Tag: virtual assistants

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.

 

*https://burniegroup.com/29-cutting-edge-applications-of-artificial-intelligence/

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.

Bridging the Gap: How Virtual Assistants Can Align with Your Business Vision

Does your Virtual Assistant have your business’s best interests at heart?

What challenges can arise in a company when a business owner delegates work to a manager or employee, or appoints a supplier who acts on the business’s behalf?

Micro businesses are very likely to be headed by a hands-on owner who takes on employees as the workload becomes too onerous for one person – or if they need add to skills and expertise to their business. In this close-knit unit, the team’s vision and priorities have a good chance of being in alignment.

However, it stands to reason that the larger and more complex organisation’s needs are, the more separation there is between ownership and control – and the more chance there is that the priorities of the owners or shareholders differ from those of the people who do the work. Although, as stated by Investopedia1, this problem can occur in a variety of situations. For example, in the relationship between a client and their lawyer or accountant – or the relationship between shareholders and a CEO or a CEO and their managers.

In economic terms, this conflict in priorities has been defined as The Principle-Agent Problem – or “a conflict in priorities between the owner of an asset (“the Principle”) and the person (the “Agent”) to whom control of the asset has been delegated.”

The Principle-Agent Problem is an economic concept that was developed in the 1970s by notable American economists William Meckling2 and Michel Jensen3. In a seminal paper published in 1976 entitled, Theory of the firm: Managerial behavior, agency costs and ownership structure4, Meckling and Jensen outline the theory of an ownership structure designed to avoid what they defined as “agency cost” and its cause, which they identified as the separation of ownership and control.

When it comes to ownership and control, how might The Theory of The Firm need to be expanded upon or updated considering the rapid advancement of digital technologies?

A research paper published in 2021, co-authored by Dr David Collis (a long-standing adjunct professor at the Harvard Business School), entitled Corporate Strategy and the Theory of the Firm in the Digital Age, speaks to the fact that the rise of modern communication technologies has supported the emergence of more widely dispersed company headquarters – and the rise of the hybrid and remote workplace.  The paper suggests that the digital age has “changed the nature of task and workforce design, which has implications for the firm’s corporate strategy, specifically for the corporate structure, decision making and corporate roles or functions” and that “it has also contributed to the trend towards more functional specialists capable of mastering a single discipline.”

This thinking is validated by the apparent rise of the era of the Virtual Assistant.

While The Principle-Agent Problem is a universal problem in organisation’s big and small, there are many measures that business owners can take to ensure this is not their reality. Enabled by modern communication technology, taking on a Virtual Assistant does not necessarily exacerbate the problem. In fact, it may help to alleviate it.

 

Does having your Virtual Assistant work remotely worsen The Principle-Agent Problem?

No it does not. One of the biggest advantages of communication technology in the modern workplace is that colleagues and contributors from all over the world can collaborate in real time. That being said, there is no substitute for regular, high-quality team and one-on-one interaction and communication – and ongoing learning. It helps to ensure that every member of the team understands their duties and responsibilities and “keeps employees on the same page” when it comes to aligning vision and values. Modelling effective, two-way communication should start at the top of an organisation and be encouraged throughout the company.

 

Virtual Assistants who are carefully chosen for their positive attitude alleviate The Principle-Agent Problem.

Beyond being reliable, trustworthy, skilled and having a good work ethic, a high calibre Virtual Assistant’s most important attribute is a positive mind-set:

  1. Their positive mindset serves to attune a Virtual Assistant to the priorities of their boss and the company.
  2. Virtual Assistants with a positive mindset are more likely to enjoy their work and feel a sense of purpose in their role.
  3. Positive thinking enables Virtual Assistants to be more proactive in their communication, in anticipating their boss’s and the company’s needs.

 

Virtual Assistants round out an aligned team by bringing skills that are not the principle’s or other employee’s strengths.

Rather than exacerbating The Principle-Agent Problem, taking on the right, skilled virtual assistant and embedding them in a cohesive team can take a company to the next level through the additional skills and resources they can provide. Every facet of running a business is essential to its success, no matter how “minor” it may seem. However, routine administrative and operational tasks are better outsourced to free up a business owner’s time to focus on working ‘on’ their business rather than ‘in’ their business.

 

Virtual Assistants who are aligned with business priorities help grow the firm by supplying a range of skills that would otherwise not be affordable.

