Virtual assistant: how they can improve your customer service
Is your calendar overflowing with tasks, and you don’t feel like you have the support you need? Do you find yourself running late for appointments and showing up last to your own meetings? Then it’s time to hire a virtual assistant.
Virtual assistants can not only help you with the work piling up in your inbox; they can benefit everyone in your organization. If your business is new, you and your staff are most likely juggling a lot of different roles at one time. And while you may not think there is room in your budget for another employee, you should still hire a virtual assistant.
Your staff will thank you, and more importantly so will your customers.
Virtual assistant: improve your customer service
It’s a common misconception that a virtual assistant just answers phones and schedules appointments. Virtual assistants offer support with everything from project management to paralegal services. Today’s virtual support professionals can provide you with a resource that is experienced, knowledgeable and profitable.
The type of virtual assistant you hire should depend on what skill sets you need to achieve your business goals. If you have multiple customer service needs in your business you should tailor your job request for each need to find the person that is right for the job.
Why do I need someone to do work that my staff can do?
One thing that is common among employees of growing businesses, they can often feel overworked. Many work ten to twelve hours, and the idea of work/life balance seems like a fantasy.
Overworked employees don’t tell you they are overworked.
Employees that work an excessive number of hours, not only hurt production, they are also more likely to have issues at home. And while they may never tell you that they are feeling overworked, they do.
The addition of a virtual assistant (or two) can help your staff be more productive, and create a happier mood in the workplace. A lot of great workers leave jobs because they feel burned out. Adding virtual assistant support can help you retain the talent you rely on to be successful.
Also, think of all of the things you do each day that annoy you, then imagine someone else doing them. Feels pretty good, doesn’t it?
Finding the best virtual assistant
Before you post your first opening for a virtual assistant there are some things you want to make sure you know:
- Where will you post your job openings? Sites like Upwork and Outsource are good places to start as they have established followings, and a category dedicated to virtual assistant work.
- What type of virtual assistants are you looking for? Do you need one with accounting skills or project management experience? Like all potential candidates virtual assistants will have experience in certain areas. You want to make your post specific to the skill set you to need to support your project or team.
- Know what you want the virtual assistant to do. Giving a clear job description will keep you from getting flooded with responses from people who have virtual assistant backgrounds, but who may not be right for your needs.
- Determine if you want to hire someone as an employee or if you want to create a contractor relationship with them. The contract option is often preferable, at least in the beginning, as it allows you to avoid the cost of taxes and benefits.
Tips for interviewing virtual assistant candidates
You want to be sure that the virtual assistant you hire is also right for your business. If you are a casual office, you will want to find someone that fits in with that vibe. One great way to know how the virtual assistant you choose will work with your team is to allow your current team to participate in the hiring process.
Another way to know if your applicants are right for the job is to conduct your interview using a video service. It lets you see the person you are going to be working with, and it lets them see you, which creates a better connection between you and your virtual assistant.
Treat the hiring of virtual employees the same as hiring an in-house person. You want to conduct an interview that answers all of your outstanding questions, and that also gives them an opportunity to ask any question they have about the company or the position.
Hiring your virtual assistant
Once you decide on the candidate(s) that you want to hire, your next step is to send them an offer letter that clearly describes your expectations. If this is your first time hiring a virtual employee here are some things you should add to your offer letter:
- Confirm the hours you need them, and advise them you must be able to contact them during the scheduled hours.
- If you are providing access to your internal systems, you will want to make sure that they have enough internet strength to manage them. You may want to meet with your IT team before sending the letter to see what the required amount of bandwidth needed is, and include that in the message as a requirement.
- If they are taking phone calls, make sure that they are in a quiet place and not distracted.
You will also want to create some policies that are unique to your virtual workforce, standard policies for virtual employees include:
- Downtime: this policy will cover what needs to be done if the virtual assistant’s internet, power or equipment experiences a failure that prevent them from working.
- Distraction Free Workplace: this policy is critical for customer facing positions, it requires the employee to have a quiet workplace that is free from distractions during work hours.
- Attendance Policy: make sure that your new virtual assistant knows the cost of missing work and that there is a disciplinary plan in place.
You will want your virtual assistant to sign off on all policies to ensure your ability to execute any disciplinary actions if needed.
What if I don’t have enough work for my virtual assistant?
Once you have hired one or two virtual assistants, you will get a feel for what they are capable of doing. Just because one project ends, it doesn’t mean you can’t assign other responsibilities to them. Look at where you have a need, and move some of the tasks you feel confident they can do to them.
Virtual assistants are used to being moved from project to project, so you may find yourself surprised by how much they have to contribute to your business. Today’s virtual assistants are well versed in a variety of business processes, making them both flexible and adaptable.
