Ultimate Guide to Hire a Virtual Assistant

Today we bring you The Ultimate Guide to Hire a Virtual Assistant which we believe will be very helpful to you.

Hiring a Virtual Assistant (VA) to help you in some business tasks is a crucial decision. Yes, you can find a lot of virtual assistants in freelancing job sites such as oDesk and Elance, but choosing the right one for the job needs thorough preparation and analysis. A simple mistake could cause huge problems in your small business and you might find it hard to solve them.

guide-to-hire-a-virtual-assistant

First of all, don’t be blinded with the benefits you can enjoy once you hire a virtual assistant. While it is true that you can save time and money if you hire one, these are not the only factors that you should consider. Note that your main goal is to earn more profit, and not to save something. And to make sure that your sales will increase, you need to use your investment properly.

Consider virtual assistants as among your best assets and your collaborative business partners. To be able to do that, you must understand the different techniques on how to hire a VA who can really help you grow your business. Although it may be quite similar to hiring physical employees, there are some strategies that are entirely different. Below is a comprehensive guide and tips that you can use to achieve your goal.

Choose the task that really needs a virtual assistant 

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Never ever hire a virtual assistant just to satisfy your laziness. Although it is understandable that you want to add more time for you to rest, don’t use this excuse when hiring a VA. Instead, list all the tasks in your business and carefully analyze which task or tasks that really need to be outsourced. Consider the time that will be saved, and the effort that you put while you are doing it. However, make sure that your business will not suffer that much once the virtual assistant made a mistake. If the task is delicate, it’s better if you do it by yourself or delegate it to one of your current team members.

Know what expertise that you need from your virtual assistant

After making a final decision on which task you will outsource, you will now know the type of virtual assistant that you need to hire. Be clear and specific when writing your job listing ad. Create a checklist for the criteria that you need in a VA, and clearly specify the minimum requirements. Different VAs have different fields of expertise. What do you need, graphic designer and a web designer? These two individuals have different careers, in case you don’t know. In addition, don’t expect that you can hire someone who is an expert of everything that a VA does, just because you thought you can save money. There is no such thing as all-around virtual assistants, although some might claim they are.

Know how much you should pay

how much does virtual assistant cost Generally speaking, the salary of virtual assistants depends on the type of job, as well as the field of expertise, years of experience and location of the virtual assistant. However, there’s a never ending debate about the salary difference between US-based VAs and Asians, particularly Filipinos. So to make sure that your price offer is neither too high nor too low; put more focus on the skills, experience, quality of service, and attitude of applicants. You should also understand that rates for web content writers and VA with technical work such as web coding are higher than those in administrative work. After you compare prices, you should also set your own budget and spend it reasonably.

Prepare interview questions

Don’t post your job opportunities unless you have already prepared the interview questions and hiring tests that you will give to applicants. Otherwise, you will be buried with tons of applicants and you will not have enough time to prepare them properly. For the interview questions, make them simple but relevant. Besides asking his professional history, you can also prepare a problem that might occur if you hire him. If his computer crashes while doing a project, what will he do to make sure that he can still meet the deadline? It’s also better to know more about the applicant’s personality and how he expresses himself. This is why it is still better to conduct two sets of interviews – through email and via Skype.

Prepare skills test

Besides the interview, you should also test the quality of their work. You can do this not only by asking them to show you a sample of their work, but also by giving them online skills test. The first thing you should know is their ability to understand instructions. For the test proper, write a step-by-step procedure on how to complete the test and when they should finish it. But don’t treat them like school children. Avoid giving them very basic instructions so that you can also test their analytical abilities. To test their sense of urgency, you can give them a strict time limit. Just make sure that it is still realistic.

Choose the right freelancing job site

Choosing the right freelancing job site is not easy. Some of them may have good data encoders, but have poor writers. Read and understand the Terms and Condition before joining them, especially the fees and other deductions. Make sure that they have excellent customer service and are protecting both the clients and virtual assistants. Also, read some reviews about them so you’ll have an idea on what you might experience from them. Choose the one that offers both per project base and per hour basis and decide which one fits your needs. But don’t be fooled with sites that offer unreasonably low bidding prices; as you might not get the quality of the service that you need.

