Ryan - Profile

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JoinedApr 2010
Latest activity 16th Feb 2015 5:41pm  

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Looking at Getting a Virtual PA Service 16th February 2015 5:41 PM

Hello All,

I have used a Telephone Answering company for several years now, and I have been very happy with them, they have been good value for money, even though they have increased their prices a bit recently. My usage with them goes up and down. But now it may go up quite a lot as I am making changes within the business. I now have a bit more of a need and I am not sure if they can accommodate.

I am trying to do some research in terms of what it would cost me to get a Virtual PA, or PA to work from home for me.

I need a person or a business, that can answer calls, book appointments in the diary, take card payments over the phone, send emails or text messages to customers, and follow up with the odd customer. I can give them the card payment login details, so I would need to feel comfortable that they are 100% trustable. Now, I am either looking to find one person who already does this from home, and for other customers, to add me as a customer, or I would even consider a more established business. I would also consider keeping my existing Telephone Answering company to answer the calls and patch the calls through and maybe even get a separate company for the PA service/admin bit. Cost is a factor because this is a tiny business. 

I am a small business, and I would prefer to work with a one/woman man band like me, who I can create a long term relationship with. I have used my current Telephone Answering Service company for about 3 years or more now.

I would like to hear from people who have used Virtual PA services, and I wanted to know if the experience was good, bad, and what to watch out for? Virtual PA service companies are welcome to PM me. Please feel free to email me how you work and charge.

Thank you.

I have heard of Rip Off Report. I am talking about something more high quality. It's not so much a business, rather than social action. However, I don't have the time or the energy.

Regarding reviews. I have this review idea that I like. If reviews were like this I would trust it. I will tell you about it another time. 

If you can instill public confidence that your reviews are most trust worthy and most vetted, then companies will consider using them. However, over the recent year I have seen a number of heavily backed review companies start up. So the competition is very fierce. The truth is most people don't trust most of them. If you could make one of them that had that very high confidence level, then you may have something. And I think I know a way to do that. However, I am not in that business. 

I need your help and advice 20th May 2014 12:30 PM

Thank you both for your honest answers. And Clive, thanks. 

See I use Live Chat on other websites a lot. I probably use a lot of services and business. Eg. When I need to contact Netfirms or some other registrar or hosting I will use Live Chat as opposed to phone and email and it get's things done. I also use a lot of SAAS products, and I nearly always use Live Chat. I know you are right, waiting a day to get an answer won't put my off sales. However, I have case studies and more case studies, that I have personally recorded where I did not get the answer to the question that I needed on the website, FAQ, and the next step was to email and wait for an answer. There are so many statistics and data on people deciding to cancel at the checkout at the very last moment. At that moment people don't pick up the phone. It's very true. However, if there is a chat agent there, it is more likely to convert into a sale. The truth is most may not outsource that function. That's what I think. 

However, I do have to admit, that the market that I was most hoping to appeal to, SAAS, it's hard to convert them. I almost had a famous, one of those millionaires a lot of people know about almost signed up with his new venture which is becoming slowly famous in the CRM market place. But I found he was most demanding. If I could get that niche then it would have been worth while. However, although they are small companies, they have a lot of money they can throw at things, so doing live chat in house I suppose won't phase them. 

Lastly, regarding knowing the answers. I can have my guys know all the answers your in-house people would know, maybe even better, so long as we were given the answers. And although I am not being realistic, we have access to the best co-browsing software so if help was needed, we can easily guide people to fill in forms and help them do small tasks without them even installing any software. And if you want to take it to the next level, I used to be in the IT support business, and proper remote support is easily integrated with live chat. However, that's not what we are about. It was supposed to low mid to low level help. Helping websites and businesses engage with visitors so more convert into sales. It's like when someone spends 5 minutes on a site and still not found anything, and tapping them on shoulder, like someone would do in a department store, can sometimes be very helpful to say "may I help you?"

However, although I may not like it, I have to put my hand up and say you guys are right, and I think my view got maybe too rose tinted and I was wrong. So thank you all for your honest advice. It is appreciated. 

I am slowly going to wind things down with the business, almost with immediate effect. I think I kind of got what I needed to hear. Even if this was successful it won't amount to much. And my time is my most precious resource it is best invested elsewhere.

My first real business failure. I will try and learn from it.


