Virtual Communication

23 06 2008

Good communication skills are the essential must-have in the toolbox of any good assistant, be they on-site or off-site, and for the virtual assistant you can't survive long without developing the art of communicating well.

In the traditional world of personal assistants, where the assistant is in the office, the boss able to check on progress every time he/she walks past their desk. As a virtual assistant, the "boss" is the client, and he/she doesn't have that visual reassurance that their work is being done and so relies totally on other communication means. It's quite common now for Personal Assistants to be delegated projects to just get on with, and they do just that – get on with it in a capable and adept way.

When a PA turns VA, even though they may still be entrusted with a project to "just get on with", they still need to very much keep the client in the loop with what's going on,whether it's good or bad. Sadly, I've heard stories of VA's not letting their client know that things were not happening according to plan or schedule, and in fear of letting their client down, kept quiet, in the mislaid hope that things would "sort themselves out", which invariably didn't and they ended up letting the client down anyway (who thought that silence meant everything was ok) and ultimately, loosing that client and tarnishing their reputation among that client's circle of contacts. Had they kept their client informed of what was going wrong, the client could then have taken an informed decision as to change tack or strategy, and ended up with a really loyal client rather than a disillusioned one.

So how does a good virtual assistant communicate well with their client? Here are my top tips.

  1. Never assume that your client knows you've received an email instruction – a quick email reply acknowledging that you've received the instruction or have done it or when you plan on doing it reassures the client that their instruction hasn't got lost in cyberspace.
  2. Don't go the other way and provide lengthy replies about more detail than is necessary – your client doesn't have time to read through long essays (or else they wouldn't need a VA!).
  3. Keep in regular contact, as often as you feel the client needs to be reassured things are going to plan. It might be weekly or daily – depending on the assignment.
  4. If things aren't going according to plan, let the client know immediately. Even better, make some alternative positive suggestions or proposed courses of action. 
  5. Get to know your client's preferred communication style. Some prefer email, as they can deal with it when they are ready and don't like being interrupted with a phone call or may not be contactable easily by phone. Some may prefer telephone calls, as it's more two-way and instant (and they may find typing email messages just takes far too long!) – get to know which they prefer.
  6. Book telephone call time with your client (an email setting out your intention for the client that isn't so easily available by phone) and make sure you spend their time (and yours) wisely and efficiently. Even if you are on really good terms and on idle-chat-about-personal-issues terms, it is a business call and sticking to your list of questions/queries when you do speak with them shows that you value and respect their time.

Composed by Vee Smith – My Super VA – helping busy business owners make effective use of their time.

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