But on top of everything that has been mentioned above; don’t forget that virtual assistants are humans, too. They deserve some respect. They also need money and enough time to rest. They are your partners, not your slaves. In fact, some of them are also entrepreneurs just like you.

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Is it right to choose a career as a Virtual Assistant

For the job seekers, career as a virtual assistant or VA has emerged as the most appropriate option nowadays, due to challenges, in this competitive world. It is a fact that every year, millions of students complete their graduation or other degree courses and start looking for jobs. Some of the lucky ones do get desirable jobs with attractive packages, as per their qualification, but such people are very rare. Career as a virtual assistant is meant for those guys, whose dreams are not fulfilled yet. A virtual assistant is generally a self employed person, who offers varieties of services, such as social, creative, technical and administrative assistance for his or her home based office to remotely located clients. You can also say that VA is an independent contractor, who offers his or her expertise service, without charging heavy fee from clients. The following hopefully will help you to answer the question is it right to choose a career as a virtual assistant.

how to become a virtual assistant

How to Become a Successful VA?

Virtual assistants are volunteer entrepreneurs, who make use of latest and emerging technologies to deliver their services to clients, across the world. They get details of their awarded project instructions via phone, email, fax, chats and even through instant messaging. If you are specialized in the arenas of web designing, affiliate marketing, translations, IT and graphic designing then definitely you will attain your goal, with your expertise. However, the main question arises, how one can become successful VA, by using his area of specialization? Here are some special tips which will surely help you to become a successful virtual assistant, in your expertise area.

Decide on your Area of Specialisation – To become a successful entrepreneur, you need to choose the field only in which you have a good command. If you want to offer IT services to your remotely clients as a virtual assistant and you belong to marketing field then you’ll be fail in your business. There are several options available on the web but your selection as per your expertise is only the key for successful career as a virtual assistant.

Determine your Energy Level – After choosing the right profession, you must determine your business niche, along with your energy level. If you do not have experience in your selected expertise area, you must take lesser work projects from clients, so as to become familiar with the requirements of your clients, in the undertaken projects. However, if you are assured of your best performance while delivering your service then you can freely undertake heavy projects initially.

what skills does a virtual assistant need

Make Proper Planning – Perfect planning and its implementation on time are the most important factors, to become a successful VA. For this, you need to make a thorough research about industry and its requirement from your side, for company’s future. In your research, you must try your best to find out the solution of your client’s need for your niche and after finding it, you must make proper plans and strategies to implement it, at the most appropriate time.

Always Show your Availability – If you have started your own business as a VA then you need to available 24×7 for your clients. However, you must inform your availability timing after getting project from the clients.

Summary – Virtual Assistants or VA’s are self employed entrepreneurs who use to offer home based services to remotely clients in their area of expertise. One must choose his or her expertise area to become a successful VA.

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In-house or Virtual Receptionist ?

You may have talked to a lot of receptionists while shopping or in any office, where you have visited. Many of them may have impressed you with their communication skills and convincing power. However, they are not unique and anyone can perform the task of a receptionist, if he or she possesses strong communication skills and boldness, while dealing with the customer or client. In fact, many youths are currently doing the job of Virtual Receptionist. Virtual Receptionist is a person who deals with the clients by answering their queries and handling calls. It is very essential for a virtual receptionist to answer calls with friendly behavior, so that the client will recommend his name to other business entrepreneurs. Virtual Receptionist is able to handle his or her clients by answering their calls with professionalism, so that client would feel totally satisfied with offered service. The question many people are asking is, which one is better, in-house or virtual receptionist ?

Pros of Virtual Receptionist

virtual receptionistCareer as a virtual receptionist is full of excitement and thrill, if the service providers have thorough knowledge of queries, asked by the clients. Here are some special benefits of becoming virtual receptionist which will definitely help you to decide whether the job is suitable for you or not.

• A professional VR never misses calls of his clients. He holds a professional image in front of clients.

