Live, instant results

This post is dedicated to the recently discovered beauty of Live Chat online support..

Emails and phone calls

As a nation, we’re still fairly new to the concept of Live Chat. When we have a question, the normal action is to pick up the phone or send an email. Generally, we don’t get the answer instantly. Remember how frustrating it is to be held in a call queue, some of which are nice enough to give you a numbered position in the queue, sometimes you have no idea how long you will be left waiting and they’ve all gone to lunch. Then you look at your watch and realise you’ve been waiting for over 30 minutes.  Anger bubbles up inside.

Emails tend to be worse, they often get sent to a general mailbox which lands itself in a queue, replies are days later and often give you more questions than answers.

Introducing Live Chat

Live Chat has changed all that. Setting up Absolute VA has meant visiting many websites, looking for the Contact Us page. When a Live Chat option pop up at the bottom of the screen, excitement (yes, excitement) levels rise. We don’t mean the messages that pop saying, “chat to us now, enter your email address below”. Those don’t count, there’s no-one there and your email goes into a mailbox which sits frustratingly patiently for a few more days.

We mean the types of Live Chat run by 123 Reg,  WordPresss HMRC, Audible and Voipfone



123 Reg

123 Reg host our emails and whilst the technical side to setting up emails is complex, the support from 123 Reg is instant and excellent. They talk you through everything you need to do, you can easily send them screenshots to help explain your problem and they fix it right there, right then.


WordPress is similar but they take their support a step up. We’re always on the lookout for companies with similar exemplary customer service skills to Absolute VA and WordPress ‘get it’.

The support team are called Happiness Engineers and boy do they deserve that title. They reply instantly, they’re upbeat and jolly (but not forced and over the top); can talk you through problems, can go into your website and make fixes and edits and will always try and think of a way to help you, even if you’re not on the highest paid monthly subscription plan. Absolute VA pay yearly for the website but nothing in comparison to the fee larger companies pay for full customisation. Still, the Happiness Engineers always try and think of way around our problems, without needing to upgrade to the top plan. Sometimes requests aren’t always possible but they at least try and there is no sales talk whatsoever. Which works even better as a sales technique because we’ve unconsciously become brand ambassadors and rave about their service to anyone and everyone who will listen.

Look at this very post, for example!

Here is WordPress’s philosophy:

Our goal is to build relationships based on trust which result in happy, passionate, loyal customers and colleagues.” Hear hear.


HMRC was a recent surprising discovery. An initial phone query to HMRC resulted in being told to expect a phone call back, in a few days but “we’re exceptionally busy at the moment”. Heart sinks. Which is silly really but we have become accustomed to a speedy pace of reply.

The next HMRC enquiry was somewhat different. On the website, that glowing box, bottom of screen popped up and said Live Chat. One takes a breath of anticipation, waiting to read that you need to enter your email address below but no, it was a real, live person.

Instant question, (almost) instant reply. HMRC still aren’t as quick with instant responses as the aforementioned companies but c’mon, this is HMRC after all. And answers were given, same day, same hour. Instant happy customer.

Audible and Voip

Two other great services where all my questions were answered quickly and thoroughly. Faultless.

It goes a step further…

Transcripts. There are always details of the Live Chat conversation that are important to remember but that you know you’ll forget. For this reason, many companies email transcripts of your conversation to you instantly after. One to watch; sometimes they’re instant but sometimes you have to request them so if you’re discussing technical steps that you’re sure to forget, always request a transcript.

Kirsty was talking to some colleagues at a previous workplace who now also use Live Chat. They reported that they use a version where they can see what the enquirer is typing, before they press submit. We weren’t quite sure how we felt about this. Perhaps an invasion of privacy but actually, does it really matter? Live Chat technicians are there to help you and it means their responses are even quicker, which is what we love.


So today we’re raising a toast to all the companies who have Live Chat, no more waiting, no more expensive premium numbers – pure joy.


The true price of…a gift

xmas-presentToday’s blog post is completely unrelated to virtual assistance / small businesses / productivity but it’s good to mix things up a little and the theme of the post is relevant to pretty much, anyone.

