In the podcast:
02:28 – Staff pay and exclusivity
06:24 – Indicators of good work
09:58 – The payoff of fair pay
13:42 – Where to get great VAs
16:06 – Quality support counts
17:08 – A surprising source of sales
22:43 – The importance of documentation
26:56 – Quick summary
James: James Schramko here. Welcome back to SuperFastBusiness.com. We are talking about membership sites today in The Membership Series. I’ve brought back my repeat guest, John Lint. Welcome.
John: Hey, guys, how is everybody?
James: Hello, guys and girls. We have both types of listeners on this show.
John: I love them both.
James: That’s wonderful. This is Episode 616. We’re going to be talking about how to support your online membership. And this is in response to some questions that John gets asked all the time, and I get asked all the time. I obviously run a membership at SuperFastBusiness.com and SilverCircle.com. And John runs the foremost membership software platform that I’m recommending these days, called KLEQ.com. And we had a few questions around what to do with regards to team, and also some of the tools that your team might use and how you might use them.
So this is going to be a really fun episode, because we’re going to be talking about some of the less sexy topics, some of the things that are not mentioned and some of the training courses on how to have a membership. Obviously, everyone talks about the joy of having recurring income, of having this wonderful lifestyle business. However, there’s a lot of things that go into the background that people don’t talk about, that back-of-house stuff, the organization and the structure of the way things can work. Now, we dabbled in that last episode, that was Episode 614, we talked about behind the scenes of running a membership site. So we’re going to get deeper today on that topic. Are you ready, John?
John: I’m ready.
James: Okay. So you had a question from one of your members about team. Would you like to propose that question?
Staff pay and exclusivity
John: Yeah, sure. So I actually got to, you know, I backed up some few questions, so we could answer them today. So one of the first questions is, it’s actually related to when you have a VA, right? And she’s, let’s say, she’s from the Philippines or any other country. So for example, this person asked, OK, her salary is $500 a month. She’s great. But I’m worried that she’s also working for someone else. She has a second job, right? So she’s working eight hours for him. And then she might be working for someone else on the other eight hours, right? How do you handle these situations? Should I be OK, if she wants to work for another company after her eight hours of work with us? Should I pay more so she only works for us? What would you do, James?
James: Well, I guess in this case, it’s a case of what I do. We have a pretty clear understanding with my team members that we have an exclusive, that our team members only work for us. If they want to work somewhere else, they would generally ask us, because that’s in the agreement. So that’s one thing you can do.
Of course, you can make sure that you have very stimulating work that’s exciting and interesting, so that people are attracted to work for your business. And also you can pay well, so getting the pay right is important. I’ve seen some outsourcing companies and some outsourcing references that mentioned rates that are just too low.
Now, I would say that $500, if that’s a US dollars per month for a full timer, is on the sort of starting side of the scale, it’s not a finishing wage. It’s a good place to start. That probably works out around 26,000 pesos per month, which is what I recommend people start a junior on. And when you see people talking about $200 or $250 a month US, you could expect they’re going to have to work somewhere else to bridge their income gap, because that’s not a lot of money. That is much closer to the average sort of wage that they could get somewhere else. And it doesn’t really get you a nice place to live in the Philippines, depending on where they live. And of course, the more major metropolitan you go in the Philippines, the better the infrastructure can be with internet and transport. And the further regional you go where you might have a lower cost of living, you also sometimes get less infrastructure, you might have scheduled brownouts, a lack of power supply, poor quality connections, etc. So there are these things to put in play.
But I would suggest having a good conversation with your team and finding out what is important to them and how much you’re prepared to pay versus what they could command. And certainly, some of them will work other jobs. I’ve seen some applicants through a friend of mine’s business who are trying to work, you know, three or four jobs at once. And what this means is, as a business, you need to have some way to know if you’re getting fair value.
So what I’m not talking about is, I’m not talking about screen capture software. I’m not talking about micromanagement. I’m talking about a general pulse to understand if what you feel your team member is producing is fair and reasonable for the amount you’re paying. That’s the ultimate equation. That is the yes or no. Is what you’re paying getting you results?
“Is what you’re paying getting you results?”