Even taking on a very experienced and specialist Virtual Assistant, like a seasoned bookkeeper or property manager, is cost-effective. When it comes to cost-to-company, not only do they work for an hourly rate comparable to the National Minimum Wage, but there are no additional employee benefits or a physical workstation to pay for.

 

In conclusion

When it comes to ensuring that your Virtual Assistant is aligned with your business priorities and has your business’s best interests at heart, having a dedicated Virtual Assistant who works only for you means they can provide you with their full attention and become a fully-fledged member of the team. This provides greater opportunities to ensure that their priorities align with the vision and values of your business as they contribute to the success of the business.

 

Sources:

1https://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/principal-agent-problem.asp#

2https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_H._Meckling

3https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_C._Jensen

4https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0304405X7690026X

5https://www.researchgate.net/publication/353816562_Corporate_Strategy_and_the_Theory_of_the_Firm_in_the_Digital_Age

Unlocking Success: The Seven-Figure Roadmap for Estate Agents

In today’s rapidly evolving property market, estate agents face unprecedented challenges. Interest rates have yet to drop back to anticipated levels in 2024, sales pipeline returns are the result of the most skilled multi-channel marketing campaigns – followed by extraordinary levels of customer service, operational costs are climbing, and buyer interest is lukewarm and has to be properly nurtured; all whilst low-fee competitors put your estate agency under constant pressure to remain competitive. Yet, amid all this uncertainty, the solution to your troubles is not far away.

The solution lies in saving time and money – and paying close attention to creating consistent cashflow, which is at the heart of business success. Here are three ways in which to become more time efficient and cost-effective with cashflow in mind.

1. Streamlining the sales progression progress

All estate agents understand that managing a chain is a complex and time-consuming process. One of the primary reasons for sluggish sales progression is how few properties are part of a single property sale. Other reasons include:

  • Many agencies fall short in their investment in technology and people when it comes to focused attention on streamlining and hands-on management of sales progression. A great solution is to take on a Virtual Assistant who can focus on overseeing sales progression, using PropTech to streamline processes.
  • Agents do not leverage the required supply of material information. This is defined as “any information that can impact the decision that a consumer makes in relation to a property, such as arranging a viewing, putting in an offer to purchase and proceeding with any other aspects of the process.”1 Providing comprehensive material information is something that is central to helping conveyancers speed up transactions.

2. Billing upfront property marketing costs

In terms of carefully managing consistent cashflow, every pound helps. Charging sellers upfront for marketing spend does not only provide some cash inflow. It means the cost of marketing a property is not coming out of the estate agent’s pocket, upfront. It also serves to “anchor” the client to their estate agent. Providing comprehensive material information supports securing an up-front marketing budget from clients in that charging for upfront marketing outlay makes sense when estate agents are going to provide comprehensive material information as part of the transaction.

3. Strengthening the professionalism and authority of the property industry

One of the biggest barriers to arise in the UK property market over the past fourteen years is complacency; in the main due to an incredibly buoyant property market. Estate agents know that there’s more to selling property than just listing a house on a property portal, but the problem is that public perception prevails that all agents need to do is upload a property on a major property portal and it sells, for the asking price and quickly. Industry-wide adherence to relying on the property portals as the key marketing tool has allowed them to become fat cats, enabled to put up their prices however they like.

Now, in a much more exacting market, estate agents are beholden to this cost-hungry beast that they have helped build – at a time when their pipeline is failing. What is the antidote? A more complex sales pipeline to suit the time and incredible professionalism within the industry are an absolute must for estate agents to develop a level of authority and autonomy within their profession that allows them to charge higher fees and that will build the industries clout to effectively lobby for more moderate property portal price increases.

So important is it for estate agents to get clear on the path to success that VA Central, in partnership with WiggyWam, will be introducing “The Seven-Figure Roadmap,” in a transformative webinar on 21 March, designed to guide estate agents through the complexities of today’s market towards achieving seven-figure success.

Estate agents who embrace “The Seven-Figure Roadmap” will not only be better equipped to successfully navigate current property market challenges but to thrive at a time when others are floundering. After which, an essential next step will be their continuous education of sellers and buyers on the value and expertise of estate agents.

https://www.nationaltradingstandards.uk/uploads/Material%20Information%20in%20Property%20Listings%20(Sales)%20v1.0.pdf

How To Grow Your Estate Agency

It takes business savvy and lots of pre-preparation to successfully grow an estate agency business – especially within the current economic climate within the UK in 2024. There are some tricky hurdles to overcome, despite the positive expectation that inflation will eventually fall back to a figure closer to the 2% mark and that people eligible for an increase in the National Living Wage in 2024 will have more disposable income.

