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How to Prepare Your Business for the Holiday Season

As a small business owner, you have probably begun to prepare for the upcoming holiday season. As you anticipate a peak in sales as well as operating costs, it is crucial to formulate a strategy to ensure that your business performance is at its peak, too.

The holiday rush can open many doors of opportunity, including expanding your business’s reach by introducing yourself to new customers. To earn their loyalty long after the season ends, it is important to provide the best customer service possible—even when you are at your busiest.

It is easy to be overwhelmed by the holiday workload, but if you anticipate the challenges and properly prepare yourself, you can save a lot of time, money, and headaches.

Start early


Perhaps the easiest way to get ahead of the holiday rush is to start early. Look at last year’s numbers to anticipate the volume of orders to get an idea of how many supplies you will need, or if this is your business’s first holiday experience, dig up some research on your competitors and the standard increase in sales for businesses similar to yours during the November and December months. This way, you will have everything you need long before the rush begins so you don’t have to scramble for materials and resources later.

Don’t hesitate to get extra help


While you may think you can power through it on your own, it is wise to hire extra help to ensure that you don’t stress yourself out and each customer has a pleasant experience. This doesn’t necessarily mean you should hire a full-time employee. At a fraction of the price, you can hire a live virtual receptionist and pay only for the time your need. Virtual receptionists can assist with everything from order processing and customer service to live web chat and phone support. This way, you not only save time and money by outsourcing these tasks to a professional—you create a more professional image for your business, whether it is over the phone or through your web based commerce system.

Hiring a full-time staff member at the beginning of the holiday season is not only more expensive than virtual receptionist services, it is also more time consuming. When each passing moment could mean another sale, it is best to use your time wisely. Hiring a new employee forces you to take time training them to perform duties for your business, and then more time is lost during the employee’s learning curve. Alternatively, you can hire a virtual receptionist already trained for your industry.

Increase customer satisfaction for long-term benefits


Shopping volume increases dramatically during the holidays, which means your business is likely to be busier than ever. As you rush to process and ship orders while keeping your momentum, it is important to make the extra effort to ensure each customer is happy with their experience. By hiring a live virtual receptionist, you can make each customer interaction with your business is personal and enjoyable without losing any more of your valuable time. Virtual receptionist services include many features that can keep your customers in the holiday spirit and increase the likelihood of them returning months after the holiday season—increasing long-term profit and brand loyalty.

As a result of outsourcing this work, you save money on operating costs, increase profit, establish a highly professional image for your business as you draw in new customers, and perhaps the most important benefit of all, make more time available for you to spend with your family during the holiday season.

Make sure you are prepared for the busy holiday season with virtual receptionist services from Davinci.

 
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Nurture Your Team to ‘Super Agent’ Status

Today’s always connected digital experience enables consumers to search online for anything, at anytime, and access millions of results—then instantly make a transaction. This is where the brand challenges (as well as the opportunities) begin.

Being part of the digital ecosystem requires businesses to play by a variety of customer-driven rules of engagement. One of the most important rules of engagement is hiring and growing a team of talented chat agents. These employees are charged with personally nurturing customer relationships and providing a best-in-class customer experience. The benefits of an all-star agent team truly impact bottom-line business results.

Position your team for success


While the right technology enables success, your brand’s results will be only as good as your chat agents’ best efforts—this is where the human factor comes in! Chat agents are your frontline and can either make or break your customers’ experience.

Top customer engagements, or your most critical customer scenarios, require your brand’s top chat agents. At Davinci Virtual Office Solutions, we created a skill-based and career-path oriented employee model that allows us to recruit, train, and retain these champion employees. Chat agents graduate through our multi-tiered development program, with the ultimate status being a Davinci Super Agent.

What makes up the DNA of a Super Agent? These are our most senior, best trained, and knowledgeable sales or customer service agents. They’re armed with the most advanced and productive tools, and they have spent their career at Davinci graduating through our color-coded team levels. Davinci’s color-coding ranges from green to yellow to red and requires the employee to meet a variety of qualifications and achievements.

5 Tips: Train for the A-Team


We have created a very specific process, culture, and corporate environment to ensure that our hiring, training, and career development efforts yield as many super agents as possible. There are several areas that we found to be key to finding and retaining great people. The following are a few of our lessons learned along the way.

    1. First impressions count.You only have one chance to make a great first impression—for your customers and future chat agent team.



The decision-making factors for potential candidates include everything from the job listing, company culture, benefits, career path options, compensation, and more. At Davinci, we give qualified applicants a company tour and let them meet staff and management to reassure much of the above.

