Your boss is headed out the door on a business trip, how do you prepare him? Your manager is headed to a weekly staff meeting, how do you prepare her? Your co-worker needs someone to cover the phones while they take a scheduled break, how do you support her? Do you do only what’s asked or expected, or do you provide value-added administrative support that leaves them feeling warm and cared for beyond their expectations?

As administrative professionals, our role is one of providing constant support to both internal and external customers. The types of support we’re asked to provide range from filing, scheduling, typing, editing, writing, making coffee, cleaning up conference rooms after meetings, covering for our fellow admins when they’re away from their desks, managing projects, greeting visitors, and more. There’s a lot of diversity in the types of support we provide on any given day. Some requests seem more prestigious than others. Some require more thought and energy than others. Do we apply the same service approach to each request? Do we respond the same to each person who requests our assistance? Or do some get better service than others?

What is value-added service?

In “Refocused on the Customer” by William J. Murray, he states:

Value-Added is the ultimate expression of customer service. Larry Wilson coined the phrase, “Value-Added” in the late 1960s in his Counselor Selling course. It was defined as “solving problems you’re not expected to solve.” Value-Added was behavior or service beyond their expectations – beyond the “adequate solution.”

Value-Added is a surprise! It has to be or else you would have expected it. It has to also be a positive surprise that is intangible, highly visible, and has high impact.

What does that mean for administrative professionals?

There’s a lot that goes into our interactions with those we support. How we think, act, behave and communicate all play into this. But more than that, it’s the perception that is left with the person we were interacting with that ultimately counts. And perceptions can change at any time. When a co-worker or boss we support has a positive interaction with us, they most likely leave a satisfied customer. It’s our responsibility to make a positive impact on those we support. But how do you do that? Let me share some examples to help illustrate how you may be able to provide value-added support in your administrative support role.

Example 1: Your boss is taking a business trip. How do you provide value-added support?

I approach travel support from the perspective of what would I want to know or have provided for me if I were the one traveling by myself? I try to mentally go step-by-step through the trip to see what I would need or want to know. Here are a few value-adds you may be able to provide:

  • If you aren’t already doing so, create a travel itinerary that combines all of the vital information for his trip in one complete document. You may normally print the airline itinerary, the hotel confirmation, and the driving directions from the airport to his hotel and put them in a folder for his trip. That’s a great start. But he has to sort through all of the papers in the file before he can find what he needs. Having the details all combined in order by date/time in one document will be a huge value add. Every executive or client I’ve ever created one for requires them for their travel once they’ve used them a couple of times.
  • While you’re assembling that itinerary, include a table on the last page with office staff or other company executives’ contact information he may need while he’s traveling. It may look something like this:
    Name Office #: Cell #: Home #:
    First LastName (XXX) XXX-XXXX (XXX) XXX-XXXX (XXX) XXX-XXXX
    First LastName (XXX) XXX-XXXX (XXX) XXX-XXXX (XXX) XXX-XXXX
    First LastName (XXX) XXX-XXXX (XXX) XXX-XXXX (XXX) XXX-XXXX

    I’ve also printed this in a wallet size format and laminated it for my traveling executive to keep in his wallet for quick reference. Trust me – not everyone has their mobile devices fully programmed with this information yet!

  • Include driving directions for each leg of his trip: from the airport to the hotel; from the hotel to dinner or the meeting location; from the meeting location back to the hotel; from the hotel back to the airport. As someone who has supported many traveling executives (and enjoys travel herself), this is so nice to have – even if you think you don’t need it. Even when I’m not the one driving, I’ve been able to provide driving direction to those I was with who didn’t have directions with them either – talk about a value-add!
  • Find out if the hotel he’s staying at provides continental breakfast and/or evening socials with food. This will not only be helpful to your boss, but may help save on food expenses while he’s traveling.
  • If specific dinner plans aren’t included in the travel plans, call ahead or go online and find some area restaurants near the hotel where your boss may want to have dinner. If he’s getting in late, call and ask the hotel how late they offer room service (if at all) so you can advise your boss if he needs to get food before he gets to the hotel.
  • Depending on the type of trip, you may want to research area attractions or cultural events happening in the area should your boss want to entertain business associates at the end of the day.
  • If the travel destination is one that your boss frequents, SAVE the travel research you do from trip to trip and you’ll have it for the next time. That’s a value-add for yourself!

