The current pandemic situation that we find ourselves in has truly done a number on the world of business.
The majority have closed temporarily, with some even closing their doors with no intention of ever re-opening.
However, this predicament has also led to an increase in remote work. Since many physical offices have decided to close, employees who are able to complete work from home are now doing so as much as possible.
It’s also not like the pandemic is the only reason for this. In fact, up to 70% of people were working from home at least one day a week just 2 years ago.
For some, this situation has even led to a transition to becoming virtual businesses.
“Whoa, back up. Virtual business?”
Hang tight. We’ll explain.
What is a Virtual Business?
The thing about the term “virtual business” is that it can mean many different things.
We could be talking about a business that outsources some work to employees working off-site, or we could be talking about a business that works 100% virtually, with no physical office to speak of. It all depends on who you ask.
However, the premise is the same regardless. We’re talking about businesses that employ remote workers.
How Does Virtual Business Work?
By now, you’re probably thinking: “Well, without an office, how is a business going to work? How do I know employees are actually, well, doing anything?”
Years ago, before the advancement in communications technology such as email and live chat, this point would probably be quite valid. Nowadays, though, communication has come such a long way that we’re able to check in on our virtual employees using several different channels, including:
- Text message
- Live chats
- Applications designed for work (Trello is a good example)
Basically, a virtual business requires an incredibly high level of communication in order to function efficiently.
If employers want to check up on what staff are working on, it’s as simple as sending a file over or sending a picture on a smartphone. It’s quite literally never been easier to ensure that staff is on the ball, even with no physical office to speak of.
It’s also important to hire the right staff. Sure, some people would take advantage of the whole “work from home” thing, but if you hire the correct people that you can count on, you won’t have to worry about it near as much.
Virtual Business Industries
So which industries can benefit the most from virtual business services?
Well, there are several. However, we’ll be talking about some of the industries we believe are at the top of the list.
Financial advisors have loads of meetings to attend and clients to see. With no guarantee that they’re going to be around the office, it only makes sense for them to employ some sort of virtual business services.
If they want to take virtual meetings, they can. Instead of spending resources on physical office space, most of their work can be done virtually with little to no in-person interaction
This one is similar to the finance sector. With how much time real estate advisors spend on the road, virtual business services will come in handy. In fact, even the showings themselves are starting to be done virtually due to the pandemic.
Virtual business services work perfectly in the world of marketing.
Considering that marketing firms are often in demand to produce intangible products, such as Google Ads campaigns or content marketing, they’re going to be well-suited to a virtual business environment.
Not to mention that many clients of marketing firms are located all around the world, from North America all the way to Australia. This makes a virtual business meeting place completely necessary for those progress updates.
Virtual business services benefit the healthcare industry in numerous ways.
The healthcare industry is moving more and more into the digital world as it is, with many practices ditching their outdated schedulers in favor of online appointment software.
And with the rise in telemedicine services as of late, it seems as though the industry has already figured out just how important virtual business services are. For patients who have more trouble leaving their homes or simply cannot travel as far as needed, telemedicine is the perfect solution. They’re able to speak with a medical professional to have their concerns heard and assessed.
How does the telecommunications industry benefit from virtual business services?
Well, one of the most common ways is through remote service. For example, if a client is experiencing issues with their home network, a telecom company offering remote service could help troubleshoot the issues completely virtually. Zero in-person contact involved.
It’s also incredibly convenient for clients as well. They don’t need to schedule an in-person service.
Benefits of Virtual Business
Now that we’re fully versed in what a virtual business is and what industries can benefit from virtual business services, let’s dive into some of the benefits.
What advantages do virtual locations have over their physical counterparts? Why go virtual?
Accessibility and Convenience
Virtual businesses allow for more convenience and accessibility than ever before.
Think about the last time you went to the DMV. You probably had to use one of those outdated take-a-number machines in order to proceed to a waiting room and stare at a screen until your number shows up.
This is tough for customers for two main reasons:
- There’s only one way to actually “book” the appointment for the service they need
- They’re forced to wait in a physical waiting room for an indefinite amount of time
There’s a reason why many DMV’s are getting away from this practice, and if they aren’t, they should.
Now let’s look at a different example of virtual business.
An elderly woman who can’t travel very easily needs to have a consultation with her doctor. She can book an appointment using a virtual business tool, have a video chat with her doctor, and have her concerns addressed in a timely fashion. Both accessible and convenient for her.
As time goes on, accessibility and convenience in the world of business are going to become more and more important. Your customers hate having to wait. So why make it even worse by restricting where they can wait?
If you want to leave a lasting impression on customers, one of the best ways is to make it as easy as possible for them to receive service. Thankfully, virtual business services allow you to do exactly that.
With virtual business services, you’ll be saving two important resources:
If you’re able to meet in a virtual space instead of commuting all the way to an office space to meet with clients, you’re saving loads of time. As long as no in-person interaction is necessary, you can disclose the important information that needs to be disclosed or provide the services that are needed.
As far as money goes, who doesn’t want to save money? Physical office space tends to cost heaps of it. A virtual business will often also allow you to eliminate some of the fixed costs associated with a standard business such as supplies, equipment, and administrative costs. The lower overhead will thus help your business generate profit more quickly.
If you’re using virtual locations, all you need to spend money on is the proper virtual location tool. No office lease necessary.