    1. Start on the right foot.Once the job starts, your chat agents’ first couple of days will set the tone for the duration and quality of the engagement. Make sure the initial training is fun and engaging. You want to develop passionate, excited agent advocates. As a starting point, Davinci provides a full breakfast and snacks throughout the first day of training, and gives employees a copy of our culture book as a gift. A company founder meets with them to explain why we built the company and discuss our overarching vision and strategy.



From there, make sure you’re meeting expectations early. Check in with new employees often to ensure training goes smoothly, initial questions are answered, and that new employees have the necessary tools to succeed.

    1. Start career path conversations early.Your new employee needs to be aware of all career options at all times. Meet with your new employee, explain the opportunities for growth within their department, and highlight qualifications along the path to success. At Davinci, we let new employees shadow other staff to get a firsthand look at what a day in that job really looks like. This allows them to gain a more in-depth understanding of the different roles that are available to them.

 

    1. Promote from within.You get to know your agents very well, and you want to reward them for their performance. As a result, they deserve first chance to apply for any position within your company. Make sure you review an employee’s performance often and discuss options for advancement. We review every employee once a month based on a set of parameters that include areas of performance, attendance, and participation.

 

    1. Culture is key!Make work fun. You want employees to tell other people that this job is the best they ever had. A big part of that has to do with the work environment and the culture. Every company has a different outlook when it comes to what this looks like. Regardless of what that might be, make sure you invest heavily in your company culture. We’ve found it’s an expense with great returns. One way we’ve fostered how employees embrace and become energized as a result of our corporate culture is through the full-time culture fairy. Her name is Katie and her only focus is to ensure that all Davinci employees are happy and engaged. She handles all Davinci-culture activities, including daily games and challenges, weekly potlucks, monthly team-building events, and charity-of-the-month programs.



People are the heart of our business


We’ve had great success attracting and retaining staff over the years. Many of our call center employees have been with the company for several years, and our employee attrition rate is extremely low compared with industry data.

Our entire management team is comprised of employees who have been with Davinci for a long time—many since our inception. They remain with the company because we’ve offered them the opportunity to grow with the business and create careers for themselves. People truly are Davinci’s greatest asset.

Sales representative Brianna Gonzales is one of Davinci's Super Agents. She recently received LivePerson's Adventurer agent hero award at Aspire 2014 for guiding a non-native English speaker throughout the entire customer journey. Watch her video below.



Martin Senn is a guest author on the Connected Customer Blog. To read more from Martin and Davinci, check out the following posts:

 



How are you making people the center of your business? Continue the conversation in the comments below.

This article was originally posted on LivePerson's The Connected Customer Blog on November 18, 2014.

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Four Things You Need to Know to Become a Successful Entrepreneur

Whether you are thinking about starting your own business, or you are currently a business owner, there are several things you need to know about becoming a successful entrepreneur.

Planning is key when starting a business; achieving your business goals requires a detailed roadmap for everything from budgets and time management to business strategy and marketing. Successful entrepreneurs often have a toolkit of resources that they use in their business planning to improve efficiency, reduce operating costs, and generate more revenue.

As you build your own toolkit, here are four things to consider:

1. Plan how you will effectively manage your time

While it may be tempting to try to do everything yourself when you start a business, you may find that your performance will suffer as a result. By limiting yourself to fewer tasks, you increase productivity, quality of work, and overall satisfaction in your work, driving you to continue to succeed.

Many administrative tasks, such as answering phone and email inquiry, customer service, and schedule management, can take up a significant amount of your time. However, virtual receptionist services can benefit businesses in any industry by helping owners effectively manage their time and stay organized. Business owners that hire virtual receptionists ensure important administrative tasks are handled delicately—freeing up more time for them to grow their business.

2. Differentiate yourself in the market

Planning how you will differentiate yourself from the competition is one the most important things to consider when starting or growing your business. You want to have the technology, quality of customer care, and click-and-mortar presence of a major corporation, but you don’t want to create huge overhead.

You can gain a competitive advantage by investing in virtual office solutions, such as virtual office spaces and specially-trained live virtual receptionists—all affordable and off-site, increasing your business’s visibility and overall presence. Virtual office spaces can include a professional company address, fully-equipped conference room rentals at your convenience, and business support centers in the place of your choosing, so you can be flexible wherever business demands. Your clients and customers will arrive at a professional office space with a friend lobby greeter to direct them and offer any assistance. Each conference room comes equipped with high-tech presentation tools, so you can spend less time preparing. And at a fraction of the cost of an office lease, you save money as you expand the reach of your business.

3. Consider outsourcing to avoid burnout

After outlining a plan to effectively manage your time, you may find that there just isn’t enough time for some menial, though highly important, tasks, especially if you are a mother as well as an entrepreneur. While hiring a full-time employee to assist you with day-to-day needs might seem necessary, it isn’t as cost effective as outsourcing and only paying for the minutes you need.

