How to Get in Touch with Your Virtual Assistant
Many business owners an entrepreneurs who are new to the concept of working with a virtual assistant share the same initial questions and concerns. Namely: “How will I communicate with a virtual assistant?’
Anyone who’s been in business for a while knows that the ability to communicate effectively is vitally crucial to any working relationship and particularly that of a businessperson and his or her assistant. When that assistant is virtual and may never step foot in your actual place of business, it further increases the importance of clear communication. Without clear lines of communication between the client and VA, there can be no real exchange of ideas and tasks and projects become unnecessarily complicated.
While truly professional virtual assistants will be skilled at understanding and adapting to their clients’ communication styles and preferences, it’s also important for the clients themselves to take some initiative in getting to know their virtual assistants on an individual level. As with any relationship, familiarity breeds anticipation which allows for a more effective business relationship.
Aside from communication style, which is obviously going to be a personal preference, there is also the question of deciding which of the many options for communicating you will employ with your virtual assistant. Note that an established VA likely has his or her own preferred and established communication methods and may even have business policies in place to dictate how clients contact and share information.
We’re all familiar with email, and while email can be a very effective mode of communication when operating virtually it can also be limiting for the same reason it tends to lend itself to misunderstandings. In the same way email allows you to quickly shoot off a note, or attach a file and send it to your virtual assistant for editing, printing, mailing, or filing it can also be a liability when one is emotionally charged. Email, when used to communicate professionally, is a great time saver. Email also provides a neat paper trail for larger projects and brainstorms – providing a written record to rely on when it comes time to execute the idea you’ve been hashing out.
While many virtual assistants take calls only at scheduled or predetermined times (to ensure the necessary uninterrupted time is devoted to each client) it’s still a common and effective method of communicating with your VA, assuming both of you approach using the phone for business from similar perspectives. When any large project is discussed via phone follow-up immediately with written notes and your understanding of the issue, goals and objectives, and solutions reached during the call to ensure you and your virtual service provider are on the same page.
IM or Instant Messenger is a wonderful technology for communication but may not always be conducive to productive business conversations. While it might be useful to quickly send a file or request directly through instant messenger to your virtual assistant unless you’re certain that your service provider is waiting on the other end to receive the file or message your messages and the important information they contain could be lost. Instant messenger is best used when the conversation is previously scheduled and both parties have set aside the necessary time to complete the discussion.
It’s equally important to be aware that even if your virtual assistant is available via instant messenger, it can be distracting to receive multiple unanticipated IM requests during business hours so try to only initiate unplanned IM conversations when there is some urgency.
VOIM (Voice Over Instant Messenger) and VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol)
VOIM and VOIP enable you to call computer-to-computer with the click of a mouse. When the connection between you and your virtual assistant is established you can easily delegate tasks, give instructions, or ask questions – avoiding picking up the phone or typing lengthy emails and waiting for a response.
Even though you can scan, photograph, and fax or email just about anything, every once in a while a project could very well require that you actually mail some documents or similar to your virtual assistant for handling.
Faxing can now be done online – even if you or your virtual assistant do not have fax machines you can still feasibly fax documents to each other. Although, if you’re using an online fax because you don’t have a physical fax machine it’s just as easy to attach the document to an email. However, if you have a paper document that you need to get to your VA or your VA needs to fax something on your behalf, online fax services are a great option.
With the plethora of online as well as hard-wired communication tools available it’s quite easy to establish effective communication habits with your virtual service provider. And while you may have your own personal preference, it’s certain you and your virtual assistant will necessarily employ a mix of the options we’ve mentioned here in order to accomplish the end goal: business growth. As technologies continue to advance, you’ll be presented with the opportunity to connect with your virtual service provider in new and exciting ways.