Tag: communication

Building a Strong Working Relationship with your Virtual Assistant

Your Virtual Assistant should be seen as an integral part of your team – not a “bolt on” employee who works from afar. Due to your VA working remotely, building a strong working relationship will not begin with face-to-face onboarding or being able to pop into each other’s offices to get an update or answer questions. Instead, it will entail structured interaction, using digital communication tools and automated systems. However, what does not vary is that it will be forged through mutual commitment to the success of the business and regular two-way communication.

Building a strong working relationship takes time. It is not passive or self-sustaining – it takes continual input and action. Practically speaking, from your VA’s perspective, their commitment to building a strong working relationship is founded on their dedication to doing their job well and turning in work of a high standard – along with a positive can-do attitude. From the business owner’s side, it has its foundation in a commitment to thorough onboarding and any training needed, followed by regular communication and support – and consciously creating a work environment that nurtures engagement and builds a sense of belonging. One of the main benefits of building a strong working relationship is that it engenders trust.

Creating a positive virtual working environment lies at the heart of maintaining a strong working relationship with your VA – or any member of your team. One of the most positive aspects of taking on Virtual Assistants is that it allows remote members of the team to keep to office hours while also having the flexibility to see to personal commitments. This enabling of work-life balance contributes to a happy working environment.

Here are five tips for building a strong working relationship with your Virtual Assistant:

  1. Prioritise onboarding
  • Start by ensuring your VA understands your core values and the company culture. Make sure to be specific in defining what is desirable behaviour and what is not – and what living out your company culture entails, so that your VA understands specifically how their actions and performance contributes to supporting your workplace culture.
  • Introduce them to the team and provide a potted pen of each of their job descriptions and how their positions may require collaboration.
  • Provide a list of their Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) by which their performance will be appraised.
  • Give them appropriate access to your technology systems, login details and the like, and ensure that your VA is provided with any technical resources to get them up and running immediately.
  • Take your VA though current work in progress and familiarise them with how you use any project management and other software.
  • Hand over a task list that outlines and prioritises their tasks, with milestones, deadlines and predetermined review dates.
  1. Maintain open communication channels

Simple, straightforward and honest communication helps to build a strong foundation. The starting point is to provide your VA with information on your preferred method of communication and the times of day and week when you are and are not available. In the early days it’s helpful to connect with your VA more than you will once they are well established in their role. Once your Virtual Assistant is up to speed, schedule regular check-in meetings to review progress, address any concerns and provide feedback.  When it comes to team meetings, by fostering open communication you can ensure that both in-office and remote employees feel valued and supported.  Encouraging everyone to participate helps to create a sense of community and “being heard” that will contribute to your team’s engagement and future success.

  1. Use online communication tools and platforms for seamless interaction

It is beneficial to encourage communication and collaboration as much as possible in a remote team. Leveraging project management tools such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, Asana or Google Docs can facilitate seamless interaction with your Virtual Assistant and between team members, bridging the gap between any in-house and remote team members. Used properly, these online tools will enhance real-time communication and collaboration. They make assigning tasks, updating job statuses, providing comments, and tracking progress easy – no matter the difference in time zones.

  1. Provide training and development opportunities

Again, your Virtual Assistant should not be seen as a “bolt on”. Investing in training and development opportunities to grow your Virtual Assistant’s skills and expertise will improve their performance. This in turn will impact on the success of your business. By gaining access to training materials and online courses they will stay up to date with the specialised skills that are relevant to their roles and remain current when it comes to the tools and software they need to perform their duties efficiently.

  1. Celebrate successes and milestones with your VA

Recognition and reward at work has been proven to motivate people and boost productivity. Acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of your VA. Recognising their hard work and contributions will help to foster a positive work environment and will reinforce their essential role in your business’s success.

Overcoming cultural differences

Virtual Assistants can be located anywhere in the world. Like the UK, South Africa is a diverse, multi-cultural nation. The great news is that research by McKinsey1 has found that not only are diverse workers crucial for enhanced creativity, they are also good for a business’s bottom line. Companies with a diverse workforce are 35% more likely to experience greater financial returns than their non-diverse counterparts. When building a strong relationship with a diverse team it is important for business owners to lead by example. For instance, foster an environment of open dialogue where openly sharing cultural insights is encouraged. Your enthusiasm for embracing diversity will inspire your team.



