We don’t like making excuses

Seriously. We don’t. But if a client doesn’t trust us, we don’t have much choice.

‘I’m very sorry, madam. Of course we’ll tell him you called. But I’m afraid I don’t know if the scintillator valve on your SP193 has a bifurcating dongle…’

So it’s great when clients trust us – and give us full access to their systems.

Recently we covered for the owner of an executive courier company who was going on holiday.

He gave us the details of his four drivers. He forwarded his phone calls to our office. He even handed over his business mobile – and gave us access to his email accounts.

He also gave us every piece of information we could conceivably need.

We’d regard that as Trust with a capital T.

So while he was away we answered all his phone calls. We responded to emails on his behalf. We raised quotes for him. We took bookings for him. We dealt with his drivers and gave them their instructions. We even made courtesy follow-up calls to his clients.

As a result the only people who knew the boss was away were his own drivers. So he could enjoy his holiday in peace.

(And we had his business mobile. So there was no risk it’d get thrown in the pool…)

It’s all about process

If we took you on as new client we’d want find out as much about you as you’re willing to tell.

Your contact details (all of them). Your client details (including which are the most demanding and which need to be handled with – shall we say – particular care…): ‘Please be aware that if you use the word ‘cheese’ in a conversation with Tom H**** he will immediately scream, jump up onto his desk, and sing the Marseillaise.’

We also like to know what software you use. What services you provide, and what they cost. Who your ‘go-to’ people are: ‘Please pass any calls about the SP193 to Mrs Slocombe. She’s the only one who has the first idea what it does. Or how it does it…’

And we’ll take the time to understand how your business processes work. Plus making a note of any password or login details we need to make sure they do work.

Then we write up everything we’ve learned in a document. We call it your Standard Operating Procedure. And (if you want us to) we’ll hand a copy to you.

It’s a valuable document. And yes, it’s yours.

Because real trust works both ways.

So if you’d like to know more about the way a ‘proper’ Virtual Assistant works, feel free to give us a call on 01638 741079. Or take a peek at our website

And no, we don’t supply scintillator valves. Or bifurcating dongles. Sorry.

Help us to help you…

You’ve taken the plunge. You’ve decided to hand over work you don’t want to do to someone else. In fact, you’ve decided to outsource. To a Virtual Assistant.

Your business coach (if you have one) will applaud you. Your family (if you have one) will thank you. But now you’ll be facing several important questions. So you might want to have a few answers.

And we’d like to help. (After all, that’s what we’re here for!)

You’re the expert…

If you run your own business, then you are the expert. You know all about it. Every last detail, in fact (including your potentially unique filing system, the cryptic passwords to your spreadsheet software, and the location of the last but one tin of cat food).

And with the best will in the world, these are not things that even the most eager and able assistant will know. At least, not without being told (and writing them down).

So there’s one thing a good Virtual Assistant will need right away – before they spend a vital couple of hours getting down to all that detail.

They need you to trust them…!

…and it’s so much more than a telephone answering service

Many people think a Virtual Assistant is just someone who answers the phone – rather like a human answering machine.

‘Oooh, I’m afraid he’s not here.’

‘But this is his office, isn’t it?’

‘Well… I could take a message, if you like…?’

Face it, a machine would be a lot cheaper. And just as (in)effective.

A real Virtual Assistant is much more than that – if they’re allowed to be, of course.

Because a real Virtual Assistant is one who likes to see things through – from start to finish. Who doesn’t just take a message, but deals with the query. Meets the caller’s need. And does exactly what the client would have done had they answered the phone themselves. In fact a true blue superhero/ine. (Or whatever colour your branding happens to be. After all, we’re representing your business…)

‘I’ll just check that for you, sir. Yes, your order for a Mark 3 Super Obfusticator went to dispatch this morning> Marked to go first class. So you should have it tomorrow.’

Which means – for example – that owners can happily take a holiday in the knowledge that their business will run very efficiently. And without them.

Just imagine it. No annoying texts. No unwanted and worrying emails. No phone calls at odd hours – usually when you’re doing something that shouldn’t be interrupted. Like enjoying a concert. (Sorry, what did you think we meant?)

