contrast, having a virtual receptionist communicates that your time is valuable. It also says you value callers enough to provide a live person to connect them with the information they’re looking for.
Ruby Receptionist employees work out of Portland, Oregon not a foreign country. The service only hires staff that is friendly, energetic and professional. They offer the appropriate greeting per time zone and give known callers familiar treatment.
Ruby Receptionist Features and Pricing
Ruby Receptionist has four different packages, so you can decide which one works best for your business. Here’s a quick breakdown, with additional information available on their site.
- Ruby Solo — You get one user, one business line and 30 minutes of live receptionist time for $149/month. This might be your best option if you don’t get very many calls, you just need someone to take the ones you do.
- Ruby Impress — This plan gets you 100 receptionist minutes and up to 10 users, so you can have receptionists direct calls straight to the right staff member. For example, if the caller needs to talk to someone in sales or financing, that’s where Ruby forwards the call. You pay $299/month.
- Ruby Engage — For larger businesses, this $559/month option provides up to 20 users and 200 minutes of live support.
- Ruby Captivate — Get 500 receptionist minutes and direct calls to an unlimited number of users for $1269/month.
Ruby Receptionist costs more than base monthly rates on a virtual phone system for business, but it replaces a business line or second mobile device and a full-time receptionist.
Ruby offers receptionist coverage from Monday through Friday from 5 am to 9 pm and on Saturdays from 6 am to 6 pm. You’re able to set and change your availability for call forwarding. You get features like bilingual receptionist answering, a company-specific greeting and calendar based call handling.
On your end, you can make calls and send texts using the Ruby app from your business number. Receptionists send you voicemail transcription and you have easy access to call, messaging and voicemail details. The Ruby app integrates with iPhone and Android contacts and with software like Clio, Lexicata and Rocket Matter.
How to Set it Up On Your Smartphone
From the Ruby Receptionist website, fill out the sign-up form and they’ll get in touch. You’ll receive instructions for downloading the app and setting up your account. If it’s an option you’re considering, there’s a special offer for Spade Design referrals at the end of this post.
Once you’ve set up Ruby Receptionist you can manage everything from your cell phone through the app. Change when you receive calls and what number they go to as often as necessary. If you need to change the way you normally operate, there’s the option to input temporary instructions. In other words, if you’re normally available during business hours but you’re going to be on an airplane for part of the day, you can instruct your virtual receptionist to transfer calls to an alternate contact or take messages for after you land. Apple Watch users can see recent calls and view messages from there.
Grasshopper is a virtual phone system instead of a virtual receptionist. In the not-so-distant past, most businesses had designated office space and a nine-to-five staff. There was an extensive phone system that connected employees. While Ruby Receptionist replaces the front desk employee who answers the main line with another live person, Grasshopper basically replaces the phone system itself.
Instead of having a series of phones for your office or using your home and cell numbers for business calls, this cloud-based service provides you with a business line with extensions for departments and employees. You can see when an incoming call is business related, so you don’t answer “Hey, what’s up?”
You don’t have to carry a second device, you just receive a business number that goes to your smartphone. Outside business hours or when you can’t answer, Grasshopper sends callers to your business voicemail, not your personal one.
Grasshopper has a desktop or mobile app and enables you to sign up for a local number, toll-free number or vanity number. If most of your transactions are within your community, a local area code helps you connect with your audience.
In contrast, A toll-free number can make your business feel bigger to callers. If you want to look like a national, established brand, this can be important. Vanity numbers are ones like 1-800-PETCARE, and can make it easier for people to remember your contact info.
Grasshopper Features and Pricing
When you have an incoming call, Grasshopper lets you know it’s to your business line in the caller ID. You also have the option to add an automated greeting and allow callers to choose where they want to go. It’s not the same as having a receptionist take the call, but it’s more professional than using your personal line for calls. Here are some of Grasshopper’s features:
- Automated call forwarding and call transfers
- Custom recorded greetings
- Business texting
- Voicemail transcription sent to your email
- VoIP/Wi-Fi calling
When you call customers no matter where on the globe you’re calling from, contacts see your Grasshopper number in their caller ID. That keeps your personal number shielded from the people you don’t want to give it to. Grasshopper has three plans that cost between $26 and $80 per month. Pricing depends on how many numbers and extensions you need, and that price is when you pay annually.
Grasshopper can be a cost-effective solution if your business has a mobile workforce. Employees choose what number they want calls forwarded to and what hours they’re available.
Grasshopper is often compared to GoDaddy-owned SmartLine. SmartLine Basic appears at first to have a much lower monthly rate, but it also has extensive limitations. Terms and conditions reveal limited voice minutes and text messages, and overages are costly. SmartLine has plans to add features like vanity numbers and sharing a single phone number between employee cells, but they’re not yet available.
How to Get Grasshopper
Choose your plan from the Grasshopper website. After you complete the signup process, they’ll send you an email with your username and PIN number. The link will prompt you to create a password, then you can set up call forwarding.
