There are two working definitions of virtual assistants floating around online.
The first one refers to artificial intelligence tools like Alexa and Siri. They are installed on our devices, our phones, and our laptops. These AI assistants help people navigate technology to serve our needs. We use them to find restaurants on Google Maps or compile a workout playlist
The second definition refers to human virtual assistants. They are self-employed or freelance professionals. Companies contract virtual assistants to provide services far more than just finding restaurants and updating your calender. Virtual assistants provide varying degrees of expertise for a particular task, project, or function to a company, a business, a private practice, or any enterprising individual. Their functions range from routine and clerical, to creative or administrative, and even to managerial.
Virtual assistants work off-site, from spaces of their convenience, sometimes at home, sometimes in co-working offices or cafes. As cloud technology evolves to help companies work around the limits of creating an online-based environment, virtual assistants become more and more in-demand in every industry imaginable.
Why are Virtual Assistants important?
Virtual assistants are game changers for many businesses. The most important benefit of hiring a virtual assistant is that they help businesses meet their bottomline.
Businesses that want to expand their services and network require different kinds of expertise, which can take a lot of time and money. Virtual assistants help businesses maximize the opportunities for growth in small but essential ways. They
- pick up and handle backend support
- accomplish routine tasks
- handle customer service
- take on administrative work
- conduct marketing duties
- provide managerial work
In short, virtual assistants provide whatever is required to save businesses time and money, which they can then redirect and dedicate to more growth-related activities.
Virtual Assistants vs. Personal Assistants: What’s the difference?
Of course, there are plenty of advantages of hiring in-house personal assistants over virtual assistants. It can be reassuring for management to see the work happen in front of their eyes. There is a common assumption having people in reach will make work more synchronized. Moreover, managers can make any immediate decisions or actions by simply calling in an assistant.
However, outsourcing provides benefits that can outweigh the aforementioned conveniences.
Virtual assistants are:
Virtual assistants can be task-based or project-based. That means they leave once a task or project is finished. Obviously, this can help reduce the costs on a company of hiring or retaining a seasonal employee on the payroll. Plenty of virtual assistants can be hired on a project-basis on websites like Upwork and Fiverr.
Diverse and precise.
Another advantage of hiring virtual assistants is they provide businesses options. Companies are not limited to the local talent pool. They can hire people who can meet their needs. Virtual assistants specialize in certain skills, and provide a diversity of thought and experience that can value to the work. As businesses grow beyond borders, a more global perspective allows them to reimagine their goals and work spaces.
Hiring and building a networks of virtual experts for a particular project shifts the work environment online. This comes with risks, especially where digital security and personal information are concerned. But these are also balanced out by the undeniable resilience that online offices provide. Cloud-based work has enabled many companies to survive the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is what has precisely inspired many others to start thinking about setting up their works pace differently and more efficiently. In that regard, virtual assistants can certainly help fill in the important virtual office roles.
Virtual Assistants vs. Customer Service: what’s the difference?
While some virtual assistants can perform tasks that are traditionally under the umbrella of customer support or customer service, not all virtual assistants do.
That’s the thing – a virtual assistant simply means an assistant working off-site. To illustrate, if you’re a virtual assistant at a law firm, you’re probably going to do work related to legal documentation and transcription. If you’re a virtual assistant at a real estate firm, you could be tasked to schedule maintenance work and do costing of fitouts. If you’re a virtual assistant at a marketing firm, you might work on projects that require your creative or graphic design input, not your people skills.
Customer service agents, on the other hand, offer a very specific kind of virtual assistance services. They belong to specialized industry of workers and businesses dedicated to taking care of customers and providing backend support and customer care. Subsequently, they work at either ends of the service line, answering inquiries from potential buyers and addressing complaints from people who have already availed of the service.
Virtual assistants are more widespread in terms of where they are in the chain of work. Accordingly, they can fulfill clerical and routine work, or offer managerial and creative services.
How can I trust my virtual assistant?
For many companies and professionals, trusting a virtual assistant, someone you’ve never met, with essential information about your business seems challenging. But as business operations become increasingly online, they need to reimagine their workspaces and how to run them.
Plenty of companies rethinking how to measure the productivity of remote workers. On the whole, it depends on the function of the job and how a business measures productivity.
Jobs that measure time-bound output can make use of several programs and applications such as Time Doctor, which offer employers reports on how their employees are using their time well. Likewise, they can use anti-distraction platforms like FocusMe, which provides tools to minimize distractions on phones and laptops.
On the other hand, jobs that are less routine and more output-based can monitor the progress of a project using various apps like Trello or Asana. These apps make use of the kaban or block method to synchronize work among officemates.
Some of these applications are essential, especially as the online environment seeks to ever distract us.
But companies also need to transform their definition or measure of productivity. They need get over the urge to watch over their employee’s shoulders, according to Kate Lister of Global Workplace Analytics. In short, they have to be more flexible and focus on a results-oriented approach.
Recently, a study from the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization affirms that it is critical for companies to clearly communicate their expectations and their feedback to make remote employees feel integrated and valued.
How do I find the right virtual assistant?
Choosing the right virtual assistant requires discernment. A employee’s trustworthiness is in the back of most employers’ minds all the time, even when they’re hiring people in person. But doing it online presents a host of obvious problems. Firstly, you won’t be able to rely on body language or intuition to read people as effectively as you would in person.
How do you know that the person you’re hiring right now will turn out to be a good long-term choice for the company?
Communication online is inherently challenging, but these challenges are not impossible. You can address these anxieties in two ways.
Above all, a clear understanding of a company’s organizational needs can help choose the right people to strengthen relationships and enhance functions. It is not enough to be persuaded by a decorated resume. The right people means good work ethics, synchronized goals, and, in the post-COVID-19 world, a resilient and long-term outlook.
Nowadays, human resource practices are changing all over the world to understand how they can grow their organizations better. They deploy various types of AI to diagnose organizational needs and advise actions. Similarly, they turn to companies like Staff Street and SupportYourApp who specialize in skills-matching and finding virtual workers from a global talent pool.
Certainly, what happens after you hire an employee matters even more. Culture building has been a concern for many outsourcing companies and online workspaces for many years. Zapier believes that culture is about how you work, and how the company deals with customers and clients ultimately affects the mindset and the relationships within the company.
For instance, online work spaces rely on apps like Google Suite, Slack, or Achievers. These programs automate various productivity actions, as well bring officemates together. Constant and effective communication maintains the alignment of objectives and goals, and keeps everybody in touch.
In summary, finding the right virtual assistant is just one step in the process. Just like with any hire, it’s necessary to work on helping them integrate and develop a position in your organization.