What is a customer support virtual assistant and why would I need one?
Customer service is a must have in the world of commerce. With the growth of e-commerce sales, the need for e-support is surging too. However, not all businesses choose to do customer service in-house. That’s where customer support VAs come in.
Because of the nature of some jobs, workers don’t even need to be working in the same building or country as the business. There are many benefits to this and some business owners outsource tasks to virtual assistants – one being customer service.
But, what are these advantages?
Benefits of Hiring a Customer Support Virtual Assistant
Customer support staff are primarily responsible for answering customer queries, but that isn’t all. They are available to help and ensure patrons have access to the resources they need during the buyer’s journey. This means they are there to help in both pre-purchase and post-purchase stages.
Virtual customer service staff are beneficial for a few reasons.
Because e-support is becoming very popular, the physical presence of customer service staff is less necessary. By outsourcing, you can save on overhead expenses like power and rent. The rates will also likely be lower when hiring from countries with much lower costs of living. Not only that, but you also don’t have to think about worker benefits or payroll taxes if you hire overseas.
Expertise and Experience
When you wisely outsource customer support, you are outsourcing to individuals and teams who have likely served many customers before. You can even find those who have worked in similar industries to yours. This also saves you the time and money investment involved in training and developing your own CS department.
One of the benefits of hiring workers outside of your time zone is the flexibility. You ideally would like to get to your customer inquiries and concerns as quickly as possible. VA staff can make that possible by manning the desk on business off-hours. You can even have both a virtual day team and night team.
You can expand or contract your customer service needs during busy and slow times of the year. Accounting for seasonality like Christmas, Thanksgiving, or other high-volume seasons, you can temporarily hire staff to manage the load.
Types of Customer Support Services Offered by Virtual Assistants
Email and Phone Support
This involves answering a designated customer support email and manning phone lines.
Chatbots and Automation
Chatbots are basically automated responses to the most commonly asked questions. Companies create these preset responses by gathering queries asked in various customer support channels. Anything more complex than this can be the job of the next service on our list.
This involves a CS representative chatting with a potential buyer in real time. They help them with their experience on your website or a web page. These people can direct them to the resources that they need. Live chat interactions can help you develop your FAQs and inform what your automated responses can be.
CS staff create FAQs by collating responses from multiple places like email, phone, live chat, comments, and other forms of feedback. This solution is a win-win for both parties. On the one hand, customers can find an answer to their common question quickly. On the other hand, your other customer service personnel are free to answer more complex problems not included in the FAQ section.
Helpful Videos and Other Resources
Like FAQs, there are other forms of content that we consider a kind of customer support. For instance, videos showing how a product or service works. Though not their primary duties, CS staff can also help create written content that aid customer service experiences. These and FAQs are self-help options that provide customer service while giving customers the ability to help themselves.
A lot of companies leverage the value of social media to market their products and services. With social media advertising also comes the need for customer support. They can answer comments, chat with potential leads, manage CS pages, and more.
Note: While not technically customer support, a CRM or customer relationship management tool, is also something you should consider. A good CRM system can really help you not only find customers, but also retain them. The data gathered by CRM software like HubSpot can really improve your customer service efforts.
How to Find the Right Customer Support Virtual Assistant
What Skills and Qualifications Should You Look for in a Customer Support Virtual Assistant?
This is naturally the most important skill when it comes to CS. This is more than just speaking the language and knowing the business. It’s about being able to understand a client’s needs and provide a clear and comprehensible answer.
Critical Thinking / Problem-Solving Skills
Sometimes the queries that customers have are easy to answer. Other times, it’s more challenging and might not even appear in the handbook. This means customer support staff must be able to think on their feet and find a solution. They need to be resourceful and flexible to cater to the specific needs of each client.
Knowledge and Willingness to Learn
I’ve personally had instances where I ask a customer service representative about an item and they can’t give me any new information. This probably has more to do with how they’re trained than the reps themselves.
However, you should look for someone who is willing to know the ins and outs of your products and services. This way, they can give more quality and valuable responses to your customers.
Empathy, Patience, Grace
These skills are often overlooked, but are crucial in customer service. CS staff is responsible for providing the best experience they can to customers.
Sometimes customers have a bad day, are themselves impatient, or are difficult. However, sometimes the product or service may have genuinely caused inconvenience to them and they need a solution.
While we do not condone the mistreatment of customer service staff, we do advocate for the golden rule: Treat others the way you would like to be treated. Someone who is kind, understanding, and gracious is the ideal representative not only for your CS department, but your business as a whole.
