Does it make sense to ask a Virtual Assistant to handle your calls?

 
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We have talked about how time poor you are as a business owner. We know that you are trying to juggle too many things. So, it makes sense to use a VA service to answer your incoming calls.  Using a VA to handle your calls means you get the benefits of the digital age but keep the traditional model for your business. I am sure you have been are knee deep in an important project, or in a pitch meeting with a prospect or – heaven forbid – you are away on holiday. At the back of your mind the doubt that you are missing that great call. These days we all have voicemail but how many people like leaving messages?

 It would be better to have a real live human being answer your calls! Your virtual assistant can help. It is easy to set up a phone number which you can use this way. We would suggest you use a service such as MSP Phones. 

These are some points to consider when thinking about how your calls are handled

1.              By using a service such as the one we suggest, you have complete control over your phones. This means that you can answer calls yourself if it is convenient or forward calls to your VA if you aren't available

2.              We would recommend using a service which uses ‘whisper’ technology. This means that calls being forwarded have a brief announcement so that the operator knows who the call is for.

3.              Your caller will be talking to a person. So, they will get the personal touch they expect. A VA will answer your phone with a smile and engage with your caller. They are good listeners, too. A VA can adapt to the needs of callers, provide answers, obtain information, and requesting clarification. An answering machine or voicemail can’t do that.

4.              If your business gets standard enquiries you can provide a list of stock answers so that your virtual assistant can provide basic information thereby saving your time and hopefully winning you a new customer.

5.              For the calls which are more complex and need your input, your assistant can email you a phone message straight away. This means that you have all the information you need to make an intelligent callback.

6.              Most virtual assistants will also be able to assist you with online chat services, SMS messaging and other forms of communication.

7.              A VA can help with outgoing calls. Rather than being “on hold” for ages, or you’re fed up with phoning to get the quotes ask your VA to do it?  They can make calls to compare prices, obtain quotes, find out information, or respond to queries.

8.              You can also hire a VA to return customer calls with the required answers or information or to call business colleagues or partners with requested data.

At VTM we manage our time so that we only charge you for the time we are actually on the phone on your behalf. We use stop go timers which we click on and off as we start and stop a call. Unlike other companies we don’t ask for a minimum commitment in terms of time spent handling calls

 

How a virtual assistant can help you manage your social media?

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If you are anything like me you break out in a cold sweat as soon as someone mentions social media in connection with your business. It is something we all know we should be doing but how can you manage it? We can help

Here’s the thing – except for Twitter, I’m not the biggest social media fan. For the exact reasons, I’ve pointed about above. It sucks time away from the important things in life (not just business), and ultimately takes over certain times of your day – for whatever reason. I say ‘except twitter’ because I love how quickly and easily you can send a tweet, especially via the mobile app for the micro-blogging platform. I mean, how long can it take to send a 280 character message!

Do You Have a Social Media Plan?

Businesses often fail in their social media efforts because they think it’s a good idea, but have no structure, or real commitment. You are not going to build your online presence overnight. You need to create a social media plan—a checklist, which will detail your short and long-term goals, recurring tasks and the different milestones you want to achieve.

Whether you’re doing all this yourself or working with a VA to handle the bulk of the work for you, you are investing your time, energy and resources into social media and, as a business owner, you need to know that this time is producing results.

Not all social networks are worth your time. You need to evaluate which networks you will focus on based on your business. A photographer will use Instagram and Pinterest, but a more service-based business might focus on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. You can make use of all the available services - of which there seem to be more every day - but it is best to focus on the ones which give you the best results.

I hate to say this, but Google Analytics can help. If you set up a tracking code and then include links to your website in tweets and other posts you will get user information about people who follow that link.

We are also great fans of Buffer. this is a lovely easy to use tool that not only lets you schedule your posts in advance but also gives you further analysis as to which were the most popular posts, how many people liked a post or how many people have clicked through.

If you not familiar with  If you not familiar with Buffer it’s a social media dashboard. The FREE version is probably enough initially..

To get started with Buffer, you'll need to connect at least one social account. You can currently connect the following types of social accounts to Buffer:

  • Twitter: Profiles
  • Facebook: Pages and Groups
  • LinkedIn: Profiles and Pages
  • Google+: Profiles and Pages
  • Pinterest: Boards (on the Pro and Business Plans)
  • Instagram: Profiles

But don't forget if we are going to help you with this you will need to allow us to have access to your social media accounts.

There are a couple of ways to do this.

You will need to share your login details with us. . You can do this safely with the help of Lastpass, TeamPass, or your preferred password manager. Alternatively, you can make us administrators of your social profiles. This might not be available for all social media accounts - depending on your set up.