Grasshopper and Ruby Receptionist
When customers call your Grasshopper business number, the first thing they hear is an automated attendant. They choose from a list of options, then the app forwards them to the right choice. It’s less personal than when a friendly, live individual answers, but it’s better than using your home phone or missing a call altogether.
It’s possible to use both options together. If you’re already using Grasshopper, it’s possible to integrate what you already have with Ruby Receptionist so you keep your current features and gain a live receptionist.
Talkroute can be a good solution for small businesses who don’t need or want a live person to take calls. Like Grasshopper, it’s a virtual phone system. Here’s how it works:
- You choose either a local or toll-free number or transfer your existing business phone number to Talkroute.
- Use Talkroute’s desktop or mobile app to create extensions for employees.
- Record or upload greetings, menu prompts, hold music etc.
- Set up call forwarding and routing so your calls go where you want them to.
Talkroute is similar to Grasshopper in that when customers call your business number, they first hear a recording and list of options. They offer a live demo on their website that demonstrates how you can customize that recording in a number of ways.
If you’re a one-man show, you can set up a greeting then have calls forwarded to either your voicemail or to your cell. It’s also possible to create a call menu.
If customers want hours and directions, you can provide a recording under option one. Option two might route customers looking for product information to Sarah in sales (on her cell phone even if she works from home). Option three could send callers requesting an appointment straight to voicemail with a customized message. It’s also possible to have callers go straight to four-digit extensions and assign those to appropriate staff.
Talkroute Plans and Pricing
The basic plan includes features like a business phone number, text messaging, call forwarding, a custom greeting and support by email. It’s the most affordable solution at $19/month, but it also has the fewest features. You’re limited to 100 text messages, one voicemail box and one user. You’re also unable to set your hours of operation, so customers have the same experience when they call at one in the morning as when they call during business hours.
From there Talkline has three other plans that add features with each tier and cost between $39 and $99 a month. Only at the enterprise level do you receive unlimited text messaging. Multi-digit extensions, a company directory and call analytics are only available with higher-priced plans. Software and solution integration is only possible at the highest level plan.
They also offer varying levels of support depending on the plan you choose. Phone support is only available with pricier plans.
Talkroute gives you unlimited minutes, so you don’t have to worry about how much talking you do on your business line. It also allows call stacking, so you can take more than one call at a time on the same device.
How to Get Talkroute
As you complete the signup process on their website, Talkroute will prompt you to select the plan you want to try. The site will walk you through choosing a phone number, setting up extensions and adding prompts. Customization works best on a desktop since there are several options and menus. After that, you can complete most tasks on your smartphone.
Summarizing Similarities and Differences
As you can see, the biggest difference between a virtual phone service and virtual receptionist is that the first is automated, the second involves live interaction.
- All three options attach a business number to your cell phone. There’s improved convenience and professionalism.
- All three options have plans that allow you to forward calls to more than one user.
- Ruby Receptionist is the only option where a human decides where calls are sent. Grasshopper and Talkroute require callers to make a selection from a menu or follow your default instructions.
- Ruby Receptionist provides live account support for even the most basic plan, and Grasshopper also offers phone and email support. Talkroute only offers email or chat support at lower plan levels.
- Ruby is the most expensive option, followed by Grasshopper and Talkroute. However, Ruby replaces a live, full-time receptionist while the other two are basically sophisticated call forwarding.
The Consumer Reports National Research Center surveyed over 1,000 adults on what irritated them about customer service. Seventy-five percent of them were highly annoyed when they didn’t get a live person on the phone.
When they were transferred to the wrong person, 70 percent reported the highest level of annoyance. Another 61 percent report annoyance when the phone menu doesn’t offer the needed option. When choosing a business line for your smartphone, it’s important to find one that serves customers needs, not increases their frustration.
What We Think at Spade Design
We run our business the same way we advise our clients to, by focusing on providing what our clients want and need. We don’t cram sales pitches down peoples’ throats, we don’t use intrusive advertising. That’s not what we’re about, and it doesn’t work. What does work is targeting the people who are already looking for us and being there when they search.
We use content marketing, social media marketing, search engine optimization and thoughtful web design to draw clients to our services, and we help others do the same. It doesn’t make sense to put all that time and effort into building relationships and nurturing customers along their journey if we’re not going to be available when they have questions or are ready to move forward.
What does make sense is to partner with a company we can trust to represent our brand. Ruby acts as an extension of everything else we already do and brings leads worth much more than the monthly fee.
Save on Ruby Receptionist
At Spade Design, we never want to miss a chance to connect with callers. We believe when people reach out to us, they deserve a friendly, knowledgeable response from a real person. Ruby’s one-of-a-kind technology and professional, friendly receptionists offer personalized service with every call, so the caller gets the answers they need and the rest of our team can keep on working.
That’s why we’re a Ruby Receptionists Partner. And because we’re a Ruby affiliate, Spade Design referrals save $75 on their first month’s service. Simply use the promo code Spade when you sign up using this link.