With more people working remotely, either temporarily or for the long-term, more businesses are considering outsourcing operations and bringing on a virtual assistant. When exploring options, most businesses are immediately confronted with the question of whether to hire U.S.-based virtual assistants or whether to hire an offshore virtual assistant located in a country such as India or the Philippines.
How do you decide whether to hire an onshore virtual assistant or an offshore virtual assistant? It will depend on the role and the responsibilities that you are looking to fill.
Marketing and Sales
The more high-profile the communication, the more important it is that the person communicating has firm command of the language, as well as the current culture of the United States. If you need assistance with your company’s marketing, including blogs, social media, email marketing, and website content, you need to ensure that the content puts your company in the best possible light. Misspellings or awkward grammar can reflect poorly on your company. Further, if the person handling marketing for your company is not up to date on cultural currents in the United States, they will find it hard to create content that takes advantage of trending topics or to avoid a faux pas.
On the other hand, an offshore virtual assistant may be well-suited to lay the groundwork for a sales campaign. For example, an offshore virtual assistant may handle the opening rounds of a mass InMail campaign and then hand off warm leads to you or an onshore virtual assistant. Offshore virtual assistants may also be able to put together mailing lists through internet research—an often time-consuming process where keeping costs low is essential to ROI. Finally, adding data in bulk to CRM systems may be a good opportunity to reduce costs by using an offshore team.
For interpersonal communications, the more senior the person at the company, the more important it is that any emails written on their behalf are expertly written. The conclusion that a senior executive doesn’t speak well or that the email has been written by somebody who doesn’t have firm command of English, will not reflect well on the company.
Be cognizant of responsibilities that have a significant communications component along with a data entry component. For example, handling calendaring for an executive often requires a high degree of professional communication. The assistant needs to liaise with stakeholders and high-ranking executives at other organizations. An assistant will often need to work closely with an executive to figure out what meetings should be prioritized and expedited or deprioritized and delayed. In short, calendaring is typically a role best-filled by a US-based executive assistant working closely with an executive.
Paralegal and Legal Support Services
Paralegal work typically requires an excellent understanding of a particular practice area, supervision from an attorney, coordination between paralegal and attorney, and communication with critical people outside the firm, like clients, the court, and opposing counsel. In view of these considerations, a U.S.-based paralegal is often the best fit.
Further, integrating your US-based paralegal team with an offshore team presents challenges, particularly with regard to communication. The offshore team’s work may require its own supervision and often is dependent on the in-house team to make corrections or provide missing information. Worse, there may be cases where the offshore team makes incorrect assumptions due to a lack of information, resulting in work product that must be corrected. In short, the sort of coordination that is often required to make offshore and onshore paralegal teams work together smoothly may require more time than an attorney is willing to spend.
Whether you utilize an onshore or offshore virtual assistant to support customer service should depend on the volume of calls, the level of expertise needed, and your budget. If you have a high volume of inquiries, offshore virtual assistants may be the best option. Alternatively, you could use offshore virtual assistants to handle initial queries or handoffs from an automated phone tree or AI operator. If the call escalated, it could be referred to an onshore virtual assistant.
Another example of an instance in which offshoring may be the best match for your business is where a high level of technical expertise is required to respond to an inquiry. In such cases, offshore customer service representatives may be the only financially feasible option.
However, if your business is concentrated among a few customers or if it’s important that your representative seem like an extension of your business, an onshore virtual assistant may be the best choice. As discussed above, in such instances, the quality of communication matters and a US-based VA will likely be the best choice.
As has been alluded to above, onshoring and offshoring are not necessarily mutually exclusive options. However, it’s important to make sure that the two teams are collaborating effectively. Here are some recommendations for ensuring that this collaboration works:
Define a process and roles. Let’s say that an onshore and offshore team are collaborating on entering data into a Salesforce database. You’ll need to make sure that the roles are clear. For example, perhaps the offshore team will do the data entry and the onshore team will ensure that the data is accurate and resolve inaccuracies.
Understand how communication will work. In our Salesforce example, the offshore team will need a way to communicate questions to the onshore team. It’s important to define how communication will occur. A project management system, such as Slack, Asana, or Zoho Connect may be the way to go.
Delegating points of contact. Particularly in the cases of larger teams, it’s important to define the personnel who should be contacted on both the onshore and offshore teams. Having points of contact ensures that issues are not overlooked and facilitates a working relationship between team representatives.
Business is poised to become more geographically distributed in the future, with organizations of all sizes relying on outsourced solutions for important operations. Rather than viewing virtual assistant support as a choice between onshore and offshore support, think more generally about all the functions you can outsource and how you can utilize and combine both types of resources to manage and streamline your operations.