We’re now fast approaching the 1-year mark of our current pandemic situation near-completely altering our lives.
Many people have lost their jobs, either temporarily or permanently. Businesses have followed suit, either closing temporarily or permanently. Those that haven’t are required to follow strict safety regulations and protocols designed to help curb the spread of the virus.
However, there is absolutely a silver lining amongst all of this bad news. Companies allowing remote work have increased drastically over the past year. Many businesses have begun allowing more remote work in order to keep up with the ever-changing restrictions, while still being able to remain functional and efficient.
On top of this, businesses are able to take advantage of an up and coming business trend: Virtual location.
We hear you already. “What the heck are virtual locations?” “Can my industry even use virtual locations?”
Relax. We’ll explain everything you need to know about virtual locations to help you better understand this phenomenon.
What is a Virtual Location?
To put it as simply as possible, virtual locations involve providing services to customers, well, virtually. In other words, there is no in-person meeting involved. While this isn’t going to be possible for every industry (we’ll be talking briefly about the industries that can greatly benefit from it, don’t worry), for many different industries, virtual locations can be an absolute game-changer.
Many businesses that implement virtual locations also implement other elements of virtual business as a whole, such as hiring remote employees. The key to this practice is flawless and open communication. With major advancements in communication, businesses can check up on their remote employees using a number of different channels, including:
- Text messaging
- Live chats
- Different apps designed around workplace management
In other words, it’s never been easier to check up and stay in close contact with remote employees. Much of the same theory applies to providing services using a virtual location, should the industry that you find yourself in allow it.
Industries That Can Benefit From a Virtual Location
As we’ve mentioned previously, not every industry can benefit from a virtual location.
However, you may find yourself surprised by the sheer number of industries that can make use of them. Some of which may not be the first that comes to mind when you think of virtual business in general.
The telecommunications industry commonly uses virtual locations, especially when it comes to tech support.
For example, say you were having issues with portions of your home network. Depending on the issue at hand, a telecommunications company could assist you with the troubleshooting process without ever stepping foot in your home. By using certain virtual location tools, they could communicate with you and even show you exactly what to do in order to solve the problem.
Finance is another industry that doesn’t technically require in-person meetings in order to function properly.
A great example of this would be a financial advisor taking meetings with clients. With the proper virtual location tool, they can meet with their clients virtually and answer any questions or solve any problems that their clients may have. All without any in-person contact.
Virtual locations seem like they’re tailor-made for the marketing industry.
Much of the work done by marketing firms involves the production of intangible products, to begin with, including:
- Content marketing
- Google ads
- Email marketing
- Social media work
Since this work is all digitally produced, there’s little need for in-person meetings. Marketing firms can implement virtual locations for their meetings and do away with all in-person contact.
The healthcare industry has already begun moving rapidly into the digital world. From the implementation of doctor appointment apps to a rise in telemedicine services, healthcare practices are starting to understand the advantages and benefits of switching to more digital processes.
While obviously not all healthcare appointments can be done virtually, patients can still have their concerns or questions addressed using virtual location tools. This helps create a more efficient system not only for these patients but also for the professionals themselves.
Even with the pandemic going on, children still need an education. Thankfully, many institutions are beginning to realize that proper education can still be received virtually.
Distanced learning may not be the most ideal situation for kids, but there really isn’t much of a better option at the moment. With all of the restrictions and social distancing requirements in schools, the education sector could surely benefit from virtual locations.
Throughout many of the lockdowns all over the world, loads of house showings have been done virtually.
It’s not like the benefits of this practice are limited to our pandemic situation either. Real estate firms operating a virtual location could be incredibly convenient for clients, especially those who are constantly busy and on the go.
Benefits of Virtual Locations
So, with all this information about virtual locations on hand, how can businesses benefit from virtual locations, pandemic or otherwise? What problems with traditional business can be resolved by using a virtual location?
Lucky for you, there are a ton of benefits to going virtual. However, to keep this to the point, we’ll be covering the top benefits of virtual locations.
With virtual locations, accessibility is at an all-time high.
As a comparison, let’s go back to our telecommunications company example. For a normal home networking issue, traditional service would be done by having the network tech come into your home and service the problem.
Obviously, we don’t have to explain why this is a huge issue during our current situation, but what if we remove the pandemic from the picture?
For those who are living further out of town, it can be challenging to have a network tech show up in a timely manner to solve issues. On top of that, you’ll need to book the appointment, hope that there’s an available time slot, and be available to stay home while the tech attempts to fix the problem.
Virtual location tools allow this process to be done over a simple video chat. Telecoms companies can have their techs assist clients over a video call and resolve the issues far quicker.
As time goes on, accessibility is going to continue to become more and more important. The easier it is to access your services, the happier your clients will be, and the more likely they’ll be to recommend your company to others.
To put it as simply as possible, virtual locations provide a far more streamlined and efficient queuing process than more traditional forms of in-person business.
Because of this, your staff can spend less time on queue management and more time on addressing and solving customer issues or concerns.
Healthcare provides a great example of this. Because of advancements in telemedicine, more patients can have non-urgent concerns addressed in a timely manner.
Normally, patients would need to book an appointment, show up on a certain date, wait in a waiting room for their name to be called, and finally be able to see a doctor. With a virtual location software, all of this unnecessary friction can be avoided. By answering questions and addressing concerns using a virtual location tool, healthcare professionals are able to drastically increase the number of patients they can see in a day.
