I’ve heard a lot of sad tales about failed attempts to work with a virtual assistant or other virtual service provider. In some cases they are valid, perfect examples of why you shouldn’t just trust some virtual assistant service to find the right kind of help for your business. In other cases, bad experiences could have been avoided with attention to one thing.
It’s important in any working relationship, even traditional in office situations. When your help is being provided remotely via virtual services it’s absolutely critical. I’ve written about it before, but it’s worth repeating as more and more positions can be filled with virtual service providers than ever before. That means that knowing how to communicate effectively and consistently is vital regardless of whether you’re the business owner or the virtual service provider.
- Be as precise as possible. Good communication doesn’t necessarily mean lengthy communication. The ability to be precise and to the point can’t be overstated. Unless you’re presenting some sort of proposal, you don’t need a lengthy explanation up front. Get right to the heart of the matter and state it clearly.
- Clarify if you are unsure at all. If during the course of communication something isn’t crystal clear, don’t assume and don’t guess. Ask. A quick “Can you clarify” is professional and shows a desire to understand correctly. It also saves you from some embarrassing situations or just plain bad experiences.
- Respond as quickly as possible. While the importance of this is true in any situation in a business/virtual service provider situation it is critical. If your virtual assistant asks a question, its quite likely they will not proceed with your project or task until they get the answer (see #2). If the business owner sends an inquiry or new project or task, a response that it has been received and will be handled is common courtesy and puts the business owner’s mind at ease. Even if you don’t have time to address a question or clarify points you don’t understand a quick response confirming it’s been received is simply good manners. You can quickly confirm response and let the other party know you’ll respond in greater detail later.
- Understand the preferred method of communication and use it. This one really applies more to business owners utilizing virtual services. Because virtual assistants, web designers, etc. work with multiple businesses at once, they tend to prefer a method of communication that causes the least amount of disruption while still providing their clients with adequate responsiveness. In most cases, this communication method will not be the telephone. Be prepared to learn how to communicate effectively via email, Skype messages or even text messages. I know, there are some of you out there that are already thinking, “but it’s so much easier to just call.” For you maybe, but unless you know exactly what you are going to say and absolutely never get sidetracked etc. it’s not. For a virtual services provider time is critical, every minute spent on the phone is a minute they are not using to work on client tasks and projects. How would you feel if your projects weren’t completed on time because another client had a lengthy phone call with your virtual service provider during the time allotted for your tasks? Virtual service providers aren’t being difficult when they insist upon electronic communication methods, they are actually being wise time managers.
- Don’t go silent. This applies to both parties. It seems like a no-brainer but amazingly it’s one of the biggest complaints on both sides of the situation. Things happen, unexpected things like illness and more expected things like vacations. It only takes a moment to send a quick message explaining that you won’t be available and why if it seems important to explain.
On the virtual services provider side, you may think that because you have everything under control with the client’s project there is nothing you need to say. You’d be wrong. Silence allows doubts to creep in to a client’s thoughts. All it takes to keep that from happening is a quick message letting them know things are progressing as planned. Simple. It’s sad that so many don’t do it and leave the client wondering just what is going on. If you’re going silent because things went badly, that’s just plain wrong. I know it’s frightening to screw up, but professional business people don’t just run away and hide.
On the other side of the coin, if you’re a business owner and haven’t received an expected response from your services provider, it never hurts to inquire if they have received said communication. After all, we’ve all dealt with email glitches or messages misdirected to spam folders. And if that’s not the case, it may well remind your provider that it’s common courtesy to respond in some way.
There are a lot of contributing factors when it comes to building a successful relationship with a virtual services provider. Good communication can help overcome a lot of doubts and fear that clients have about having their work done remotely. More importantly, it’s a critical element in building a successful understanding of the expectations in the relationship.