Timing is of the essence

As with all businesses, in the fast-paced world of estate agency, knowing when to expand your business is crucial for long-term success. Grow too soon and cash flow can become an issue. Hold back on expansion and you may miss out on potential business. It’s for this reason that many business owners future-proof the growth of their businesses by refining and optimising their internal processes to ensure efficiency and effectiveness in every aspect of the operation. This initial step involves meticulously streamlining workflows, instilling a first-class customer service ethic in the team and leveraging technology to automate routine tasks.

Streamline and automate to ensure success

When it comes to enhancing efficiency and expanding capacity while managing costs effectively, estate agents may consider leveraging external support for duties such as lead generation, administrative tasks, and managing sales progression. This strategy frees up essential hours in their working week, enabling them to focus on the core of their estate agency business: securing listings and selling properties. By engaging with external expertise for secondary business functions, agents not only boost operational efficiency but also ensure they can concentrate on their primary objectives – fostering client relationships and increasing listings, which are crucial for the growth and sustainability of the estate agency.

Refine then expand to grow capacity

Once the business has established streamlined and efficient operations, it is well-positioned to withstand the growth pains brought on by further expansion – either by taking on more estate agents or growing the support team. Upgrading processes and automation will have laid a solid foundation upon which new hires can be effectively integrated into the business, contributing to company growth while living out the company values established by the owner – including high standards of service and efficiency. This ‘refine then expand’ approach will ensure that your estate agency is not just growing in size but also in its capacity to serve clients better and secure a larger market share, which is good news for everyone involved.

Would you like to know more about managing the growth of your estate agency without stretching yourself and your business too thin? Our guest blogger, Chris Webb, owner of The Agency Consultancy in the UK, is no stranger to what it takes to build and grow a thriving estate agency. We highly recommend his brand-new book, “Building a £100,000 Estate Agency”, in which Chris shares his wealth of knowledge, offering estate agents a comprehensive guide to the intricacies of starting, managing, and growing a successful estate agency business.

Every Call Counts

The difference between Virtual Assistants and Call Answering Services

Having positive voice-to-voice communication with a client, or potential client, is one of the most powerful marketing tools that exists in your client service arsenal. This makes the person who regularly answers your incoming calls one of the most important people in your team. There is a vast difference between having a system in place to ensure not missing a call and consciously using every incoming call as an opportunity to support a company’s professional image, build rapport with clients and maintain an excellent service ethic.

We take a look at what call answering options are out there – and which is the best.

What is a call answering service

An outsourced answering service is a service where a third-party company takes and relays messages on behalf of a business. Answering service agents typically act as an in-house receptionist, but they can also act as an after-hours assistant to ensure a company does not miss phone calls.

How does a call centre answering service differ?

A key difference between a “straight up” answering service and one from a call center lies in the potential for scripting various call responses. A call center has the facility to use complex scripts to answer frequently asked questions. And they can qualify leads or manage other types of communication such as email.

What are the benefits of having an external call answering service?

  • Never missing a call
  • Always having a message taken
  • They are able to handle large call volumes if need be
  • Not having in-office staff who take turns to pick up a call being sidetracked from more important tasks
  • Cost-efficient though eliminating the need for an in-house receptionist
  • Consistent professionalism that enhances your company image

What are the downsides of using an external call answering service?

  • Not having this touch point to build relationships with clients
  • Language barriers or accents that affect communication
  • A lack of in-depth understanding of the business
  • Misunderstanding when conveying complex information
  • Challenges when handling unique customer inquiries
  • Not having important messages prioritised
  • Non-employees who have not signed an NDA being privy to sensitive information

Utilising your Virtual Assistant to answer your calls is the quality choice

Virtual Assistants bring all the benefits while eliminating the downside of using a call answering service. Here are six ways in which a VA is the best quality option:

  1. Versatility: As an integral member of your team, your Virtual Assistant can answer calls, take accurate messages, handle inbound queries and even qualify leads for you. Or they can simply take a message and email you the details, flagging the messages’ level of importance.
  2. Flexibility: You can choose to have your VA answer all calls during office hours on certain days, and on others you can simply have them cover the phone for you while you are in meetings.
  3. Personalised service: Clients feel valued when an upbeat person answers their call and immediately recognises their voice. Your VA can greet the caller, make them feel like their call is welcome, answer questions, take a message or route the caller swiftly to your phone if you are available.
  4. Establishes rapport and trust: Rapport is built when the same friendly, yet professional person answers the phone every time.
  5. Professionalism: The brand image and your company values are supported when your VA deals with a first-time caller query with knowledge and insight born of understanding your business.
  6. Cost-effective: There are some setup costs, as the VA will have to set up a dedicated line for you but the ongoing costs are quite reasonable. However, digital technology has expanded so that the geographic location of a virtual receptionist today is of little consequence.

And, of course, your experienced VA does not have to only serve your business as a virtual receptionist – they can simultaneously handle your administration and other tasks that will free up your valuable time so you can focus on growing your business.

How to make the most of working with your virtual assistant

Every minute you spend on work tasks that can be easily delegated is a minute you could be using to grow your business or spend quality time with your loved ones. Handing over routine backend tasks to a Virtual Assistant can be a game-changer for business growth and work-life balance. But to set yourself up for success when working with your VA it is essential to build a strong work foundation.

Here are 5 tips for working well with your Virtual Assistant from the get-go:

1. Establish communication channels

Effective communication with your Virtual Assistant is crucial for the success of your professional relationship. First off, everyone has a way they prefer to communicate, whether this is via phone, text or email. Establish your preferred methods of communication right away. On an ongoing basis, regular communication and touching base builds trust by demonstrating that you value your Virtual Assistant’s work and are committed to working in collaboration towards success and a common goal. Regular communication also allows for immediate recognition for a job well done. Feeling valued and appreciated will boost your Virtual Assistant’s motivation and engagement.

Here are 3 more benefits of establishing consistent communication:

  • Regular communication enables you to provide feedback on completed tasks.
  • When issues or challenges arise, open communication allows for quick problem-solving.
  • As your needs change, clear communication helps your Virtual Assistant to adapt.

2. Delegate effectively

Working well with a Virtual Assistant requires you to effectively delegate tasks. To do this requires that you have a strong understanding of your Virtual Assistant’s skill sets. Use your first onboarding calls with your VA as a time of exploration, getting to know more about them and their strengths.

Always clearly articulate your expectations and goals. Providing detailed instructions and timelines, as well as any specific requirements will reduce the chance of misunderstandings or mistakes. Providing context will help your Virtual Assistant understand both what a task entails and how the task is important to the success of the business. Delegation also requires you to trust that your VA will understand the jobs requirements and work to the best of their ability. There is no point in delegating a job to your VA and then doing it yourself.

3. Set realistic deadlines

Setting a deadline that is achievable for you may not be realistic when working with a Virtual Assistant who is new to your business. Providing your VA with a reasonable timeframe ensures they can produce high-quality work while getting up to speed with the company, their job and your priorities. Prioritising tasks and establishing clear deadlines for each one will help your VA to use their time optimally. VAs who are quick on the uptake will soon master what is required and pick up their pace.

4. Embrace technology that supports easy collaboration

Collaboration can have far-reaching benefits for your business and team members. When you and your VA (or team) effectively communicate and collaborate you will be more productive because sharing ideas, resources, and expertise actually helps in completing tasks more efficiently. Use a suitable digital platform – such as Google Drive, Slack, Trello or Monday.com – to share records and facilitate seamless collaboration with your VA. Ensure your Virtual Assistant is trained on the tools you will be using for efficient project management and task execution.

5. Streamline workflow

By employing the right digital tools, setting clear communication guidelines, defining the scope of work, establishing deadlines, monitoring progress and providing feedback, you will have gone a long way to building an effective workflow between you and your Virtual Assistant. One of the great benefits of taking on a VA is that they are typically skilled in using digital technology. It is very likely that they will help to bring you up to date in automating and streamlining task management, administration, CRM and other aspects of your business. This will have a knock-on effect of boosting productivity and being enabled to offer exceptional support to clients.

A trusted Virtual Assistant can become one of the most valuable assets in your business. Keeping track of their progress is essential, but as a busy business owner you should not have to focus too much on when your Virtual Assistant is working but rather on their deliverables. Once your VA has proved themselves, make yourself available for any questions they may have and trust them to complete their tasks subject to routinely touching base and regular check-ins.