VDW Monthly Newsletter

An Identity Crisis in the Virtual Assistant Industry?

At Virtual Done Well, we provide our clients with virtual assistants to work on organisational and administrative tasks for their small businesses, but we also do so much more.

In fact, our activities might better be described as business process outsourcing for the small to medium enterprise, and it seems that’s the direction in which the VA profession is moving generally, with the exception perhaps of some home-working freelance virtual assistants.

What began as an emerging niche industry in “personal assistance” targeting entrepreneurs and small-business owners, is slowly but surely morphing into something much bigger.

Here at VDW for example, our services extend beyond the provision of general or personal VAs, as clients increasingly ask for specialists to take on tasks such as telemarketing, website design, bookkeeping, and customer relationship management (CRM).

Meanwhile, a search for “virtual assistant” on Google can throw up some ambiguous results. While using the term in a general search will present you with results from companies like ours and other pages about human VAs, news results relate overwhelmingly to automated VAs and chat-bot services.

So it seems a change is in the air, at least in terms of what it means to be a virtual assistant. But what does that mean for you, the small-business owner who wants to increase productivity, reduce costs, and gain time to grow your business and build customer relationships?

Thankfully the news is good, because the number of outsourcing providers catering to SMEs is on the rise, as is the scope of services offered, making it possible to benefit not just on a personal level, but also in terms of those non-core, yet crucial business processes that otherwise require the hire of costly internal human resources.

VDW4U Feature Article

Feedback: The Secret Sauce in the Client/VA Relationship

As part of our process for creating this monthly newsletter, we like to speak to our virtual assistants and find out about their successes and challenges. This gives us ideas for hints and tips we can offer you—the potential or existing client—to help you get the best from our services.

One of the common themes among our conversations is the importance of feedback, and how it makes all the difference to confidence, productivity, and trust in the relationship between client and VA. Therefore, we’ve chosen to discuss feedback as the topic for our feature article this month, and to provide you with some tips for this oft misunderstood aspect of communication.

The Trouble with Professional Feedback

Nobody ever said it was easy to give feedback. Perhaps that’s why someone coined the phrase “no news is good news.” It does after all; serve as a rather useful excuse to avoid giving positive or negative feedback to another person.

The trouble is, feedback generates emotions, both for the giver and the receiver, and that’s what makes it an uncomfortable process for many business owners, leaders, and managers.

For that reason alone, it’s well worth thinking about your own approach to feedback, especially when working with virtual assistants, whose contribution to your business may be made from thousands of miles away, but is as vital as that of staff working right there in your local business premises.

Some Do’s and Don’ts of Tele-feedback

While on the subject of distance and location, let’s think about the differences between giving feedback to somebody in your local office and to a VA working from an overseas location. Actually, there are not so many differences at all—but there are some mistakes which clients commonly make.

One such error is to insist on feedback via email. When working with a virtual assistant, it can be tempting to perform the bulk of communication through email messages, but (particularly when it comes to providing feedback) this is a very ineffective method.

Think about it… when you write an email, there is a tendency to either be very brief, or to write a long and detailed message covering all the points you want to make.

A very brief email is unlikely to deliver feedback that’s clear and constructive. Your message is more likely to come across as a terse rebuke (if feedback is negative) or a vague message of praise. On the other hand, if you go into lots of detail, the message may not be read fully by your VA, who may scan through and fixate selectively on points that pique the most emotion.

It’s important to remember that feedback should be delivered, received, and understood—the latter being most important if you want feedback to drive changes in process or behaviour.

In other words, to be effective, feedback should be given in at two-way, vocal exchange. These conditions need not be difficult to achieve, regardless of the distance between you and your virtual assistant. After all, Skype is free to use and makes vocal communication easy, even across oceans.

Our recommendation for providing feedback to your VA/s is to schedule regular one-to-one calls using Skype or a similar teleconferencing application. This regular session can combine feedback with other topics for discussion, such as plans for new tasks or projects you want your VA to work on.

In fact this is a very tactful approach, since feedback becomes an agenda-point rather than the reason for the conversation, and also because you can take the opportunity to expand upon your feedback points when providing instructions/guidance for your VA’s new tasks.

How to Make Feedback Taste Good

As already mentioned, the business of providing feedback can be tricky and if not well managed, can really upset your working relationship with your VA, especially if he or she is from a different culture to your own.

In the Philippines for example, as in other Southeast Asian countries, there is a huge stigma attached to “losing face.”

If your feedback is delivered too harshly, it can cause immense embarrassment, perhaps leading to the loss of your VA. This would be a sad outcome if you are generally satisfied with your VA’s work and merely wish to steer some small changes in practice or behaviour.