And no acid comments from your other half…

‘I swear if you don’t get off that phone this minute I’ll throw it in the pool…’

Like to know more? Then take a look at our website. Drop us an email. Or give us a call right now on 01638 741079.

Or you could look up what to do when your phone’s been thrown in the pool

Hire a Virtual Assistant and Reorganise Your Workload

Developing your business is something that all directors and team members should spend time doing. Growing custom, creating contracts and delivering an excellent service or product is key. Thinking about the future is also something that people spend a lot of time doing, but really only you know what needs to be done to make your business successful and what you need to be getting on with to make this happen. So where does all your time go? If you find that too much of your valuable time gets spent on laborious tasks which could be delegated to a virtual assistant – reap the benefits of an extra pair of hands without the cost of a full time staff member.

Virtual assistants can be used for short-term or long-term hiring or just for a singular one off project. Whether you need a telephone answering service that needs to be handled with ease, holiday and sickness cover for existing staff or an admin task that you need by a deadline. The whole idea of a virtual assistant is to free up your hands to give you the freedom to do what you do best.

Think about what you need

Initially, you need to think about what you want from a virtual assistant. What sort of relationship do you require from them; do you want them to update you by telephone often, send you important information by email or do you simply require a detailed end of day report. Are you looking for a project manager who can act by their initiative or someone that you can dictate tasks to as when they are needed? Being clear to your virtual assistant and knowing what you require will often lead to you being able to see how much time you are wasting and you are prepared to delegate.

Be aware of the services available

Don’t just hire a virtual personal assistant and leave them running in the background, continuing to do the same job that you employed them to do months ago. It may be that they have been very good at managing your diary and taking your calls, but that service could probably be developed for other areas of your business too. Sales calls, marketing material, social media management and book keeping – their skills go on and on. In Purple Haze the team members all have different skill sets so if you are looking for something in particular it is likely there is an expert ready to take it off your hands.

Be Ready to Perform

So, the weight of endless paperwork and admin has lifted from your workload. You have seen the results produced by your VA’s and can now trust them to represent your business in a professional manner. Now what do you do? You get out there, you do what you do best. Let yourself be inspired again and focus on moving your business forward.

To see how Purple Haze VA’s have benefitted businesses succeed visit the testimonial page.

Invoicing Systems save time and money!

In the modern world of business, electronic invoicing has become a common tool. It makes for seamless transactions and the benefits towards a positive cash flow are fundamental to small businesses. Are you yet to utilise this and are you aware of the advantages of doing so?

Convenience and time

Most importantly for some, invoicing systems can save you and your business time. This will give you the freedom to do what you do best.

Remembering each client’s outstanding balances and deadlines can be arduous and time consuming, yet the ease of email reminders will alert you of upcoming payments and the ones that are overdue too.

An invoice system will process an invoice to be sent directly to the customer, stating the amount owed and for which products; the deadlines for payments and then outlines the ways in which they are able to give this to you. All of these benefits can then be combined and engineered to be sent for recurring payments.

Control of finance and improving cash flow

In today’s society, our culture can consider it rude to demand money from someone. Sending an invoice can eliminate this, asking for your money owed in a more professional and formal manner.

Many businesses will agree that using an invoicing system improves the likelihood of you being paid more promptly; In fact, some customers won’t pay until they have received their invoice.

“How would you like to pay for that?” Direct your customers straight to your website for on online payment using a credit or debit card, refer them to a telephone payment system, allow for cheques or even offer PayPal services. It’s up to you how you want to be paid, but the more ways they are aware of means it’s easier for them to make an instant payment.

Make invoicing part of your businesses DNA. Time and money is important and you could have more of both.

For more information about how Purple Haze can help you and your business with invoicing systems, get in touch today – admin@purplehaze-va.com.

Why do you need a Virtual Assistant

Are you overwhelmed running your business? Are there not enough hours in the day? The more your business grows, the more administrative tasks you have; the more time you spend on administrative tasks, the less time you have to generate new business.

How much is your time really worth? Is it worth £50 an hour or £100 an hour? YOUR time is most valuable because it is your responsibility to generate new revenue for your business.