• Virtual receptionist gives complete freedom to the client to pay only as per their requirement. Clients can use the service offered by VR either for all calls or only for those calls, when their own receptionists cannot handle the heavy flow of calls.

• A perfect virtual receptionist looks for small businesses as well as for large businesses as his client base. For smaller ones, he can easily answer all calls promptly with best approach while for larger businesses VR’s offer some special discounts, so that clients can save more than $30,000 per year.

What makes VR more special than in-house Receptionists?

This is a major question in the minds of every client, who have already employed in-house receptionist for their offices. Virtual receptionists are much better than in-house receptionists, to answer calls of clients, due to following special features:-

Instant Activation: – Virtual Receptionist service can be activated instantly, without any setup fees. Such service providers offer best service for answering calls. There is no requirement of depositing any sum for activation of such service.

Free from Contracts: – While hiring the service of a virtual receptionist, the client is never asked to sign any type of short term or long term contracts. VR service providing company have provision for their clients to cancel their service with just one business day’s notice, in case they feel unsatisfied with offered service.

Other features of VR service

virtual receptionistThe company offering Virtual receptionist service can amend message setting and availability of their clients, so as to satisfy clients, with their answers. They also justify the reason for their client’s unavailability, which is very essential to maintain long term business relations. They offer their special service with special monthly package which are very low in price and can be affordable. These features make VR’s much better than availing in-house receptionist services.

Summary

Virtual Assistant, in particular Virtual Receptionist, are preferred more nowadays as they prove to be better for answering calls and offering business solutions than in-house receptionists. Companies offering such services do not charge heavy fees from clients.

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Expanding Your Virtual Office

It is not the era of brick and mortar business. The presence of a physical office has become a luxury. With increasing technology, all that one needs is an internet connection and a computer and that would be enough to start a business and sustain it in the market. Does that mean the physical office is not important? Actually, the answer is no. Though the virtual office is a big advantage, when it comes to cost cutting, it is a major disadvantage in the arena of credibility. Customers tend to see you as a potential business entity, only when you have a physical address.

You can use your home address as the location for your virtual business. However, it would not be a corporate building and a normal postal address might ring a bell in most of the customers. However, the luxurious building is not a necessity when it comes to creating credibility. Converting a part of your home as your office would cost less when compared to the rent you need to pay for a room in a multi-storey building.

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A permanent address

9th floor of a 36 storey building might look good on the address, but it does not make any major change to the future goal of the company. Though it is a way of improving the company’s image, it can also be delivered by other elements. All you need is a small space in your house with a phone connection, internet facility and a computer device.

Professional address

PO box number 10 or c/o boy’s hostel would not look good. You need a professional address. Make it a little more professional when it comes to providing your address to the clients. The mail sent to the address would reach your doorsteps as you need to sign the package for receiving. Thus, you need not worry about the mail.

Hire a receptionist

virtual officeVirtual office might be simple to look, but the business can be complicated. You might not be able to attend the calls all the time. New customers would not leave you a message on your answering machine. As the business grows, you would need a receptionist for your virtual office. It’s a virtual office and it needs a virtual receptionist. He/she can work from his home attending customers through phone, mail and other communication methods for you while you can project the image of a corporate entity.

Meeting place

A high end coffee shop might look like a better place if you have a customer wanting to meet you personally. Based on your business, the chances of customers wanting to have a personal meeting may be higher or lower. You would just need a small room with chairs and a professional décor to maintain your image. It would cost much less than the amount of money you would be spending on restaurant bills.

Advance technology

Yes, a virtual office can be set up with just a computer and internet connection. However, as the business grows, you would need more sophisticated items like printers, video conference machines, projectors etc. This would increase the output efficiency.

So it is okay to start with a virtual office for a small business, however as the business grows expanding your virtual office might be required.

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Virtual Assistant Benefits

Before jumping into an extended attempt to explain how and why hiring a virtual assistant benefits your business, let us first try and see what – or more appropriately, who – a virtual assistant is. First off, let me say that while the term might be more or less self-explanatory, it is imperative to understand that a virtual assistant is by no means a pre-programmed voice on a computer or an uber-intelligent hybrid robot that floats and zooms around the place (ergo, despite the fact that it would be delightful to have a J.A.R.V.I.S – Iron Man fans would know – to help us around, a virtual assistant is no J.A.R.V.I.S).

