This article was sponsored by iMultiChannel.
For many ecommerce businesses, including Amazon and eBay sellers, growth comes with a price tag. Larger teams become necessary to handle customer service inquiries, listing updates, ad campaign management, and other moving parts that develop when a business expands.
But employees are expensive, and hiring a virtual assistant (VA) or freelancers from a gig platform costs time and money. There are interviews, screening processes, and providing a proper work environment that ensures both productivity and reliability to worry about. There’s also the learning curve of teaching a new team member about ecommerce, or specific parts of it, like how to properly compose an Amazon listing.
This is where iMultiChannel (iMC) helps provide a solution, with managed VA services specializing in ecommerce. By contracting with iMultiChannel to provide trained team members, you get the benefits of an agency along with the flexibility of your own VA, at an affordable price point. Here’s how it works.
- Building their own solution
- What does iMultiChannel do?
- What are the most common services that businesses use iMultiChannel for?
- How does iMultiChannel recruit and screen their VAs?
- What kind of training does iMultiChannel provide to the VAs?
- What is the work environment like at iMC?
- What is the process for clients after signing up with iMC?
- What makes iMultiChannel different from a platform Like Upwork?
- Don’t be afraid to outsource
Building their own solution
iMultiChannel was founded by a team of experienced ecommerce professionals with backgrounds in Amazon, eBay, and other platforms like Cdiscount and ChannelAdvisor. iMC is a UK company, and hosts its managed services staff in Beirut, Lebanon.
The founders first created Urban Seller, a customer support platform which brings in messages from customers on different channels (Amazon, eBay, Shopify, direct emails, etc.) to one central hub so businesses can manage all the messages in the same way regardless of which platform the customer used. Urban Seller also offers outsourced customer support so you can pay for a VA to handle your support tickets instead of doing it in-house.
Recently, the economic situation in Lebanon changed – and the cost of labor became very cheap. This allowed the team to capitalize on Lebanon’s pool of highly educated, multilingual professionals as a source of reliable VAs. They decided to set up iMC as a separate entity to help the community in Lebanon by providing secure jobs. The business flourished, and they are now able to compete with call centers and VA hotspots in places like India and the Philippines.
What does iMultiChannel do?
iMultiChannel offers a spectrum of managed VA and project services for ecommerce businesses – essentially anything a seller needs that’s related to its online presence (outside of storage and fulfillment). They aim to provide staff and services at a reduced cost.
Not only does iMC provide managed VAs and teams who are trained in ecommerce, but they also provide the right infrastructure to support the staff. Their goal is to help clients focus on growing their business, so they don’t have to focus on finding the right people and training them.
The services offered include:
- Services for Amazon sellers, including product page optimization, A+ Content, image editing, store building, advertising and more.
- Services for eBay sellers, including creating listings and photo editing.
- Customer service via eBay, Amazon, email, live chat etc.
- Ecommerce services such as setting up a website and online store, and transferring data between platforms.
- Digital marketing, including social media management, blog posts, PPC and email campaigns.
- Design services, including logo design, branding and photo editing.
- General virtual assistant tasks, freeing up your time so you can focus on more valuable work.
- Other services such as website copywriting, content generation and translation services.
From the perspective of the Beirut office, iMC is bridging the gap between the international business community and the talents they have in-house and in the community. With expertise in Amazon selling and the ability to support English, Arabic, and French languages with neutral accents, iMC’s team can handle sales, marketing, design, listings, and more – particularly for sellers targeting French and Arabic-speaking marketplaces.
Amazon and eBay services and support are a key strength. VAs and team members are capable in Amazon and eBay-specific services like customer support, managing stores, account management, listing products, creating Amazon A+ Content, keyword research, and PPC advertising campaigns.
iMC also can leverage its deep relationship with both platforms to help clients through more complex issues, including Brand Registry, trademarks, listing infringement by unauthorized sellers, and even bespoke API development.
What are the most common services that businesses use iMultiChannel for?
iMC’s managed services operate in two different models:
The VA model
In the virtual assistant model, a VA essentially becomes a member of the client’s company, but is managed and supported by iMC. Clients who want a staff member dedicated to their business are often used as customer support agents to handle chats, call, and email queries. They are also used for general day-to-day tasks, depending on the nature of the business. This can include listing products on Amazon, eBay and your own website.
The VA model has a fixed monthly cost, depending on the number of VAs required and the amount of hours needed per week. Discounts are available for larger teams.
The project-based model
In the project-based model, iMC takes on a larger project internally within their teams. They run the whole project, producing everything from A-to-Z in-house, based on their available expertise, skills, and equipment. Teams are composed of iMC staff and VAs with specialized skills.
The project-based model works best for tasks that have clear, reachable goals. Often they are ongoing tasks where business owners need someone with a vision and a managed team. The upside to businesses is that by hiring a dedicated, managed team through iMC, and are likely to get better results than by hiring a team of freelancers who are unfamiliar with each other and not united under a single roof. Business marketing, creating a complete website or managing multiple social media accounts are common project-based services.
Costs vary depending on the scope of the project, amount of staff needed, and other requirements.
For both models, Amazon and eBay services and support are often an important component.
How does iMultiChannel recruit and screen their VAs?
The first stage of recruitment is filtering candidates by their education. iMC is the beneficiary of excellent universities in Lebanon which provide it with a stream of well-qualified, multilingual VAs with an international level of education in economics, data analytics, business, marketing and languages.