Doing small and often trivial admin chores yourself does not really add value to your business and the sensible solution is to delegate those less profitable tasks by hiring someone more than capable of carrying them out, but whose hourly rate is somewhat less than your real financial worth. So what’s stopping you?

You may have a multitude of reasons that prevent you from hiring a full time personal assistant. You may not need a full time, or even part time employee but just require someone for occasional or limited hours. Then there are the employers responsibilities, employees are entitled to sick pay, maternity leave and paid holiday and often seek generous benefits packages. It is estimated that the true cost of an employee is over double and often up to triple the cost of their annual salary in terms of benefits and liabilities.

Significant for some potential employers is also the loss of privacy and space – are you working from home or have limited office space? You may not want an employee working from your home or simply not have the room for an additional employee in your office or all the equipment they may need.

Wouldn’t it be perfect if you had an assistant that was always ready to work for you, but only when you need them? Working from their own home or office, using their own equipment? Meet the Purple Haze Virtual Assistant (VA), an invaluable new work force that provides a practical solution for small businesses owners. A VA frees up your valuable time so you can concentrate on the important things that only you can do in your business.

There is no need to share office space or even for your VA to live in the same town or city. Work assignments are communicated through email; telephone, fax or post and Web-based tools such as instant messengers and online calendars and planners are also often used as a means of keeping in touch.

Purple Haze VA invoices you only for the actual hours worked or by tasks completed, and is the perfect solution for a busy small business or entrepreneur. When you hire a VA you get all the benefits of outsourcing – no employer liabilities, tax and benefits issues, coupled with the loyalty and steadiness of a company employee.

With a VA, you have someone to whom you can delegate. Your VA can return telephone calls, answer e-mails, and draft letters for you. They can take your telephone calls, filter your email, deal with your post, book your doctor’s appointment and even remind you of your wife’s or mother’s birthday and source the perfect gift if necessary! We are already computer trained, and can assist with your specific needs from traditional office support services to highly specialised areas including web page design. You can also equip your VA to go beyond administrative support to client development and marketing support.

You can easily justify a virtual assistant in terms of your greater productivity and your greater efficiency. You need to be the leader in your business and your VA will insure that you focus on what is important, rather than urgent. Your VA can also lend ‘size’ to your company, which will impress potential clients.

As more and more businesses move their marketing and communications to the Internet, VAs are becoming the obvious solution to staffing issues. For an hourly fee often less than the cost of temps or the real cost of employees, businesses can take advantage of professional assistance and a variety of skills at the click of a mouse.

To find out more about how Purple Haze VA can assist you – get in touch today admin@purplehaze-va.com.

CRM – What does it mean and how can it help me?

You’ve probably heard the term “CRM” if you are a business owner or sales manager. But what does it really mean?

C-R-M stands for Customer Relationship Management. At its simplest, a CRM system allows businesses to manage business relationships and the data and information associated with them. With CRM, you can store customer and prospect contact information, accounts, leads and sales opportunities in one central location, ideally in the cloud so the information is accessible by many, in real time.

While a CRM system may not elicit as much enthusiasm these days as social networking platforms like Facebook or Twitter, any CRM system is similarly built around people and relationships. And that’s exactly why it can be so valuable for a fast-growing business.

Any business starts out with a foundation of great customer relationships. You, the seller, connect with people who need your product. Yet, as your company grows, these business connections grow more sophisticated. It’s not just a transaction between the buyer and seller. You start to manage a myriad of connections, across time, within each company you do business with. You need to share information across various teams within your own organisation who are making contact with the same customers.

A CRM system can serve as a vital nerve centre to manage the many connections that happen in a growing business.

For small businesses, a CRM system may simply help you put your data in the cloud, making it accessible in real time, across any device. But as you grow, a CRM can quickly expand to include more sophisticated features to help teams collaborate with colleagues and customers, send customized emails, gather insights from social media conversations, and get a holistic picture of your business health in real time.

Today growing businesses manage customer connections and information in a variety of ways. Some use old fashioned note cards and filing systems. Others store information on their mobile phone while on the go. Others use Excel spreadsheets or Google documents. While that may help in the short term when you have a small team and don’t plan on scaling your business, if you want to scale for fast growth, it may be time to consider a CRM system to help you collect your precious business data in one place, make it accessible via the cloud, and free up your time to focus on delighting customers rather than letting valuable insights and information fall through the cracks.

