By 2017, U.S. retail ecommerce sales are expected to hit $434.2 billion, up from $225.5 billion in 2012. It’s safe to say that the pie is getting bigger.
Entrepreneurs looking to get a bigger piece of that pie can’t afford to be involved in every last task: updating product descriptions, data exports, inventory management, and social media are all things you need to hand off if you want to progress to the next level.
Managing a virtual staff can relieve some of the day-to-day activities that suck up your time. Just don’t make the mistake of thinking your virtual assistants (VAs) don’t need to be trained and managed.
Here are ten tips and tools to get the most of our your virtual staff.
1. Know What (and How) to Delegate
Know your strengths, and know what you need your team to do. Regardless of how many ecommerce staff members you have, it pays to know where your time is best spent, and the strengths of each team member. Delegate tasks according to what needs to be done, but also to who will do them best.
2. Foster a Culture of Teamwork and Unity
This is easy to do when everyone comes together in an office every day, but not so much when a team is spread out across the country or even the world. While it’s important to consider the time differences between geographic locations, do your best to provide a place where employees can come together as if they were at the water cooler chatting with one another. You can do this by creating a group Skype conversation, a secret Facebook group, or your own internal social network with a tool like Podio.
Host virtual meetings with Skype, Google Hangouts, or another tool like GoToMeeting. Timing can be difficult if you’re working on the other side of the world, so make sure recordings are available to view later for those members who couldn’t attend live.
3. Set Up VA Access Rights
PrestaShop makes it easy to configure your store access rights for each member of your team. Have an extensive catalog and need help updating it? Employee accounts allow you to control what team members can access. As your VA gains trust, you can increase their workload, and access level.
4. Protect Your Cloud Data
These days, everything goes on the cloud. Even Prestashop. Controlling access levels is a must-needed first step in managing your ecommerce business. But what about other cloud-based software that your VAs access on their personal devices?
Microsoft SCCM can manage your virtual staff’s access levels to all of your cloud-based applications on their devices. If you’re unfamiliar with how to use a system like this for your ecommerce store, there are user friendly tutorials about Microsoft SCCM. With a single management console, you can manage Macs, PCs, servers, and cloud-based mobile devices running Windows®, iOS®, or Android™, all from a central location.
5. Have an Onboarding and Training Process
Create a series of videos to train your team on how to do the various tasks associated with the job. Have documents like W9s, contracts, non-disclosure agreements, and more, ready to go for your new hires. Consider using a platform like DocuSign to handle signing documentation digitally.
6. Centralize Time Tracking and Payroll
With platforms like Tick, you can budget and track your team’s time. If you’re really worried about whether your team is actually working, use a tool like Hubstaff. You can add multiple team members and projects, and handle payments from within the system, to make it easier for everyone.
7. Offer Rewards for a Job Well Done
You may not be able to offer a full benefits package like the folks at Google or Facebook, but incentives can go a long way toward keeping your employees happy. A 2012 study showed that 41% of companies that use peer-to-peer recognition programs have seen an increase in customer satisfaction, so it really pays to keep your employees happy. That same study also revealed an average of 23.4% lower turnover rate.
Consider offering cash bonuses, gift cards, or even tangible rewards like tablets, computers, and gaming consoles to employees who are going above and beyond the call of duty to make your business better.
8. Educate Your Team About Fraud
When it comes to managing your store, fraud is no doubt going to rear its ugly head at some point. Your team needs to know what kinds of things to look for, and what can happen to the business as a result of fraudulent transactions. Hackers often see the tiny fish in the sea as the easier targets. If your team knows what to look for, they can help stop it in its tracks, saving you time and frustration.
9. Be Available to Your Team
Make sure all members of your team can reach you when they need to. Being available to answer questions, or to provide additional support can help keep the lines of communication open. When your team knows they can come to you, you’ll be less likely to run into issues because they were afraid to come to you something before it became a problem.
10. Have a Plan to Address Turnover
If you have the staff of your dreams, that’s wonderful, but you can’t count on it being that way forever. Virtual staff members, whether they work for you full or part time, may find other opportunities for growth and advancement, which means you need to be ready to replace any member of your staff at any time. You may find team members aren’t performing the way you need them to, and you can only give someone so many chances before you need to replace them.
Know where to look for new workers, whether you’re hiring them as freelancers, or full fledged employees. LinkedIn is a great place to start, but you can also post ads on Craigslist, or turn to freelance marketplaces like Guru in a pinch.
Managing a virtual team for any business, especially ecommerce, isn’t for the faint of heart. But, fortunately for you, even if you’re working with a small budget, there are plenty of affordable tools available to make the job easier on everyone.