Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Do you have plans to start a business? Or are you already running one and wish to expand? Do you manage a big corporation, have the need for more hands yet want to cut cost? Are you running an NGO? This article may just give you ideas on how to sort out your financial stress and also save you some personal time to do other things.

The benefits of using Virtual Assistance for your business is too numerous to mention more importantly, it saves you money and helps you control costs. Whether you have a small business or run a big corporation, virtual assistance will come in handy one way or the other. Many business owners are faced with projects and tasks that come and go depending on the season.  Hiring a virtual assistant is beneficial because they can work when you need them to work, eliminating the need to hire full time or even part time staff.
Using Virtual Assistants allows you to delegate the repetitive yet essential tasks that you do but really someone else can do for you, hence enabling you to focus on expanding your business with those business ideas you have been entertaining but due to lack of time and financial costs you have not been able to bring into reality, could be a new product or new service. The new product or service can even be started using VA's.
In this blog, I will enumerate the benefits and advantages of using a virtual assistant, this will include financially as well. We will also look at the comparison between using a virtual assistant and employing either a temp or full staff, and thereafter look into the areas a virtual assistant will come in handy for your business.

·        Allows you to delegate essential tasks to experts and high skilled staff who are well trained, saving you the costs of training.
·        For a small business owner, it allows you to focus on new business strategies and new services to grow your business while satisfying your existing customers
·        The highly trained VA will posses skills that you may not have but need, e g. graphic design, search engine optimization, computer skill proficiency and writing skills.
·        The Virtual Assistant will use his own equipment like computers, laptops, printers and other state of the art software that your company may not own thereby saving you the costs of putting this in place.
·        For the big corporations, it allows you to 'employ' and save the additional time constraining exercises e g. Recruitment process
·         Using Virtual Assistants can help level out seasonal or cyclical fluctuations in your business.

·         A VA can help your business gain a competitive edge by providing value-added services.

·         Using virtual assistants lets you delegate the myriad of time consuming administrative tasks.
·         Never have to pay a 'temp' agency fee; and eliminate the guess work by knowing who is performing the work each time you need assistance.

·         You can count on working with a professional who is dedicated to helping their own business grow.

·         A virtual office assistant strives to have a long term relationship with their clients; and will always strive to provide them the best quality service.
·         You get experienced assistance when you need it. Your assistance is just a call away.

                        Financial Benefits Of Using Virtual Assistants:

·        VA's are independent contractors; eliminating payroll taxes, vacation pay, sick days and employee benefits such as health insurance
·        No need to purchase additional office space or equipment
·        No expenses or down time for employee training
·        Using VA's offers you the ability to keep your projects on schedule without paying overtime
·        You only pay for time spent on YOUR project
·        Unlike traditional employees, you are NOT paying a virtual assistant for making personal phone calls, surfing the internet, chatting with co-workers or coffee/smoke breaks
·        No agency fees as with temporary employees
·        Using VA's gives you the ability to take on more work to generate more profits
The cost savings of using virtual assistants, depending on the size of your business, can be quite staggering. When you include payroll taxes and benefit packages for a full-time employee, their “real” cost is over twice the base pay!

·         Employer PAYE
·         Health and Pension payments
·         Holiday and sick pay
·         Lunch and coffee breaks
·         Performance reviews, grievances
·         Training & Termination
·         Cost of expensive IT & telephone equipment and maintenance

            VIRTUAL STAFF
·        Pay only for the hours worked
·         No training costs
·         No need for extra office space
·         No need to purchase or maintain expensive equipment.
Someone would ask what is the difference between a VA and a temporary staff, there is a  difference and as a matter of fact, the temp is one of the VA's biggest challenges.

            THE VA and THE TEMP
 1. AVAILABILITY: Temporary employees are what they are called, temporary. They're here today and may be gone tomorrow. A VA, on the other hand, is available on an ongoing basis or can be called upon, at short notice, when an extra pair of administrative hands is required.

2. WORK INTEREST: VA's take a vested interest in the success of their clients and their businesses because this is their business as an entrepreneur themselves. VA's believe that the absolute best job possible will not only help their own reputation but will also help to build the client's business. The VA tends to see himself as an extension of the company, thus becomes loyal to the client. The more successful the client is, the higher possibility of more work needing to be done by the VA or more referrals. A temp, however, may look at the assignment as just a means of padding their resume or getting a paycheck.