Setting Clear Expectations

Setting clear expectations for your newly appointed Virtual Assistant is of vital importance and should be seen as part of the upfront onboarding process. Establishing your expectations from the get-go will not only support your VA in quickly getting up to speed on the key performance essentials of their new position, it will pave the way for their being efficient and productive down the line and will support their positive engagement with the team.

First make your expectations clear for yourself

It is impossible to build a set of clear expectations with your VA if you haven’t first determined what you need and defined these expectations for yourself.  Here is a simple, five-pronged approach when thinking through your expectations:

  1. What is my objective or end goal?
  2. What steps are there to completing the job?
  3. What is the required timing – and is this realistic?
  4. What does my measure of “good” look like?
  5. Are there any examples I can refer to?

How to set goals and expectations with your VA

Once you are clear you can set expectations for tasks and goals with your VA. Here are 3 helpful hints when establishing what you require:

  • Provide context: Explain why certain expectations are in place. When your VA understands the rationale behind your expectations, they are more likely to engage wholeheartedly with the task at hand.
  • Be specific: Being specific, ideally using clear written communication, helps to avoid misunderstandings by plainly outlining the desired outcome of a task as well as the series of steps needed to complete it. Your expectations become particularly specific when they are connected to metrics such as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). The metrics used must be clearly defined and measurable.
  • Be realistic: It is important for you to understand the time it takes to do each task to set realistic expectations when considering resources and your VA’s capabilities. Overburdening your Virtual Assistant can lead to mistakes, time wasted, demoralisation, a drop in productivity and burnout.

Setting an effective task list

Creating a structured task list provides a blow-by-blow road map to effectively getting things done. This entails listing all the tasks that your VA is responsible to complete.

  • Some tasks on the list will be routine and repetitive.
  • Other tasks will be once-off initiatives.
  • Larger jobs and projects will require first breaking down the task into “sub tasks” or the elements that make up the whole. In this case, a series of deadlines for each sub task can be set toward completing the overall task.

It is important to work together with your VA to prioritise the tasks on their to-do list according to the importance and urgency ascribed to them. Once tasks or projects are underway you can monitor and adjust the task list as necessary.

The importance of regular feedback and reviews

Frequently checking in with your team and providing feedback is an ongoing aspect of practical expectation setting. This will allow your VA to course correct in a timely manner without having to re-do large chunks of work. And it will give you a chance to regularly acknowledge work well done. Regular reviews provide an opportunity for you to hold your VA accountable for their results as measured against your set expectations. Reviews also provide you with a platform for recognition – to help your VA to understand the difference they make to the business.

Tools for delegating and tracking project progress

Project management tools are specially designed to assist an individual or team in organising and managing their projects and tasks effectively. They are the modern-day conduit to efficient project management and task delegation when using the services of a remote Virtual Assistant. A sound project management system will also contain a task tracker that will keep reminding your VA what they must do and by when. It should also have a reporting system. Reports allow you to consistently monitor and communicate a task or project’s scope, timing, budget and progress at any time to anyone who needs to know.

Setting expectations upfront allows your team to be clear on what you expect from them – and what they can expect from you. It serves to reduce speculation and misunderstandings while focusing your team as it clarifies why, how and when you want work to be done. By establishing clear goals and deliverables on the day your Virtual Assistant steps into their role, you will lay the foundation for a happy and productive relationship that has a positive knock-on effect on the growth and success of your business.

How to achieve work-life balance

Today, people tend to see work and their personal lives as equally important. They make conscious career and work choices based on achieving work-life balance. Work-life balance can be defined as the equilibrium between one’s work and personal life, where one aspect does not swamp the other. What makes for work-life balance is unique to every individual.

With the rise in hybrid and remote work, work-life balance requires the dovetailing of work and personal life – or work-life integration – where work and personal lives fit together side by side in the best possible way.

  • For workers, work-life integration is made possible through enjoying a flexible work schedule. It is this flexible work schedule that makes work as a Virtual Assistant so attractive to many experienced and capable VAs.
  • For business owners, by delegating tasks to Virtual Assistants and reclaiming valuable time, they can lead a more fulfilling and balanced life, personally and professionally. Plus it is the key to a growing and thriving business.

Here are five ways taking on a Virtual Assistant can help you achieve work-life balance:

  • Free up valuable work time

A top-notch and experienced Virtual Assistant will take over time-consuming routine tasks like administrative work, project management, bookkeeping, social media management, and so much more. This frees up your schedule so you can concentrate on priority tasks with a strategic business benefit.