I need your help and advice 19th May 2014 3:25 PM

Thanks Clive. I think you have a very strong point.

However, I have very real example that happened to me recently - where I didn't get the help when we needed it. We are mainly targeting ecommerce businesses and SAAS businesses that operate 24/7 and their products and services are sold at anytime, and bought anywhere in the world. It is a well known fact that many online purchases fail because of various reasons, and very often because the purchase has a question before the check out, and for whatever reason doesn't find the answer that he or she is looking for.

Recently, I tried to contact a Payment processing company. This company is becoming very successful and has huge amounts of VC backing. Anyway, I tried to call them, and I got their answer machine. I sent an email and got a reply back 2 days later. For me that wasn't good enough. If they had live chat, even if it was in-house, it may solve this problem cost effectively.

Live chat technology works, and the companies that sell just the technology have done well, because there is a need for the technology. By having live chat, you also reduce the volume of phone calls and emails. It therefore also reduces that cost - because people chat instead of phoning in. Chat is far cheaper than phone, and I don't mean just the call cost. The call cost is not an issue.

Anyway, say the chat was just 12 hours, or 8 hours during the office hours. Even if we only were providing chat during those hours, that still doesn't solve our problem. 

You may be completely right, and we are trying solve a problem that doesn't exist?


I think it's getting worse in my opinion. If you ever have to call a big company call centre, and you have a major problem you often feel powerless. Recent example, I have 3 Vodafone contracts. One for my iPhone, one for my iPad Mini, and I also have a separate data tariff for my laptop. Oh, I also have 2 business phones with them on top. So I do spend money with them and I have been with them a while. Anyway, a contract which I signed up to accidently almost 2 years, that I am not using, but paying for anyway, to see it though. So it came to an end. So I sent a letter as they said they needed it in writing to cancel. So I sent a letter and cancelled my direct debit. 2 months later, I get a debt collectors letter from Vodafone. They had passed it to an external company. It's only a small amount, so although I know I am in the right, I pay it. Then I call Vodafone and explain what happened. They cancel my contract again. With small apology, paying lip service, no refund. A week later phone, just to make sure. Guess what, I learn that my contract still hasn't been cancelled. This time, I think they finally cancel it. Still no refund. So I paid an extra money, wasted a lot of time for something that was their fault.

This has affected my credit report. I try and keep a pristine credit score, although I don't really loan money. It's just something thats important to me. 

Now I have learnt, when I remember to record calls. However, the problem is, if I tell the agent that I am recording the call, they will nearly always end the call. It's OK for them to record the call but not me? I am supposed to legally tell someone before I record a call. However, if I tell them and no one will speak to me then I can really record the call can I?

Coming back to online reviews. Most of them are made up and manipulated. Reviews like mine won't touch a company like Vodafone. There is no independent review site or company. Most of review services are profit driven. Even the Google Places reviews are full of fake reviews. So I don't really trust it. Yes, businesses are more aware of getting bad online reviews or criticisms. But it mainly affects small businesses. However, small businesses are some of the best at giving great service anyway.

I wish someone would create a great site, where you could document and upload these customer service experiences. Most of the ones I have seen aren't that good. Maybe then they will stand up and listen. It needs to get powerful a bit like trip adviser. Then they will stand up and listen.

There is nothing worse then the feeling of powerlessness. 

I need your help and advice 19th May 2014 1:55 PM

Apologies in advance for the long post. I need all of your opinion of feedback on this. I know us as business people can sometimes have rose tinted views on some things. If I am wrong about something, then I would like to know. If I am not seeing the obvious problems then again I would like to know.

Over the years I have had a number of websites, mainly in the service business, at one time I was managing probably about 12 or so sites of my own. And the service businesses have always made money in one way or another. Nothing to shout about, but comfortable. And I found that little things answering telephones and emails promptly have always helped. You would be shocked at the number of times someone has said to me that we are using your service because your office actually answered the phone. As simple as that sounds. We also found that have Live Chat on our website nearly always helped increas sales. People felt ib control, there was no telephone ques or waiting around. Providing live chat meant that someone always had to be logged into chat. 

No, I thought, good or bad, if I had set up a call centre of chat agents dedicated to answering live chats on behalf of other businesses, it may be a good thing. Provided that the service quality was to a high standard, at a reasonable cost, then many businesses would consider paying for such a service. Especially businesses that were mainly operating online.