For clients on retainers, Absolute VA offers a ‘Gifts with a Difference’ package; it’s a list of inspirational gift ideas for those last minute panic moments. Or for when you just have no idea what to buy Tony in the work Secret Santa.

Kirsty set about composing this list. Some are gifts she has given or received, some are suggestions from friends and family. A number of great suggestions sprang to the forefront of people’s minds instantly but this wasn’t the case for the majority.

To set the scene…

Average spend of gifts*:

  • The UK as a whole spends circa £24.4bn
  • The average per family is £800
  • £62 is the average spent on a present to a friend
  • For birthdays the average present amounts to £175 for a child
  • £47 for an adult

To summarise, we spend a lot of money on presents. Obscene amounts on presents. Sometimes we want to, sometimes we feel obliged to. Either way, money gets spent. But that’s ok. It’s ok if the receiver remembers the present for years to come.

From Kirsty’s research (albeit limited, the whole 64m population weren’t polled), most people couldn’t remember thoughtful gifts.

The request was simple:

“Reply with your top unusual or thoughtful gifts that you have given or that you gave, excluding expensive gifts such as 5* hotel breaks, iphones, jewellery and watches”.

It was startling to hear just how many people said they couldn’t think of any. Which is really disappointing. It’s a great rush to open presents but isn’t it a shame that the memory doesn’t last longer.

One friend had a great idea,

“I gave someone the gift of nothing. An empty plastic container with a letter that read, Congratulations, you have received the gift of nothing. Absolutely nothing. The ultimate in minimisation. Nothing is precious, nothing is simple. Open the pack to be enthralled as nothing happens. Allow nothing to flow through your mind and calm your soul. Saviour the moment and you’ll discover that nothing is better than something. My friend framed it and said it’s still the best present she’s ever had.”

Sounds great. Original. Memorable.

This isn’t a new thought or perspective, we’re all aware of the costs but it is a gentle reminder to go steady in the run-up to Christmas. Perhaps don’t go so hard on yourself, or give yourself as much guilt to find the ultimate presents because, largely, no-one remembers them anyway. Sorry.


* These figures have been taken from top page Google Results. If you would like like to know the exact locations these figures were taken from, get in touch, we would be happy to point you in the right direction.

** We do know the lady pictured above, it’s Kirsty’s mum in all her Christmas cheer. She’d be just as happy without a single present, mind.

Data Protection, a funny old world

Absolute VA’s first blog post. Momentous day!

And the subject we’ve chosen to write about is…data protection. Wait, before you stop reading, this is brilliant, clever and very funny.

Starting up a new business takes a lot of time and research. One of the research topics that Absolute VA takes very seriously is Data Protection. As such, we started a journey, of which one avenue was the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office).

The ICO is set out to be, in their words:

“The UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.”

At first we were quite overwhelmed by the whole concept.

  • “Are we being data safe?”
  • “Is there a guide book?”
  • “What are the rules?”
  • “What’s the law?”
  • “How much is too much, we don’t want to be over the top?”

We stumbled across the Training Videos page on the ICO website and nearly left it there. Some of the videos are a little…dry. However, as a new business, it’s important to be data compliant and therefore we kept with it.

This is our summary:

Some / most of the videos are poor. Sorry. Either poor with respect to the sound, content or just how out of date they seemed.

In penultimate place is a nice little number which does make you think twice about your data protection habits if you are anything from a large company to a sole trader:

Data protection – The lights are on. Here is a direct link to the video

However, nothing came close to this winner; fantastic, clever and  a very funny video which is nestled amongst some far poorer videos; Tick Tock – Freedom of Information. Here is a direct link to the video.

Kirsty from Absolute VA sat and watched this one evening, chuckled her way through it once and then watched it again! The script writing, acting and general direction is incredible. It is funny, to the point, informative and delivered in a format that is easy to digest. Who would have thought data protection could be interesting and …dare we say it, presented humorously.