  • Improve overall productivity

Assigning tasks to a tech savvy VA will significantly streamline workflow and enhance productivity. With their passion for what they do, dedicated focus, and understanding of the latest digital technology, VAs often complete tasks more accurately and in less time than you would – with better outcomes.

  • Reduce work and financial stress

By capably handling routine tasks, Virtual Assistants can significantly alleviate stress. With the assurance that your team is competently handling operational detail, you can focus on what you do best. Virtual Assistants are also an extremely cost-effective way to add more hands to your business, in an era when cost-efficiency is vital to success.

  • Enhance personal time

When it comes to avoiding burnout, paying attention to your personal life (without feeling guilty that you are taking time out) is as important as a manageable professional life. Whether you want to spend quality time with family, pursue a hobby, or take a holiday, a Virtual Assistant can free up personal time and can be trusted to oversee day to day operations while you take a break.

  • Improved wellbeing for all

A business owner’s poor work-life balance can hurt their own employees. Reduced stress and more personal time result in better focus and energy at work and being more present in your personal life. Achieving a better work-life balance will significantly contribute to your overall physical and mental wellbeing – and benefit those around you.

It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that as a business owner you must work as much as physically possible for your business to thrive. Partnering with a Virtual Assistant who will shoulder routine tasks should not be seen as a sign of incompetence, but rather as a strategic move that frees up your limited time. Even better, working with Virtual Assistants allows you to delegate tasks without the added overhead costs associated with traditional employees. Ultimately, a trusted VA will lighten your workload and free up guilt-free personal time without adding to a financial weight that impacts on your much-needed down time.

Creating a Daily Success Plan With Your Virtual Assistant

As a UK Estate Agent, finding ways to maximise efficiency and curtail costs is the key to achieving long-term success. Nothing saves you more time than delegating tasks to a Virtual Assistant. Today’s Virtual Assistants are supremely versatile. If there is a task that can be done remotely, there is an appropriately skilled VA who is able to take it off your plate – from appointment scheduling and email management to market research, CRM, sales and letting administration, social media marketing and bookkeeping.

How can you make the most of working with a Virtual Assistant?

The answer lies in creating a daily success plan that alleviates the need to micromanage your VA while keeping your finger on the pulse of what is happening in your business. Technology is very helpful in this regard, offering a range of online work and project management tools that allow for remote team interaction, project planning, implementation and tracking.  However, in the beginning, extra communication is key.

Here are five considerations when creating your daily success plan:

  1. Clearly define your VA’s role

Know upfront what you want from your Virtual Assistant. Is your VA full or half-day? Decide which of their duties have the highest priorities before guiding them in allocating their time and resources.

  1. Establish parameters for the working day

Establish the times when each of the team – both remote and in office – will be working and available for interaction. This should include the hours they will take breaks or be away from their desks for personal activities.

  1. Have realistic expectations − time is limited

To avoid your VA being overcommitted (which can lead to them being overwhelmed – especially as they settle into the position) work out how much time, realistically, is needed for them to complete each task.

  1. Be flexible

There is much research that supports the idea that the length of a workday is irrelevant. What matters is how people structure their day. People who take regular short breaks are far more productive than those who work without stopping for a break. Flexible work arrangements can offer an advantage to businesses and their people. Employees appreciate having flexible schedules, as it can make it easier for them to achieve work-life balance.

  1. Always rank tasks in order of importance and urgency
  • Prioritise tasks according to importance

If two projects must be worked on simultaneously, but one is more urgent than the other communicate which project is to be completed first.

  • Prioritise tasks according to urgency

If something must be done quickly, but not necessarily immediately, have your VA prioritise it accordingly in their to do list.

When creating a daily success plan, the more procedures and systems you have in place, the quicker and easier it will be for a Virtual Assistant to be effective in taking routine tasks off your shoulders.  For example:

  • Both you and your VA need to establish the hours in which you will and won’t communicate and agree to your response times to emails, texts, and voicemails. This will ensure you are both on the same page with clear expectations.
  • Establish the preferred method of communication, whether this is via phone, text, email or using a project management app such as Asana or Slack.
  • Set regular daily or weekly deadlines for the completion of routine tasks – and schedule any regular tasks to happen at the same time each week to build consistency.
  • Hold a regular team or individual check-in call at a mutually agreed upon time to answer questions, provide input and check on progress.

