Morning Cup O' Joe

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Personal Assistance Outsourced

I was complaining to a friend today about how I really didn’t want to deal with doing all the necessary research for the home improvements my wife and I are making. “Wouldn’t it be great if I could just pay someone to make all the phone calls and get the best estimates for all of this?”

Apparently you can now, and for cheap.

My own company invests heavily in outsourced contractors for software projects and customer support call centers, so my biased experience revolves around large scale operations. The concept of outsourcing a personal “virtual assistant” is foreign to me (no irony intended). A writer for the LA Times tested out a virtual assistance service. Her results were surprising to me. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Once home, I did a little poking around on the Internet and, to my surprise, found dozens of options — a full-time assistant for $1,000 a week (yeah, right), a la carte services at $25 to $50 an hour and something called a virtual assistant starting at $29 a month.

Naturally, I started with the cheap one, a new outfit called Sunday ( http://www.asksunday.com). For $29 a month, the assistants at Sunday would do 30 tasks for me.

The rules were simple: Each task could take no more than 30 minutes, and each had to be something that could be accomplished, ahem, at a distance: These assistants, I learned later, are mostly in India.

Sitting on my couch at 1 a.m., I dashed off a flurry of requests via e-mail:

  • Contact all my frequent-flier airlines and inform them that I had recently changed my last name and wanted my accounts updated.
  • Schedule a teeth cleaning for sometime in the next few weeks, any time before 9 a.m.
  • Make an appointment for a haircut.
  • Find out how much an airline ticket to Las Vegas would cost on Labor Day weekend.

Within 30 minutes, there was an e-mail in my in box saying that my requests were being processed. By noon the next day, the folks at Sunday had sent a list of flight options, a confirmed dental appointment and a date for my haircut.
There was a snag on the frequent-flier accounts: The assistant found out that only I could change the name. But thoughtfully he had prepared a list of what each of seven airlines required in the way of documentation and where to send my requests.

Wow, three and a half things knocked off my list before noon. And it had cost me only $4!

Would any of you consider using a service like this?

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October 1, 2007 - Posted by | News, Oddities

2 Comments

  1. Sure I would! In fact, I am one of these mysterious “Virtual Assistants”, and I am right here in the US. I do not offer personal services such as are outlined above, but believe it or not I do tasks typically regulated to high level executive administration positions – project management, marketing, etc. There’s lots of us out here, and we are saving businesses smart enough to use us a TON of money. I recently found a site called virtualoutsourcing.org that has answers all kinds of questions and a directory of tools and resources for people who are interested. If you are curious to learn more, try it. You have nothing to lose, but lots to gain!

    Comment by Robin | October 2, 2007

  2. I too am a “virtual assistant”. I would assume that the service described above is off shore, which is fine if that’s the way you want to go. But I don’t know that I’d feel proud of myself for paying someone two dollars an hour. I’m wondering how this same reporter feels about minimum wage, and corporate companies working off shores.
    You get what you pay for, and most true “virtual assistants” have years of specialized experience – that’s why we charge what we do.

    Comment by totalresourceconnectiondotcom | October 2, 2007


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