Improved Customer Service
With virtual business services, queues are more organized. In turn, this means that more customers can be served in a timely manner.
Think about the health industry. What if there wasn’t a full waiting room of impatient people waiting to see a medical professional? Stress levels would be a lot lower and staff could work far more efficiently.
This is completely possible with telemedicine services. More patients can be seen and have their concerns addressed, which leads to a better outlook on the practice in general.
This can be said for any business employing virtual business services. Since queues are more regulated when they’re virtual, more customers can be served, experiences can become more personalized, and your business will be seen in a far more positive light.
Touchless and Safe
This point rings true mostly due to COVID-19, but it’s not like the idea of touchless interaction and less crowding isn’t applicable outside the confines of the pandemic.
With a traditional in-person visit to a clinic, for example, you’re going to run into crowded waiting rooms full of people. Not only that, but all sorts of different surfaces will be touched by hundreds of people daily. In our current social distanced world, that simply isn’t going to fly.
However, with virtual business practices, you eliminate the need for human contact entirely. Waiting rooms aren’t needed. Surfaces won’t be harboring germs for the rest of the day.
Although many businesses have adopted these measures because of the lockdown, there’s no doubt that the added layer of safety and contactless service could end up being a staple of businesses moving forward.
Choosing the Right Virtual Business Tool
In order to effectively employ virtual business services, you’re going to need the right tool for the job.
The question is, what features should you be looking for? How do you choose the right one for your business?
Well, an effective virtual business tool should be able to do 2 key things:
- Allow you to virtually queue or schedule appointments
- Provide you with a platform for video chat
It’s pretty much set in stone that most virtual business tools come with these two things as standard, but it’s worth mentioning that these two are crucial to virtual business success.
Beyond that, however, there are some key features that you’ll want to consider when choosing the right virtual business tool.
It’s still completely possible to miss a virtual appointment.
If you go with a virtual business tool that allows you to send either SMS or email reminders before a scheduled appointment, you’ll be well on your way to cutting down on missed appointments, and by extension, lost revenue.
Obviously, with virtual businesses, you’ll be unable to accept payment in person. This means you’re going to need a way to accept payment as part of your virtual location software.
While many virtual businesses already have a method of accepting payment separately from their virtual location software, having the ability to accept payments directly from the same software can certainly boost efficiency and client satisfaction.
Reporting and Analytics
With virtual business tools, you’ll want to be able to pull valuable business insight straight from your software.
Information such as:
- Customer demographics
- Appointment history
- Staff performance
- Virtual branch performance
While these features may not be the first aspects that come to mind when thinking about virtual location software, once you’ve experienced having automated reports and analytics on-hand, you’ll wonder how virtual businesses function without this information.
Take Skiplino’s Virtual Locations software, for example. With it, you’ll gain access to a dashboard that has all of this information ready at your fingertips to help you take your virtual business in the right direction.
Virtual Business Success Stories
In order to help demonstrate what’s possible in the world of virtual business, why not look into a few monumental success stories to help you get motivated?
Buffer is a social media management tool that essentially helps companies optimize their social media strategy.
Now with over 75 000 companies using their tool, Buffer has become a great success in the world of digital marketing. However, when they were starting out, they operated using a fully virtual office, as their employees travelled frequently.
Understanding their origins, they even produced a report on the state of remote work to help demonstrate just how viable the business model can be, and how a physical office isn’t vital to success.
Similar to Buffer, Zapier is an application that was started using a virtual office. Their founders originally intended for it to be a side project, but it ended up ballooning beyond anything they imagined.
Once they began to grow, they decided to keep on going with the virtual business model, allowing remote workers and choosing to hire only those that shared their vision.
Again, similar to Buffer, Zapier decided to give back to the remote work community with this guide to remote work
Virtual Business FAQs
“Can the virtual business model be costly?”
Not really. If you think about it, you’ll actually end up saving money in the end, considering a physical office isn’t necessary and you’ll eliminate rent costs. This money you save can be reinvested in a proper virtual business tool.
“Are virtual businesses 100% remote?”
Not all of them are. Often times, normal businesses will scale back on physical resources and employ more and more remote workers. This is still a virtual business.
“What is telemedicine?”
Telemedicine is essentially the ability to diagnose and treat medical patients remotely. It can definitely be lumped into the virtual business category.
Virtual Business Summary
The world of virtual business can be confusing. It can be hard to decipher exactly what virtual businesses are and how they work.
At the end of the day, the most important aspect of running a successful virtual business model comes down to effective communication. Without that, you’ll likely end up dead in the water.
We’ve discussed the numerous benefits of virtual businesses, we’ve covered how to choose the perfect virtual business tool for your business, and we’ve even mentioned a few companies who have found great success with the model.
Traditional In-Person Business
Requires more time and money invested in things like office rent and commutes
Saves both time and money
Inaccessible and restrictive
Virtual business practices convenient for customers
Leads to crowded waiting rooms and physical spaces
Eliminates the need for public waiting rooms and promotes contactless business and safety
So, what are you waiting for? Armed with this information, it’s time for you to dive into the world of virtual business.
Still Have Questions?
There’s no doubt that virtual business can be complicated. From the definition of the term itself to the tools that you’ll need, we wouldn’t blame you if you’re still a little confused.
If you need a little extra help, drop us a line. We’ll be happy to set the record straight.