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The Perfect Answer

One of the main compliments that I always get from my customers and business colleagues is that both my staff and I have a very professional telephone answering voice and always sound very professional and also friendly when answering our calls.  I have always found it to be very important when dealing with our client, or clients of clients as it’s a crucial element to winning customers and building business relationships.

Even with all of the new ways to communicate these days, the telephone is still a primary means of communication in business and the way that you answer a call will form your customer’s first impression of both you and your business.

Here are a few of my top telephone answering tips to ensure that you’re presenting yourself—and your business–in a professional manner, all the time!

  1. Always answer a call promptly
  2. Answer the phone in a professional and pleasant manner, and with a smile. Be enthusiastic. People can feel it or hear it on the other end.
  3. When answering an office phone, welcome callers by introducing yourself and your organization. For instance, ““Good Morning/Afternoon, The Virtual Office, Samantha speaking.” If you’re answering a personal mobile phone, a simple, “Good morning, xxx speaking,” is appropriate.
  4. Speak slowly and clearly when answering the phone so that the caller can understand you. Keep your voice at a moderate level. No one likes to be yelled at.
  5. If you’re answering a phone with multiple lines, be sure to ask the caller if it’s all right for you to place him/her on hold BEFORE you do so. Provide callers who are on hold with an update every 30 to 45 seconds and offer them choices if possible. “That line is busy, would you like to continue to hold or would you like to leave a message for Mr. Smith?”
  6. If you are taking the call from your office never use speakerphone to answer an incoming call. This will give the caller the immediate impression that you’re not fully engaged with them.
  7. If you use an answering machine to catch those calls you can’t get to, make certain that you record a professional message that includes an introduction (just as if you were answering the phone). This will ensure that the caller knows he has reached the right person and avoid any confusion.

Good telephone manners go a long way. Following these few tips will ensure that you leave a positive impression with business contacts (so that they call back!).

If you feel that you would like to have your very own professional telephone answering service to represent your business then why not contact us today on 051 351286 or email us: info@virtualoffices.ie

Why not speak to us about our new 1 week free trial on our telephone answering service!

Advantages of Outsourcing

Welcome to the latest outsourcing blog. In this week’s blog we are looking at the advantages of outsourcing. Overall we can see the advantages are, saving time and money. We will break them down using the following headings.

Advantages of Outsourcing

Focus on Core activities: In periods of growth and decline the company will have the resources available to continue to exceed your customer’s expectations of excellent service.
Cost and Efficiency savings: By outsourcing you have greater control over your spending; you will not have any costs for the service when you are not using the service.
Reduced overheads:  The business is not liable for the cost of providing an office environment or the costs of training and development of the personnel to run the office.
Operational Control: A company’s marketing department may not have the staff to complete the operational targets and therefore require some projects to be outsourced.
Staffing flexibility: Outsourcing will allow businesses a lot more flexibility in that they will only pay for the times when the service is used, therefore they have the advantage of having extra staff without the need to go through the hassle of an interview process.
Continuity:  If any members of staff become ill for a period of time or leave the business for any reason, outsourcing is a way of plugging the gap.
Internal development: By having your own staff working beside an outsourcing company, the company’s employee’s can develop a new skill set for future use, or can be seconded to another department to help through any particular project the company is involved with.

As we can see from the above there are many advantages to outsourcing, We at The Virtual Office are only too happy to help with your outsourcing needs.

 

Outsourcing for Growth

Outsourcing for Growth
As we wrote recently, outsourcing is defined as any task, operation or process that could be performed by you or your employee’s within your business, but is contracted to a third party.

Many business owners find their business is growing or they are trying to spend more time on marketing but find the length of time to complete each task is taking up even more valuable hours on a never ending to do list!  This can be very stressful, especially when everyone is looking for more of your time whether its suppliers or customers, and as a result certain aspects of your business begin to suffer, and, of course these harsh economic conditions are placing further financial constraints on businesses which mean it’s not feasible for a business owner to take on staff.

Outsourcing your administration takes off some of the pressure, giving you the freedom to spend more time working on your business rather than just in it
What tasks to outsource? Taking the decision to outsource some of your administrative tasks won’t be something you do lightly. It’s quite daunting when you find yourself having to let go of some tasks and relinquish them from your hands-on control.  A manageable way to embark upon an outsourcing relationship is to start by delegating individual tasks or projects.

At the beginning each party needs to learn how to work together, how to communicate efficiently and effectively in order to get the best from each other.  As you each start to see the results, you’ll get a feel for competencies and/or weaknesses and adapt accordingly.  As trust grows it’s very likely you’ll feel much more comfortable handing tasks over.

The tasks to outsource are the tasks that are not profitable but take up a great deal of time such as credit control, telephone answering and other administrative tasks.

Outsourcing for Survival

Outsourcing was once seen as a strategic tool to gain a competitive advantage over your competitors.  It is now being used as a way of increasing a business’ survival during what is now seen as one of the worst period of our economic history.