Now that I have successfully debunked any potential myths about virtual assistants, let us move on to business. The primary target of a business is to maximize savings and profits, both in the long term and the short term. Now, it is possible for corporate behemoths – the likes of Google and Apple, to cite a few examples – to actually compromise on short term benefits to maximize long term benefits. In addition, they also have the kind of money that would enable them to make huge investments in new ventures without losing sleep over it.

virtual assistant benefitsEnter the small-time businessman, who cannot afford such financial shenanigans. It is in situations such as this, that virtual solutions become particularly important; and virtual assistant services form a very important part of such solutions that invariably make life in business easier. However, these days, individuals – writers, celebrities, consultants, etc. – as well as large corporations have also taken to hiring virtual assistants.

A virtual assistant (or VA) is a professional who provides administrative, technical and/or creative support to their employees remotely, from their own home or personal office. They come in a wide spectrum of specialties, and not all virtual assistants provide the same services. The concept of virtual assistant services is very much the product of major advancements that has happened in the field of information technology, which enable employees to work on problems remotely, even in the absence of an actual office space.

Most of the benefits of using virtual assistant services can be summed up under the head of increased savings. Here is how.
• Virtual assistants are self-employed and can be hired on a contractual basis. This means that when you avail of virtual assistant services, you need only pay your VA for the work you need to get done, whenever you need it.
• Virtual assistant services come with a substantial reduction in overhead costs as compared to the traditional setting. VAs don’t require you to provide them with an office space, equipment and other amenities, nor would you have to pay them for their benefits, vacations, etc.
• Working with a virtual assistant eliminates third parties between the employer and the employee – there are no temp agencies involved, and you can save a lot of money in temp agency fees. Moreover, working with a VA ensures that you can hire the same person every time you need extra help, thereby saving time and resources that would otherwise be spent in familiarizing the new employee with your business.
• Virtual assistants come with a variety of specializations – you can have your pick of them depending on the kind of job that you need to get done. This means that you don’t need to spend resources on hiring a newbie and then training him (or her) in the nuances of the job for which you hired them in the first place (if you think that this is not a valid concern, then think again – there are scores of companies that hire people via campus selections and then train them so that they fit snugly into the job).

virtual assistant servicesAnd this is just the benefits on the financial side (not that financial benefits aren’t good enough reasons to hire a virtual assistant, but well, the more, the merrier, isn’t it?). Virtual assistant services also provide the employer with massive dividends in terms of less measurable factors.
• Free time, lots of it. Say, there is an assortment of small jobs that you need to get done. Why not delegate it to your VA? It gets the job done, and leaves you with some extra time on your hands that can be used to focus on things – be it your job, family or friends – that are more important to you.
• With a virtual assistant hired, there is considerably less worrying going on; a number of monotonous jobs where the devil is in the details – such as scheduling appointments, making all those necessary but monotonous calls and keeping track of your website – can now be turned over to your virtual assistant.
• Once you hire a virtual assistant, you don’t need to be the constant, hovering, menacing presence at the office that gets work done. Your VA will independently take care of his job, without you breathing down his neck every other day, and you don’t need to worry about his comings and goings. Even better, the constant supervision that was a given of being the boss will also be a thing of the past.
• VAs can be hired on a temporary basis, especially in the case of large companies, to avoid overloading of existing personnel.
• Most importantly, with a virtual assistant, you needn’t worry about the quality of the work – in other words, not only will the job get done, it will also get done spectacularly well. This is because virtual assistants are people who work on their own – they don’t belong to an agency or an organization; and as such, the only way they will get hired again is if they do a fantastic job. So it is imperative to them – possibly even more than it is to you – that the job they are hired to do gets done without a glitch.

In summary, hiring a virtual assistant comes with massive benefits to the employer, whichever way you look – there are extensive savings in terms of money and time, and you can assured of quality work and good service. In addition, one can get virtual assistants with any given specialization, and can be assured of good employer-employee relationships, given that virtual assistants rely primarily on good word-of-mouth from their employers for jobs. It is a pretty fantastic deal all around, and that is the most anyone can ask for, isn’t it?