Example 2: Your manager is headed to a weekly staff meeting. How do you provide value-added support?

  • Print out the meeting agenda and accompanying documents and have them ready for her in a labeled folder. Arrange the documents in the order they appear on the agenda.
  • Make sure the conference room is set up with the appropriate number of chairs, beverages, handouts, etc. (as appropriate). If it’s not a normal conference room that I am the caretaker for, I assemble a small basket of post-its, highlighters, clips, pens, and tape flags and put it in the conference room also for use by attendees, if needed. Have you ever wanted to highlight something during a meeting? Or flag it for later?
  • Make sure the dial-in number for the meeting (if taking place by conference call) is printed out and placed next to the phone so the meeting can begin on time and without hassles of searching for the dial-in information. Maybe you even hang around and get it started yourself before you go back to your desk.
  • Learn how to use the technology your executives expect to use or make sure you know who to call in a moment’s notice to help you. (I.E. Video conferencing systems, LCD projectors and projection equipment for presentations, etc.) Document this information for your Admin Binder so you or your boss can grab it quickly every time you need it. Another value-add for yourself!
  • Print out the contact info for the technical support people and tape it to the inside of your boss’s meeting folder in case an issue comes up during the meeting and they can’t reach you.
  • If you are regularly asked to schedule follow-up meetings to the topics discussed in her staff meetings, create a form to send with your manager which she can quickly fill out with meeting topic, date preference, required attendees, etc. Then all she has to do is hand that to you when the meeting is over and you don’t have to worry about not getting the information you were supposed to receive. Print them on colored paper so you can quickly retrieve them from her pile when she returns to the office. (Another value-add for yourself!)

Example 3: Your co-worker needs someone to cover the phones while they take a scheduled break. How do you provide value-added support?

Oh boy, this one’s a bit tougher, isn’t it. Why is it many times we’re more willing to provide value-added support to our executives and managers but not to our fellow co-workers? But aren’t your fellow co-workers your customers, too? Don’t they deserve the same value-added care that management deserves? Absolutely!

  • ASK your co-worker if they need someone to cover for them BEFORE they have to ask you to help. This does two things: 1) Puts them at ease because they don’t have to feel like they are inconveniencing you by asking you to begin with – even if you both know it’s part of your responsibility to help cover for them. They’ll still appreciate it! 2) Allows you to be the initiator and potentially allows you to pick the dates/times that work best for you to cover for them vs. them choosing it for you. Especially if there’s more than one of you who covers for each other. It becomes a planned activity for you vs. an imposed activity. Trust me – it makes a difference.
  • Proactively suggest that you team up to put together a weekly or monthly schedule for coverage so everyone knows when they are responsible for filling in well in advance. This will help it not feel like such an imposition on your own schedule when it’s time for you to fill in. Be sure to honor the schedule commitments you make.
  • We all know there are times throughout the day that we need to take a quick break from our desks, so when you have time and you’re up and about, stop by that person’s desk and offer to watch phones and greet guests if they want to grab a soda or take a quick break. This builds camaraderie and strengthens the team at the same time.

I can hear some of the responses already. “But if I begin doing some of these things as “value-adds,” won’t they come to EXPECT them over time?” The answer is: YES, they will. But what a great place to be in knowing you’ve raised the bar on their expectations. When you start looking for ways to provide value-added service in one area, you’ll begin finding ways in many other areas as well. Value-added service is a mindset that you choose to embrace and implement. It’s reflected in your attitude. It will show throughout your daily interactions with others. It will show in the quality of your work. Those you support WILL notice. And you WILL stand out as a Value-Added Admin!

© 2019 All Things Admin and Julie Perrine International, LLC

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Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity. And request your free copy of our special report “From Reactive to Proactive: Creating Your Strategic Administrative Career Plan” at www.AllThingsAdmin.com.