Outsourcing is defined as any task, operation, job or process that could be performed by employees within your company, but contracted to an external third party.
The continuing downturn in the economy has seen the number of customers looking for goods and services dwindle, thus creating an ever increasing competitiveness amongst businesses.

As business conditions decline the same numbers of employees are no longer required, and business owners are faced with the situation that they now need to cut costs and cannot afford to keep the same staffing levels, however, there are still responsibilities that need to be carried out to keep the business moving forward.

In the above situation there is only one conclusion and that is to take the hard decision, and reduce staffing levels to ensure the business survival through this downturn but in doing so it ensures the ongoing business is now in a much better situation for when the economy turns around, and staffing levels can return to normal.

For your outsourcing requirements to ensure your business survival through this difficult time why not contact The Virtual Office, to see how we can help you to cut costs.

Next week we will be looking at outsourcing for growth.

6 Ways to Make Your Small Business Look Bigger

Some people say “fake it ‘til you make it,” but I think that cliché has an unnecessary air of falseness about it. Still, if you are starting up or running a small business, making your company look bigger and more established to the outside world can have dramatic results.

Whilst we’re not suggesting you misrepresent yourself or your company, or you behave like a big, impersonal corporation. What we are saying is that image does matter, and you should cast your business in the best possible light.

Dressing up your small business sends a message of seriousness and credibility to customers, suppliers, and anyone else who interacts with your business. It also affects your own attitude; much like wearing nice clothes makes you stand a little taller. With so many cheap and easy tools available for the purpose, there’s no excuse for not making your business look like a business, even if the company is just you and a laptop. Start here:

1.  If you work from home, lose the bunny slippers. If you’ve chosen to work out of your house, then create an impenetrable “work bubble.” That means a dedicated, quiet, professional, well-equipped and wired space that you, and anyone else in the house, treat no differently than an office across town. No exceptions. Get dressed up for work in the morning, even though you don’t have to. It affects your behaviour, not to mention it avoids embarrassing surprise Skype Calls!

2. Your phone sets a tone. I can’t tell you how many times someone has called me, representing a business, and I’ve heard kids or pets or TV in the background. Or I’ve called a “business” number and listened to an answering message saying “you’ve reached the Smith family and Smith Industries, Incorporated…” Get a good phone on a dedicated line, and clear, professional voice mail, and record a professional-sounding message. If it starts with “hi there!” it’s wrong.

3. Look good on paper. There is no excuse for inkjet-printed business cards or Microsoft WordArt logos. Proper cards and other printed materials are cheap and easy to get in small quantities from Printers.  Hire a proper designer and printer to do your stationery for you.

4. Be the master of your domain. A good starter website is inexpensive and easy to build. It may not be the sophisticated enterprise-level site you will inevitably want or need, but a beautifully-designed company info or “brochure” site is better than cheap, shoddy looking anything else. It is probably the first point of entry for people doing business with you, and the best way to convey the image you want.

5. Don’t be a Yahoo. Few things stand out as credibility question marks more than a generic/free email account. Business people are always sceptical when they get a business email ending in yahoo.com, gmail.com, or hotmail.com. As part of your website project, set up proper mailboxes with the same domain name and don’t just use your first name, if your business is not well known. Use first name/last initial or first initial/last name. It immediately sounds more substantial.

6. Outsource to a company that can provide a professional image.   Some businesses are ideally suited to be run from home, and lets face it, in this economic climate it certainly helps with cutting costs, however, there does come a time when your business will need to have an extra pair of hands to help get the work done, but what happens when your home office isn’t designed to accommodate more then you?

If you can’t move into an office or if you can’t justify the cost just yet, consider using a virtual office.  These remote offices can help companies to look quite substantial to the outside world and building the most impressive image you can from the start is a key step in getting business visibility, being taken seriously, and getting people to want to do business with you.

Why You Need to go on Holidays!

We All Need A Holiday!!

When you’re running a business, holidays are often the last thing on your mind. ‘Who’ll run my business while I’m gone?’ you ask yourself. ‘What if I miss a big work opportunity while I’m gone? And with all the work I’ll have to do before and after, is it really worth it?’

The answer is, yes, it is worth it. When you’re working hard on your business, we often don’t realise how stressed and tired we are. Our bodies need a break and so do our minds. Going away gives you a chance to relax and because you’re somewhere new, your mind is stimulated. That’s why you come back to the office recharged.

Business owners often worry that their customers won’t get the same level of service while they’re gone, or that the staff won’t run the business to the same standard. You need to let those concerns go. If your staff have been working with you for a long time and you trust them, you can trust them. And as long as they’re looking after your customers, your customers will be happy.

Preparation is the key to a stress-free holiday.

Choose your dates carefully. Pick a time when your business is naturally quiet. Let your clients know when you’re going before hand, rather than relying on an Out of Office Reply. Don’t create a mound of work for yourself before you go. Spread out tasks so you’re not too burnt out to enjoy your holiday. And if the work is too much for you, consider outsourcing it to a service provider with the right mix of skills for you.

