DOES YOUR CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE WOW?

Does your customer experience wow? For many companies, it is a fly by the seat of your pants approach. For others, it is a very detailed, customer first, approach. Most businesses think that their customer service is adequate. In today’s market that won’t cut it, you need to stand out, be better than the rest. A good experience or a fantastic experience will help create repeat business and generate referrals.

A couple of years ago, I bought a Hyundai from a local dealership. Throughout the course of the purchase and the years to come their customer service was bar none the best from any dealership. Here are the reasons why.

  1. I was treated like I was their only customer
  2. I was called to let me know when I was due for my next service/oil change and what was involved
  3. If there was a delay of any kind I was notified right away
  4. I was consulted before any work was done and educated on what had to be done and what could wait
  5. I was offered a free ride to and from the dealership, the staff was courteous and turn around was quick
  6. I received cards frequently from the sales person I purchased through

When it came time for my mother to buy a new car who do you think I recommended? The same dealership I went to of course and the same sales person. I would recommend them to anyone looking for a Hyundai.

On the flip side, I traded in my Hyundai and purchased a Jeep (long time dream of mine). I love my vehicle but have not been contacted once since my purchase to remind me of service appointments, oil changes, nothing. So, do you think I will recommend that dealer to anyone? Do you think I will go out of my way to give them business when I need to service my Jeep? Nope.

Here is yet another example of where a customer for life could have been made.

I took my Jeep to get new tires, two kept running flat due to nails. They ordered me new tires and told me they would be in by the end of the week. End of the week came, no call, I had to call them. No answer, no reply to my message. I waited a couple more days and called back. No answer. Finally, after a week and a half and a call to the manager, I got someone on the phone and they updated me and said the end of the month. Now you can imagine how irritated I was. Will I use them again? No.

It is imperative that you always provide top notch, customer service to every client. Not just the high paying ones! Bad reviews can cost you thousands. Here are several ways to ensure your clients are getting your best:

  • Anticipate the client’s needs and remember that they are coming to you because you are the expert.
  • Make their experience as easy as possible for them.
  • Educate them in a way that empowers them as a consumer.
  • Remind them of how much your business means to them.
  • Set up systems to ensure no one falls through the cracks.
  • Train your employees and ensure that everyone is on the same page, one weak link will cost you big money.

I am sure that you have had similar experiences. Learn from others mistakes and think about what you can do to wow your next client, spoil the ones you have and generate more money through great customer experiences. If you don’t know where to start, hire someone who can help you build a bulletproof plan to creating win-win partnerships for life.

HOW TO INCREASE YOUR PRODUCTIVITY AND REDUCE YOUR WORKLOAD

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Ever since I posted my  7 Signs Your Small Business Could Use a Virtual Assistant   blog, my inbox has been flooded with questions from small business owners and solopreneurs. So what’s the number one question on their minds? Small business owners and solopreneurs are consistently asking, “how can a virtual assistant help me to increase my productivity while reducing my workload?”

The key to increasing your productivity is to delegate non-income producing activities that are taking up the majority of your time.  A virtual assistant is a wonderful resource that provides you with the support you need to increase your productivity, and profits because you are spending more time on the activities that make you money. Here are some ways to increase your productivity and reduce your work load.

3 Services and Solutions that Your Virtual Assistant* Can Take On: 

  1. Administrative – this is by far, the most popular service area that many small business owners and solopreneurs inquire about. Administrative duties are a part of every business, no matter how small or large your operation.  That said, spending too much time on administrative duties and not enough time on your income producing activities can be a recipe for disaster when it comes to your profit margins.  A virtual assistant helps to ease the burden, and reduce your workload by taking on the administrative tasks which must be completed so that your business runs smoothly.
  1. Marketing – it’s critical that your company’s marketing efforts are executed in an efficient manner and that all materials that go out are branded in your company’s signature voice and style. This extends beyond print marketing materials and is most often seen with social media marketing, website, and blog updates, to provide you with consistent brand messaging across all platforms.
  1. Consulting – is another popular service area. My Warning: Inefficient Administrative Systems May Be Hurting Your Bottom Line  post, was one of our most popular blog entries amongst our small business and solopreneurs readers.  As a consultant, a virtual assistant can assist you with auditing your existing administrative systems to identify areas of need and make suggestions to increase the efficiency.  In addition to simply making suggestions, they can train your existing administrative staff to bring them up to speed with best practices.