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Virtual Office

About Virtual Office and How It Makes Life Better for You

I have always been struck by an overwhelming desire to start a business venture of my own, every time I walk into a KFC outlet – I love the red and white decor, the quirky taglines and advertisements, and most of all, the wonderful, wonderful food. The same thing happens whenever I see a particularly captivating ad campaign for a new product on TV – I have always believed that advertising is an art and as such, aesthetics and intelligent presentation are two very important factors in the business.

In part, this wish that rears its head quite often is fuelled by the phenomenal success, fame and affluence that people like Bill Gates and the Ambanis enjoy. On the other hand, there is also a part of me that wants to start my own business because I truly believe that I would enjoy the challenges that such an endeavor would offer. But then, I have already set out on a career path that I know I would truly love; besides, money and time have always been a huge deterrent to these business-y dreams of mine.

At this point, you would be wondering about the purpose of this rambling monologue. The point I want to make here is that there are quite a few of us out there, who are infinitely more serious about their plans to pioneer a business venture of their own. Quite often, money is a significant factor that contributes to such plans never coming to fruition. Seriously, have you ever thought of the amount of money it takes to actually set up a new business – which includes setting up one’s own office space, hiring employees, setting in motion an advertising campaign to ensure that the business attracts a sufficient number of customers, and much, much more – not to mention the significant amount of resources that goes into actually consolidating and expanding the business once it gets off to a good start? As far as finances are concerned, even small-scale businesses require massive investments, especially if one wants to expand the business. And often, aspiring businessmen (and women) are trumped by the astronomical financial demands of a new business.

virtual officeIt is at this impasse that the concept of a virtual office becomes relevant. The term is pretty much self-explanatory – a virtual office provides a business with services that was previously only accessible through the setting up of an actual physical office, without incurring the costs involved in acquiring a physical office. It is a concept so revolutionary in its simplicity and is a great boon to any kind of business, but mostly so to fledgling entrepreneurs, who do not yet have the financial clout to set up offices in different (or even one) locations.

Virtual offices are especially useful to businesses that are looking to expand beyond their primary office, and do not want to (or cannot) invest in the setting up of new offices in the locations they desire to expand to. The services offered by virtual offices are also extremely helpful when the parent organization needs to operate from a remote location, and is unwilling (or unable) to afford an actual physical office.

Virtual offices provide a range of services – which includes both communication services as well as space services – to their clients that more or less simulate the experience that having an actual office can provide, and also offer their clients custom plans that include a selection of services and flexible working hours. The services provided to a company by virtual offices include the following:
• A dedicated business phone number, voice mailbox number, corporate mailing address and fax number
• A virtual assistant or virtual receptionist who operates remotely
• Secretarial services such as answering the calls of customers on behalf of the company, call forwarding, voicemail forwarding, responding to e-mails, taking care of all forms of communication including fax (there is even an option of converting fax messages received into digital format and e-mailing them to the company), etc.
• Meeting rooms and/or conference rooms, and equipment such as projectors and speakers that might be necessary for meetings with clients, and in some cases, an executive suite

virtual office benefitsHaving a corporate mailing address helps businesses considerably because a corporate address inspires more confidence in potential clients than a home address would – after all, there is something to be said for having a proper workplace and a formal business environment. In addition, being able to call a prestigious building the base of your operations does provide a business with some extra mileage – it alleviates a number of privacy concerns and guarantees increased visibility. It also facilitates easier communication between companies and their clients, service providers, etc. Similarly, having a professional handling calls, mails, faxes and other communications considerably simplifies matters for companies, which is how the secretarial services provided by virtual offices become important.

Finally, having the proper equipment and a respectable meeting place for client meetings considerably increases the chances of the company actually landing a deal – after all, one would be more likely to have faith in a company that sets up a meeting in a well-furnished and comfortable room (even if it is an e-meeting) than a company whose meetings happen in a dingy and cluttered space that can barely pass for an office. In the end, it all boils down to the fact that appearances do matter, to a large extent.