If you want your VA tweeting on your behalf, you can add them as a team member in Buffer to access your account and post across all of the major social networks. However, this means you need to upgrade to Buffer for Business - which is pricey at $USD99.00 per month. But this does allow you, multiple users.

Social Media Tasks we can help with

Once we are set up there are a number of things we can help with. I suspect this list could go on forever so I am just going to discuss the mist important things you need to think about. 

1. Researching and Drafting Content – We all get far too much information from social media every day. In order to get the attention of your reader your content needs to be engaging, entertaining or give useful information. It is often a good idea to use links, images or quotes because they make engagement more likely. 

Finding this content can be time consuming. If you prefer we can provide you with a list of post ahead of time and then schedule them once they are approved.

2. Monitoring and Engaging with Your Audience – It is a good idea to have someone keeping an eye on your feeds. We have all heard examples of businesses not responding to social media quickly enough and the next thing they know a tiny problem has become a huge one. We can set up alerts to help you monitor your accounts so these things don't get missed.

We use TweetDeck for to monitor Twitter. We are logged on as long as the office is open. This is a free service and will work on your desktop, smartphone or tablet. You can also set up streams to show you all tweets using a particular keyword or phrase.

3. Building & Managing your Network – We can monitor your LinkedIn , Twitter and Facebook accounts to see who has started following you. It is also important to remove people who are no longer active or who might be spammers. On a personal note, I have several twitter accounts - both for my business and for me personally. I have challenges with my personal one as there is an actress from the Philippines called ANNIE CURTIS. People follow me almost daily thinking they are following her - despite notifications on my profile!

You will want to interact with people on social media as this is a great way to grow your network. You can comment on someone else's content. Be careful not to overdo the links as this will start to be spam if you overdo it.

Here are some ideas you can use to encourage interaction:

  • Post a ‘question of the week’ poll encouraging interaction.
  • Share relevant article or link in your niche.
  • Simple status update E.g - "I am planning to be in the garden this weekend. How about you?"
  • Like pages in your which are relevant to your business.
  • Try and find - and follow - the big names in your business.
  • Interact with re-tweeters and replies.

4. Create Monthly Report on Metrics – You may be someone who freezes when they see statistics but I'm afraid this is the lifeblood of social media. It is important to have goals and now how well you are reaching them so that means statistics.

For many small business owners, this is difficult. This is why you have to have goals, even when it comes to social media. You need to define your goals so you’ll know whether or not social media is working for you.

    To monitor your progress, you’ll need a metrics report every couple of weeks, or every month. It can track likes, followers, RTs, @mentions, and link-backs, among other stats that will help you decide where your social focus should be.

    5. Keeping Your Social Media Profiles Up-To-Date – All social networks update their design. Facebook is now beta testing a Page design where the About section is overlaid on the cover photo. Twitter updated the profile design last year. These changes can pass you by if you’re not looking out for them.

    So that you don't “miss” these updates we can let you know of any changes. You should aim to have a similar image across all networks so that your posts are instantly recognised. Make sure this is complete for all social networks and the about pages are up to date.

    6. Creating New Pages or Accounts – We can create a Facebook page for your business, or for a specific project. These take time to set up and new Twitter accounts also require you to set up, with a new email address.

    Conclusion

    We can help you free up time that is currently being devoted to social media. The main  problem is that when you start looking at social media it is to easy to while away several hours before you have realised it. If we are helping with this you can focus without distraction on the parts of the business which directly contribute revenue.

    Be sure you know what it is you are trying to achieve with your social media campaigns and then manage it accordingly. 

    We can keep track of the statistics and watch your online presence grow with more engagement happening and report that to you.

    Using your Personal Assistant for Diary Management

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    Our last blog post suggested some ways in which using a Virtual Assistant can help you develop your business. This was an overview so here is some more detail about the first suggestion – Diary Management

    Let’s be honest most of us get our diaries in a tangle from time to time. However, if you use a Virtual PA to help manage yours then this can be avoided. A VA will by nature be an organised soul or they wouldn’t be able to do the job so use their skills.

    Here are some thoughts about how we could help:

    Meetings

    This is probably the most obvious one but no less important for all that. An experienced assistant can make appointments for you, book them into your diary, confirm the meeting with your client/ partner/ sales prospect by email which helps make sure an important meeting doesn’t get forgotten at the other end either.

    If necessary, we are happy to call to confirm a meeting 24 hours before it is due to take place.

    This should also include the important trade shows, conferences and even webinars. If they are in your diary your VA can register you ahead of time – often saving money – and of course remind you so that you don’t miss out.

    Be the point of contact for making appointments

    If your Personal Assistant is going to manage your diary make them the point of contact for all your meetings and appointments. That way they can respond to any changes, make sure you aren’t double booked or dashing around like a lunatic because you haven’t left yourself enough travel time. 