Achieve your goal of increasing your productivity, while reducing your workload and partner with a virtual assistant today.

*Please note that not all Virtual Assistants bear the same skill sets and it’s important that you find a suitable match to your needs.  The service areas discussed in this blog, reflect my industry experience and skillset and are in no way representative of other virtual assistants.

 

7 SIGNS YOUR SMALL BUSINESS COULD USE A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

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I’m contacted daily by small business owners and solopreneurs whose businesses have undergone rapid growth but they’re not sure if now is the right time to outsource some of their administrative work.

Let’s take a look at some telltale signs to determine if your small business would benefit partnering with a Virtual Assistant:

YOUR DROWNING IN ADMINISTRATIVE DUTIES

Do you find yourself buried underneath a never ending pile of administrative work?

Small business owners and solopreneurs go into business for themselves because they are passionate about their product or service and want to spend their time with their customers. This often results in a backlog of administrative duties that must be attended to, or you run the risk of it affecting your business.

LOSING CLIENTELE

Are you struggling with client retention? Building up a strong network of clients is crucial for small business owners and solo entrepreneurs, in order for your business to thrive and prosper.

I’ve received many calls inquiring about my services, from small business owners and solo entrepreneurs who are distraught that their biggest client just walked and they don’t know what happened.

After further discussion it seems that they were either too preoccupied with:

  • keeping up with administrative duties to provide the personal attention that they had been giving previously.

or

  • they were spending all of their time with their customers and the administrative duties fell to the wayside. Regardless of the cause, the damage is done and a plan must be created to move forward.

NO BUSINESS GROWTH

Has your growth stalled because you are stuck working on all of the administrative business rather than income producing activities?

In order for your business to grow, you must find a way to spend the majority of your day on income producing activities, while balancing your administrative tasks. When in doubt, delegate!

OVERFLOWING EMAIL INBOX

Feeling overwhelmed by your email inbox?

Is your email inbox inefficient? Prioritizing and responding to email is an important part of running your small business. However, many small business owners struggle to balance responding to emails, and working directly with customers.

TOO MUCH TIME MARKETING THE BUSINESS

I know, this sounds like an oxymoron, how could you possibly be spending too much time marketing your business?

You’re right.  You do need to market your business in order to get clients, it’s a fact of small business.  However, without a plan you can waste countless hours on social media, creating/proofing ads and throwing a bunch of quickly produced, non-brand representing flyers into the wind hoping for something to catch.

NO WORK LIFE BALANCE

Are you burning the candle at both ends? Feeling burnt out?

When your business is your passion, it’s often difficult to create the separation of work and home.  There’s always work to be done and it’s easy to fall into the vicious cycle of working 24/7.  In order for you to be effective and your business to flourish, it’s important to dedicate time for you that is spent on non-work activities.

BILLS ARE LATE ARE LATE OR NOT GETTING PAID AT ALL

Proper bookkeeping is an essential part of all business and it’s important to set up an Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable so that you can keep track of your small business finances.

How did your business measure up?  Is now  the right time to partner with a Virtual Assistant so that you can redirect your focus and attention on income-producing activities?

VIRTUAL ASSISTANTS: SMALL BUSINESS AND SOLOPRENEURS BEST KEPT SECRET

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Passion, drive and a strong work ethic are just a few of the characteristics required to succeed as a small business owner or solopreneur.  Day in and day out, you hit the ground running, putting in the work required to grow your business.  As your business scales, you find yourself getting busier and busier.  Sometimes the growth can happen too fast before formal systems are in place. Without proper planning, it’s easy to become completely swamped and feeling as though you are struggling to keep up.

Sound familiar?

If you’re nodding along, don’t worry you’re in good company. Many small business owners are in your shoes. Some have accepted that this is just part of the process and run the risk of burnout.  Others have found a better way.  You know the ones who seem to have it all together. They always seem to be in front of the customer and you ask yourself how do they do it? Are they just staying up all night playing an endless cycle of catch up?