Outsourcing work such as answering and forwarding calls, order processing and customer care, and even voicemail and schedule management can be outsourced to live virtual receptionists, saving you more money than a full-time salaried employee and eliminating additional costs of setting up another workspace and ordering more supplies. The result is increased customer satisfaction and more time for you, so you can easily balance home and work and still achieve your business goals.

4. Manage your budget to maximize revenue

Properly managing your budget from the very beginning can determine your business’s success far into the future. By renting office space and hiring virtual receptionists only for the time you need, you can save thousands of dollars on general operating costs.

Virtual office solutions not only save you money—they help generate more revenue. Creating the professional image you want can be a costly and ultimately time-consuming undertaking. However, services provided by virtual receptionists and virtual office spaces, like a friendly customized greeting, the latest technology for presentations and customer support, and excellent customer service, ensure you will have the tools you need to project a highly professional image without breaking the bank.

Each personal touch provided by these services makes every interaction with your business pleasant and increases brand loyalty, so customers are more likely to make a purchase or investing in your business.

Virtual office solutions provide all the resources you need as you create your map to success, driving revenue and customer satisfaction and freeing up more of your time to spend as you choose.

Extend your toolkit by contacting Davinci Virtual Office Solutions today.

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Pros, Cons, and Solutions for Starting a Business from Home

More and more individuals are and taking the plunge and starting a home-based business. We’ll help you map out some of the advantages and disadvantages to starting a business from home. Not to mention, we’ll share valuable tools every home-based business should utilize.

Pros to starting a business from home:



    • You’re your own boss. Finally, you don’t have to report to anyone but yourself. No more feeling micromanaged, undervalued, and unappreciated.

 

    • Spend more time with your family. Since you’ll be working from home, your commute time will be lowered to a total of 15 seconds. The walk down the hall is so short you might be tempted to stay in your pajamas! Not to mention, you determine your schedule—100% of the time.

 

    • Enjoy greater tax benefits. You’ll begin to enjoy a list of tax deductions only available to those running a home-based business. For example, if you have an area in your home dedicated to your business operations, you can take a home office deduction.



Cons of a home-based business:


Starting a business from home does not come without a price. As you contemplate all of the pros, be sure you’ve also considered the cons.

    • You’ll have to deal with an overabundance of distractions. You’ll constantly be surrounded by all of the things you need to accomplish—both home and work related.

 

    • It’ll be even harder to “leave work at the office.” Because you can so easily jump in and out of home and work life, you might feel like you work longer, later hours.

 

    • You’re now the head of ALL departments. No longer will you answer to just one title. You will have to manage all business-related responsibilities from accounting, to marketing, to customer service, and the list goes on.

 

    • You don’t have immediate access to professional conference rooms. Now that you run your business out of your home, you don’t have access to furnished, fully-stocked office space for client meetings. After all, you can’t hold conferences and important meetings in your living room.



Overcoming the cons:


Don’t let this list scare you away from starting a home-based business. Here’s a list of must-haves to help you make the transition to a successful and manageable home-based business.

    • Use a task management tool. One of the favorite tools available for businesses of all sizes is Jira. This tool allows individuals or teams to track a project and, from many different perspectives, visualize its progress. It’s simple to assign due dates or assign tasks to teammates. Sticking to a calendar and actively managing projects will help you keep your business running smoothly and minimize the tendency to feel overwhelmed by all tasks at hand.

 

    • Find reliable virtual receptionist services. A virtual receptionist is a live person that you can hire to help with tasks a typical receptionist might do. These services might include scheduling appointments, forwarding calls, managing incoming calls, voicemail management, online faxing, taking messages, order processing, and even customer service. Imagine freeing yourself of all of the time you spend managing these tedious tasks with a virtual receptionist! For a reasonable price, Davinci Virtual offers professional, U.S.-based virtual receptionist services in all kinds of packages to meet your needs precisely.

 

    • Sign up for virtual office solutions. Davinci also offers home-based businesses virtual office services. When running a small business, it is tough to justify leasing and maintaining an office space for client walk-ins, postage, and client meetings. With virtual office solutions, you don’t have to. At a much smaller cost, you can utilize one of the Davinci meeting spaces as your registered business address to place on business cards, websites, local listings, etc. You can also sign up for mail forwarding, and even have your business listed in the building’s directory. Most Davinci virtual office solution packages include access to onsite office spaces and conference rooms.