3. TRAINING AND EXPERIENCE:  VA's are generally those that have had many, many years of experience out in the workforce. This knowledge, along with any additional training and schooling, allows them to provide a wide gambit of services, all of which they have had many years to perfect. VA's also tend to be more apt to upgrade their skills in order to provide their clients with the most up to date and professional services that they can possibly provide. Temps, on the other hand, may be those that are right out of school with little or no 'on the job' experience, or those who are simply looking for something to fill their time. Not to mention, when a temp is hired, they have to be trained. Now, if that temp is not available when the next assignment crops up, another temp will have to be brought in and thus more time is needed to train that employee. And so on.

4. MANAGEMENT COSTS:  The rate paid to a temp is actually split between the temp and the agency that contracts them out. Then it must be taken into consideration the time the client needs to spend training the temp, the space used by him/her, and the equipment that is needed and requires maintenance. A VA's rates, comparatively, help to upgrade equipment, software and skills. This, in turn, allows for more and better services to be available for the client. It also means that the client doesn't need to worry about providing space and maintaining equipment that a temp would need, which can get quite costly when in the hands of an inexperienced employee.

5. PAYMENT/FEES: VA's charge for the actual work they do, hour for hour, whereas a temp is paid for time worked and any time they sit idle, waiting for more work or another project to do.
Outsourcing work to VA's allows you to control capital costs for office furniture, computers & equipment, reduce labor costs, increase efficiency and gives you extra time to focus on your core business and start new projects quickly.
Keeping this information about Virtual Assistants in mind, as a small business owner or even a large corporation manager who wants to cut cost and yet maximize productivity, using a Virtual Assistant may be the way to go.

So what can a Virtual assistant do, you ask?
VA’s can do a lot and the tasks are also expanding and changing with advances in technology, opening up many new niche areas for virtual assistants:
·        Secretarial Work, letters, reports, power point presentations, excel sheets etc
·        Professional organizer
·        Bookkeeping , accounts, invoicing
·        Internet research
·        Social media marketing VA
·        Internet marketing VA
·        Customer service
·        Travel and Transportation Management
·        Website designing , set up, blog and forum creation, hosting, maintenance, architecture, tracking website statistics
·        Spread sheeting
·        Appointment Setting/Scheduling
·        Virtual PA

And so many more

The message here is clear, save money by using a Virtual Assistant.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Give someone a great gift, Spend Time instead of Money.

Perhaps you are wondering how you can do this, giving someone a gift of time? Its very possible and could be the greatest and best gift you can ever give.
I know from experience that helping people out, giving them assistance when they truly need it, giving some time out of your own time to them never goes unnoticed. You may argue that you do not even have time for yourself, well you can pay someone to do it, that's why you have AntsHill Concierge. Go to our website www.antshillconcierge.com and you will find a non-exhausted list of services which you can offer to your loved ones.

How will this work? Who can you give a gift of time to?
  •  Spouse or Significant other can benefit from your special gift of time through candlelight dinners or a new innovation, candlelight breakfast, eating out on a specific day in a week, Massage or any outdoor activity like taking a walk or even sitting together doing nothing, just being together. A lot of times, we do not have time for our spouses or partner, but by giving at least an hour dedicated to this person will go a long way in making them feel good and you as well.
  • Parents especially elderly ones can benefit from the gift of time as well, by arranging visits, this will make their day especially if they have become widowed and all the children are out of the home.
  • Give your friends the gift of time as well by offering to cook for them, take their car to the car wash, or if your friend is a new mum, you can offer a day of babysitting while she gets a deserved rest. You can also call an estranged friend, chat for sometime, reminiscence about the old happy times or you can send an email.
Other Gift of time ideas are:
  • Offer to be your friend's Virtual assistant, you may have a friend who is just starting a business, by offering to be their VA will definitely warm their hearts because you will save them cost of hiring someone and time to do certain tasks themselves.
  • Assisting during your friend or family member's special event, could be a wedding, funeral, product launch or birthday party. By being there and visible to offer help, you make their day.
  • Shopping, could be grocery or clothes shopping.
  • Help to run errands
I know what you may be thinking, you don't have time as well, how can you give what you don't have, well i have the solution for you, spend your money to buy the gift of time, this is where we come in.
Its a concierge's job to assist where there is no time, get a concierge to do what you cannot do, the gift recipient will only know this gift came from you and they will thank you.
A Concierge gives back time and are always welcome by those who need more of it. And guess what, a gift of time is a perfect gift to give someone who has 'everything'.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Virtual Help! Good or Bad?