This increased efficiency allows for much superior service. Customers or clients who are served efficiently and in a timely manner will be far more likely to view your business or practice in a positive light.
Although it’s important to discuss timeless benefits, COVID-based restrictions are likely to be around for at least a little while longer, so this point is still important.
For most businesses operating in-person, a waiting area is often used for customers or clients patiently waiting their turn to be served. On busy days, these waiting rooms can become crowded quickly. With all the social distancing requirements in place at the moment, it’s easy to see why this simply won’t work.
Thankfully, physical waiting rooms are completely unnecessary with virtual locations. Customers or clients simply enter your virtual queue, wait their turn to be served, and then initiate contact with an agent. Zero human contact required.
For many, the pandemic isn’t the only reason that having a contactless queuing and service method is important. There are loads of people who grow anxious in crowds of people even without a virus circulating. It’s for this reason that having a method of providing virtual services will greatly benefit your customers and clients even after we return to a new normal.
The world of business requires an abundance of two main resources:
The question is, how do virtual locations allow you to save both?
Well, think about a financial advisor with an office for in-person meetings. If each client needs to drive all the way to the office for every meeting, an indefinite amount of time is going to be spent on commuting back and forth.
With a virtual location tool, not only will you be saving time and be able to see more clients daily, but your clients are also saving time by not being forced to commute to your office space. Using a virtual location tool, you can hold a meeting from wherever you please, while your client can sit in their pajamas at home. Convenient, isn’t it?
Using the same example, your office space costs money. You need to pay both rent and utility bills for it. What if you used a virtual location instead? You would essentially be taking your office into the digital world. With rent prices skyrocketing, the money saved would certainly make the option worth considering.
Choosing the Best Virtual Location Tool
Throughout this post, we’ve mentioned “virtual location tools” several times.
Now, if you’re sitting there asking yourself: “What the heck is a virtual location tool?” Don’t worry. Not only are we going to explain what they are, but we’ll also be covering some key features that you’ll want out of a virtual location tool to best suit your needs.
Virtual location tools can be defined in a variety of different ways, but to put it as simply as possible, they should be designed around two simple core aspects:
- A video chat platform to interact with customers or clients
- The ability to remotely book appointments or manage a queue virtually
Without these two key concepts, a virtual location tool isn’t really worth considering. However, there are a few additional features that, while not make-or-break, are definitely going to provide you with additional benefits.
Online Payment Processing
For a service to be done completely virtually, you won’t be able to use in-person payment methods.
Because of this, many businesses who use virtual business as their primary model often have additional software in order to accept payment. While this is a perfectly acceptable practice, what if you could use your virtual location tool to accept payments as well?
It may be a minor win, but the efficiency factor certainly comes into play when you’re able to manage multiple client processes with one tool instead of using multiple different applications.
Missed appointments are a plague for businesses. Even those who operate in a virtual environment.
A quick look at the healthcare industry will tell you just how financially detrimental that no-shows can be. Even if you find yourself in a less stressful industry, the point still stands. No-shows aren’t good for anyone.
Choosing a virtual location tool with built-in appointment reminders can drastically cut down on no-shows. With it, clients can choose one of two ways to be notified:
- An SMS reminder
- An email reminder
Regardless of which method they choose, they’ll be far less likely to miss an appointment when they’re given a reminder.
Reporting and Analytics
Automated reporting and analytics features don’t seem overly vital to a virtual location tool on the outside, but once you start working with them, you won’t want to go back.
These features can help track different important data points, such as:
- Customer appointment history
- Virtual branch performance
- Staff or agent performance
Without these features on hand, you’ll be left to track and record most of your pertinent information manually or with an additional program. Both inefficient choices.
Skiplino’s Virtual Branch product is a great example of a virtual location tool that can deliver on all of these fronts. On top of all of these points, Skiplino provides other fantastic features, such as:
- A cloud-based queuing solution (safe and secure data)
- A platform that can be set up in under 5 minutes
- Unlimited users
- Dedicated email and phone support
Your search for the perfect virtual location tool can be tough, considering the vast amount of options on the market. Check out Skiplino’s Virtual Branch product if you’d like to make the search just a little easier.
Virtual Location Tool FAQ’s
“Do I have to go fully virtual?”
Not at all! It’s fully possible to run partially virtual for those who would prefer to use virtual queues while maintaining some in-person presence for those who prefer that.
“How can I encourage clients to utilize virtual services?”
Open communication and a clear explanation on how to use the services on the client’s end work wonders for encouraging clients to switch from the old ways to the new ways. It’s easy to get caught up in old habits and dislike changes, but once clients see just how beneficial it can be for them, they’ll surely come around.
Summary of Virtual Locations
So, armed with all of this information about virtual locations, what’s your course of action going to be?
To put it simply, if you’re in an industry that can benefit from virtual locations, why not take advantage of it? The sheer amount of time and money that you can save is beyond valuable.
On top of that, you now know exactly what to look for in a virtual location tool. You’re all set!
Need More Information?
Virtual locations can be a touchy subject. People often mistake it for something that it isn’t. If you’re looking for a little more clarity, don’t hesitate for a second to reach out to us. Whether it’s more information on Skiplino’s Virtual Branch product, or simply additional information on virtual locations as a whole, we’re here to answer the call.