Once your Virtual Assistant is onboarded and brought up to speed, exercising trust is essential (as it is in any professional relationship). Open, two-way communication builds trust and will serve you well by keeping your Virtual Assistant up to date and aligned with your goals and expectations. It will also provide the opportunity for them to communicate needs and considerations with you. While you may have initial reservations about delegating important tasks to a VA, it is crucial to trust their abilities and the expertise for which you hired them.

In a nutshell, putting an efficiency boosting online management system and robustly upheld procedures in place, supported by regular open communication, will lead to a seamless working relationship between you and your VA.

The Art of Delegation

When it comes to freeing up quality time to lead and grow a business, the concept of improving “time management” falls short of the mark when in fact what is needed is “priority management”. Priority management is only possible through delegating tasks that are not among your top priorities, freeing you to focus on the tasks that are most valuable and impactful for your business. One of the most effective ways to accomplish this is to take on a Virtual Assistant – or several of them.

The art of delegation

Business owners who master this skill can leverage their Virtual Assistants’ expertise and experience to achieve incredible results. Here are three tips on the art of delegation:

  1. Provide big picture context: First explain why a task needs to be done, rather than leading with how it’s done. When a Virtual Assistant does not understand how their role or a project fits into the big picture, they are less likely to be inspired to give it their all. When you take the time to provide your VA with context and explain their vital role in the company reaching important goals, then you are gifting them with a sense of purpose that will impact their performance.
  2. Consider how you communicate: Delegation is not just about dishing out tasks. For the best outcome, delegation is interactive. It requires both giving and receiving information. This two-way communication not only helps to build a connection with your VA, it enables the exchange of thoughts and ideas. It provides the space for your them to ask questions and properly understand the required outcomes of a task or project.
  3. Onboard and provide guidance – to a degree: Take the time to walk your new VA through their tasks and answer any questions they have before they get started to ensure they’re set up for success. This includes providing:
  • an understanding of what is required of them,
  • access to existing documents, and details about the work
  • guidance on how you want the work to be done,
  • review dates and deadlines for the delegated work
  • priority, goals, and expectations of the work
  • an understanding of the desired outcome

The worst things you can do to yourself, or your Virtual Assistant, is “half-delegate” or micro-manage them. Onboard and train your new VA when they are getting started then step back and allow them to pick up the reins.  Not only is taking on a VA about freeing up your valuable time – it is about empowering the right person in the right role to achieve their full potential.

What should you be delegating to your Virtual Assistant?

When it comes to task delegation – whether it’s handing over managing your inbox, customer relationship management, generating leads, managing social media or handling repetitive administration tasks – how do you decide what should be delegated to your VA?

The answer is simple. Delegate everything that falls outside of your top priorities, providing you with the time to lead and grow your business. Modern Virtual Assistants are experts who are skilled in a wide variety of roles. They are also technically proficient to the degree that they can help to level up a business that needs to automate tasks and use digital technology to streamline workflow.

The outcome of mastering the art of delegation is that it facilitates business growth. It effectively saves time, grows you as a leader, develops your team as professionals and inspires them to perform better.  This in turn grows the teams’ capacity to handle more business and for you to manage larger teams while retaining the capacity to focus on strategising, annual planning and other significant tasks.

The top 3 time-saving tools for business owners

As a business owner, proper time management is essential to sustaining personal productivity and ensuring the success of a business. One of the keys to remaining focused on top priorities, according to famous business author Stephen Covey, is not to prioritise what’s on your schedule, but to rather schedule your priorities. Because, as Stephen says in his book, Seven Habits for Highly Effective People, “most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.”

  1. Being a skilled delegator is a powerful time-saving tool

One of the best ways to delegate tasks effectively is by taking on a skilled and experienced Virtual Assistant. Handing over your business’s routine work to a VA in the areas of administration, operations, marketing and bookkeeping will free up valuable time to invest in what is important.

As Stephen Covey defines it, “delegating involves clear, up-front mutual understanding and commitment in five areas.”  These are:

  • Desired results: creating a clear mutual understanding of what needs to be accomplished, focusing on results (what is needed), not methods (how it’s done).
  • Guidelines: setting parameters and warning your assistant of potential ‘failure paths’ – or what you know they should not do.
  • Resources: briefing your assistant on the technical, organisational and financial resources the person has at their disposal to accomplish the desired results.
  • Accountability: establishing the standards of performance that will be used in evaluating the results and the job’s deadlines – the specific time when report backs and evaluation will happen.
  • Consequences: specifying the knock-on effects and outcomes of a task or project well or poorly done.
  1. Automate and optimise calendar use

An online calendar like Google Calendar – which is free and can be visible to your whole team – can be a great tool to help you gain better control of your time. There are several ways a VA can help you to manage your online calendar. For example, a Virtual Executive Assistant who knows your preferred weekly routine can block time, set up your appointments for you, send automated reminders and help to prepare meeting documentation. They can be preemptive in making sure you have what you need ahead of time and handle any last-minute reorganising when a meeting runs late or there is an unforeseen complication.