Most important of all, pick a trusted person to help you prepare for your holiday and look after the business while you’re gone. This could be a staff member, a family member or an outsourced partner. Brief them on what you need them to do and above all, trust that they will do it for you.

With these steps in place, you can go on holidays knowing that your business will run smoothly. And you’ll come back ready to pounce on any opportunities that arise. Enjoy your holidays! Talk to us today about booking your business holiday cover with us, email: samantha@virtualoffices.ie

Effective Time Management Strategies

Do you wish that you had more hours in your day? Does your to-do list keep getting bigger instead of smaller? Is your desk covered in clutter? Are you working longer hours, yet still not getting enough done?

It’s easy to feel that time is running away on us. When that happens, we can feel stressed. We talk about our heads being fried, or about to explode. And in the end, our work and family life suffers.

Why do we find it so difficult to manage our time? A lot of the time, we take too much on. We find it hard to say no when people ask us to do something and we don’t delegate jobs to our staff and colleagues. We allow ourselves to be distracted by things happening around us. And when we have a difficult job to do, it’s easy to put it off, which makes it even harder to start.

When it comes to managing your time, attitude is everything. Better time management starts with a decision to make a change. It’s a kind of mind makeover. And it starts with a bit of tough talking, admitting to yourself that your habits are causing you to waste time and need to be changed. And that it’s time for the excuses to stop.

Next, you need to think about what changes you can make to take your business to the next level. It’ll mean leaving your comfort zone, but if you can embrace those changes, you’ll really feel the benefits. Here are some examples of a few simple changes that have worked for us.

Write it down. Write a list of all the jobs you will need to do, in the short, medium and long term. Once you have a handle on what’s ahead of you, your mind will feel clearer.

Prioritise. Go through your list and decide which tasks are most urgent and important. Set yourself a date for when it will be achieved, whether it’s today, this week, this month or even this year. And keep your eye on those goals. If anyone distracts you from them, learn to say a polite no.

Be realistic. Arrange your schedule in a way that fits your business and lifestyle. Recognise that it won’t be possible to get everything done and resist the temptation to cram your timetable. That way, if unexpected challenges crop up, you’ll have the flexibility to deal with them.

Limit Distractions. Keep concentrating on what you need to do and learn to shut out excess noise. Resist the urge to keep checking emails and Facebook and answer the phone. Handle email, social media and phone calls in batches.

Delegate. It’s tempting to think you can do things faster yourself. But a few extra minutes spent explaining a job to a member of staff will save you hours in the long run. You can give them the routine jobs, while you get on with the major tasks.

The Virtual Office can save you time. Find out how by calling 051 351286.

WHAT CAN I DO TO GET ORGANISED?

“WHAT CAN I DO TO GET ORGANISED?”

For months, a friend of mine would toss out that hypothetical question in the course of conversation. It was often uttered in an emotionally charged verbal volley of all the ‘To Do’ list items that perpetually plagued this person.  Whenever she’d finish, I’d give a knowing nod; after all, everybody’s busy!!

After the umpteenth hypothetical howling on the topic of “how to get organized,” I finally decided to offer more than a knowing nod.  It’d become clear to me that this successful individual was not succeeding at conquering the issue.  I lightly offered a real answer to her hypothetical question.

“Hire a virtual assistant.”

This friend didn’t take my response seriously at first.  Like so many people, she had some preconceived notions and misperceptions about the whole hiring prospect.  “I can’t afford that.”  “Well, I’m busy, but not that busy.”  “I should be able to overcome this on my own when things slow down.”  “I’d feel awkward having an assistant.” “I don’t have time to try to find the right person, let alone train them.”

Of course, being an authority on The Virtual Office market, and, as she rapidly fired those “but,I can’t,” or “I don’t” theories, I responded with immediate answers to explain how she could and should afford to hire the reliable help of a virtual assistant.  I explained that virtual assistance services are surprisingly affordable and that companies like The Virtual Office do the heavy lifting in terms of hiring-equipping-training.  I also told her that having assistance would not only help her with immediate organizational needs, it would open up the chance for forward-thinking, proactive possibilities.

“Once you get out from under the work pile,

you can start to think ahead.”

I’d love to report that this friend was immediately motivated to call The Virtual Office and get the assistance she clearly needs and has since conquered her issue of getting organized.  However, in the time since our conversation, she’s actually stated that she’d love to check into getting an assistant if she could just find the time to visit www.virtualoffices.ie.  The fact is she’ll have to take the first step on her own.  She’ll have to decide that it’s not okay to be so busy that she feels buried.  The ball is in her court, and now she knows she has options.

What about you?  Do you find yourself repeating the same questions over the same frustrations?  Would you like help but feel it’s too costly or not for you?  Put down your To Do list and visit www.virtualoffices.ie right now.  Take the five minutes you were about to lose fussing over what needs to be done that you don’t have time to do, and learn about your options for getting real, professional, change-your-work-a-day world solutions.  Real people like you are tapping into virtual staffing solutions every day.

Get out from under that pile of ‘to do’s’, so you can look ahead.