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UK vs international: the merits of sourcing on home turf

If you’re in the market for sourcing a PA, the chances are your wish list is long. You’ll want someone proficient, experienced, flexible, committed, reliable and forward thinking. You’ll also more than likely want someone full time, available when you need them, adaptable and able to cope with the fluctuating demands of your business. All for a tidy sum which ticks the boxes budget wise.
Although the wish list is great, the reality is for many business, especially for those in the SME category, is that something in that wish list will have to give a little. Since none of us will want to compromise on the former, the latter factors are leading UK companies to not only source virtual support in the first place, but in doing so weigh up the benefits of sourcing it from UK shores as opposed to overseas.
Online employment platform Elance predicts that by 2020 at least 10 per cent of all work will be purely online and fractional (working for many clients in tandem) despite current rates estimated at just one per cent. They also estimate the US to be the biggest market by far for VA’s, followed by Australia and the UK, and marginal interest from Europe. The Elance website shows the total number of administrative support jobs posted rose by nearly 40 per cent to more than 180,000, worth $146m, in the past year.
The international market for sourcing virtual assistants is one that is rapidly growing. According to a recent market research report published by Transparency Market Research, the global intelligent virtual assistant market is estimated to expand healthily at a compound annual growth rate of 31.80 per cent between 2015 and 2022. Key markets of growth include India, Asia and the Philippines –  more specifically places with booming economies and the technology infrastructure that supports remote support. Much like the younger sibling of the call centre market, companies in these regions offer a standard level of ongoing support more often than not for more everyday tasks, which are the bread and butter of keeping a business moving. Often but not exclusively, high volume data entry and simple administrative tasks are easy fodder for this sort of business with clients lured by costs that sit on the cheaper side of the fence.
For every plus of international sourcing, there is a minus. Costs can be low overseas, but distance can be felt beyond the limitations of a geographical barrier. Today globally we are a 24 hour technology driven nation, and therefore  traditional office hours are much more fluid than nine to five. Despite this, time zones can still be a challenge when you want staff on call as you need them.  The accessibility you gain by adapting advances such as VoIP (voice over IP) technology such as Skype, are useful but equally can’t quite replace the benefit of for immediate contact.
Of course, all best made plans go to waste at times, and no truer is this than in business. When time matters, unexpected issues arise and your plans changes direction, you really need support than can proactively and re-actively respond in a time sensitive matter. That’s where the UK VA will always pip the post – timely responses which don’t have to wait for a time zone catch-up to come into play. The domestic based VA can move in tandem with your business in real time, dealing with the unexpected or change of direction as and when it happens.
The immediacy of a UK based VA also appeals a certain type of task. The ability to pull in the resource immediately when needed without the commitment of a ongoing full time member of staff gives a true flexibility. The more complicated, ad-hoc, unusual tasks lend themselves to the domestic-based assistant to bridge the gap of familiarity. Consider what you need an assistant for and task appropriately – this article by Entrepreneur magazine proves a help guide of the sorts of tasks that lend themselves to outsourced help.
Although in a sourcing debate cost often ranks high, much like the world of UK manufacture, the notions of true ‘cost’ and ‘value’ make the lines between increasingly blurred. Costs and cheap figures may add up on paper, but consider the real ‘value’ for your business. Is the real ‘value’ not the cost per hour, but the way in which they know your business inside out, the fact you can meet face to face at the drop of a hat, or the bespoke knowledge of your business that would put some of your pay-rolled full time staff to shame?
What is clear, is that you have to have an open mind and understand the needs of your business. There’s no ‘one fits all’ – be clear about what you want from your assistant, the budgets you are working to, the objectives and style of delivery you are looking for. Both international and UK based VA’s have their valid place in the market. Particularly in the world of the SME, that bespoke personable add-on to your business may be of more ‘value’ than having to wait for your team to clock on globally before you can get a response to what you need. Sure advancements in technology are drawing bridges between international and domestic VA’s – but it can be argued there are real-time qualities and personal touches which just can’t be replicated overseas.
Where do you sit on the domestic debate – is home sourced support favourable when it comes to VA support?  Contact us and let us know your thoughts!

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