Here are six ways you can use your calendar to optimise your week:

  • Plan your following week in advance on a Friday afternoon.
  • Start with priority items.
  • Include important commitments like exercise and family time
  • Plan your meetings and phone calls into blocks of time
  • Block time for other daily tasks
  • Keep one day free from meetings to allow time to focus on tasks without interruption.
  1. Employ an online project management tool

Regular communication between business owners and their team members is essential to business success. With the prevalence of remote work, this communication is often not as simple as wandering over to a person’s desk to follow up or share important new information with them. An online task management system helps to improve communication by providing a central place for each team member to report on and update tasks or exchange information. This helps increase productivity by providing the necessary structure and organisation for managing projects.

Here are four ways to optimise the use of your project management software:

  • Find the project management system that’s right for your business.
  • Choose a platform that is optimised for mobile to allow your team to be productive and efficient wherever they are.
  • Make sure the software can integrate with other key digital applications to sync your data and workflows across different sources and destinations.
  • Find someone to champion the software.

Your Virtual Assistant can champion your project management tool – such as Asana or Trello – by creating tasks or projects, assigning tasks to team members, tracking progress, and ensuring that everyone in the company is updating project information on a regular basis. A tech-savvy VA can connect your project planning software with your email, calendar, or messaging app to send notifications, reminders, and updates to your team members and clients.

More energy for free time

One of the greatest benefits of using time saving tools in your business is that that this will allow for taking guilt-free time out. Project management tools allow you to pre-determine when tasks and projects will be completed before you even start the work. This means being able to schedule the most appropriate time out of the office. And having trusted Virtual Assistants who will see to keeping the business operating smoothly while you are away, and will give you peace of mind that your business is in good hands and not disrupted while you take quality, personal time to relax and re-energise.

The Future of AI in Property

From chatbots to online listings and virtual tours, AI-powered technology has already found its way into many facets of UK Estate Agency. It should not be ignored because, in our opinion, while AI will never match human capabilities, it is a phenomenal tool in the hands of a tech-savvy human Virtual Assistant. We predict that while AI will never replace human estate agent teams, those who do not use AI tools will be replaced by those who do.

AI – what’s the big deal?

The Third Industrial Revolution – starting in the late 20th century – has been a period of radical technological advancement. It has totally transformed many industries, including manufacturing, transportation, retail and healthcare. The most profound catalyst of change has been the electronics industry. Through advances in electronics, the first industrial automation devices were developed and so were personal computers. Today, at the sharp end of the Third Industrial Revolution, the rise of AI is the next profound catalyst for advancement.

Here is a selection of advanced AI applications that are already a reality*:

Natural language processing (NLP)

Natural language processing (NLP) is a sub-category of AI designed to bridge the gap between human and computer communication. For example:

  • Chatbots are computer programmes that are already commonly used to interact with customers by text or audio. Next level NLP already has vastly enhanced capabilities. In cognitive retail, human capabilities can be integrated with automated customer relationship management (CRM) products to provide “human” levels of service via online platforms. This AI application uses machine learning to make informed product recommendations based on customer history, location and other data.
  • New language-based technological advancements in AI will vastly improve people’s voice activated web navigation and searching experience. This type of hands-free internet interaction – facilitating generative voice to type and type to voice interaction – will improve information accessibility for individuals with a disability or nominal technological expertise. Earlier in the year, Elon Musk’s brain-chip startup Neuralink livestreamed its first patient, Nolan Arbaugh, who is paralysed below the shoulders and who is now implanted with a chip, playing online chess and moving his laptop cursor by thought.

