WARNING: This post is not for the faint of heart.
In the 11+ years that I have been assisting businesses, I have had the pleasure of coming in contact with some amazing, brilliant, talented, wonderful people. I learn about new businesses. I learn about the lives of others. I learn about struggles and joys.
I am lucky.
And for the most part, the positivity train just keeps rolling on and I’m happy to be riding on it.
But then, occasionally, someone crosses my path that completely derails my good mood and happy outlook.
I have done a lot of customer service for clients over the years, and every once in a while, someone pops up in an email or a voicemail that is just…well, you know.
Here is a recent email I received in an email box I monitor, censored, of course.
SUBJECT: FXXX OFF YOU FXXXXXXX CXXX FACE
You fxxxxxx maggots, I have not signed up for these emails, I have not authorised 3rd parties to provide my email address to you fxxxxxx and you are obtaining this illegally. I am tired of you fxxxxxx gutless xxxxxxx junking my inbox. Please note you useless piece of dog xxxx and brain fxxxxxx that your emails are being reported to all possible spam web sites. I hope over the course of today your head gets slammed by a passing truck and you get SPAMMED to hell - till then have the worst fxxxxxx day possible that you cxxxx deserve. DROP DEAD YOU FXXXXXX CXXXX, I am so sick of your fxxxxxx trash!!
Let’s let that sink in for a moment.
Someone, somewhere was so angry at receiving an email (that he actually filled out a form to receive), and so angry that he received the ONE email from us that he requested, that he felt it necessary to write an email so vile that if his mother saw it she might just faint on the spot.
Listen. There is a real person at the end of that email that you are sending. There is a real person who will listen to your voicemail that you’re leaving. And they may have absolutely NOTHING to do with a problem you’re currently having. But, if you address them in a fashion that is kind and appropriate, they will be your champion in order to get your problem solved quickly and easily.
Electronic communication has been fantastic for immediate response. It’s great! And it has also become a terrible, faceless way to say whatever you want without the repercussions of seeing how you’ve made a person feel. It shouldn’t be that way, in business or personally.
The sad part is, this isn’t the first type of email or voicemail I’ve received like this, and it definitely won’t be the last.
The next time you’re fuming about someone and are ready to shoot off an email with more expletives than a Quentin Tarantino film, put your mom’s email in the BCC field and then try to click Send. If you can’t, start over and remember there’s a real person on the end of that email.
I struggle as to where I should start this little adventure. And exactly what the moral of the story is. Because there are many. (Both starts and morals!)
I am the mother of a 16 year-old. (And that, right there, should be the beginning and the end of this tale, right?)
A few years ago we purchased, for Christmas, a laptop for said teenager. Nothing fancy, nothing expensive. It was a means to do homework. But, as kids get older, they tend to want fancier, more expensive items to keep up with their friends (especially for gaming). We let our son know that if he was going to get anything fancier, he’d have to pay for it himself.
So, money was saved slowly. Odd jobs, gifts, etc.
And then, through the gaggle of teenage friends I like to call his “Think Tank” my son decided it was better (and cheaper) to build a computer rather than buy one already put together. He assured me that all his friends did it. He assured me that he knew what he was doing. He assured me that this would be so much better. He assured me that this would be so much cheaper.
Thus, it began.
Trip One: 50 Miles round trip, 2 hours of time
We drove to “the” computer store where they assisted my son with the proper build, and actually got his price down $150 cheaper than what he built. All parts were purchased.
At home, to deaf ears, I stated: Clean up your work area. Organize everything. Do things methodically. Ensure that everything works. Ensure that everything is correct.
By that evening I was informed that my son purchased the wrong motherboard, and it wouldn’t fit in the case. Because he had already opened the motherboard and started messing around, we decided to replace the case.
Trip Two: 50 miles round trip, 1h 15m of time
Two days later (because I refused to go back again over the weekend), we went back and exchanged the case.
Then came the complaining. This wasn’t working. This part didn’t go in the right way. It’s “supposed to go in here.” The case is wrong. (After he had already bent some of the casing out of the way to get the graphics card to work.)