The second stage is determining relevant experience. There are many multinational companies in Lebanon, due to its proximity to Europe, so there is abundant opportunity for recent graduates to have internships or work experience, or even advanced degrees from universities, from foreign companies in Lebanon or other countries.
iMC focuses on candidates who are looking for a secure job in Lebanon, because they tend to stay for the long term – which provides valuable continuity for iMC and its clients.
The next step is bringing VA candidates in for an interview and a language assessment. As part of the overall assessment, candidates will perform sample work designed to test knowledge levels, skill sets, and ethical reasoning.
After this process, a group of candidates is selected to go further. They attend a workshop intended to provide general information about the fundamentals of ecommerce, focusing on email, Amazon, CRMs, and account management software.
This is followed by a one-week probationary period, and then additional training for the VAs who pass this rigorous process, once they are accepted into iMC’s VA talent pool.
What kind of training does iMultiChannel provide to the VAs?
iMC is invested in the skills of their VAs, and provides encouragement and opportunity for up-to-date training and certifications. VA learning is an ongoing process to continue to develop their expertise. This is especially true for complex platforms which take more time to learn, like Amazon.
VAs are hired to meet certain specifications from clients. If needed, a VA receives the proper training to do a job as requested. If a specialized skill is required but not available in-house, iMC will recruit and train the right person for the job.
There is also regular on-the-job training. If a VA receives a query they cannot process, the question is escalated in-house to a manager who can resolve the issue by teaching the VA how to do it, at the same quality the manager is capable of. This leads to a reliable, well-trained VA and minimizes time-wasting calls to the client with questions.
What is the work environment like at iMC?
For VAs and employees
iMC has created a work environment for its VAs that is conducive to productivity, reliability, and employee satisfaction.
The VAs are staffed in a proper, air-conditioned office with multiple power backups and a high-speed fiber internet connection of at least 70mbps.
Each VA is supplied with a spacious desk, Core i7 laptop with two screens, a quality chair, wireless mouse and keyboard, headset, and all needed office supplies.
iMC believes in investing in creating a great workspace for their VAs and employees — and investing in quality technology equipment — because it’s an investment in their productivity for iMC’s clients.
VAs and employees are also taken care of with a generous, customizable holiday plan; medical insurance; transportation allowance; regular breaks; a fully equipped kitchen; and above-market rate pay. Employee happiness and productivity is important to iMC, for their well-being and comfort. iMC also wants to retain good VAs and provide companies with continuity. In the event a VA chooses to leave, there is always a carefully planned overlap and transfer of responsibilities to a new VA.
iMC has also designed the work environment with clients in mind, providing them with visibility and security to assure the work is getting done.
There’s 24/7 audio and video surveillance, all VA laptops have active monitoring agents, and all projects are managed through software workflows. Clients can view a snapshot of their VAs screen to see what they are working on at any time. Combined with diligent on-site employee management, this provides accountability and confidence to clients.
What is the process for clients after signing up with iMC?
For the majority of services, the standard process to hire a VA or a team is:
- Initial proposal to iMC requesting a VA or service(s).
- Questionnaire sent to the client to determine needs and scope (there may also be a detailed interview with the client).
- iMC talent pool checked and VAs matched to the job.
- Interviews arranged between client and best-suited VA candidates.
- Selected candidates trained (usually 1 week, but in some cases can be 2 weeks or even ready to start right away).
- VAs begin work as soon as training is completed.
What makes iMultiChannel different from a platform Like Upwork?
The biggest differences between hiring a VA on Upwork or from iMC come down to reliability and support.
Most freelancers on Upwork are a one-person show, while at iMC all VAs are supported with both personnel and technological infrastructure – and more importantly, an extensive knowledge base in ecommerce.
iMC also offers reliability, with a manager supervising a VA’s work as opposed to a freelancer who might not be the most dedicated employee, or punctual on deadlines. Clients also work with iMC to define a metric by which the VA’s work will be evaluated. This is transparently reported and can be viewed on the VA’s desktop remotely, adding in additional accountability that would be hard to get in a freelancer.
Another issue is privacy. As a UK company, iMC by law must be GDPR compliant – which is a big concern if you’re handing over your passwords to someone to handle your ecommerce business or platform.
A final advantage to consider is that iMC offers not only managed services but is also an ecommerce company, with the experience, versatility, and resources to help a client in a broad number of business areas. And clients get all of this at the same cost as hiring a freelancer, so it’s hard to beat the value.
Don’t be afraid to outsource
Many ecommerce sellers don’t want to outsource because they are afraid. They’re afraid of wasting their time, or afraid of getting low quality work. They are afraid of the costs or of sending their work to a different country. But in today’s highly developed remote staffing environment, such fears are misplaced.
When you hire a VA with iMC, you know what you’re getting: consistent infrastructure, managed employees, and a reliable secure way to get the work done at the same cost as freelancers with less time spent managing them. They offer quality services and VAs at an affordable price.
If you’re interested in scaling your ecommerce team to help you sell more on Amazon or eBay, you can take advantage of iMultiChannel’s one-week free trial. Hire a VA through iMC to carry out some work, and at the end of the week you can choose to continue or not, with no obligations or fees. iMC is also offering free use of the powerful multi-channel CRM Urban Seller to any client who signs up for a full time VA.
Ecommerce is growing faster than ever before. If it’s time to expand your team, consider the advantages of remote staffing with a VA from iMC.
This article was sponsored by iMultiChannel.