So in this case, I would say to your friend who’s paying $500 a month, have a chat to your team member and ask them, do they just work for them? Or are they working for a few other people? Do they feel that working for multiple people might compromise the quality of work they’re able to provide? Because at the same time, the employer has the possibility to hire someone different. If the team member’s not up to par, if they’re not putting in a good performance for that $500, maybe they could find a really good performer on a part-time wage for less, who could do the same amount of output. Because I would say this – in my team, where we are quite experienced and we’ve been working together for a long time, I would say any one of my team members would be worth four or five regular employees. They’re just so good and so talented, that I know we get fantastic performance for the wages. And we certainly pay more than the number you’re talking about, but they earn it as well.
Indicators of good work
So ultimately, what systems do you have in place to know if someone’s doing good work? In our case, we have a daily report, which is two parts. One is, it’s nice for people to just tell us what they’re up to. And also, we report on our lead metrics for the business and a couple of lag metrics. And by that, I mean, we report on how many people are visiting our site, how many emails we’re sending, we report on how many members we have in SuperFastBusiness and in SilverCircle. And these are things that my team can actually impact if they do good work.
And then we’re working on other projects in the background. It’s a concept that I’ve called the infinity project. And that is where my team are working on a side project the whole year long, and we can gauge how much that’s growing and how much it’s improved in terms of traffic and revenue as well. So we’ve got a good way to know. Ultimately, when I get to the end of the year, if I spend X amount on wages, all I have to know is, was it a good deal or not? And if it’s not, then I’d have to make changes. And if it’s OK, then I sustain.
John: Yeah, awesome. Awesome. Yeah, from a KLEQ.com perspective, what I can say, and what I can add as well here is, we do pretty much the same thing. You know, I kind of expect them to work exclusively for us. If in some situation, they do not, then it’s about the quality of their work. You know, if they get distracted, if they don’t perform, if when we send a question, we ask a question, then it takes hours to get a reply. These are all indicators that someone is being distracted, or they’re just doing too many things at the same time. And that, to me, for our company, that’s not something that can work long term.
So yeah, then it comes down to having a discussion and clarifying everything, you know, that these are the expectations, this is the salary that we can offer, if it works. Obviously, we want to make sure that people are happy, you know, and they are happy with their salary, happy with the work that they need to do and happy to work for us, right? So we just have that transparent conversation and make sure that everything is clear, and everybody understands the position.
And then we see. And if we need to increase the salary, well, if, like you said, if the the team member is performing really well and he’s, you know, like, for example, if I’m talking about support, and I have a great support team member, for me, it’s going to just save me so much time. I’m not going to have to worry about things going on from a support perspective. So for me, that’s very valuable. So if someone needs a little bit extra for exclusivity, then I can think about that, and I can increase.
So maybe think about this as well, when you’re looking at your business. And, you know, don’t just use the same rate, because you might have heard these before, like, such as, oh, this person is paying $500 for his employee, I should do the same for my employee. Do whatever works for you, and based on the individual. So that’s awesome.
James: Just while we’re on that, I just want to recap, I think it’s a great concept there to see, you know, what is the response time and how much initiative is being displayed, or are they just phoning it in and half-assing it? Are they just doing the bare minimum? And you can tell when someone’s doing the bare minimum, when their eye isn’t on the ball. I mean, it actually happens in Western offices. I would say most employees in a traditional office are phoning it in anyway, they’re probably only doing a couple of hours of productive work in a day. That’s why I don’t like paying by the hour.
And we’ve done some pretty radical things in our business. We’ve scrapped paying by the hours. We’ve scrapped even tracking which days people work. Don’t care. What I’m interested in is an amount per month, and a result to meet that amount.
The payoff of fair pay
And here’s the counterintuitive thing. If you pay more, then the expectation increases, and people generally lift their performance to match the pay level. If you pay low, then people will reduce their performance to match the pay level, and you’re almost willing them to go and get another job, because they won’t be able to support their family.
And this is the thing. In that culture in particular, it’s most likely that your team member will be supporting other people in the family unit. Because they live close together, they support each other, they’ll be putting kids through school and university, they’ll be looking after parents. And it’s such an amazing culture, and so nurturing. And that’s the main thing that my eyes were opened to when I travel there, is how much they look after each other. So your team member is probably supporting multiple people. And that’s why, if you don’t pay enough, they almost don’t have a choice. If you pay really well, and you set some very clear parameters, then you’ll be amazed at what performance you can get.
And like you said, John, I am so grateful for my team who are handling things like, and this is in the context of a membership, how does a customer upgrade their credit card details, what happens if they can’t log in, or the server somehow blocks their IP address, because it thinks it’s being attacked by them, because they hit refresh 17 times in three seconds. You know, I’m glad that my team are able to support this type of inquiries so that I can focus on other things, like producing a podcast, for example.