If it turns out that you don’t have work available, you can reduce their hours under the contract agreement. But if you sit and think for a moment about all the things you need done, or poll your employees about that they need, you can most likely find a lot to keep your virtual assistant busy.
Can I ask my virtual assistant to take customer calls?
Absolutely, and you should! virtual assistants can contribute to more than just back office work; they can also be a valuable member of your customer service team. Many virtual assistants already have customer service backgrounds, which makes it easy to move them to a phone or chat support role part or full time as needed.
The skills that your virtual assistant can offer to you and your customers can include everything from handling phone calls to management and evening training. You can utilize the background that your virtual assistant brings to team to not only provide superior service to your customers but also to help you enhance and improve the level of service your customers receive.
If you do choose to utilize your virtual assistant to support your customers, just make sure that they know what you expect in terms of metrics and quality goals. Depending on what projects you have been using them for, they may need a short training session to get them up to speed if they aren’t familiar with your current program.
Virtual assistants can add value to your customer service goals, and help with managing wait times, which will keep both you and your customers delighted with the amazing service they receive.
How do I manage someone who works in a virtual environment?
The same way you manage your team now. Virtual employees benefit from a single point of contact, and just like all employees, they also thrive when receiving regular support and feedback. Your virtual assistant will struggle without a support structure in place, so you want to make sure that there is a clear avenue for them to ask questions and get help when they need it.
Invite them to meetings. You want to incorporate you virtual assistant into the business as often as you can. Bringing them into team meetings will make them feel like a real part of the team.
Most virtual assistants are used to being self-motivated, it’s one of the pluses of hiring someone in a virtual environment. But you should still schedule weekly check-in’s to make sure that they are on schedule with any project work.
If you do encounter an issue with your virtual assistant, you will want to schedule a meeting with them as soon as possible to address the problem and work on a solution if possible.
This sounds great, but does it really work?
Yes! Virtual assistants can transform your workplace into a happier, healthier environment that keeps your business operating smoothly.
If you want happy employees, give them time to do their job!
It can be a big decision when you are considering adding virtual assistants to your workforce, but over time you will see that adding additional support can save you money. When the people that work for you are happy and able to focus on their work, you will see higher levels of production.
You will also see delighted customers. Instead of trying to answer backlogs of emails or taking on multiple roles your team can focus on creating a client experience that inspires customers to not only come back but to share their feedback with others!
Is there any technology involved?
Many virtual employees will have equipment that is both secure and capable of doing the work that needs to be done. And as we touched on earlier, that should be a requirement in your offer letter; you want to make sure that you virtual assistants has the tools in place to do the job.
Other things you may want to consider is looking into a VOIP phone system if you don’t have one already. These systems have become much more cost effective, and they allow you to connect easily to all employees, including your virtual ones.
Also, this would allow your virtual assistant to help out should your call queue become clogged by all the new happy customers that you will have. Most people working in a virtual assistant position should have some customer facing experience, which is an added benefit as your business grows.
You will also want to have your new virtual assistant take an internet speed test, sites like www.speedtest.net can provide you with information on the level of bandwidth your virtual assistant has. You will want them to take a screenshot of the results and send them to you as confirmation.
The cost of adding a virtual assistant
Now you know the process to hire the right virtual assistant. It’s important to know what the cost-benefit analysis comes down to. While there is a cost associated with the hiring of a virtual assistant, there will also be savings once you have someone in place.
Most virtual employees are self-contractors. Therefore, you can lower costs by only paying the employee for the hours they worked. You also do not have to allocate the real estate or equipment necessary to support an in-house employee.
It is estimated that adding a virtual assistant can create a cost savings of 40% on average.
Why you need to hire your next virtual assist
I can understand that you may still have concerns about hiring a virtual assistant, it’s something new and untested. And you want what is best for your business and your customers. But that is precisely the reason you should be putting your virtual assistant job post on the web right now.
Think about the difference having an experienced professional assistant working for you right now would make. You can take some of the mundane tasks you dread and assign them to someone ready and willing!
Here is some feedback from someone who was unsure how using a virtual assistant would work. You can read more here to get an idea of the benefits a virtual assistant can provide.
As Michael Hyatt explains
I started using her for five hours a week and quickly went to fifteen. I found that I was so much more productive that it was well worth the additional investment
Adding a virtual assistant can be one of the best decisions you make as a business owner. They provide support, experience, and skills when you need them, and can become a critical part of your workforce. And they offer a stellar return on your investment. So really, what are you waiting for?
Start looking for your virtual assistant today; you will be happy that you did.