Purple Haze work with a number of commercially available CRM systems and can help to recommend a suitable platform for your business if you don’t already have one. We also help to manage existing CRM systems, inputting and cleansing data and ensuring that it is kept up-to-date.

Contact us today for more information by calling 01638 741079 or email admin@purplehaze-va.com.

Getting to know Rachael Tate

Welcome to Rachael Tate – the latest addition to the Purple Haze team. We thought it would be nice to spend some time getting to know her, so you’ll be on familiar territory when you speak to her.

So, Rachael – tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, not long after my birth the hospital was demolished. Read into that what you will! I moved to Grantham when I was 2…where I did my growing up. I moved to Bolton when I was 21 with a company I worked for at the time. Then moved to Nottingham, where I worked for Experian as a Senior Client Services Officer… which was auditing data from all the companies that shared data for credit reports. It was around this time I thought ‘what am I doing in life?’ and decided to take myself to University.

What experience have you had in the commercial world?

I started work at E.ON, known then as Powergen, to pay my way through university. I enjoyed E.ON so much that I ended up staying there for 10 years! Once I finished university I went full time and quickly progressed to a Supervisor, then Team Manager in customer service before moving to Residential Marketing to work as a Segment Manager then a Retention Manager. I’ve also volunteered for the last 2 years as a Victim Support Worker.

What are your hobbies and passions – what do you like to do outside of work?

I like to stay fit and go to gym classes, my favourite is Pilates. I like to do a few charity fun runs a year, race for life/ sports relief. I’m also doing the sports relief Swimathon this year. I have a keen interest in people, my degree is in Psychology. I’m also studying counselling at the moment.

What strengths do you bring to the Purple Haze team?

I bring a unique balance of commercial awareness and customer focus. I have worked closely with proposition teams in the past, developing products that customers want, not what we think they want, utilising available information and customer research! I have instigated and lead targeted marketing campaigns and been heavily involved with improving customer experience whilst making things more efficient and cost effective to the business. I am used to working in a heavily regulated industry, addressing issues head on to limit impacts onto customers and the business.

What will your role be at Purple Haze?

I have been brought in as the Business Development Manager, with the objective of growing Purple Haze. For me, we need to make sure that our current customers are happy. Retention is the best acquisition tool. Word of mouth is the best kind of marketing you can get!

How will you define success when you look back a year from now?

Not only will we have new clients, but our current clients will be so happy with our services they will want us to do more for them.

We all wish you the very best Rachael and look forward to hearing about how Purple Haze clients have benefitted from your skills and experience.

Zen and the art of customer service – Purple Haze

Customer Service Excellence Keys

Research shows that for customers the following 5 parts of service are key:

  • Delivery – Doing what you say
  • Timeliness – Doing it when you say you’re going to
  • Information – Holding and using customer information that is correct and relevant
  • Professionalism – Deal with customers in a courteous and polite manner
  • Staff attitude – Having a Positive and determined attitude to care for all customers every day

All of which ‘sounds’ fairly straight forward – and what we all aspire to do each day of course. But for a whole host of reasons too great to go into here this frequently doesn’t happen.

Achieving the Holy Grail of customer service excellence today

Work with our clients has shown that accurate Information is the key element for progress across the board.

Knowing and using the following information about your customers will make all the difference in the world:

  • Contact details
  • Preferences
  • Who they live and work with
  • 6 strands of equality – Age, Gender, Ethnicity, Disability, Faith, Sexuality

These may seem a basic necessity to many. But many are still to grasp the full use such details can be put to.

Focusing services on those who need them rather a ‘one size fits all’ – Driving efficiency and effectiveness of service provision.

So where to start with Customer Excellence?

Updating your customers’ details on an on-going basis can be a time consuming, laborious and often painful process. A specialist provider – like Purple Haze – can quickly and efficiently provide the information you need through a profiling and telephone number checking and appending service.

We provide the data to you in a format that your IT staff can easily import to your systems. Or we can even input it and keep it up to date for you – at one stroke giving you the foundations for improving customer excellence.

