Outsourcing tasks to virtual assistants can be a great way to improve the efficiency of your property management department and position your business for growth.
But it can also come with its own hurdles. Here are the top five and how you can overcome them…
The staff in the local office don’t want to let the work go
This can happen when the property management team or sales team who will work with a virtual assistant aren’t included in the decision-making process, and that happens frequently.
The higher-level management makes the decision to outsource and naturally workers in the office want to know what this means for them.
Failing to include the staff who will implement the changes can cause a needless disruption in the office.
The same thing happens when the principal of the business brings in new software and the staff is left asking: “What did you buy that for?”
The boss isn’t the one using it every day and those that do wonder why they weren’t consulted. People need to feel they are trusted and that their input is valued.
The key to successfully introducing new processes to an office is ensuring your staff are part of it.
When making a big change like outsourcing to overseas-based virtual assistants, managers and principals should look for a provider who guarantees a robust training program.
These problems aren’t particular to real estate. It happens in businesses everywhere when changes are made.
When choosing an outsourcing provider you need one that understands change management.
They don’t just show staff how to work with VAs but to understand how the changes help them in their working day.
It is natural to be nervous about change. The employer needs to team with a provider who consults with their staff on the ground from the beginning and continues that engagement right through the process.
Overcomplicating the transition
This is such a common obstacle.
A provider outlines the tasks that can be handled by virtual assistants. Then the manager comes back with a list of tasks that are not already handled in their office or relevant to the office.
That complicates the process without meeting the key objectives.
When the process is in the design stage, it is common for the office to ask for extra steps with too much communication back and forward with the VA.
They say: “The VA can prepare the tenancy document but needs to send it to a manager for checking”.
I ask clients, “Are you doing that in your office now?” If you don’t do that step in your office now you don’t need to do it with a virtual assistant.
Using a VA is about making an office more efficient, not more complex.
Staff become too attached to the virtual assistant and want to develop a personal relationship
Employees in Australia often want to make the virtual assistant their new best friend or lavish them with too much praise.
But there are cultural and generational differences that can lead to misunderstandings if the relationship becomes too personal.
For example, Australian staff might want to buy a gift for their VA. What the client doesn’t realise is that there is competitiveness between VAs when the camera is off. The VA tells other staff on the floor and that can cause friction.
An assistant might not work out or need to take leave. The kind of outsourcing company you are looking for prepares for that and provides a replacement without charge.
Outsource the task and focus on getting the job done without being too focused on the individual. It is always best to keep the relationship with VAs professional.
Clients dip their toe into outsourcing but don’t commit to the overall strategy
Some of the initial providers of outsourcing for real estate did not come from the real estate industry.
Some offered one-task virtual assistant services, one-job wonders. The result is that some real estate offices start with one virtual assistant but are hesitant to move beyond that because it is what some other providers offered.
For example, our company Property Management Virtual Assistant offers more than 200 tasks that can be handled by VAs.
They handle a variety of these across the day, from posting properties on social media to booking an inspection and reconciling a trust account.
Real estate agencies should be working on a strategy for growth.
For example, if a rent roll increases by 50 properties, where does the next employee come from to handle that? You need to plan for that growth.
If an expanding business stays with one virtual assistant, they soon could arrive at the same limits to growth they faced in the past.
Embracing the use of more VAs saves on staffing costs and takes pressure off staff on the ground in Australia. They feel less stressed and more valued.
Fear that their information is not secure
That is a big topic right now but it is helpful that more people are aware of the dangers. Australian real estate agencies must be confident their data is secure when using an outsourcing service.
Some providers outsource the outsourcing, or use out-of-office workers working with multiple companies.
Some companies own the outsourcing but have outside investors. Those investors could have other investments which are in conflict with that agency. Capital venture money has been big in outsourcing in the past year and these companies have their fingers in many different pies. One of them could be data.
One of the key differences with PMVA is that I own our office here and our office in the Philippines. We have no investors.
None of our virtual assistants work from home. They all work under supervision in the secure environment of our office with strict quality control.
That is the level of security you should be looking for when deciding on an outsourcing provider.