As Seneca continues its growth it is perhaps unsurprising that the team continues to increase in size, with a number of new members joining the ranks over the past 12 months. However, there is something different about Seneca Property’s latest recruit, Ava; she doesn’t exist…at least not in physical form. That is because Ava is Seneca Property’s “Affordable Virtual Assistant”, and actually refers to a team of people providing a range of virtual services, primarily to the 500+ customers who reside in Seneca’s “Biz Hub” business centres.
Ava (www.iamava.co.uk) was the brainchild of Biz Hub Sales Manager, Lucie Greenwood who explains, “At Biz Hub we provide business space and services to a wide variety of businesses, many of whom are small firms with less than 10 employees. In speaking with these smaller customers we increasingly saw demand for the provision of support services to free up these small teams from bureaucracy and administration and allow them to focus their precious, limited resources on their core business competencies.”
To help satisfy the demand, Ava was established and immediately got to work answering telephones, taking messages and managing enquiries for Biz Hub customers. Word quickly spread and Ava’s team of telephonists has now grown to manage thousands of inbound calls on behalf of customers, which as Lucie explains is not without its challenges. “The Ava team pride themselves on customer service and we therefore take a tailored approach in relation to each of our customers. Some just require a professional, friendly voice to answer calls and forward messages on to the relevant person, whereas others give us detailed scripts to allow us to handle and resolve enquiries.”
Following the success of the telephony venture, Ava’s offering was expanded as other virtual services came on board. “The most obvious next step for us was to provide virtual offices” explains Biz Hub Head of Sales, Paul Fitzsimmons. “A virtual office allows a customer to use one of our 12 Biz Hub addresses for their business and to receive post to a dedicated post box which Ava will forward on, or store for collection. We often find that a virtual office is a great first step for a young business to help it establish its credibility prior to making the bold step of taking a physical office of its own. A virtual office can also be complemented by booking one of our professional meeting rooms which are a great place to meet clients at their virtual office address.”
The idea of a virtual assistant is nothing new, and indeed in a modern, global world, the opportunities to outsource different administrative tasks to low cost economies in Asia and Africa have never been greater. Virtual assistants face competition from around the world and are as likely to compete with a firm in Mumbai as they are a firm in Manchester, so how does Ava compete with its larger and low-cost rivals? Paul is quick to highlight that customer service is key, “We have to focus on delivering exceptional service and in this regard, we see being located in the same buildings as the customers we serve as being a key advantage. We see our customers every day and build relationships with them, and this undoubtedly helps us to better understand their businesses and meet their needs.”
What next for Ava?
Ava Director and Biz Hub CFO, Chris Bullough, sees further change ahead for Ava as the service continues to grow. “Fundamentally, the direction of Ava has always been driven by our customers and giving them what they want. We are fortunate to have great relationships with our business centre residents which allows us to understand their issues and see the areas in which we can use our scale to provide assistance in a cost-effective way. Our core telephony and virtual office products will always be a big part of our offering but we are also discussing new ideas and we expect to be launching additional services this summer.” Ava may be relatively new to Seneca’s team, but it sounds like it could be the start of a long and fruitful career.