To summarise:

  • It’s far easier to deliver what people want when you know what that is.
  • It takes less time to do when resources are focused on the essentials required.
  • It’s a lot easier to have a professional, positive and determined attitude when the basic information fundamentals have been taken care of.

For more information about how Purple Haze can help you achieve Customer Service excellence, get in touch today – admin@purplehaze-va.com

Image is Everything

Your company image is one of the most critical elements to get right. Failure to implement a consistent, professional brand across all of your materials could result in people not taking you seriously.

Of course image starts with your logo, but that’s only the beginning;

  • The typeface (or font) you use will say a lot about your business approach and philosophy
  • The style of photography you use (or illustrations) and in what context all help to set the scene
  • And a palette of complimentary colours for backgrounds and buttons on your website and documents will all help to support the work done in creating your identity.

Never cut corners.

Get your design agency to produce a set of guidelines that demonstrate how your brand should be applied in various scenarios:-

  • Websites
  • E-Newsletters
  • Office stationery
  • Documents
  • Spreadsheets
  • Presentations etc.

Everything you use to present your business to the outside world should be consistent and professional in its appearance.

Properly documented guidelines will ensure that in 2 years time when you need an advert for the local paper, it’s created in the same structure, layout and style as the original brand. Consider it a blueprint for your future communications.

We are often asked to help companies introduce a consistent look and feel across all of their documentation. One client, following a raft of word-processing and standardisation said, “The work Purple Haze has done has made us look like a proper company. I now feel that I can compete with larger companies and do so with confidence.”

To discuss any aspect of your company’s image or documentation, get in touch with Purple Haze today.

Is there still a place for the skill of minute taking?

With recorders now allowed in court rooms and every Tom, Dick and Harry having a smart phone with a voice recorder, is there still a place for the skill of minute-taking?

The average person speaks at three words a second – imagine being able to take down 100 words a minute and get absolutely everything that is said in a meeting with a client, either face to face or on the phone, then having it readily available whenever needed, without the pain of transcribing from a recording.

Whether it is for client meetings, call conferences, discrete note taking, points of reference, because your recorder battery has died – or to ensure nothing is overlooked – taking notes in a meeting is as critical today as it ever was.

When you are next having an important meeting, whether it’s a disciplinary meeting with an employee, a project update with your key supplier or a financial review with the accountants – why not let Purple Haze take minutes of the meeting, or transcribe your recordings into minuted notes which can act as a permanent record of what was said.

One of our clients, Keeping HR Simple says, “I am really pleased to recommend the services of Purple Haze VA Limited who really helped us out this week with note-taking for a formal meeting being held. Professional and helpful service – can’t ask for more than that!”

Parcel delivery service

One of the most frustrating things we experience, according to a recent survey, is having to wait in for a parcel to be delivered. It’s made worse when the courier company give you no indication of whether the delivery will be made at 9am or 6pm – it’s practically impossible to plan anything that involves setting foot outside your door until that parcel has arrived.

It even affects whether or not you can go for a lie down in the garden or have a shower (what if you miss the doorbell and have to repeat the whole process again tomorrow?!). Or what if you’re on holiday when that all important package is due to arrive?!

Did you know that Purple Haze can arrange to take delivery of your parcels for you and then forward them on at a time that’s suitably convenient!

Just another reason why we’re helping small businesses to keep active and growing in the face of adversity (and courier companies!).

Contact us to find out more – www.purplehaze-va.com or admin@purplehaze-va.com.

e-Commerce, the unexpected overhead

So you’ve made the decision to sell your products online. Wonderful. Clicks and mortar – it’s the future, right?

You’ll have weighed up the costs in terms of website design and development, you will have tested and identified the most appropriate payment gateway and set up an online bank account to handle your transactions. You’ve meticulously photographed and described all of your products in a clear and concise way that encourages visitors to buy from you. Think you’ve thought of everything?

Customer service is rated as the single most important factor in a customer’s decision to purchase. The level of that importance increases again when a second or subsequent purchase is being considered. In other words, you may sell something once because you’ve got a great product at a great price – but if you fail to deliver on your customer service, that will be all you sell.

