I don’t know who said it first, but they were right. First impressions really do count. Let me tell you about the impression one of my oldest friends got the first time he ever spoke to Ross, my personal assistant – who I have never met:
“If I didn’t know you better, I really would have thought I had got through to your outer office”
And my friend knows what really crisp, quality, expensive assistants sound like. He’s a Vice-President for Hewlett Packard.
But he’s a high-flyer. He has 2 PAs who cost his company the wrong side of a hundred grand a year, once pension and everything else is factored in. Me, I’m on a tighter budget.
But I have a kind of unusual job – I’m a pilot – which I juggle alongside 3 businesses. Each of those businesses has different sort of clients, ranging from the normal B2B person, to some seriously high net-worth individuals.
And like you, I want to convey total professionalism to everyone who calls – and they always call – on the phone. I don’t take office calls. So if you want me, you get me on the phone or by email.
Sometimes I will take it myself, most of the time I won’t, or can’t. And here’s where Ross comes in. He takes calls for me and deals with it no matter which business the call comes in for.
He has full access to my diary, so he can find out when I am available to call back, and will email me the details right away. If it’s someone I’m expecting, he can route the call to where I am. He can deal intelligently and confidently with people – and make them go away happy and confident that they’ve “come to the right place” – without ever having to bother me.
This lets me do a few things the way I like to do them. My time management is better, because I can chunk my day into calls and work – I don’t get interrupted if I don’t want to. Lots of times anyway I’m just not able to take a call, and Ross provides a much welcome human voice that can reassure the caller that I’ll be there to help them soon. No cold, unwelcoming voice mail. No ‘press 1 to leave a message’. Just calm, business-like and friendly Ross, paving the way for my Client to get what he or she wants.
And every time someone speaks to him they get the feeling that if I’ve gone to the trouble of hiring such a professional to work for me, that I have good judgement and care about them, which I do. I really do care about my clients, so if they can’t get me, then I want them to have the next best thing: a way for them to achieve something with their call – even if it is to arrange a callback – and feel sure that it will happen. And it always does.
Now occasionally, Ross likes to go on holiday. But the beauty of a virtual PA is that cover is immediately available, whenever needed, from the others in the team. And for no extra cost. Try getting that for 2 weeks in July, without a trip to the bank.
And cost is important. Not as important as the person, but it is up there with key considerations. The cost of getting a high-calibre PA is around €35,000 – €65,000 a year. And then you have to make sure that you have actually hired the right person. If you discover after 6 months that they’re not up to snuff, then you might have to sack them and start again.
Don’t like your virtual PA? No problem, you just ask for a change. But you know that someone else has already taken the risk and heartache involved in hiring someone away from you. So you get top-drawer talent straight from the start.
But the cost is what makes it a no-brainer. My PA will be standing by, Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, ready to handle any caller, do any paperwork, arrange any meeting, transcript any dictation, do any research, and even order any gifts for less than it costs to buy a coffee and a sandwich from Starbucks every day (which is about the only thing they can’t do for me).
Meanwhile I can be in a meeting, driving, flying, playing with my kids, or concentrating on work until the time is right for both me and the caller to have a chat. That’s better for them, and it’s better for me. It saves us both time and puts us in a position where I can be ready to help them more effectively with their problem, because of the notes my PA has taken. Do I find it odd that I’ve never met my PA? I did wonder how it would work, but now the answer is no. I like Ross and his occasional stand-ins so much that I’d like to meet them, to get to know them a little better, but Harry Truman said it best: “If you want a friend, get a dog”. Now he was talking about Washington, but Washington or work, the same holds true.
If you want the most professional, flexible, and cheerful face to your business – and you don’t rely on walk-in customers – then abandon your office, work from home, and do it all with a virtual PA. Your wallet will thank you forever.
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Denis Thornton is a serial entrepreneur, who specialises in helping business transform their cash-flow through Direct and Digital Marketing. You can read his blog at http://snipercopy.com . If you want to make more money from your marketing, then Denis has 3 free gifts for you at http://snipercopy.com