Machine learning

Machine learning is an application of AI that allows systems to process data and then “learn” to improve the performance of a specific task without interim programming. Deep learning is an advanced form of machine learning that can simulate human learning patterns. This allows the AI to gain an understanding of unstructured data. It can also formulate intelligent decisions based on data analysis. For example:

  • In the field of bioinformatics, scientists use deep learning AI-software to identify patterns in massive data sets, such as sequenced genomes. This analysis can help in the development of new drugs to treat diseases by determining which proteins are encoded by a certain gene.
  • Emotional detection systems powered by deep learning AI can detect human emotions without any visual input. Researchers at MIT have developed a system that learns to identify human emotions based on heartbeat data collected by wireless signals. This technology could one day be used by law enforcement as lie detectors or within smart homes to detect if an occupant is experiencing a heart attack.
  • While NLP allows Chatbots to interact easily with customers, deep learning allows them to locate and provide the requested information beyond scripting.

Machine perception

Machine perception is the ability of a system to simulate the human perception of the world. AI uses machine perception to extract information from different data sources. For example:

  • In autonomous delivery, companies are increasingly using AI for commercial navigation purposes. For example: Amazon Scout is a small, autonomous delivery robot that can handle “last mile” deliveries. The robot uses sensors to navigate sidewalks and avoid obstacles and pedestrians. Amazon has been testing Scout in selected areas in the United States.
  • Geospatial analytics leverages geographic information, spatial data, location data, and increasingly, high-resolution imagery, computer vision, and other forms of machine perception AI to extract structured data that can be used for specific applications and industries. Today, AI-powered satellites can track economic trends from space. For example, the company, Orbital Insight, can predict retail sales based on satellite images of retail store parking lots.

AI can streamline Estate Agent operations by automating routine administrative tasks such as paperwork, contract management, and scheduling, freeing agents to focus on their top business priorities. Here are three more ways Estate Agents can already use next level AI to improve their business operations:

  1. Improve on property valuation discrepancies
  • Accurate numbers: AI algorithms simultaneously work with massive amounts of information that can include past sales, market trends, demographics and available amenities – ultimately providing more accurate property valuations.
  • Fast appraisals: AI streamlines the valuation process. It can be as simple as uploading pictures of your property and an accurate valuation pops up on your screen.
  1. Streamline lead generation and follow-ups
  • Speed to lead: Speed matters in the estate agency game. By implementing AI-powered chatbots as a client interface and qualification tool before qualified leads reach your estate agents you automatically streamline your lead management process.
  • Personalisation: AI-powered Chatbots will allow you to address people by name, reference their specific needs, and offer valuable insights tailored to their situation.
  1. Marketing analysis and content creation
  • Market analysis: AI can sift and analyse vast amounts of market-related data to identify emerging demographic and market trends, providing valuable insights to estate agency professionals. This information can help estate agents devise effective on and offline marketing strategies.
  • Content creation: AI can benefit estate agents by automating tasks such as content writing, generating property descriptions, creating and editing visual content and providing virtual interior re-design.

While AI tools do come with costs and can have their own sets of challenges, the benefits they bring in terms of streamlining efficiency and providing timely, tailored customer engagement are invaluable. Ultimately, successful Estate Agents will be those who harness the power of AI to work smarter and grow their business.



How AI fits hand-in-glove with Virtual Assistants

In the competitive world of the property industry, agencies are always looking for ways to increase efficiency and lower costs. One of the best ways to achieve this is by taking on a Virtual Assistant who will work remotely to handle routine administrative tasks.  Another is to employ AI powered tools to improve speed and productivity. We believe that the greatest success lies in the best of both.

With the increased use of AI-embedded software becoming common in business, estate agents may wonder if they can skip expanding the team and just install AI systems to automate routine administration. However, AI is not like having an extra human pair of hands or like a clockwork toy where you wind it up and let it do its thing. AI is a tool and needs human oversight.

When you put systems into place with Virtual Assistant-supervision, the reality is that AI can be implemented to streamline workflow and “add” valuable hours to the team’s day, helping to grow the business.  But, when it comes standing out in a competitive market by ensuring excellent work and quality service, one vital added human attribute is that your VA knows you, what you want and understands your values and mission.