To head off such misunderstandings, you should focus just as much on the things that are going well, as upon those which need to change, so your feedback sessions should always include a mix of both.

We don’t recommend the “sandwich” method of feedback delivery though, in which you mask negative points by sandwiching them between elements of praise. It’s usually better to structure the session a little more randomly, and rely on a good approach to the feedback content, rather than to try and hide any slightly bitter pills.

But what exactly is the right approach to providing feedback to an offshore virtual assistant?

Here are a few golden rules which if followed, should make for palatable and constructive feedback which has the right impact on the recipient:

  • Be very specific about what’s going well and what you would like to see changed.
  • Keep emotions aside when delivering feedback.
  • When discussing the need for improvement, be very clear and explicit about what actions you expect from your VA going forward.
  • Ensure sure your feedback relates to the VA’s actions; not to your perceptions about her character or attitude.
  • Make sure your feedback relates to current and recent performance; not to that of several weeks in the past.

Finally, remember too that you and your local team may well have an influence on the performance of your virtual assistant/s. During your tele-feedback sessions, make a point of asking if there is anything you or your other team-members can do to help your VA perform tasks more effectively.

Feedback should always be a two-way dialogue, so give your virtual assistant ample opportunity to provide input and make suggestions. It might take a while for your VA to feel confident to do this, so don’t forget to encourage him and let him know that you value his thoughts on your feedback.

Why Our VAs Value Client Feedback

At Virtual Done Well, all our VAs are consummate business professionals with a strong desire to provide the best possible standards of client-service.

That’s why when we asked them what they’d like clients to do more of; they said “Give us feedback. Tell us what we’re doing well and why, what we’re not doing so well and what changes we can make to do even better.”

That’s straight from the mouths of our Filipino virtual assistants, so you can take it as a fact—feedback shouldn’t be a secret sauce, but rather a standard, staple ingredient in the client/VA relationship.

Bites from our Blog

When Virtual Assistants Specialise

As you may have read in our news item this month, you can outsource a lot more to a VA company than you might have realised. While many virtual assistants, including ours, offer general administration services for small businesses and entrepreneurs alike, more and more business-process specialists are entering the VA marketplace.

To find out a bit more about some of the less obvious tasks and projects you can outsource to a virtual assistant, be sure to read our recent blog post on the topic of VA specialisations, which can include anything from human resources management to WordPress website-design.

If your interest is piqued after reading the post, please feel free to get in touch with us. We may already have the right specialist in our family, but if not, we’ll bring one onboard and get you connected.

Outsourced Telemarketing from Virtual Done Well

While on the subject of specialised business processes, we thought we’d put some focus on one activity that business-owners often outsource, but wouldn’t typically consider putting into the hands of VA company. That activity is telemarketing.

Telemarketing campaigns are never a sure thing, even when well-planned and executed. Not even the best telemarketers can predict for sure what returns your expenditure will generate.

Therefore, it might make sense to use the services of a skilled, experienced telemarketer/VA who can add extra value by picking up some of your other business tasks in addition to lead-generation, especially if you can take advantage of an affordable and simple rate structure.

That’s the key message in our second blog post for April, so if you’re in the market for telemarketing services, you might want to read that post before approaching the larger BPO companies, some of which charge telemarketing services out via complex tariffs and engage their agents on multiple campaigns for multiple clients.

If you like what you learn from our telemarketing blog post, contact us today and ask about telemarketing services dedicated exclusively to your business and executed by a VDW specialist.

Monthly Tips, Tricks and Facts

5 Signs That You Really Need to Outsource… Something!

While this month’s newsletter has made plenty of reference to outsourcing specific business processes, there is still much value to be had from the services of a general virtual assistant, especially if you run a very small business or are a solo entrepreneur.

Indeed, a VA can be invaluable if you’re struggling to manage all the tasks involved in running your enterprise or getting your start-up business off the ground.

If you find yourself experiencing any of the following five patterns in your personal business activity, you’d do well to take them as signs that you could really benefit from outsourcing some of your tasks to a general virtual assistant:

  1. You check your email more than a couple of times each day.
  2. You find yourself wishing you could delegate tasks to free some of your time.
  3. You keep thinking about hiring an employee but are concerned about the costs involved.
  4. You procrastinate over tasks you’re not good at or don’t enjoy.
  5. You’re trapped in a cycle of reactive firefighting.

These are all indications that your business is running you instead of the other way round.

Hiring a virtual assistant can help you free yourself from these traps affordably and effectively, giving you the space you need to get back in control and be productive, rather than just busy.

At Virtual Done Well, we make it easy for you to find and hire a general virtual assistant, saving you from the time-consuming business of scouring the freelance market. If you contact us today you could have the help you need within the month. Now isn’t that something to stop and think about for a moment or two?

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