It should be noted here that virtual offices are a relatively new concept, and that they have been facilitated primarily due to the advances in information technology. If one thinks about it, it would have been virtually (see the play on words there?) impossible to implement the very powerful solutions that virtual offices offer, even a few decades ago.

In conclusion, virtual offices offer businesses unprecedented options in reducing the magnitude of investments – both in terms of time and money – required to set up or expand their operations. They provide companies with a number of services that ensure that they can start and consolidate their operations anywhere, with the same amount of visibility, exposure and returns that would come with the arduous process of actually setting up offices, without incurring the risk of running the business into the ground as a result of the expansion (or start-up) process.

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How Virtual Assistants are Becoming the Norm

It is amazing, the way technology simplifies life for us, isn’t it? The dowdy old lady sitting at the front desk and hurriedly answering phone calls, or the hassled-looking youth running around with the mail, were all familiar sights in an office just a decade ago. And now, you have sleek offices with well-groomed young men and women strolling off to finish their work; and then, there is the virtual assistant – that more or less unknown soul who sits in some corner of the world and gets your job done, more often flawlessly than not.

virtual assistantAll but invisible, the virtual assistant is pretty much a wondrous machine that saves time and money. Administrative work, mundane clerical tasks, marketing assignments, or the complicated social media business that nobody seems to be able to get right – you name it, he (or she) will do it, and it will be done fantastically well; after all, he needs you to spread the good word about him so that he might get more jobs, doesn’t he? And he will happily take on your seasonal jobs as well.

In many ways, the paradigm of the virtual assistant is the complete package. Virtual assistants are happy contract workers, with practically any sort of skill set you might want. They work from their own office, which means that you don’t have to get the office supplies, or go through the long-winded mess of hiring a full-time employee. Then there are the tax benefits and the no-need-to-pay-sick-leave-and-health-care-and-every-other-thing-under-the-sun bits – really, there is no other option that is quite as attractive to an employer (especially the ones who don’t really have wads of money to throw around), both in terms of financial and temporal savings, as the virtual assistant.

As mentioned before, virtual assistants work on a contractual basis. This automatically translates to your work getting done within the stipulated amount of time, without you nagging your subordinates – after all, if the work doesn’t get done on time, the virtual assistant doesn’t get paid (simply put, there is strong motivation to get work done here). Also, there is no monitoring of sick leaves or holidays required, since the virtual assistant works in his own time – there are no fixed hours – so, that headache is taken care of, as well. Finally, since there are fewer people through whom your work goes through – with the hiring of a virtual assistant, you have successfully eliminated a whole horde of bureaucratic middlemen between you and your work – there are fewer (read, vanishingly small) chances of the work being accessed by unauthorized personnel.

virtual assistant helpNeed more? Well, here goes. Virtual assistants are freakishly good at what they do – after all, if someone decides to live by cashing on a particular skill set of theirs, without opting for a permanent job, then they have to be at the top of their game; no one would hire them otherwise. This basically means that you save a lot of time that you might otherwise have had to spend on a new recruit so that he may be well-trained in the nuances of the job. With a virtual assistant, you get someone with expertise and experience, without going to half the trouble you would have had to in locating a generic employee. Besides, since they are freelancers, virtual assistants make it a point to stay on top of any new developments in their field, which means that you will get the latest and the best in the business. Great employer-employee relationships are pretty much ensured with a virtual assistant, since he (or she) relies primarily on good reviews from previous employers to land more jobs. They also come at significantly lower wages than the average permanent employee (you know, if all the other bits were not good enough to win you over). Basically, you end up getting a great deal, whichever way you look.

I cannot stress enough how so very small-business-friendly the virtual assistant route is. As they say, for every successful new business, there are a hundred that go down, most often as a result of the phenomenal expenses that go into starting a venture, sticking to it, and consolidating it. It is a huge toll on the entrepreneur’s finances – buying supplies, setting up an office, hiring personnel, advertising, and managing to sustain on a very-often-meager income till a trusted customer base is built, all takes money, and lots of it; but, perhaps more importantly, the amount of time spent trying to get the business to flourish, and the gargantuan amount of worrying that comes along with having to navigate the treacherous world of business and finance, can bring both the ambitious entrepreneur as well as his business, crumbling down.