Here are just 3 examples of the many ways that your Virtual Assistant-management is essential in the management of AI powered tools:

  • Ensuring timely human interaction with prospective clients: AI has dramatically improved estate agencies’ ability to respond immediately – increasing their speed to lead. For example, as a tool on a website, an AI-powered chatbot can instantly respond to routine, frequently asked questions, 24/7, and can efficiently route complex enquiries to your Virtual Assistant for follow up. Yet, AI systems struggle to tackle queries (or any task) that falls outside their programmed parameters. The lack of an intelligent or complete response can frustrate potential clients who “just want to talk to someone.” Virtual Assistants, on the other hand, add an invaluable human touch to client interactions. They can provide insight, empathy and problem-solving skills that even an exceptional AI cannot duplicate.
  • Increasing productivity, intelligently: While AI-powered software can be super-efficient when accurately handling repetitive and straightforward tasks, human input is essential – especially in handling tasks that require complex, real-time solutions. One simple example, when it comes to diary management, AI powered scheduling software can handle the routine task of scheduling appointments and then follow up with appointment reminders. But when it comes to intelligent thinking, scheduling AI is not “human” enough to ensure that sufficient time is allowed between two out of office appointments that require extra time to navigate rush-hour traffic.
  • Making smart decisions based on big data analysis: AI has improved upon traditional data analytics through automation and sophisticated algorithms that allow for more efficient processing and analysis when it comes to massive amounts of data. This makes it a useful tool in analysing trends in the marketplace, assessing competitor marketing activity or doing post-social media campaign evaluation. AI can be programmed to analyse data and provide recommendations that your virtual Social Media Manager can evaluate and implement to improve the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns. As such AI is a great tool in the hands of an experienced marketer.

AI is still in its infancy and its potential to streamline workflow and improve on providing essential information for estate agencies will continue to grow. Yet top-quality Virtual Assistants will always play a role in providing intelligent, personalised support that builds strong, long-lasting team and client relationships. They bring a human element to their work and people interactions that no AI can reproduce.

The most successful estate agencies will harness the best of both. By taking on exceptional Virtual Assistants who have experience in the use of AI tools, estate agencies can greatly improve their efficiency and productivity while maintaining an ever-important human touch.

What Are The Disadvantages of Using AI?

In the hands of an estate agent and their support team, there are massive advantages in using AI enhanced technology. These include improving speed to lead, saving time by automating repetitive tasks and having access to easy-to-use tools for creating marketing content.

However, while AI technologies are great for improved productivity, there are also several disadvantages to AI. These include:

  • AI lacks human qualities

Artificial intelligence is programmed to simulate human intelligence processes, so it cannot develop essential human qualities such as intuition, emotions or cultural sensitivity. These human qualities are vital at a time when it is hugely beneficial to provide hands-on, personal client touch points in an increasingly technological world.

  • AI cannot innovate

Machines can only complete tasks they have been programmed to do. In the same way, AI systems typically lack the ability to view tools or data in a new way. AI systems can be helpful in aggregating information that is already known but they cannot expand, change or improve on conventional wisdom in the way a human being can.

  • AI cannot learn creativity

A major disadvantage of AI is that it cannot “be taught” to think outside the box. Unlike humans, it has no creative spark. It lacks the emotional intelligence, personal experiences, and consciousness necessary to reproduce human beings’ creative process. So an AI cannot formulate entirely new ideas or concepts on its own.

  • AI does not have intrinsic ethics

Ethics are a set of guiding principles to live and operate by. As such, ethics and morality are uniquely human characteristics that are difficult to fully incorporate into AI. An AI system can reflect the bias of the person who built it. One ethical consideration when using AI systems: to ensure client confidentiality it is preferable to use private or encrypted AI systems. It is also important to fact check all AI output.

Can AI ultimately stunt the growth of team members?

It is well-known how essential it is to ensure that your team members are continually grown and developed – for the wellbeing of the company and your people. When it comes to exercising our brains, it is important element of our jobs to “use it or lose it.” It is a worry that with the rise of AI automation people will no longer have to commit things to memory or solve a conundrum to get a job done. Using AI does nothing to teach people the logical steps to completing a task and it diminishes having an “aha” moment, the time when a person realises there is a better way to do something.

AI is a great tool in the hands of talented Virtual Assistants

One area where AI has made a significant impact on small business and the workplace is that it facilitates Virtual Assistants being able to work remotely.  It also allows VAs to automate and oversee routine jobs while freeing up time for elevated tasks.

Not only do top quality Virtual Assistants have a great attitude, they outmatch AI by possessing ingenuity.

  • They are flexible and can adapt at the drop of a hat, making them indispensable to take on tasks that include problem solving or out-of-the-box thinking.
  • Communicating with clients is another area in which AI is no match for human Virtual Assistants. A great VA can identify non-verbal cues and correctly interpret complex aspects of human language, such as humour or contempt. This equips them to build relationships and communicate effectively with clients and suppliers from diverse cultures.