John: Yeah, yeah. And it’s so important to me, you know, because you got, you know me a little bit now, James, you know I’m very passionate, I get worked up sometimes. And if I was to take care of support, for example, I probably will not be able to function properly, because I will take everything personally. I will want to solve everything, I will, like, react in a way that, you know, I want to get things done and stuff like that. And it will be on my mind. Like, for example, OK, maybe there’s a bug that happened, and it will really bother me. So I need that layer, that filter of someone who’s going to really take care of that, of course, and solve it. But that way I can focus on creating training for members, creating new features for KLEQ, working with the team and make sure that we are on the right track, things like that, right?
James: Yeah, that’s why people who have a fantastic support background are going to be better at moderating those sort of inquiries. I mean, if I had to answer tickets every day from someone who wants us to receive their guest content and link back to them, all this sort of stuff, I would get frustrated. Because we’re entrepreneurial, and we tend to attract towards a different type of role that we’re suited for.
And the way I look at it, it’s like a big jigsaw puzzle, and we all take the pieces that suit us. I’m definitely doing things that some of the team members who I have in my team wouldn’t want to do. I don’t think they’d want to be making little videos to put up on social media; they probably wouldn’t want to be doing these podcasts interviews; they most likely don’t want to be coaching some of the students that I have at the highest level who are quite challenging, because they bring me some whopper problems, like some absolutely crazy solutions required for that. And so I focus in that area.
And they’re really good at support. Almost everyone in my team, coincidentally, used to work for a call center. And they were supporting products like accounting products, and internet service provider products for American companies. And I was able to recruit from that type of market segments. So I get very good customer-service-oriented people in my team.
Where to get great VAs
And I’ve now been able to tap into a recruitment source that is perfect for getting support people, which is what we’re talking about on this episode. I’m not talking about recruiting web developers, I’m not talking about Facebook ad agency practitioners, I’m only talking about virtual assistants who are likely to be good at support. Because I say this, if you get a good-quality candidate in the beginning, a lot of the nightmares that you hear about will vanish, because they’re going to be filtered, vetted, screened; they’re going to have their hardware, internet speed, and backgrounds all checked, and their English and general knowledge will all be checked before they’re ever proposed as a candidate. So I’m very happy now that I’ve found a good source for that, because that was one missing piece of the puzzle. When my customers say, “James, where do you get these team members?” Because they know I’ve had my team, you know, up to almost a decade, which is crazy, but I know where to get more now. And you can get them at VisionFind.com. That’s the only service that I recommend. But it is only for support VAs. Don’t ask them for a web developer, they’re not going to be able to help.
John: Yeah, and I can confirm that, actually, because I’ve used VisionFind.com lots actually, for adding people to our support desk, to take care of KLEQ.com. And as you can imagine, we have a ton of features. We have a big platform and the training required to master everything and to be able to provide support at the level that I want, to the level that I want people to be taken care of, when you become a KLEQ.com member, is very high. So I have high expectations, but I just love that service. You know, I got great team members. Thank you very much, James, for referring them to me.
And I have now a growing support team, we’re always growing. And those guys are doing a fantastic job. And again, to me, it’s extremely valuable, because then I don’t have to worry about that side of the business. I know it’s being taken care of. I know that someone, they did the job, they learned, they went through the entire training, which is quite intense. And now they are providing amazing support. I mean, we always get emails from people saying, “Hey, your support is amazing.” Well, that’s my little secret, guys, this is it, VisionFind.com.
Quality support counts
James: You want good support, and the team behind that have been very closely synchronized with our team and understand how it all works. And they do support the way we do support. And I think I brought my support philosophies across from Mercedes-Benz. Like, we offer same-day support. But sometimes it’s same-minute support. I mean, seriously, I get a lot of replies saying, gosh, that was super fast. Now, I’m not saying that’s going to be every day, and especially on weekends, it could slow down.
But recently, I purchased a product from a big name guru. And there was a technical hitch through the purchase, and I didn’t receive the goods. So I did lodge a support ticket, and it took over two days to get a response. And that was unacceptable, it’s not acceptable. Now, if you want to put all your money into being a big time marketer, and then you can’t back it up with support, you’re letting yourself down. And that is the feet of clay that melts when the sun comes out and topples the statue, in my opinion.