This is a particularly important situation where the virtual assistant becomes nothing less than a savior. By hiring a team virtual assistants – who come with specialized sets of skills, and at lower wages than the standard, permanent employee – in the initial phases of starting a business, significant amount of resources can be saved. The necessity of coming up with the financial clout for elaborate offices and office supplies is redundant now; and the resources that you save can be put to much better use. It doesn’t matter where you are – for all that it matters, your virtual assistant could be at the other point of the globe, and things would still go without a glitch (let us thank the gods of IT for that).

However, this is not to say that established businesses do not stand to benefit much from hiring a virtual assistant. There are often times when companies outsource their work, in times of overflow. Turning this work over to virtual assistants will get the work done on time, and at considerably lower prices as compared to outsourcing the work. In the same vein, hiring virtual assistants is also helpful in getting larger volumes of work done than otherwise.

It has to be mentioned here that the concept of virtual assistants first came into existence with smaller businesses, and has only very recently moved into the higher echelons of business. And it is as much a success story of the next-generation communication facilities of the day as that of the group of freelancers who decided to strike out on their own in the world.

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Virtual Receptionist

There is the harried-looking receptionist, trying to hold a phone to her ear, and failing miserably. She is also trying to talk to you and sort out the mess-up between appointment timings that landed you at your doctor’s clinic two hours earlier than you were supposed to be there. Suddenly, the burly man who has been sitting on one of the chairs for the better part of the last hour with his son who looks quite obviously worse for the wear, decides he has had enough and walks up to the already crowded reception desk, and demands that his son be treated, immediately. It is well and truly, a melee.

We have all been there, haven’t we? If not this, then some other version of the tale has graced our lives, at some point. Sometimes, it is the nasty receptionist who shouts at you, at other times it is the one who has bitten more than he (or she) can chew. Either way, the woes of those who have chosen the receptionist career are endless. And if the woes are not theirs, then they belong to the customers said employee is ‘supposed’ to serve.

virtual receptionistI don’t know about you, but I hate it when I get brushed off by a snobby receptionist. I also do not like snobby customers being nasty to a receptionist who is trying his best to get things to run smoothly. Regardless of my feelings, a lot of receptionists fall into one of the above two categories – pity that.

Enter the virtual receptionist. She is a professional who always has a smile in her voice, and can attend to customers at all times of the day and night. She will be unfailingly polite to his employer’s customers, and things will run smoothly – and all this is without even the man being physically present at the reception desk.

Now, I have to root out a thought that is sure to be prevalent, right here and now. Virtual receptionists are not people who sit at a remote location and answer telephone calls – they are so much more than that. In this age when good customer service has become more important than it ever was, the services of a virtual receptionist can do wonders to your business.

Virtual receptionists are a relatively new breed of professionals who specialise in customer service – they are trained to treat your customers the best way possible, and thereby, ensure that they are happy. They are available around the clock, and employing one is an extremely cost-effective way to weed out all your problems at the front desk. Depending on the nature of your enterprise/business, virtual receptionists can perform a variety of jobs.

• Answering the telephone: This is, by far, the most obvious one among the many tasks that a virtual receptionist handles. They can take care of customer inquiries, reservations, placement of orders, or customer feedback.

• Taking care of mails: This one is slightly unconventional, but by letting your virtual receptionist handle the very generic mails that pile up in the company inbox (which, let us face it, form an overbearing proportion of the emails that the company receives), you are doing yourself a favor; they wouldn’t mind either – after all, this is what they do for a living!

• Live chat assistance: We have moved on from the age of letters and queued calling and even voice calls. Yellow pages are a thing of the past too. In this day and age where Google is everybody’s personalized know-it-all, people (and by that, I mean potential customers), looking for a service or a product, just google it, and go to the website of the company. Most of these people think of mailing the company representative and waiting for a reply as quite tedious – which is why, if live chat is available, and someone is present at all times to respond to such inquiries then and there, it would give your business a lot of mileage. Also, the fact that there is always someone to answer customer queries online will prevent them from going elsewhere.

