So, your company is growing like crazy and your staff is overworked and/or unreliable. To help scale your business and support your team you have decided to make the leap to hire your first virtual assistant!
Before you think you are going to save a ton of money by eliminating and outsourcing jobs think again. Your first assistant should not replace any existing staff members. They should aid and extend the capabilities of your current operations. If you have an excellent plan for what your assistant will do for your company, you can both support your team and expand the level of your service at the same time.
- Work Schedule – Consider the schedule your assistant will work. It can be a mistake to schedule them the same exact time as your other staff. Your staff is probably already overworked, and they will feel increased pressure to show the new assistant what to do every minute of the day. You want your new assistant to be an asset to your staff, not a management obligation. The ideal schedule for your first assistant would be something like 3 pm to midnight if your business is open 9 to 5. This period gives you a few hours a day to train the assistant but does not always give your assistant unlimited access to you. This will allow you to increase the hours of your service by having someone on the team that can continue to communicate with your tenants and prospects after normal business hours helping ease the workload of voicemails and emails to respond to the next business day.
- After Hours Emergencies – One of the biggest pains in our line of work is after hours emergency calls. We all know that 75% of these calls are not emergencies at all. Train your assistant how to take these calls and what to do based on the situation. There are only a few situations that warrant an emergency action and a decision tree can easily be created for what your assistant should do based on the scenario. Many of these calls will not be property or life threatening and can wait until the next day to address. Give your maintenance team some support by creating a buffer between the 24-hour maintenance line and your tenants so they do not have to wake up to a bogus emergency call late at night.
- Scheduling Showings – Most online traffic for people searching for their next place to live happens between 5 pm and 9 pm. The exact opposite time that your doors are open for business. Consider giving your assistant the training to follow up with prospects/guest cards to answer their questions about rentals and schedule showings until 9 pm every night. Your prospects will appreciate the convenience of texting or messaging someone after hours and this will create a great initial reputation for your brand. This won’t only allow you to schedule more showings, it will help reduce how many phone calls your office staff has to answer during normal business hours the next day.
- Website Chat – Over 90% of your prospects are on the internet looking for their next apartment. There is no better tool to extend your service than website chat in the evening. This simple tool can easily pay for the cost of hiring an assistant by itself. With your assistant able to answer questions for a prospect immediately when they surf your website you will increase showings and occupancy rates. Your assistant can handle as many as a dozen conversations at one time and have time to find the best answer before they respond as opposed to having one conversation on the telephone.
- So Easy a Caveman Could do it – You probably have a list of at least 5 of these tasks in your mind right now. These are the simple tasks that take up all your team’s time that basically anyone could learn how to do. These are the first things your assistant should be assigned, and these are things that will make an immediate impact on your current staff’s productivity. Some of these might include, creating work orders, entering time sheets, reviewing applications, sending renewals out, answering emails, and collecting move in and move out paperwork. Whatever items you identify that take the most amount of time to complete and are the easiest to teach.
- Clearly Defined Tasks – Jobs that have a definite yes/no, right/wrong answer are the best assignments for your assistant. It is a mistake to have their first responsibility be answering phone calls. This is the least productive use of your assistant’s time and will lead to mistakes if they don’t already know the operations of your business. Any situation where the assistant needs to make a quick decision for a tenant/prospect without having the time to make sure they have the right answer is a recipe for disaster. Give them time to learn the way things work within your company and gain confidence before putting them on the spot.
- Limit Departments – In an effort to get the most bang for your buck you will be tempted to gather a list of the tasks your staff needs help with and have your assistant try to learn tasks from several different departments and supervisors. This is going to severely limit the productivity of your first assistant. If you focus on one area, say marketing, and have your assistant schedule showings, refresh ads, and help with renewals then their learning curve will be much faster. They will be able to see how their different tasks all fit together to accomplish a larger goal.
- Busy Work – Every member of your team should have a “Busy Work” task. This task is something that benefits the company but can be done at virtually any time. It is a task that the assistant will work on when they have accomplished all their other jobs and has nothing else to do. Having a busy work task that has quantifiable results like entering data is a good choice. This will allow you to see if your assistant has more room for learning new processes. Prospecting for new clients can be a great busy work task. Having a busy work task in place for your assistant will eliminate any guilt you feel for not training them on a new task immediately after their other tasks completed.
- Support the Strongest, not the Weakest – You may have the urge to have your new assistant help your weakest teammate because they are failing at their duties. This is not recommended as most often the worst staff member is also the person that will be unmotivated or not educated enough to be a good teacher. Because you will only get out of your assistant what you invest into your assistant, having a weak team member be their immediate supervisor will only result in having two bad apples. You should instead, feed your strongest worker. They will appreciate that you notice their dedication and have offered them support. They will be motivated to teach your assistant so they can be even more productive every workday.
The largest mistake that property management companies make when hiring their first assistant is not dedicating the proper time to train effectively. A virtual assistant can be like a sponge for knowledge if an investment is made in proper training. They can accomplish almost any task that can be done remotely if detailed step by step instructions are provided. However, if there is an unreasonable expectation that the assistant will jump into your business and know how to do tasks that are specialized to your company, you will surely be disappointed.
Plan the duties for your first virtual assistant, have an excellent training program that shows them every detail of how to complete the process, and you will see huge results. Profits will increase, productivity will increase, and the morale of your staff will increase.
Owner Member – Prosper Real Estate
Chase Collins has been managing properties in Wisconsin and Minnesota for 17 years and currently oversees a portfolio of 100 million in assets. He is a licensed dwelling contractor and licensed real estate broker. He has consulted hundreds of property managers and trains virtual assistants in the property management industry. More information can be found at www.PropertyManagerAssistant.com