Outsourcing is a proven strategy for maintaining profitability even during times of economic downturn. This is because outsourcing effectively addresses the 2 main variables of the profitability equation: costs and revenues.
But is outsourcing a sure home run or are there pitfalls to the process that businesses are oblivious to? Like all business strategies, outsourcing is not a perfect one. There are tasks that you should outsource now and there are tasks you are probably better off not outsourcing.
6 Tasks You Should Outsource To A Virtual Assistant
1. Administrative Work
If you have not outsourced before, transferring administrative work is the best area to start. In the first place, these are non-essential tasks and have little or no direct involvement with the core functions of your business.
Second, by outsourcing administrative work you can be assured these tasks can be attended to in a timely and professional manner.
For example, checking e-mail is an activity which most people do multiple times every day. You can hire a Virtual Assistant who can check and filter your e-mails for you. She can discard irrelevant e-mails and inform you of communication that require immediate attention.
Other forms of administrative work include: appointment setting, calendar management, phone handling, filing and documentation.
2. Customer Service
Over the last few years, the importance of having excellent customer service has come to the forefront of business development. With the influence of social media, bad press or publicity is the last thing a business needs.
But customer service is not as simple as saying “How can I help you?” Excellent customer service requires a proactive where the agent should offer solutions not recite prepared scripts. This job requires people with excellent communication skills, a pleasant disposition and a results-oriented mentality.
As much as it would be great to implement a high-touch approach with your customers, this is a task best outsourced to virtual assistants or professional third party service providers. It takes time to resolve issues and for security purposes there is a verification process involved in validating the identity of the customer.
3. Marketing and Promotion
Marketing is another crucial component of business development which has undergone an evolution ever since the Internet exploded into the consumer’s consciousness.
While traditional marketing methods are still being practiced, the greater focus has been on online marketing and promotional strategies. Internet-based marketing offers the following advantages:
- Cost effective
- Measurable results in real time
- Reusable and sustainable
- Covers a wider audience
- Non-intrusive approach
- More efficient because it uses a targeted, focused approach
But online marketing as a dynamic process needs constant review; evaluation and revision if needed. You are better off outsourcing this task to an agency with the experience and expertise in designing and implementing an online marketing campaign.
Another option is to assemble a team of virtual assistants with core competencies in the following disciplines:
Either way, by outsourcing marketing and promotion, you can be confident the campaign is being supervised and undertaken by highly-qualified people.
Accounting is a mechanical discipline in the sense that numbers are plugged into formulas and the principles are pretty much straight forward. That is why most businesses prefer to outsource accounting rather than set up a department. You don’t have to pay salaries, benefits and save up money on rental space.
Your outsourced accounting team can cover the following areas of your business:
- Employee Benefits
- Accounts Management
- Cash Management
Depending on the size of your enterprise, you can outsource to an accounting agency or hire freelance accountants. Unless you need audited financial statements, you don’t have to hire a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Anyone with a degree and experience in Accounting can do a good job.
5. Human Resources
There are some businesses that are hesitant to outsource Human Resources Management because they are concerned of where the employees’ loyalty will be.
One way to mitigate the risk is to just outsource the following areas of HRM:
- Talent Acquisition
- Review of Application
- Verification of Submitted Documents
- Preliminary Interviews
- Practical Testing
Once the outsourcing team has done preliminary qualification on all applicants, you can do the final interviews and selection.
You can also delegate training and benchmarking to the outsourcing team. Ask them to go over the benchmarking results with you so you can conduct your own assessment on the employee.
6. Market Research
Market Research should be an ongoing activity in every business. Without the availability of comprehensive research, you will have a hard time staying ahead of the competition. You also need market research to improve your current products and services or to introduce new ones.
But market research takes tremendous time and effort. If you were planning on diversifying your business, a Project Feasibility study could take months to complete.
You can outsource market research to a Virtual Assistant or a freelancer with market research experience. The rates are usually higher because research is an acquired skill. However, you can agree on a budget and come up with a work schedule that will work for you and the Virtual Assistant.
4 Tasks You Should Not Outsource To A Virtual Assistant
1. Core Competencies
Core competencies are your bread and butter tasks. These are the skills that form your expertise and made you decide to set up this business. Your expertise is your domain and should remain as such. Do not outsource them to any third party.
It is not because talent in your area of expertise is not available; there probably are capable people out there. But your business is based not just on what you know but how you want things to run.
As the saying goes, “too many cooks spoil the broth” The same holds true when managing a business. Get help but leave the main course to the expert: You.
Purchasing is a sensitive task in many organizations. Deals are made and money is exchanged based on how payment terms and arrangements are agreed upon. If corruption can happen even within in-house operations, Purchasing could be more risky when you outsource it.
When it comes to dealing with suppliers and others in the value chain leave it to someone you can trust and collaborate closely with.
3. IT Security
It is standard procedure to assess the IT security and integrity measures in place whenever you outsource data sensitive tasks to a third party. But the mistake of many clients is choosing not to be directly involved in setting up IT security.
It would be a better idea to set up the data security network on your own. Administration of data security should always be the jurisdiction of the client not the service provider. This way you have more control on who has access to your encrypted files.
4. Employee Termination Management
Even with the availability of outsourced Human Resources Management and Resource Process Outsourcing (RPO), termination of employees should always be the responsibility of the employer.
Regardless of how the engagement between employer and employee has played out, management has to embrace its task of facing personnel and relaying bad news. It is never a pleasant experience but it is part and parcel of becoming a professional.
There are also legal factors to consider if there are clear-cut government mandated procedures to be followed when terminating employees.
The fact remains that despite the challenges to globalization, outsourcing continues to grow in demand. It has evolved in ways to accommodate the specific needs of businesses. Several of the world’s largest companies are outsourcing or integrating its principles in managing their own workforce.
If you are planning to outsource, start out slow by delegating administrative tasks. Use it as a learning experience and as way to understand the process more. As your confidence begins to grow and you develop greater trust with your outsourcing team, you can consider delegating other tasks in the near future.