Times are hard and might i add, scarce. Everybody is saving his/her time, prioritizing and ensuring the most important stuff gets done first. But hey, won't it be nice if your company includes in your employee benefits a concierge service who would help you get things done? That will be nice.

From experience, i know that we usually do not have enough time to do anything, and eventually there is an imbalance between work life and personal life. You end up spending your lunch hour taking your car to the mechanics or even calling in sick when in truth, you are going around Lagos searching for a good school for your child.

Concierge services is growing as a popular employee benefit and companies that offer concierge services to their employees experience higher employee morale, a higher productivity rate, and higher employee retention. But what will the concierge do for you as an executive you may ask? Think about a normal day for you, a normal day would be a day where you have other personal responsibilities to perform which may not wait for the weekend, repairs to be done in your home and nobody to sit with the handyman, getting a gift for someone and you cannot spare the time to do it or getting your car to the auto shop for servicing...the list is endless.
The rippling effect for companies who pay for concierge services as part of staff benefits is employee retention, its like the airlines who offer reduced/staff tickets for staff, their family and friends, the staff stay in the company much longer because the tickets save them money which they would have to squeeze out in order to pay for full travel tickets.

I know and i have heard it before, the mention of the word concierge conjures up the image of 'nouveau riche', as in the service can only be afforded by the uber wealthy individuals who reside in Ikoyi, VI, VGC, Lekki and environs, or Mega companies with roots abroad. Well, may i add that the face of concierge is changing. Truly, there are concierge companies who are dedicated to the Super Rich but still you can find other concierge companies that will fit your budget and a company does not have to be one of the Fortune 500 to provide concierge services to its employee. By the end of this, you will find a list of Concierges and what you can get from them.

Let me end this blog today by saying, there is nothing too much or hard to ask a concierge, if it is within their offering, you will get what you are looking for, this is because, assistance is the main focus of a concierge service and a good concierge service will always be on call and infact 24/7 for your company/organization.

Services you can get from the Concierge are:

  • Grocery Shopping
  • Food Preparations
  • Appointment Reminders
  • Interior Decorating Services
  • Landscaping and Gardening Services
  • Housecleaning
  • Messenger & Courier Services
  • Relocation Services
  • Automotive Services
  • Car Servicing
  • Dry Cleaning & Laundry
  • Spa Recommendations and Reservations
  • Transportation, Taxi and Car Hire assistance
  • Restaurant Reservations
  • Major Event Packages
  • Family Entertainment 
  • Photography and Videography recommendations
  • DJ and Entertainment recommendations and booking
  • Catering
  • Customized Invitation Design and Handwritten Thank you cards

  • Vacation Home Arrival Preparation
  • Vacation Research and Planning
  • Get Away Weekend Planning
  • Hotel Reservations and Special Occasion Arrangements
  • Travel Agent Referrals
  • Reward Points Management
  • Passport & Visa Preparation
  • Vehicle Rental Arrangements
  • Household Cleaning Arrangements
  • Wait Service:  waiting at your home with supervision for the handy man e.g Plumber, Electrician
  • Child Care Assistance
  • Researching : e.g schools for your kids or a new neighborhood you want to move into etc.
  • Assistance with Home purchases and bill payments e.g Gas, Fuel for generator, Internet, Cable TV.
  • Periodical House Sitting when you are on vacation.
  • Assistance with experienced Maids, Drivers and Nannies.
Like i said earlier, there is nothing too much for you to ask a concierge service.

Below are a few of Concierge services based in Nigeria and services they offer with links to their websites or contacts.

AntsHill Concierge: www.antshillconcierge.com
Services Offered: Lifestyle Management, Personal and Corporate Concierge.

Errand Concierge: www.errandconcierge.com
Services Offered: Personal and Corporate Concierge.