 

    • Use Davinci meeting room rentals. If you’re ever in need of a day-office or even a professional space to host a meeting, use Davinci meeting room rental services. You’ll have over 3,000 meeting spaces to choose from in over 900 locations. Davinci Meeting Rooms also include services such as an onsite front desk greeter, copying, printing, LCD projectors and screens, high-definition video/phone conferencing, mailing, food and beverage catering, and more. These services are especially useful to the business traveler. Utilize the mobile-friendly, online meeting room reservation tool to search for location availability near you.



Already started a home-based business? What do you wish you had known before? Share your story and advice with us in the comments below.

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What Is a Virtual Office and Answers to Other Virtual Office Space Questions

Good news – small business owners can better compete with larger companies with through virtual office space services.

What is a virtual office space? It’s a convenient, cost effective way to have the benefits of leasing or owning a professional, fully equipped office space without the ongoing cost.  Virtual office spaces allow entrepreneurs to have a professional business address to use for their website and business cards in addition to several other valuable services, including:

Mail receipt: Mail sent to a virtual office location can be picked up or forwarded to wherever needed.

Conference room and office access: Access to over 3,000 furnished conference rooms and day offices around the world complete with all of the latest technology and office services one might need to keep a meeting running smoothly. Spaces are available through by-hour or by-day reservations.

Lobby greeter: An onsite, lobby greeter will be present at a chosen virtual office space location to greet and assist any walk-in clients.

Lobby directory listing: A business name can be added to the lobby directory at a virtual office space location.

Still have questions about virtual office space offerings? See some commonly asked questions and answers below or call us at (888) 863-3423.

Where are virtual office spaces located?

Davinci conference rooms and office spaces are located in well-known buildings in most major cities in the United States and abroad. Utilize the Davinci booking engine to search locations and availability in over 950 places across the globe.

Can a virtual office space address be used for licensing?

After having signed up for a Davinci virtual office space, business owners may use the address for a business license. Most of our clients don’t have a problem getting their licensing with our address. In many of our office locations, we can even hang the license onsite. To confirm if the business center you’re interested in choosing will allow a license to be hung, call (888) 863-3423.

Is conference room rental time included in a virtual office space package?

Davinci virtual office space packages offer pre-pay conference room time available for some of our locations. For more information regarding exactly how much time and where the locations can be used, contact your sales representative as packages may vary.

How much office time can be reserved per month?

Because some virtual office space packages include office time, be sure to contact a sales representative at (888) 863-3423 to learn the locations where Davinci credit can be used. There is not a limit to the amount of time that can be reserved beyond included office space credit. If it is available, members are welcome to reserve it by the hour or by the day.

What are the prices for additional virtual office location services?

For services such as mail forwarding, copying, and conference room or day office use, there are additional costs. The costs vary depending on the location and the package purchased. Please contact us for the exact costs for additional location services at a virtual office space – (888) 863-3423.

What are the location services features in a virtual office space package?

Some of the main features include, but are not limited to:

  • A professional business address
  • Mail and package receipt, which for most locations includes a locking mailbox onsite
  • Mail forwarding (daily, weekly, or monthly)
  • The freedom to use a professional business address in directories, on website, or business cards, etc.
  • A local drop-off and pick-up point for your clients
  • Lobby and directory listings (most locations charge $25/month for this feature)
  • Access to office space and fully-furnished conference rooms (reserved hourly)
  • Access to cyber café’s with wireless Internet, coffee/tea bar, etc. (where available)

Are virtual receptionist services included in a virtual office space package?

Unfortunately, virtual receptionist services are not included in a virtual office space package. Often our virtual office space clients choose to also sign up for virtual receptionist services. These solutions help relieve stress on small business owners by providing phone answering services, call forwarding, and a resource to help with a wide range of secretarial services.

What is the price for virtual receptionist services?

The Davinci base rate for receptionist services is all-inclusive—unlike many of our competitors. Tasks that are included in this base rate price are: long distance and toll free minutes, call patching, faxing, conference calling, voicemail management, meeting scheduling, order processing, outbound sales or customer service calls, and more! Costs that extend beyond your initial base rate are applied based on call volume.

What are the main features for virtual receptionist services?

  • Live, U.S.-based professionals answering incoming calls
  • Call forwarding with caller ID
  • Call announcing/screening
  • Appointment scheduling
  • Order processing and other customer service capabilities
  • Caller tracking and information logging
  • Voicemail management including voicemail to email transcription
  • A complimentary conference call platform for you to use at any time
  • eFax (fax to email)

Can a Davinci virtual office space address be used for incorporation purposes?

Yes. Business owners may register their business with our address. Some of our locations even offer a resident or registered agent at the location for an additional cost.

Contact us to better compete with larger companies with through virtual office space services at DavinciVirtual.com today.

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