Now, I looked at all my competition, and I wanted to create a better name, better site, and do things they maybe were not doing so well. For example, most competitors don’t publish their prices. Little things like that. We do. 

Anyway, I created chatbee dot co dot uk a managed live chat service. We are operating 24/7 and mainly targeting 3 countries UK/US/Australia. We could be doing a lot better in my opinion. I have also noticed a number of competitors operating in this area fold. Now, I just want to know, would you use such a service. If many businesses use telephone answering companies from time to time, why not live chat? I know I have used telephone answering companies very effectively when it got too busy, or out of office hours. It was a great service to have – and so much cheaper then hiring someone to answer calls. Telephone answering companies have done very well – I know many of them.

The online market place is huge. I thought/think even if we managed to get a tiny proportion of that we would do well.

I don’t know what it is? Are we too expensive? Paying just 79p per chat for 24/7 365 agents is not expensive in my opinion. If you are small business that may just do 10 chats in a day, then it’s dirt cheap, compared to you doing it yourself or even hiring someone one minimum wage.

Is the website rubbish? Even if we said the website was rubbish, I see our competitors with far worse websites. I may be biased, but compared to some of our competitor websites ours is good. And even if we said it’s not to everyone’s taste, it’s something that can be changed.

I am not exactly sure what it is.

However, the reality is it has not gone as well as I had hoped.

I have to be honest about one thing. I have also given it very little time, compared to the amount of time I had invested in other businesses I have started. However, this is the first business that I have had to put my hand up and say I am not so sure. I don’t believe in letting pride get in the way. If something is not going to work, I would rather put my hand up and say, I tried but I failed or it did not work.

Anyway, please let me know your thoughts. 

As a child of immigrant parents, and observing immigrants from various countries/communities in London, I would say the one big thing that an immigrant has got that we lack, is the hunger or drive. This mainly applies to first generation immigrants, not often their children, although business or entrepreneurial thinking or mentality can easily be passed on to future generations - as seen with South Asian population in the UK. 

When an immigrant person arrives to a country like the UK/US, they will often come from a less well off country, and they will appreciate the opportunities that a country like this offers, so they will be really driven to do well and make money. Making money or becoming financially independent is really important to first generation immigrants. We don't always fully appreciate how that drive/hunger to do well and succeed and make you entrepreneurial and successful. 

I remember my father used to talk how in the 50's and 60's they used to sleep in shifts, save rent so that one bed was used by several people, so that if he was working days then he would share with someone who was working nights. The hours and the conditions that they worked in are hard to imagine now. However, I still see some new immigrants (nowadays), 8 or 12 people to a house, all sharing the rent in London to keep costs down. I know one person who did painting and decorating in our house, they are 4 guys who share one room. This is London 2014. They want to save every penny they can!

You will also see, that if the parents were entrepreneurial or opened up businesses, e.g like a corner shop, then their children will often grow up seeing their parents work hard, and take on that work ethic. Although they won't probably have the same level of hunger and drive because they were born in the UK - with the luxury that offers compared with if they were born in a poor village in Africa/Asia as an example. 

I wasn't fortunate enough to have parents who were in business or entrepreneurial that way, so I just had to learn like everyone else. 

I am generalising a lot, but it's my take on it.

Happy Birthday Steve !! 17th May 2014 6:24 PM

Happy birthday, old man ;)

Letting Your Property 14th May 2014 1:28 PM

 I wonder if it will take off!

A trendy cube style commercial shop's were created in London's Shoreditch area, which over the last 5 years or so became a very trendy area. So someone created little shops, really tiny, in cube shapes, and they rented it out to big brands as well as independent's. Last time I saw Calvin Klein had a small unit. These are really tiny unit's just enough for one or two people stand inside. However, although most of them were rented out, I don't think they became as successful as the planners had hoped, because I don't see them springing up in other areas of London or other areas of the country! Or I could be wrong, and they were successful. 

Becoming a Non Smoker 13th May 2014 8:12 PM

I think the smoking ban on social places like pubs etc have encouraged and helped a lot of people. I also think they should keep the prices going up, that has also had a big effect. I would go far as saying that is probably by the far one of the biggest reasons for people stopping, and obviously the social change in terms of the fact that smoking became "unsocial" - if there is such a word.