How a Virtual Assistant Can Fully Replace Your Office Secretary
Office secretaries can be a substantial overhead for a small business. The average hourly rate for a secretary runs nearly $20—and this does not include benefits (which typically come to about one-third of the annual monies paid to an employee. Suddenly, a small business is looking at $35,000 or more for an office secretary.
The monies paid to an office secretary does not account for the time it takes to recruit and interview candidates and then hire and train the winning candidate. Based on research conducted by Glassdoor Economic Research, the amount of time it takes to recruit, interview, and hire an employee now takes 23 hours on average. But what happens if the office secretary resigns or is terminated? Not only are additional time and cost incurred, but businesses often experience other detrimental impacts as a result of bad hires: diminished morale, decreased teamwork, diminished productivity, and even reputational damage.
For small businesses that are tired of the high cost of office secretaries and/or hired one who turned out to be a bad hire, virtual assistants are a great alternative. Virtual assistants offer small businesses various advantages over office secretaries—full time and part time. Following are a few of the most notable ones:
• Pay for what you use. Virtual assistants such as Davinci Virtual Receptionists are available on demand. This means you only pay for them when you use them.
• No full- or part-time employment strings attached. Virtual assistants are not permanent employees; their benefits are covered by the company that provides them.
• No wasted time interviewing job candidates. You do not need to expend valuable time vetting and interviewing job candidates; the company for which the virtual assistants work does it.
• Agile team of diverse skill sets. You are not limited to the skill sets of just one virtual assistant but can tap a broader team of virtual assistants when a different skill set is needed (e.g., language skills).
• Farewell to bad hires. You are no longer tethered to bad hires and their ramifications. If you do not like a virtual assistant, you simply let the virtual assistant provider know you want to work with a different virtual assistant.
So, how can a small business determine what virtual assistant provider is the best fit? Following are some questions a small business should pose when evaluating options:
1.Flexible, affordable pricing plans.
Does the provider offer varied pricing plans that enable you to test the offering and then scale over time without paying for minutes or engagements that go unused?
2. Available toll-free numbers.
Are toll-free numbers included with different pricing plans? How many do you need (viz., do you have enough in the plan you purchase?)?
3. Auto receptionist setup.
Many auto receptionist solutions require the purchase and setup of expensive equipment that come with long-term contracts. Look for a solution that is hosted in the cloud and comes with flexible pricing options.
4. Auto receptionist capabilities.
Leveraging an auto receptionist to screen and route calls before live human engagement with a virtual assistant takes place can save time and money. You will be surprised by the number of incoming callers who can self-service and resolve their issues without consuming live virtual assistant minutes. Look for auto receptionist solutions that come with advanced call routing, customizable greetings, and other features that meet your business needs.
5. Call forwarding and screening.
There are certain calls that you never want to miss; others are low priority and can be routed to voice mail. This is where small businesses need call forwarding capabilities that include a) single-pane-of-glass management from a website or mobile app, b) custom call forwarding, c) custom hold music and transfer messages, d) custom rings per caller, e) simple but advanced call-forwarding rules based on the time of date or the day of the week, f) call routing right person on the team or to voice mail.
6. Intelligent voice mail.
Small businesses care about perception, and thus a voice mail system that enables uses to create custom voicemail greetings is important. Users should also be able to get voicemail transcribed in email and text, ensuring they get important messages quickly—even when they cannot call into their voicemail to check messages.
7. Audio conferencing service.
The ability to schedule audio conferencing services is sometimes important for a small business. It is important to understand how many participant lines are required and to verify those are accommodated in your virtual assistant plan.
8. Unlimited long distance minutes.
Many virtual assistant plans have limited long distance calling and bill for the minutes. Further, they charge full minutes, even if one second of the minute has been used. Here, it is best to choose a virtual assistant plan that has unlimited long distance minutes.
9. Online faxing.
Faxing remains a communications channel that is used by businesses to exchange documentation. Small businesses not only need to send and receive faxes, but they often need to forward them—all in a digitally protected channel.
10. Omnichannel capabilities.
Employees, customers, and partners want to use communication channels of their choice on the device they want. Thus, virtual assistants need to be omnichannel, able to communicate using phone, text, email, and live web chat—and to seamlessly move between each of them. Virtual assistants that cannot use all these channels are problematic.
11. Scheduling appointments.
Virtual assistants need to be able to schedule appointments on the calendars of the entire small business team.
12. Outbound communications.
Sometimes small businesses need help across a spectrum of activities, and this often requires outbound communications. But phone calls may be only one of multiple communication channels needed. Examples of activities in which virtual assistants can be involved include lead-generation calls and emails, outbound appointment scheduling, follow-up calls and emails, subscription renewals and sales, survey and market research, and third-party verification services.
13. Order processing.
In some cases, small businesses may simply offload order processing to a third party. In other instances, they may simply need to supplement an internal team during spikes in orders. This is where a virtual assistant can be useful in gathering payment information, submitting shipment and billing address information looking up invoices, and more.
14. Customer service.
Customers use multiple engagement channels to ask questions, file complaints, and request customer service. Virtual assistants need to provide answers over the same device and communications channel used by the customer.
Depending on the nature of a company’s business and the location of the business, bilingual virtual assistants—namely those who speak English and Spanish—are important to offer customers.
16. Administrative services.
It takes a lot of time and logistics to manage a small business. Virtual assistants can help schedule deliveries, plan and book travel, assist customers, provide meeting support, and much more.
I could add more items to the above list, but these are a great starting point. Running a small business is never easy. But with the help of virtual assistants, it can be easier, more productive, and more effective.