Capitalise of the best of both

AI tools have already been proven to provide many benefits for estate agents, including greater efficiency, better customer service and the freeing up of valuable time through automating tedious tasks.  In the best-case scenario, the use of AI technology by your tech savvy Virtual Assistant will create a productive synergy, allowing for more efficient, high-quality output while maintaining the all-important human connection – within the team and with clients.

AI Tools 2024

Artificial intelligence, or AI, is technology that enables computers and machines to simulate human intelligence and problem-solving capabilities. AI began to attract wholesale attention in 2022, when Chat GPT 3.0 arrived in the market – followed by a steady flow of free or affordable AI enhanced digital tools. Business owners quickly found these tools to be highly effective in streamlining operations and the promotion of their business and services.

Are there AI enhanced digital tools specifically for Estate agents?

Any industry that involves data is a great target for AI – and there is plenty of data in the Estate Agency business. Estate Agents may not realise it, but chances are they are already using AI-powered software. Two of the many ways AI-powered software is already active in Estate agencies is via property management software and property valuation tools.

Here is just a small selection of the AI-powered tools available to UK-based Estate Agents:

  1. Multi-channel sales chatbots to drive sales

These provide automated instant and relevant responses to seller and buyer inquiries, which leads to a better client experience.

PropertyJinni provides a unique chatbot that is powered by generative AI, designed especially to facilitate meaningful automated customer interactions for Estate agents in the UK. It is programmed to increase sales by qualifying leads, personalising recommendations and cross-selling – around the clock. PropertyJinni also facilitates landlord and tenant engagement through automated query resolution, issue triaging, sentiment analysis and a list of dynamic FAQs. PropertyJinni’s benefits include:

  • Timely engagement with real-time pre-qualified leads 24/7, ensuring a productive conversation that improves qualified lead numbers.
  • Automatic building of the agency’s contact list.
  • Freeing up sales staff to focus on more complex inquiries, improving their overall performance.
  • Streamlining agency, landlord and tenant liaison.

Instant and accurate property valuations 

One of the key services that Estate Agents provide is accurate property valuations. Having an accurate and immediate online valuation tool on your website has become an industry standard, and it allows for the beginnings of positive agency-client interaction.

ValPal is an AI-driven tool that provides Estate Agents with accurate property valuations and is able to evaluate comparable properties. It is programmed to consider local factors in order to produce precise property valuations. Valpal provides:

  • Instant and accurate property valuations.
  • This tool allows Estate Agents to capture the details of individuals visiting their website.

Intelligent automated sales funnels

Estate Agents need a solid sales funnel to succeed in today’s competitive market. From lead generation to nurturing leads and converting sales prospects, AI-enhanced digital tools can help Estate Agents to perfect their sales strategies and optimise their processes.

The ValPal Network provides a range of AI-driven digital services designed to create a fully comprehensive sales funnel to drive traffic, qualify and nurture leads.  The ValPal Network provides:

  • Seamless sales funnel integration with their instant online valuation tool.
  • Partnerships with a range of CRMs, so Estate Agents can manage leads and email marketing platforms effectively.
  • Integration with several tracking tools to monitor which elements of a marketing campaign are most cost-effective.

Platforms for 3D virtual home tours

In virtual tours and experiences, AI-generated content can be used to create realistic and interactive environments that match a real location. This allows potential buyers to first view a property remotely, without having to physically pay a visit.

AI enhanced programmes, such as REimagineHome and Getfloorplan, help Estate agents to generate 3D floorplans from 2D images. Getfloorplan also offers virtual staging, so potential clients can add furniture and decor to visualise placing their furnishings accurately.

  • This is a great way for agents to help sellers by being able to proactively generate quick and easy renovation ideas that make a property more saleable.
  • It is great for playing with new colours or furniture placement, room by room.
  • And potential buyers can easily re-imagine a property layout should they wish to visualise major renovations.

While artificial intelligence is developing at a rapid rate, it is still in its infancy. On an ongoing basis, AI systems require human involvement for updates, maintenance and ethical considerations.  And AI software is not an end to itself – it is a useful tool. It generally requires a knowledgeable human being to stay well-informed about new developments, oversee implementing the software for a particular purpose and to quality control any input and output.

Today’s experienced Virtual Assistants are tech-savvy in their specific area of expertise. Their experience can make an enormous difference to levelling up the implementation of AI-driven software in an Estate Agency.