• Reports regarding technical issues, performance analysis, marketing techniques, etc.: These days, more and more virtual receptionists come with high-end training in writing up reports that cover a variety of essential topics such as employee performance, marketing techniques, technical issues, human resources and safety. This is, of course, aside from the assistance they provide with dealing with customers – something like two birds with one stone, huh?

virtual receptionistAs an extension of this concept, one can also bring to the office an automated virtual receptionist, and the pros to this approach are many.

• Round-the-clock attendance of client calls: With a normal, non-virtual receptionist, once he packs up and goes home, your clients simply cannot reach your office. They will either have to wait for the next waiting day, or listen to a pretty voice asking them to call later. But, with an automated virtual receptionist at the ready to attend your clients’ calls, be it the dead of the night or just plain day, that problem no longer exists.

• No more of clients being put on hold: A receptionist at your front desk can only handle so many calls – one call, to be precise – at a time. And a client having to wait to be attended to is never a good thing, which is why a virtual receptionist is a good idea. An automated virtual receptionist will be able to handle more than one calls at a time. This is it, this is the end of your clients having to be put on hold – pat yourself on the back, you smart, smart businessman!

• The clients who are present at your front desk get the full attention of the people at the desk: No more do the clients who have taken the time to drop in have to wait for their turn while the receptionist at the front desk is answering 100 calls in a minute, because the automated virtual receptionist will now take care of the calling end of things.

• Service to a more diverse clientele: An automated virtual receptionist is capable of providing services in multiple languages. So, no more of those stories of having to turn away that lucrative Chinese deal, just because no one at the office could speak the language.

• Text message communications are made more feasible: These days, people prefer communicating by means of text messages rather than voice calls. With an automated virtual receptionist at hand, text messages can become the ideal mode of communication, much to the delight of your clients.

Now that we have had an extended discussion on the many benefits of having a virtual receptionist (automated or otherwise), why are you still here? Go on, go make that decision – it is going to be your first step into the future.

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How to create a highly successful outsourced project team

Today we will look at how to create a highly successful outsourced project team whether it is for your personal project, business project, or a client’s project. Outsourcing efforts and initiatives never just happen by chance. Instead, support and leadership will be required from the top of the organisation. That means to get viable outsourcing arrangements in place, effective well-managed teams will be required to plan and implement.

Outsourcing is usually a five-stage process with each stage being centred around a key business question, in this way:

  1. Is the opportunity appropriate? Will this outsourcing opportunity make us more competitive
  2. in the marketplace, or will it dilute our uniqueness?
  3. Is this opportunity real? Can we develop a business case which will confirm quantitatively that genuine benefits will be delivered.
  4. Can we craft a good deal with a qualified provider? That is, can we reach an agreement with a good service provider that will be consistent with the benefits we anticipate will come?
  5. Can we execute? Will we be able to modify our internal processes to integrate this outsourcing arrangement beneficially?
  6. Can we provide ongoing management for this agreement? Once the outsourcing arrangement is in place, will be able to keep it moving forward or will it stagnate?

project team leaderMost outsourcing projects will require a series of teams, which will evolve over the life of the agreement. The early planning and evaluation is typically handled by an ideas team. As the project moves toward implementation, more operational people usually get drafted in. Then a transition team may be required, followed by an assessment and management team who will analyse and adjust the project long term. External advisors and consultants may also be called on as required.

As with most business activities, the role of the project team leader is critical. What are the characteristics of strong outsourcing project leaders? They need to:

• Have the ability to embrace and champion change.
• Have previously earned credibility within the organization.
• Have a desire to manage others, not simply do things.
• Have the ability to build trust in others.
• Have good communication and negotiation skills and aptitudes.
• Possess good strategic management skills.
• Know how to manage and market new processes.
• Have very good process expertise and know-how.

As you can see the roles of the project team leader is very important in ensuring the success of an outsourced project team. Hence you need to make sure that the leaders with the desired skills and characteristics are available to do the job before starting to recruit the outsourced project teams.

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