A surprising source of sales
The other thing that was a real surprise, when we started tracking our sales (and we’ve been using a tool for that, which is a great tool, and it’s been working well for us. It’s called Wicked Reports, and I’m going to talk about that in a moment), what I was able to discover was that a huge quantity of our sales comes from our support desk. This is my team in the Philippines, just solving problems for my clients, people who want to know if the product’s a good fit for them, or where the best place to start is. They’re able to help them get from that query through to being able to place an order. And that is huge. So the reason I mentioned the reporting thing is, John, I believe you’re now adding a reporting tool into your KLEQ system that gives you data on where the sales are being made, so that people could actually see how well their support team is going.
John: Yeah, that’s right. Right now it’s on beta mode, so it’s going to be released very, very soon.
James: Tell me it’s not called Naughty Reports.
John: No. It’s basically one more feature that we added to KLEQ. So we’re not going to give it that amazing name, right? It’s just a feature. But it’s an amazing feature. And it’s basically all about source tracking, right? Tracking the source, right? Because that’s always the question, you know? And you might get a sale, and then you’re wondering, OK, that’s awesome. But you might be wondering, well, where did it come from?
“Where are the sales coming from, why are people buying?”
James: That’s usually my first question when I’m coaching someone. Where are the sales coming from, why are those people buying? What did you do to cause that? And how can you repeat and improve that?
So what I discovered is that my sales are coming from the support team. So you know what I did, John? I thought, how can I get more people to contact my support team? So I started putting things like, ‘PS, I personally answer emails, reply to this email.’ I do things like put a campaign on Facebook that says, “Hey, if you buy this book, and you want the extra workbook, then reply to this post and my team will send you out the book,” or, “Send us the receipt, we’ll send you the book before it gets launched.”
And my team get behind this, and they support it. But you know, with actual human interaction, without being a bot, and they do it. But they also support my business in other ways. They’re running my social media campaigns, they’re sending out my email broadcast, they’re collating data from the community and putting it into a weekly digest and sending it out to members. I don’t do any of those things that I used to do, because I was able to pass that on to the team.
John: Yeah, I know all of these things are obviously super valuable to your business. Now, right now, we’re talking about money-generating tasks. So if we go back to our first question about the salary, well, if your team is also doing some of those tasks that James just talked about, well, it’s probably worth a little extra, right? To make sure they’re exclusive to you.
So yeah, I mean, what you’re saying is, those ideas are awesome. I’ve noticed that, how you end your emails that way. Awesome touch, and I know that your team is also doing a fantastic job at following up and giving links to the sales pages, or to the order pages, and pretty much closing the sale. So it’s pretty awesome.
James: And the thing is, I do respond to those emails. Of course, I should just fill in that gap there. When someone replies, I do get that email. And then sometimes there’s a back and forth, or other times, I know how to solve the problem. And then I’ll forward it to my team, and I’ll ask them to sort it out, and my team know what to do. They have very detailed documentation, they’ve got a knowledge base, they know what the responses were last time.
And we also support this in our Slack channel. So I run my team, our virtual office is hosted in Slack, which is a great collaboration tool. And we have a channel in there that feeds our support tickets, and we have a sister channel to that support channel, which I call “help.” And I will just put the ticket number and the answer, and then they will log in and they will update the support desk.
So this is very important – I don’t log out in my help desk, I just log into Slack. Or I just forward an email and say, “Hey, John here would like to know when his billing renewal is due and how much it is, could you get in touch?” And my team, they’ll say, “Hi, John, James asked us to update you. Your next billing date is on X. This is the amount.”
But this is the cool thing, when you have clever team members who actually care about your business, you know what they say now, John? They say, “John, by the way, just letting you know that your renewal rate is X. And that’s a big saving compared to what the current rate is, because the rates have gone up since you joined, but you’ll still be billed at the old rate.” They add that in and they create value for my customer. And they’re improving the retention for my membership, and they’re making sure that they’re doing whatever they can to support my business so that we all have a great livelihood.
So I would say, instead of one person on $500, how could you make your business strong enough, where you could have three people on $800 or a thousand dollars a month, and your business is doing $100,000 a month and you’re very, very, very happy to pay two or three thousand dollars in wages for them to do all the emails, all the bookkeeping, all the social media, all the content, all the support tickets, and you only do the bit that you do, whether it’s being the expert doing the coaching, whether it is making joint ventures or hopping on a plane and going to a conference, all the cool stuff that you get to do.