No.

What’s their secret? How can I be successful without burning the candle at both ends? Where am I going wrong?

I’ll let you in on a little secret. Perhaps one of the best kept secrets in the small business world. What’s your competition’s secret weapon?  Their Virtual Assistant.

That’s right.  Your competition has partnered with a Virtual Assistant and outsourced their administrative work.  This has freed up their time, allowing them to land more business, and close more deals. Intrigued? Let’s take a closer look at some common questions you may have about virtual assistants.

5 Common Questions about Virtual Assistants:

  1. What is a Virtual Assistant? – An independent contractor, a Virtual Assistant, also referred to as a “VA” performs administrative tasks remotely. Skill sets and niches may vary so it’s important to do your research prior to hiring.
  1. How can you do all the work I need without being in my office or on my computer? – weekly calls, file sharing through Dropbox or Google drive make it possible for a virtual assistant to work on all of your administrative tasks remotely.Large corporations have enjoyed the financial benefits of having full-time employees telecommuting for years. Small business owners are now utilizing virtual assistants in a similar fashion, tailored to their needs and budget. The autonomy of your virtual assistant allows you to enjoy the benefits of administrative task completion, without the headaches and cost of a full-time employee.
  1. How much does it all cost? – Hourly rates vary based on skill and experience. Many virtual assistants offer packages of time that clients can purchase, with time tracked to the minute.  Instead of focusing on how much it costs, many small business owners choose to focus on what hiring a virtual assistant saves them.Hiring an independent contractor, like a Virtual Assistant means, no sick days, no vacation pay, no benefits payment, and no weekly payroll.  You simply pay for the time used, not a minute more or less.  Over the course of a year, this adds up to significant savings.
  1. How can you represent my business when you don’t know me or my business? – a virtual assistant is a professional who becomes an extension of your business. Their role is to get up to speed with the inner nuances of your business and ensure that the administrative side runs smoothly so that you can focus on income generating activities.

Will a Virtual Assistant be the secret to your success? Time will tell.

WARNING: INEFFICIENT ADMINISTRATIVE SYSTEMS MAY BE HURTING YOUR BOTTOM LINE

Bottom LineCompetition is fierce for small business owners and solopreneurs starting up their businesses. In many cases, these new businesses are up against competitors who have been in their respective industries for decades. Some new business owners even get sucked into the notion that in order to succeed they need only to focus on staying competitive and that with hard work success will follow. However, many small businesses are inadvertently blocking their own path to success with inefficient administrative systems.

7 Common Inefficient administrative systems:

1.  Email – how efficient is your email inbox?

Email is an important business tool for communication and it’s essential to set up an efficient system that allows you to prioritize your emails so that you are responding to them in time sensitive order.

2.  Website content and look – in business first impressions are everything! When was the last time you updated your website?

It’s important that your website not only looks visually pleasing, but it should be easy for users to navigate.  Your website content should clearly orient your visitors to what products and service you provide, and should be branded with your distinct voice.  Poor website navigation and incoherent website content is a turn-off and can result in the loss of potential sales and customers.

3.  Marketing – a documented marketing plan is critical to ensure that you are getting the most out of your marketing budget, both in dollars and time spent.

Investing in well thought out marketing materials, that are branded with your distinct messaging and voice will yield a positive return.  Mapping your marketing efforts to your social media channels will allow you to ensure that you are posting your intended messages at the peak times, for an optimal number of views by your customer base.

4.   Follow-up/client care – following up and client care is an essential part to foster client retention for your small business.

Customers choose small businesses over large corporations because small businesses provide that special, personal touch.  When a small business lets their customer service decline, client satisfaction goes down and your clients begin to look elsewhere for a new service provider.

5.   Bookkeeping – take the time to set up efficient Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable systems so that there is a steady flow throughout your business. This will allow you to ensure that bills have been paid on time and to easily follow up on invoices that are owing to you.

