In the competitive and fast-growing serviced office sector, it can be a challenge to stand out from the crowd. But Sydney-based Serviced Offices International has developed a unique, tailored Virtual Receptionist that is winning international business. Increasing numbers of overseas companies are seeking SOI out as they dip their toe into the Australian market.
Officing Today asked SOI founder and small business expert Michelle Mills about the secrets of her success.
Why did you decide to focus heavily on Virtual Offices?
The reason we are focused so heavily on the Virtual Office/ Virtual Receptionist side of the business is because I have a passion for the virtual office concept and empathy for small businesses. This started at the beginning of my career in Serviced Offices 26 years ago.
Over the years I have worked with many small businesses that have taken advantage of the virtual office and have seen how this service has provided the support required for the businesses to grow and be successful. My goal is to see all small businesses utilise some part of a Virtual Office / Virtual Reception to help them develop their businesses and become more professional.
Running a small business is challenging and the business owner needs to be over all areas of their business, this can be stressful and take them away from the areas that they excel in and what they enjoy. By taking up some aspect of the Virtual Office we are able to help make their day easier, giving them back time to focus on what really matters to their business.
How does your Live/virtual receptionist service differ from Regus or Servcorp?
With our understanding of small business we have developed a very tailored and personalised service. We work with each of our clients individually to find out exactly how they want their calls answered and what critical information is required. The reception team are then trained so that they can truly represent each of our clients as if they are their dedicated receptionist.
With the assistance of our IT partners we have customised our consoles to increase the amount of information we capture for our clients. Each team member has access to very detailed information about each client, enabling them to represent the client as if they are their dedicated receptionist.
We also tailor meeting room packages and office usage depending on what the clients require, this way they are only paying for what they need. All our clients speak first with one of our business development managers to ensure they get the right level of service with a tailored solution.
Our processes and services ensure we revolve around the client’s business, not them around ours, so we provide straightforward month-to-month agreements with no lock in fees or extra hidden charges which is what our clients want. Throughout their service our clients are always speaking directly with the team, continually updating and changing their request as their needs change.
What kind of success have you seen from this?
Our success has been the longevity of our clients. Over 70% of our Virtual clients have been with us more than 5 years. And they have now become our referral partners.
We do not have the big marketing budgets that our larger competitors have. But by offering the high level of service and a tailored, personalised solution, we are able to grow our virtual clients organically.
How does your background in dancing enable you to train staff?
My dance background has helped me to have a greater understanding in how people learn. With this knowledge I have developed a very unique Customer Service training program that is implemented in a way that will really engage and develop a team.
When learning dance and teaching ballet, each part is broken down and then practiced until it becomes comfortable, then the next part is added and the full combination is practiced until it is comfortable and this process continues.
This is the exact same method we use for training at Serviced Offices International. Not only does it assist in developing a well trained team, but helps us to retain staff longer as they are continually growing and developing.
Recently Servcorp told us they had 1-2K Virtual Office clients in a single centre in the largest Asian markets. Do you see something similar in Sydney?
Sydney does not have the same population as many large Asian cities and to get this number of virtual clients in a single centre will be a challenge. However, we do have over 1 million small businesses in Australia and they are growing at a fast rate. Once Australian small businesses see the true value that a Virtual Office/Virtual Receptionist provides them, this is certainly not unrealistic.
When I first started providing the Virtual Office facility in 1990, we did not have the technology to support our services. As the technology has improved and the concept of outsourcing is becoming a more accepted way of doing business, the need for Virtual Office/Virtual Receptionist will continue to grow.
How important are long-term relationships with clients, and how do you nurture them?
For our business the long-term relationships with our clients are critical to the success of our business.
We nurture them by continually communicating with our clients so we can keep up to date with how their businesses are going and what they are experiencing. It’s important that we gain an understanding of the experience our clients are receiving. We may believe we are providing a good level of Customer Service, but our clients might be having a difference experience.
The continual improvement on the quality of service is important, so this is the on-going training and up-skilling of all the SOI team.
We are always looking at new technology and services that we can offer that will benefit our clients and assist their working day to run that little bit smoother.
Offering value added services, such as information evenings, opportunity to network with the rest of our clients and providing that community environment where we can share information is also important as our clients are not wanting offices they are after a business support environment.