How about when an item is damaged in transit or fails to arrive? Are you ready to take the call from your irate customer? What if they post about it on Facebook? Or Twitter? Are you monitoring your social media round-the-clock ready to respond in a positive way?What happens when an item is out of stock? How promptly do you contact your customer and let them know when the item will be available again?

If someone needs to arrange a return, do you have a procedure in place? Or something as simple as a customer enquiry – are you there to answer the phones when your website traffic starts to increase?

All of these factors can make the difference between a successful e-Commerce business and one which fails to deliver on its brand promises. So don’t forget to invest in your customer service infrastructure – and remember that with Purple Haze at your side, you can outsource the entire operation to them.

They will monitor your social media channels, answer your telephone calls, implement your returns policy, advise customers of stock levels and tackle any inbound customer service enquiries – all in a seamless and professional way that accurately reflects the impression that your brand makes online.

To find out more about how Purple Haze can help with your e-Commerce operations, or indeed to hear case studies of other online businesses that already use their service – get in touch today via the website at www.purplehaze-va.com.

Helping you hit your targets…

As a recruiter, you will know that consultation is the key to successful recruitment. Developing solid and lasting relationships with both candidate and client alike is vital to commercial and reputable achievement within the industry. However, as a recruiter, you will also know that the primary source of most of these relationships comes from general enquiry and advertisement response, usually meaning a great deal of administrative work.

Have you ever felt bogged down with the thought of entering 100 new CVs onto your database?

Have you ever felt pressured by the backlog of applications in your email and wondered how you are going to process them before the week is out?

Purple Haze is here to help you. We know how important it is to hit daily, weekly, monthly targets and that resourcing as well as consulting on all of your roles is extremely time consuming.

That is where we come in.

With our years of administrative experience as well as up-to-minute awareness of technological advancement, Purple Haze can help ease the daily clerical work and let you do what you do best – recruit.

From small, specialist companies to global organisations, Purple Haze are able to adapt to every need and requirement of your firm. Whether it be simple proofreading of incoming CVs, formatting documents to fit your companies specification, processing and linking candidates to live vacancies or just basic data entry, we are able to decrease the time you spend on secretarial work and increase your daily workflow.

If you keen to hear about Purple Haze’s services and how we can help your recruitment company today, call us for a free consultation on 01638 741079 or visit our website www.purplehaze-va.com.

Benefits of e-newsletters

Businesses can often be hesitant about sending e-newsletter campaigns, be it for promotional or informational reasons, but few are aware of the full range of benefits they can have.

The first, and possibly the most important, reason for sending an e-newsletter campaign is to keep in contact with your clients and affiliates. A regular link between a company and its clients is vital to keep clients informed and interested in your business and as a reminder of your loyalty to them. Moreover, a personalised e-newsletter can help to make clients feel special.

Sharing news and updates about your business with your clients on a regular basis is a great way to show that you are constantly developing. Furthermore, it is an excellent way of advertising business progression and to advertise any new services or products you may provide. Monthly promotions, such as a buy one get one half price sale, can help to keep clients interested and engaged and encourage them to forward your newsletter onto their clients, friends and contacts.

Being an e-newsletter, it is extremely simple for recipients to forward onto any contacts they may believe it to be of interest to. It also has feedback benefits for the business sending out the campaign as programmes, such as MailChimp, provide a full summary of an e-newsletter after it has been sent including how many copies were opened or unopened! Linking your newsletter to blog feeds, social media sites and your website can also help to create a measurable traffic flow to them.

If you need any e-newsletter advice, support or training (online or one-to-one) please do not hesitate to contact any of the team at Purple Haze on 01638 741079.

The Telephone and Your Business

Picking up the phone is still key to running a successful business; making contact with clients and prospects alike and being heard in your business community. But picking up the phone requires time and planning, and as a small business with so many other constraints even making an appointment can be deemed as an invaluable use of time that really could be put to more effective areas of running the business.

Organise the nature of your calls, make sure you have all the relative data, create a record and keep that information up-to-date. By having a list of contacts time can be spent continuously making outward bound calls. Be clear with your message, remain focussed and eventually you will get that appointment, make that sale and raise your business profile whilst continuing to build relationships.

Contact us on 01638 741079 or email admin@purplehaze-va.com to learn more about our telephone answering service.