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Anyone use a virtual assistant or is it all talk?

Virtual assistant

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Does anyone use or know anyone who uses a virtual assistant or is it all talk? 

I love the idea of a VA answering my emails but I can’t see how it would work in reality. Email comes in from client, what happens next? They don’t who the clients are or their background so I expect there is training involved and then what? Now they know who the clients are but the questions need to be answered and work needs to be done. 

I’m not trying to knock it, it sounds very interesting but how does in work in practical terms? 

Replies (14)

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Giraffe
By Luke
25th Nov 2019 09:27

I can't imagine it does often work in reality.

I just think there is too much client specific knowledge that the instructions to the VA on what to do would take as long as doing it yourself.

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Replying to Luke:
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By Tickers
25th Nov 2019 11:10

My thoughts exactly.

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Replying to Tickers:
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By C Graham
28th Nov 2019 11:39

no different to having a PA - just that a VA works remotely most of the time. The building of knowledge is what happens with any new staff - there is a period of getting to know the person and business but given that most communication and admin is done digitally, it makes sense not to pay a PA to sit in your office. Plus I think you can tailor the service to your own needs without employing a perm PA.
Sounds good to me if you get the right fit for your business.

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By bernard michael
25th Nov 2019 10:39

Why do you want to put yourself in their hands?
What happens if they screw up - PI liability ?
What about Data Protection regulations

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Replying to bernard michael:
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By Tickers
25th Nov 2019 11:10

Does the same not apply for staff?

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Caroline
By accountantccole
25th Nov 2019 11:28

Surely you use them like you would a secretary?
Ask them to filter out the rubbish, holding emails to potential clients (whilst highlighting this for you to deal with), ditto for clients, internal admin passed to relevant person (invoices to whoever does the bookkeeping) etc.
You wouldn't ask the secretary to deal with technical emails, so same logic applies with a VA.
I haven't used one for emails but my phone answering people were a godsend when I set up on my own and had no other resource.

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By Accountant A
25th Nov 2019 11:31

I think if my professional adviser started doing this, I'd get a new one. Not really very "professional", is it?

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Replying to Accountant A:
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By paul.benny
25th Nov 2019 12:36

If done properly, the client wouldn't know whether the person at the end of the phone or responding to emails is an employee or an outsourced service.

VA is nothing new - serviced offices have always offered phone answering, reception and other similar admin services. What is relatively new (ie 21st century) is that the service can easily be provided remotely.

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Replying to paul.benny:
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By bernard michael
25th Nov 2019 13:57

paul.benny wrote:

If done properly, the client wouldn't know whether the person at the end of the phone or responding to emails is an employee or an outsourced service.

VA is nothing new - serviced offices have always offered phone answering, reception and other similar admin services. What is relatively new (ie 21st century) is that the service can easily be provided remotely.

How do they get round the Data protection problem ??

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Replying to bernard michael:
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By paul.benny
28th Nov 2019 13:54

What data protection problem?

The service user and the service provider should have appropriate policies. But conceptually, there's no difference between using a third party to answer the phone and using a third party to deliver the mail. Every time we put a letter in a post box, we are handing over personal data (name and address) to a third party (Royal Mail) and none of us gives that a second thought. It's covered by the 'legitimate interests' basis for data processing and does not require consent.

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Replying to paul.benny:
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By C Graham
28th Nov 2019 15:37

I was wondering why there was any data protection issue as well?
GDPR is mostly about regulating how data is kept and used.

I think in many cases the VA has access to the company mail server which presumably should be secure anyway.

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Rebecca Seeley Harris
By Rebecca Seeley Harris
27th Nov 2019 13:08

I use a VA service but, not for answering emails. For example, they have just sorted out my business cards for me and book travel and do other ancilliaries. You use them the same as a PA.

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By C Graham
28th Nov 2019 11:32

It depends on the arrangement - if just a temp service then some of the points raised are true. However real VAs do the job of PAs or EAs just remotely. You build exactly the same relationship as with a PA and some of it can be in situ but generally not. The advantage is that you can have the service and that includes building up a very personal business relationship with one VA who is dedicated to your business - but only pay when you need it.

Also some agencies offering VA pay poorly so the VAs are not experienced. Go to a good and dedicated agent and you will get all the advantages without continuous overhead with the appearance of having a regular PA.

Flexible working arrangements are much more the norm now. Llke Co working spaces. Look at IBle as a good example of decent VAs agency.

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By Rob Swan
28th Nov 2019 12:06

I know - and use - professional advisers who use VAs. It helps because when they're busy I can still get an answer. See no reason why it should not be a good thing.
Here's my key point on this...
People who use VA's tend to be small businesses, normally one man bands (that includes 'one woman bands' too btw!). A one man band can't be there all the time and is more productive when they don't have to do routine admin, etc, etc... So why not?
Yes, there are good and bad ones, but there are good and bad accountants too ;)

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