The Value of a Virtual Assistant

The concept of outsourcing has been around since the 70’s. But it wasn’t until the late 80’s that it was accepted by the business community as an effective strategy for improving profit margins.

Primarily seen as a cost management tool, outsourcing has evolved to a degree that it has been applied as a strategy to increase productivity. The Eurozone debt crisis which began in 2009, brought outsourcing to the forefront as businesses sought to restructure expenses by re-aligning resources toward core competencies.

This has led to a surge in the demand for Virtual Assistants as businesses looked to outsource non-core activities to global locations as the Philippines and India where comparative advantages in economies of scale exist.

Benefits of hiring a virtual assistant

By definition, a Virtual Assistant is an independent contractor who renders administrative, technical and specialized services to a client. It used to be that Virtual Assistants were indispensible only to entrepreneurs who because of their limited resources had to efficiently manage their time, expertise and budget to keep the business moving forward.

Now, big business has caught on and realized the benefits maintaining a team of Virtual Assistants have on their bottom-line: lower cost of operation, greater focus on core activities which directly support the main enterprise, access to technology and higher productivity.

The need to streamline costs while generating revenue has contributed to the increased globalization of business where new venues are explored to seek highly-skilled yet affordable talent. The growth of the Internet and the availability of numerous social networking platforms have made this exercise more convenient for both client and service provider.

As mentioned, the Philippines and India are popular destinations for businesses interested in outsourcing services. However, in September 2013, research engine Knowledgefaber released the results of its survey which showed the Philippines outgrowing India, Mumbai and Bangalore 16% to 9% despite the Indian Rupee holding a comparative advantage over the Philippine Peso vis-à-vis the US Dollar.

Although outbound services continued to spur the growth of the Philippine BPO industry, other sectors likewise registered significant growth. These include transcription services, back office work, administrative support, inbound customer service and digital marketing. Analysts took this as proof positive of the high quality of work rendered by Philippine service providers.

The growth of the Philippines’ support services sector has led to new branches of BPO such as Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO), Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO) and Creative Process Outsourcing (CPO). Clearly, the world has embraced the Philippines as a viable market for Virtual Assistants.

There are a number of reasons why the Philippines has become the premiere destination for Virtual Assistance work:

  1. The Philippines has a literacy rate of 94% – one of the highest in the world.
  2. English is the second language but is the primary medium of instruction and business.
  3. 75% of Filipinos are considered proficient in written and spoken English.
  4. Having been colonized by the Dutch, Spain, the US and Japan, the Philippines has become a cultural melting pot; adaptable to any multinational wishing to do business in Asia.
  5. Affordable wage rate. In the US, the average wage rate is US$23 per hour. In the Philippines, the average wage rate is US$2.70/hour.

Thus, the Philippines presents businesses the perfect combination for outsourcing success: affordable labor without compromising quality of work and service.

But in a market place teeming with talent, how does the business qualify a Virtual Assistant in the Philippines and ensure a successful engagement?

  1. In addition to the CV and other work requirements, subject the candidate to a live interview. Granted that some candidates write better than they speak but a live interview will give the client a good perspective on “Who” the candidate is; how the candidate formulates his or her responses, gives feedback and reacts to criticism.
  2. Ask for referrals or recommendations from former or existing clients. Take the time to place an actual call to the client or to send an e-mail verifying the qualification of the candidate.
  3. Be mindful of cultural and societal nuances. Asians, particularly Filipinos are very spiritual. 90% of the Philippines are Catholics and respect certain days of obligation. Many do not work on Sundays, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Black Saturday and Christmas Day. Filipinos also have close family ties and observe important dates as All Souls Day and All Saints Day.

The Virtual Assistant has become a valuable tool in the daily struggle to sustain profitability. Acquiring the services of a Virtual Assistant presents the business with a double edged sword that lowers costs and increases productivity. The challenge is to find one who fits perfectly with the business. Globalization has made this easier.