Finally, all the pieces were in. It doesn’t power on. More complaining. (Insert 2h of parental time helping to troubleshoot). I chat with the computer store support. I call live support with my son and troubleshoot some more. Maybe it’s a bad power supply.
Trip Three: 50 miles round trip, 1h 30m of time
We bring the tower to the store, pay for a diagnostic. We have to leave it there. Which means, of course, another trip back.
Later that evening, I get a message from the tech guy. I won’t bore you with the details. Let’s just say he told me “85% of it was hooked up incorrectly.” Oh, and we should replace the “broken” case, too.
(Insert moment where my blood pressure soars.)
Trip Four: 50 miles round trip, 1h 30m of time
We pick up the tower and come home. No, wait. We get in the car, and on the way there, I began my lecture on how (a) you learn everything you can before you start - especially when it’s doing something costly like this, (b) your friends don’t know anything, (c) sometimes you have to invest your money in getting help in the beginning, so that you don’t end up spending extra money later on.
And I’m sure there were a few other lessons I laid out, too.
We returned home, and everything was set out on the table where I would be able to monitor what was going on.
(Insert massive thank you to the tech guy who fixed all connectivity/build issues while doing the diagnostic.)
Trip Five: 10 miles round trip, 30m of time
Guess who didn’t buy a motherboard with WiFi? Out to the big box store to buy an adapter.
When you calculate all of the money and time spent, the “affordable” $750 computer build ended up costing around $1100.
The Moral of the Story
Get help. Get help. Get help. You don’t have to, shouldn’t have to, and don’t need to do everything on your own. There are people out there who are AWESOME at things, and they will help you. Pay them to help you. It is COMPLETELY worth the investment.
We’ve finally reached the end of my new car purchase saga. (Check out Parts One and Two if you’ve missed what has been happening.) As you can see from the picture above, I am happily the proud owner of new debt. :)
Last Saturday my husband and I took a 25 minute drive out to a dealership to check things out. Why so far away? They had some pricing that seemed a little cheaper than those dealers close to us, and when you’re talking about vehicles that are tens of thousands of dollars, every penny saved helps out.
We met Joe, our sales guy. Joe greeted us in passing outside, asked us a question or two, and pointed us in the direction we needed to go. (No pressure. No hounding.)
He came back around and asked us more questions. What did I want? What did I need? (Find out what the customer wants to point her in the right direction.)
Had I done any test driving? I hadn’t. He grabbed some keys, a plate, and told us to go and check things out. (Let the customer learn first-hand about the product she wants to buy.)
Joe offered up some pointers and features on the vehicle we looked at since, well, let’s face it. Cars have come a long way technologically speaking since my 2007 model! We even browsed some used cars just to see what the options were.
The whole time there was absolutely no pressure to buy. Only information. Only assistance. Only problem-solving. At the end of our visit, we sat, we chatted, and he printed out some info for us to take home. Again - absolutely no pressure to buy. (I’m a geek for the no-pressure sale. There isn’t anything I dislike more than someone trying to make me feel guilty or stupid for not making an immediate purchase.)
The next day I sent Joe an email. (That’s right - he didn’t badger me with more info.) We emailed back and for about pricing, colors, models. By the time Friday came around we had all the choices, paperwork and insurance completed and I just needed to sign and pay.
It was so simple.
Well, no. Initially, with those previous dealerships, it wasn’t. But with this dealer and our sales guy Joe, it was. Because it wasn’t about sales quotas or commissions. (Well, maybe it was, but it didn’t feel that way.) It was about helping me find the right car for me at the right price. It was making sure the customer was happy.
And when the customer is happy, everybody is happy. I get my car. Joe gets his commission. And future business, too, because I had such a good experience. So - more happy people. And everybody wins.
You want help for you business. You need help. You haven’t had a break in weeks and you’re just about to hide out in the basement for a day or two to have some quiet time and evaluate this whole “be my own boss” thing. How can you possibly hire a virtual assistant? You’re not in “millionaire” status yet. Heck, you’re not really even in “thousandaire” status. But you just can’t do it alone any more. How can it all work out?