Teleo Messengers Limited: www.teleomessengers.com
Services Offered: Personal Concierge and Property Management.

XL Management Services: www.xlmanagementservices.com
Services Offered: Travel and Tours.

Quintessentially: www.quintessentially.com

Services offered: Lifestyle Management and Personal Concierge

BIL Concierge: www.bilconcierge.com Services offered: Personal and Corporate Concierge

Paula Black: http://paulablackdomestichelp.com
Services offered: Personal Household Staff

AntsHill Concierge in Lagos, Nigeria - Localyte.com

AntsHill Concierge in Lagos, Nigeria - Localyte.com

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Customer Loyalty and Retention: Keep key customers loyal to you!

I bet you are wondering what this topic has to do with 'the concierge', well you will soon find out.

WHAT IS CUSTOMER LOYALTY? There are a number of definitions of customer loyalty, from www.iclployalty.com, "Customer loyalty can be defined as the totality of feelings or attitudes that would incline a customer to consider the re-purchase of a particular product, service or brand or re-visit a particular company, shop or website. Customer loyalty has always been critical to business success and profitability." 
From www.customerservicebasics.com,"Customer loyalty is when an organization receives the ultimate reward for the way it interacts with its customers. Loyal customers buy more, buy longer and tell more people - that's true customer loyalty."
From my favourite website, www.wisegeek.com,  "The term customer loyalty is used to describe the behavior of repeat customers, as well as those that offer good ratings, reviews, or testimonials."

 All the definitions above are true and correct, however, how do you keep customers loyal to your service. One of the ways to keep a customer loyal and glued to you is through excellent customer service. Customer loyalty starts with excellent customer service, this  is not rocket science!
You may offer great products, services but the manner of offering equally matters. Its quite simple, even if you have the best products in the market but the worst customer service agents, the products will mean nothing to your customers, ever wondered how some companies offer what i call 'glossy' products yet they still grapple with breaking even? It may be they have not grasped the concept of excellent customer service. 
How will customers experience the so called great products when the first contact is poor, unprofessional, dispensable and diminishes the brand.

One of the effects of poor customer service and perhaps the most significant is low volume of return customers, customers who will come back no matter what, customers who will do you a favor of word of mouth advertisement for your company, nobody wants to return to a company who does not put their interest in mind,, treats them like a digit, giving them an unwanted feeling and treat them shabbily. 
I have had my own fair share of poor customer service, at times i have been vocal about it, expressed my opinion to the customer service personnel and believe me when i say i have not gone back to these places no matter how 'glossy' their next product is, some of these companies has been a bank, an airline, an ISP, a telecoms company...i know there are a lot of folks like me out there who have suffered in the hands of terrible customer agents, imagine what these companies can gain or lose from relating with us.

Still you wonder, how does this have anything to do with the Concierge Service?
A concierge service is highly professional, with incredible services at high value. It is the concierge's priority to pay attention to the littlest of details about a customer, a concierge offers what we call 'the greatest gift'; time. 
Think about it for a moment, who would not want to delegate some of their 'to-do' lists just to have some free time. This is what the concierge offers. 
With this, a concierge service can help to earn customer loyalty and increase retention, increase of the return customer.

Through the concierge service you can earn customer loyalty and increase 'return' customers by
  • Offering a personal assistant to your key customers. This increases your brand value and thereby keeps your customers to you. The Personal assistant will be at hand to do virtually everything possible for your customer, from booking flights, hotel accommodation, information about your company, assistance to even grocery shopping, dinner reservations, spa reservations and event management.
  • Delivering Indispensable service: Your key customers is the number one priority of the concierge. And thus give your customers a wow experience because whenever contacted the concierge is always available.
All these tell on your company image, imagine every call your customer makes, he is greeted by name and assisted with any task or question they ask, note that the concierge is an extension of your company and not a separate entity. Your customer will not even know the difference because, when the call comes in, your company message is heard.
Every call your customer makes will leave them a smile of satisfaction on their face and your company name on their mind, they will even do you a favor and advertise on your behalf, imagine the ripple effect.

The concierge service can create customer loyalty for your company, if caring for your customer is your main concern then consider the concierge service to give the ultimate customer care.