Cost of Hiring A Customer Support Virtual Assistant
According to Upwork, standard CS representative rates are between $10-$19 per hour. This number can be higher if you need more in-depth help with FAQs and other content.
How to Train Your Customer Support Virtual Assistant
An in-depth remote onboarding process is essential to help your hire get to know your business and its products. Here, they also get to know the roles and responsibilities of the position. You can also communicate your work culture.
Soft Skills Training
The kind of soft skills you train for depends on the position. With customer service, this involves people-skills like the ones we mentioned earlier. This typically aligns with your company values, especially regarding customer relations.
Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) Orientation
These involve the types of actions taken during certain scenarios. For instance, this can tell you what to do and how to behave when a customer has a complaint. These SOPs do vary from business to business, but they have fundamental similarities. An example would be not to raise your voice if the customer is upset.
How to Manage Your Customer Support Virtual Assistant
We can’t stress enough how important it is to establish your communication channels early on. These channels are where you dole out tasks and where your hire can get a hold of you. Onboarding and orientation go far for sure. However, you should always be reachable in case a customer has a complaint not in the guidebook.
Regularly scheduled meetings and checkups are crucial. These meetings are for progress reports and temperature checks. They are also places for partnership – for receiving feedback and suggestions.
Common Challenges Faced by Customer Support Virtual Assistants
Uncommon Questions and Issues
Some customers are going to have questions that may not be on the FAQs. These complex questions might seem jarring, especially if CS staff have never dealt with it before. Some may have to do with a product flaw or a website malfunction that customer service personnel can’t fix. That’s why it’s important that your team is able to problem solve and communicate with clients, not just read from a book.
A smaller CS staff may have to handle multiple chats, emails, or queries at once. In these cases, it’s important to remain organized and thorough so you still provide excellent customer care. Also, make sure you have enough staff for the demand. Overworked staff giving subpar quality service will only spell disaster in the long run.
Sometimes customer service representatives need to learn how to diffuse a situation. However, dealing with difficult customers day in and day out is a real and unfortunate reality for some. This can take a toll on a person. That’s why checking in on your CS staff and making sure their morale is high is important. That culture of care for customers should start with a culture of care for those who work with and for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Customer Support Virtual Assistants available 24/7?
You can definitely put that as one of your criteria when canvassing for the right VA. Most customer service VAs are aware their services may be required round the clock. However, we do recommend that you hire at least two VAs to cover for one another.
Is it safe to share sensitive customer information with a Virtual Assistant?
When it comes to data security, while there certainly are risks, there are also quite a few methods of mitigating them. For instance, we wouldn’t recommend allowing just anyone to have access to this information.
Recruiting through sketchy websites or failing to undertake proper vetting procedures can lead to a bad hire. We recommend hiring through esteemed freelance marketplaces or on referral from people you trust. Also, maintaining a “need-to-know” attitude towards customer data will also be beneficial.
You have little to worry about sensitive information leaking if you follow some of these hiring practices. Learning the best hiring methods with Outsource School can help you avoid hiring risks and mishaps.
How do I monitor the performance of a Customer Support Virtual Assistant?
You can use project management software like Asana, Microsoft Project, or Trello. This is where you can give instructions, store guides, and maintain regular communication. That way, a hire can always go back and look at what you’ve discussed whenever they face confusion. You can also hire a project manager or appoint a lead representative with more experience. This lead can train up other reps in your company culture and preferred practices.
What tools and software are commonly used by Customer Support VAs?
Zendesk, Freshdesk, and Helpdesk are the most popular ones for general customer service. Mailchimp is a common tool used for email management. Whatever tool you use, the most important thing is to hire someone who can use it well.
What Is Outsource School?
Outsource School helps you to unlock the potential of virtual assistants and accelerate your business growth.
Since being founded in 2020, Outsource School has helped 1,000+ business owners hire 2,000+ virtual assistants for their companies.
Free resources you might like:
- Outsource School Case Study: How We Scaled to 45+ VAs and 8 Figures in Revenue
- Free VA Calculator | See How Many VAs You Can Afford
- Free Training on 5 Keys to Working With VAs
- Learn Outsourcing 101 | Guides, Downloads, and Checklists
Hiring a customer support virtual assistant is a great investment for your business. If you didn’t have a CS department before, this can greatly improve your customer relationships. If you need to transition from in-house to third-party, you can save money and leverage other advantages of outsourcing.
By investing in customer support, you’re putting the needs of your customers first. By putting the customers’ needs first, you’re really putting your business first.