Virtual Assistants Aren’t Full Time
They can be, but most virtual assistants have a book of clients just like you who are just getting help when they need it. And truly, that is the best part about hiring a virtual assistant. You don’t have to have someone sitting there, getting paid, waiting for work to show up.
Hire on a Per Project Basis
There is no requirement to hire a VA at an hourly rate. Start with one project. Set limits for the time, the dollar amount, the task. If you tell someone you want them to do as much research as she can for $200, then you don’t have to worry about what the project will cost. It’s already there, and you can plan your budget accordingly.
Hire for a Set Amount of Time
Another way to keep within a budget you can afford is to hire a virtual assistant for a certain amount of hours per month. Plenty of assistants provide package deals. This way you know that every month it is going to cost you X dollars. Once it’s built into your budget, it becomes part of your regular expenses.
The key to being able to afford a virtual assistant is understanding the financial benefit you can achieve from it. Would you rather be trying to cobble together social media posts, or researching leads, or would you rather be trying to talk with and sell to potential clients?
If a virtual assistant could free up one hour of your time each week to allow you to sell to potential clients, what would that be worth to you? If one sale was $500 and one hour of a virtual assistant’s time cost $25, I’d say that’s an amazing ROI.
It’s scary to invest when you’re counting every penny, but when you look at the big financial picture, you’ll see that you can’t afford not to hire a virtual assistant. (And you won’t need to hide out in your basement!)
Last week we talked about my journey to purchase a new vehicle. Here’s the continuing saga.
A salesperson from a dealership responded to my email. Finally! Let’s call him Bob. Bob responded quickly, and suggested a possible vehicle. I replied back, told him I’d like to learn more, and we set up a time for me to come to the dealership and chat.
I was feeling pretty good about it. Someone had finally responded. That first part of the sale had begun - acknowledgement.
I arrived at my appointment time, checked in, and someone went to get Bob while I made myself a cup of coffee. A few minutes later Bob approached me and introduced himself. I put out my hand for a shake. (Shaken!)
Bob apologized to me, stating that something came up and he wouldn’t be able to talk with me, however, he had brought over “Jerry” who, Bob explained, had been there as long as he had, and knew everything, etc. etc.
I said hello, extended my hand out for a shake, but Jerry was already off and running back to his desk. (Unshaken!!)
We sit, and Jerry tells me Bob gave him my info, and asked me what I was looking for. I explained it again. He clicked a lot on his computer, printed up two pieces of paper with two different vehicles that I had mentioned, and said I couldn’t get the deal I wanted (hinged on a monthly payment amount I was setting a limit at).
And that was it. I sat there for a moment, and then said, “Well, I guess I’ll keep looking.”
I left. Angry. Frustrated. No - angry.
Look, I cannot stand pushy sales tactics. I have walked out of stores because of it and have never returned. But - isn’t your job to SELL to me?
Let’s break down things that went wrong.
At NO time did Jerry take me to look at any of the vehicles I was interested in. Show me the product. Get me more interested in it.
At NO time did Jerry provide other vehicle suggestions. “I know you’ve been looking at X, but have you considered Y. It can meet your requirements and still get you the price point you want to be at.” Maybe there are options I don’t know about.
At NO time did Jerry put in any effort to try to get me into the vehicle I wanted. He didn’t show me how different down payments would change the monthly payment. He didn’t talk to me about the different vehicle packages and how, if I went to a different package and maybe added an extra thousand for the down payment, I could be close to the monthly payment I want. Show me the different ways I can potentially get the vehicle I want.
The whole “sales conversation” took about 15 minutes. And most of it was Jerry typing things into a computer.
No one wants to have a sales pitch shoved down his throat, but I think everyone wants to be offered all possible information and options. Had Jerry actually been a proper salesman, I might have walked out of there with a new vehicle.
But, I didn’t. I’m still searching - now more for the right salesperson than the right vehicle.
28+ years of business experience. 15+ years of virtual experience.