    And of course, if you are busy then a VA is more likely to answer the phone saving time consumed by tedious games of ‘telephone tag’

     Make travel arrangements

    So now your assistant is running your diary. A logical extension of that is to ask them to make your travel arrangements, book hotels and restaurants, arrange car hire and any of the other services that can make a busy day easier.

    Birthdays

    This is one of those things that you might not have considered a VA can do for you. Why not give your Personal Assistant a list of your important family birthdays and anniversaries? We are more than happy to remind our clients about these. We have over the years done so – and even organised flowers, presents and the occasional bottle of Fizz!

    Plan development time

    Do you ever feel like you are running to stand still and that you have no time to plan the development of your business or to stand back and get an overview? We would urge you to consider blocking time out of your diary to do exactly that. We are happy to protect this time savagely if that is necessary so that thinking time is built into the business week or month.

    To do list

    This may seem screamingly obvious but why not add those vital to-do points to your diary if they have a deadline attached. This should be considered for regular tasks like writing your blog, updating your website, completing your VAT return or carrying out staff reviews.

    And when you go on holiday?

    So, you finally managed to book a well-earned holiday? So firstly, make sure your Personal assistant has a note of the dates. We always try to ensure that there are no significant meetings or conferences planned a couple of days before or after our client’s holidays. There is nothing more stressful than coming back from a relaxing break to find a pile of paper on your desk, a clogged in-box and a diary full of meetings preventing you from catching up.

    If you are going away, lean on your Virtual Assistant: forward your business calls to them, put an out of office message on your email suggesting that people contact your assistant in your absence and make sure your post is being checked regularly.

    Then you can go away on that wonderful holiday with a clear conscious knowing your business is being well taken care of.

    Social appointments

    This is more important than you would think for small business owners and entrepreneurs. You need your downtime. So, if you have arranged to do something special or even just have an early evening have it in your diary so that it can be protected.

    Daily or weekly diary updates

    So now you have a beautifully organised diary. Ask your VA to call you to remind you if you have particularly important appointments. We also use Google Calendar a lot. It syncs with ICal or Outlook, sets up reminders for iPhone or other smart phones and even allows you to email a week’s diary ahead of time.

    Next time we shall give you some ideas about how your Personal Assistant can help improve your social networking

     

    12 things your Virtual Assistant could do for you!

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    1.     Diary Management is the bane of any business owners’ life! Your Virtual assistant (or VA) can help by making your appointments for you so that you avoid clashes, over committing yourself or forgetting appointments altogether. We can also be a point of contact for you so that you can focus on what you are trying to achieve without the distraction.

    2.     Manage your social network campaigns on tools such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. This is becoming an increasingly important way to promote a small business but staying on top of it is time consuming so why not give this task to your VA? They will be able to ensure that you are making best use of these powerful tools to promote your business.

    3.     Many marketing tasks can also be done by a competent VA – jobs like editing or proof reading your articles or blogs, helping prepare e-newsletters or keeping mailing databases up to date.

    4.     And talking of databases – when did you last check yours and make sure it is up to date. Folk move, leave companies and change their details. A good VA will be happy to call all your contacts and check that that the details you hold are correct. This applies to all lists and databases – including your Christmas card list.

    5.     Why not let your VA handle your incoming calls? That great newsletter that we sent out is bound to generate incoming enquiries and hopefully the phone will be ringing off the hook so let your VA deal with that. They will answer questions and enquiries, book appointments where necessary and pass on any calls that you should have.

    6.     Your VA will have financial skills so that they can do everything from basic bookkeeping to bank reconciliations and payroll. Many will also do more complicated financial tasks like VAT returns, budgeting and cash flow calculations. We can also pay invoices, chase outstanding payments and deal with incoming billing queries.

    7.     Create customised forms and stationary templates that work for your business. These can include your logo, be in your house style and so will represent your business in a professional way.

    8.     Have you decided not to do that important trade show because you can’t face the stress of organising the stand? A VA can help – with booking the space, organising the exhibit, finding temporary staff and even ordering cute giveaways!

    9.     Remember that client or staff party you have been meaning to have for ages but keep putting off? Well why not let your VA organise it. We can do everything from helping you chose the venue to finding the caterers sending out the invitations and even finding a florist

    10.  Remember that notebook with all your brilliant notes and ideas in it. (Is it really in the boot of your car?) Why not pass it over to your VA so that they can transcribe the notes and put them in order for you?

    11.  Keep track of dates and other important information you need to remember. These don’t just have to be for your business but can be family birthdays, Mother’s day or even your wedding anniversary (I have even bought presents for these occasions!)

    12.     Remember your VA can be an invaluable member of your team! LEAN ON THEM! That’s what they are there for and should be your left hand so that your right hand can be running your business… I have even been described as ‘other mother!’