It’s the difference between the Palmer Holiday Chocolate Christmas Bells and the Dove Chocolate Christmas Bells. Both of them are chocolate. Both of them have that holiday bell shape. But bite into them both and you’ll find that the Palmer variety isn’t exactly premium chocolate. The Dove on the other hand is soft, silky and decadently chocolate. Sure, the Dove version costs more, I can get an entire bag of Palmer chocolate bells for 99 cents. Dove will set me back closer to $3. But for me, that $2.01 difference is worth every penny. If I’m going to indulge in those extra chocolate calories I want the good stuff. What does this have to do with business and the virtual assistant industry? Everything.
There is a book out there by Timothy Ferriss called the 4-hour Work Week. In it, he promotes outsourcing everything in order to make not just your business run smoother, but to make your life run smoother. For a virtual assistant like myself this is an exciting prospect. Imagine how disappointed I was when I read the following in an excerpt concerning his book:
How to outsource your life to overseas virtual assistants for $5 per hour and do whatever you want
I have two problems with that sentence. Number one, $5 per hour is far from what the average rate is for virtual assistants in the U.S and Canada (and probably lots of other countries) . And Number Two, hasn’t the U.S. outsourced enough of it’s jobs already? Isn’t it having a rather dismal effect on our economy? I decided not to buy Mr. Ferriss’ book. I also decided that if Mr. Ferriss was paying $5 per hour for virtual assistance from India, he quite possibly was selling himself and his professional image, short. Why? Because you get what you pay for.
For example, the language barrier. Sure, those outsourced employees in India can speak English. Textbook English. How many of you dictate without the use of industry terms, slang, local jargon and other language idiosyncrasies that come from growing up in America? And how easy is it to get words in the English language confused? Bare versus bear for instance. Putting the wrong word into a document could change the entire meaning.
And what about communicating with your virtual assistant. If you’ve ever dealt with a representative who is clearly from another country during a telephone conversation you probably know how frustrating it can be to understand them and for them to understand you.
I recall a conversation with ‘Bob’ from a well known mortgage lending company.His name was obviously a phony to make me feel more comfortable and perhaps to make me believe that I was speaking with someone on the same continent that I was on. All it accomplished was to make me wonder if they thought I was idiot enough to believe he was really ‘Bob’. I tried, during several lengthy conversations with ‘Bob’ to try to explain that the company he was calling for was no longer in business. After thirty minutes it appeared that perhaps I had made progress, only to have ‘Peter’ call me back the next day asking the same exact questions. This persisted at least twice a week until the day I left my former job. For all I know Bob and Pete are still calling my replacement.
As a business owner, I would want my virtual assistant to represent my company and myself in a professional manner that simulated the real deal as closely as possible. Do I want my customers thinking that my business is based overseas? ‘Bob’ and ‘Pete’ have probably never worked in an actual American office, which probably explains why they had such a difficult time understanding the concepts I was trying to explain to them.
Sure, you’re going to pay more per hour for my virtual assistant services, and others like me. When you do, you’re paying for so much more than just getting the job done. You’re paying for knowledge and expertise. You’re paying for professionalism and image. And you’re helping your own country’s economy. It’s like the chocolate analogy…you can settle for the less than premium taste and feel of the Palmer chocolate for cheap, or you can indulge in the quality and true chocolate experience of the Dove. Which do you prefer?