6.   Calendar Maintenance/Scheduling – missed appointments? Double booked? Empty schedule? Don’t let this happen to you.

7.   Lead processing – failure to process leads quickly will result in lost sales. It should go without saying, you must follow up on your leads as they come in, to avoid missed opportunities. Inefficient lead processing systems will hurt both your business and your reputation.

Pave your own path to success by setting up efficient administrative systems that allow your business to grow, so that you can achieve your goals, and improve your bottom line.  Your competition will stop and take notice.

WINNING PARTNERSHIP – REALTORS® AND VIRTUAL ASSISTANTS

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Having been in the real estate industry in one way or another for over 18 years, I can tell you that Realtors® should be viewing an assistant as a business partner and not an employee. A great administrator wears many hats and can ensure that you get back to your income producing activities. You didn’t get your license to sit at a desk all day did you? No. So hire an administrator, better yet save yourself more money and hire a Virtual Assistant (VA).

More Brokerages are going paperless these days and thank goodness! You know how many forms a Realtor® has to fill out from the beginning to the end of a transaction. A lot, too many if you ask me and most of my Realtors®! And more are being added every year. Of course, we all know that they are a necessary evil in today’s world.

90% of a Real Estate Administrator’s job can be done remotely. No need for overhead costs so you save money. Most Real Estate VA’s are experienced and very efficient in what they do which also saves time and money. Another important note is that a local VA should be versed in your Province/State’s real estate law, ethics and regulations which are very important. Having a Real Estate VA, who knows what is legal and what is not could save your license.

A Real Estate VA can handle the four key components of your business that will free you up to be in front of clients or on the phone.

LISTING MANAGEMENT

A Real Estate VA can help manage every aspect of the listing process, short of having the clients sign the paperwork (Unless you hire a licensed Real Estate VA).

  • Installation of your sign, book the photographer, home stager, virtual tour company.
  • Coordinate showings, open houses.
  • Input the listing into MLS and upload to websites and social media.
  • Ensure that all the listing paperwork is pre-filled and ready to go for when you take it to the client for signature.
  • Enter listing into Database and update and monitor accordingly.
  • Make sure your clients have all copies of the paperwork for their files.
  • Create feature sheets and just listed cards and coordinate with your printer.
  • Call for feedback on showings and pull weekly reports for the seller. The list goes on.

TRANSACTION COORDINATION

Real Estate VA’s can also take on the important task of overseeing the transaction from conditional to close as a transaction coordinator.

  • Schedule follow up calls for 30, 60 and 90 days after close.
  • Ensure all documents are signed and that all necessary parties in the transaction have copies.
  • Submit all paperwork to Mortgage Broker.
  • Assist with organization of moving day.
  • Keep in touch with the clients, provide any information such as movers, lawyers, and other important numbers they may require.

MARKETING MANAGEMENT

The amount of marketing that a Realtor® uses is a personal business choice. Most Realtors® market themselves inadequately. Usually because of poor time management, lack of time, skill or will to do it. VA’s can ensure that you are always putting your best foot forward in the market and that you are well represented and received.

  • Manage your database and all follow-up systems.
  • Create Pre-listing, CMA and Buyer packages/presentations.
  • Just Listed, Just Sold, and other related direct and email marketing.
  • Feature Sheets, Open House Invites and all other marketing related to your listings.
  • Website management and lead tracking.
  • Social media management and more.

ADMINISTRATIVE MANAGEMENT

Administrative management is where the day to day running the business comes in. Your VA can ensure that your business, regardless of whether you are out with Clients or on a dock at the cottage, runs smoothly. Some of the key items include:

  • Management of all supplies and equipment in the office.
  • Overseeing all administrative tasks for the business.
  • Operations management and office manual creation. Every business needs an operations manual.
  • Create and manage lead generation, follow up and buyer/seller plans in the database.
  • Hold you, the Realtor®, accountable for your lead generation. Help keep you moving forward and focused.

A Real Estate VA, as I said earlier, is a business partner, not an employee. They are an independent contractor just like you and know what it is like to be their boss. A Real Estate VA should treat your clients as though they were their own. I view myself as a direct representation of my Realtors® and guard their reputation in the business, your VA should do the same. A VA is an invaluable piece in your arsenal to building your real estate business.

Are you ready to take your business to the next level?