The importance of documentation
John: Yeah, totally. And one of the things that we talked about just now, the importance of documentation. You know, documentation for your team. I see this a lot with some members, they want to have someone to join their team to help them with things, but they don’t take the time to train, actually, their team, and most importantly, document the whole process. And I know it takes some time. Like, for example, if I’m going to create a document about how to reply, yeah, you will take some time to create it first. But think about it that way, you’re actually doing it only once, and then you’ll never have to do it again.
So if you spend the time in doing good documentation, in our business – I don’t know how you do it, James, but you mentioned about the help desk – but the way we do it is that every time there is an email, for example, from someone, and that email has not been documented before like maybe we don’t have that case scenario in our, I call it the playbook, in that case, whoever is responding to that email can also create a document and we’ve, OK, well, when we get this type of question, this is what we can do. These are the steps. This is a possible answer – this type of things, basically trying to document as much as possible, every single piece of your business.
And yes, you will take some extra time, maybe five to 10 minutes to do that. Yeah, but think about it that way, you’re never going to have to do it again. And this to me, it’s really, really important, especially when you talk about a platform like KLEQ.com that is so big, that has so many moving pieces. I have a playbook for the tech team, and also a playbook for the support team. That way, anyone, like for example if I were to hire someone tomorrow, someone completely new, I have an entire process that I can give them access to. So they can learn the basics and then move on to the advanced stuff, and then move on to what they should do as a support agent, how they should reply, how to use the tools, how to do certain things. You talked about refunds, and then managing the billing and stuff. Yeah, we have a document for every single step of the business, every single thing that they need to do. And I think that’s super, super powerful. Very important.
James: Yeah. So one of our first SOPs is that anything that’s going to be done more than once should have an SOP. We definitely have, we have HelpScout, that’s the tool that we’re using for support, but we have a corresponding Google SOP that the team will link to where they add this, if there’s something new, then they definitely add it.
In fact, back when we were escalating our SEO business very quickly, we even had an SOP that would trigger a new hire. When we reached X number of customers, we knew we needed to have another team member. This was automated. I would actually fly over to the Philippines and meet my new team members who I’d never met before, had never interviewed, and never asked to be hired. They just got triggered by the SOP and it was automated, the whole thing. And that’s why we know our recruitment really, really well, because of the IP we’ve developed over the last nine or 10 years with that recruitment process, it can be heavily documented.
“Have your team members make the SOPs.”
The other thing that I’ll just point out about SOPs, and you’ve sort of hinted at it, is you don’t have to do it. A lot of people think, oh, I’m going to document everything for these people I’m going to hire, and they never get around to doing it, and they don’t hire the person. You don’t have to make the SOPs. Have your team members make the SOPs. I’m very, very thankful that when we hang up from this call, I’ll drag the media file that we recorded into Google Drive, and my team member will start the media processing SOP. And they will edit out the ums and ahhs, they’ll make us sound smarter than we really are, they will put an intro and outro track and media tag it with artwork and run it through filters to remove any sounds.
John: I think they remove my accent as well, a little bit. I noticed that.
James: Well, you do throw the transcription service for a curveball with the Belgian twist.
James: But you know, thankfully it’s not me trying to figure out what John said when he spoke so quickly. But I’ll give you credit, you have slowed down a bit.
John: I’m trying, man.
James: Yeah, I’ve been able to understand you perfectly, so that’s great. But I want to talk to you often because you’ve got such nuggets to share. And when we approach this from the point of view of me running a membership and you having this rich database of membership users and, you know, knowing how all the technical stuff works with the platform, then that’s why we’re able to come up with these insights. So you know, just recapping for this episode, we’ve talked about how to support your online membership. And especially, we’ve delved into the team concept. We’ve talked about a couple of tools, but I think we’re going to come back on the next episode and go further into the tools, because that’s a question everyone asks, what tools do you use, and what email system’s good? What sort of automations or SOPs should be in the running of a membership? I don’t hear many people talking about this. I’m happy to share it.
John, been great catching up again, and I appreciate you bringing these hot questions for us to solve as well.
John: Thank you for having me.
James: If you’ve enjoyed this episode, I would recommend that you investigate KLEQ.com. It is a great platform to use. If you’ve been using other tools out there that help you build funnels or that house memberships, you might want to have a look at what KLEQ does, because it actually combines a lot of the tools that you may be paying separately for. So you can actually consolidate your annual or monthly expense for your membership. You also get the support of John and his fabulous team.
And of course, I really appreciate you listening to this podcast. This has been Episode 616. I’m James Schramko. That was John Lint. We’ll catch you next time.
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