When you’re considering hiring a personal assistant, there are a variety of factors you consider to choose the right one including:
- If they’re comfortable using your online tools
- Their prior work experience
- How closely their hours align with yours
- If their skill set is appropriate for your tasks
- Their communication skills
While most people consider these standard job qualifications, very few look for an assistant who is empathetic.
Empathy Differentiates Staff in Stressful Situations
To demonstrate the power of empathy in supportive roles, I’d like to tell you a story about one of our Team Leads, Leslie. Before joining Prialto, Leslie worked as a customer support specialist for a travel agency. As part of an escalation team, she frequently dealt with frustrated customers who were experiencing challenges with their travel plans. However, there was one incident that was a pivotal moment in her career.
The wife of an international celebrity called because, when she and her husband’s entourage arrived at their hotel, the desk agent told them that someone canceled three of their five room reservations and there were no remaining rooms available. She was furious. Her husband was scheduled to perform in Las Vegas that night, and most of their group had nowhere to stay. After making one customer service agent cry, she was transferred to Leslie to resolve the issue.
Leslie informed the customer that records showed that she, or someone else who had access to her account, canceled the reservations. The customer continued shouting and denying all responsibility but, Leslie stayed calm. Instead of being upset by the customer’s rude language, Leslie imagined herself in the customer’s shoes. She understood that the customer was anxious about her party not having a place to stay after such an important event.
Over the next four hours, Leslie patiently consoled the customer and reached out resources at the customer’s hotel and persuaded them to offer rooms that previously unavailable.
By the end of the call, the customer still wasn’t happy but, she was satisfied with the solution. Leslie’s experience taught her the difference between an average support professional and an outstanding one is that the former solely follows the procedures to complete their job while the latter emphasizes with their clients’ concerns and goes above and beyond to resolve them.
When Leslie started working at Prialto, she took that lesson with her and, like all our assistants, uses it to develop lasting, productive relationships with all the clients and entry-level assistants she supports.
How to Hire an Empathetic Assistant
Empathy cannot be displayed on a resume in the way that a technical skill can, and it can be challenging to find an applicant who possesses it.
We’ve found there are two ways to assess an assistant’s empathy:
1) Ask scenario and experiential questions in your interview. To do this, describe stressful situations you face and ask them what they would do to help you. If their answer focuses on their desire to support you, in addition to completing tasks, then they’re likely empathetic.
You should also question how they helped prior employers. If they explain how they improved the individual’s well-being - rather than just describing the - then they’re likely empathetic. Keep in mind that you often won’t fully know an applicant's character until they’ve spent a couple of weeks on the job.
2) Hire from a managed assistant service. Unlike marketplace agencies that whose sole purpose is to connect independent assistants with employers, managed assistant services employ, train and supervise their assistants so that all clients have to do is provide instructions. Look for a company that assigns you a dedicated assistant and account manager so that your experience improves as both of them learn your preferences.
As a managed virtual assistant service, we embed empathy into our entire client relationship process. During our on-boarding calls, we ask clients a series of questions about their preferences and document their answers. Once they start working, our assistants watch for any other preferences their clients explicitly or implicitly say they have. Over time, many of our clients tell us that working with their assistants becomes effortless since their assistants know how to proactively support them with minimal instructions.
For example, Leslie once supported a client whose workdays revolved around meetings. However, she noticed his messages to her sounded stressed when he had back-to-back obligations all day. Moving forward, she proactively monitored his calendar and rescheduled items that were likely to create conflicts. When possible, Leslie also kept forty-minutes of his schedule clear during midday, so he had time to eat and relax. The client only asked her to schedule his meetings; however, she took the initiative because she cared about his well-being. He credits her with significantly reducing his stress.
It’s empathetic actions like the ones taken by Leslie that set apart dedicated personal assistants from freelance virtual assistants whose quality of work is often unpredictable.
Are interested in hiring an empathetic virtual assistant? Schedule a call with us to learn more.Emily leads Prialto's content production and distribution team with a special passion for helping people realize success. Her work and collaborations have appeared in Entrepreneur, Inc. and the Observer among others.