Technology has changed how customers interact with businesses. Clients expect faster response times, decreased wait times, and more availability than ever. Even with the increased demands, companies cannot always provide customers with instant gratification or immediate service. In those situations, creating a new type of waiting experience will help increase client satisfaction and keep customers coming back.
A virtual waiting room allows customers to wait without actually making them feel like they are waiting. Patients, clients, and customers can do a lot of the “waiting” activities that they would have to do in person over their phone, on a tablet, or at their desktop computer—often long before they set foot inside your physical location.
Virtual waiting rooms provide a unique solution to a problem that has been around for as long as there have been companies. They make the waiting experience a lot less inconvenient.
What Is a Virtual Waiting Room?
Clients hate waiting. However, the perception of waiting is often even worse compared to the waiting itself. That means that customers who are not literally standing in line to receive service will generally react better (and may even be willing to wait longer) compared to those who are physically standing in line. Customers see waiting time as an inefficient waste of time, especially when they have other demands on their time, and they could be doing other things.
A virtual waiting room taps into this psychology behind waiting in line. Instead of asking patients or customers to sit around while their number is called, a virtual waiting room allows customers to move about more freely. Then, when it is their turn for products or services, the client is notified to head to a business’s location.
Examples of virtual waiting rooms might include situations where a client or customer can:
- Check-in ahead of time for appointments and virtual visits
- Complete check-in paperwork online or from a tablet or other mobile device
- Get instructions on how to check-in or safety protocols before heading to a physical location
- Be notified when it is their turn to receive services
In the COVID-19 era, ensuring that waiting clients and patients socially distance is important. A virtual waiting room can help cut down on how much time people are spending in close proximity to one another. Clients can wait in their car for appointments or run other errands as they wait for the notification that your team is ready to help them.
The Benefits of Virtual Waiting Rooms
Whether you are waiting at the DMV, a hospital, the barbershop, or any other customer service line, a virtual waiting room can be extremely useful.
Increase Social Distancing and Decrease COVID-19 Concerns
Although vaccinations are now being provided across the globe, there are still concerns about new COVD-19 strains and general exposure. Implementing a virtual waiting room allows you to spread out customers so they can wait for their appointment or product pick up from virtually anywhere.
When clients check in with their mobile device, they can wait at home, from their car, while taking a walk around the building, and more. They are no longer confined to a small waiting room area with a room full of strangers.
Allowing for this distance is very helpful in ensuring that you keep the number of people in your facility at one time to a minimum, and it decreases the potential for COVID-19 exposure.
Increase Customer Satisfaction
Customers are far less likely to think that their time is being wasted if they can do other things while waiting for their appointment or time to talk to your team. Customers hate having their time wasted—and when they feel that you are not respecting their time, their overall satisfaction or happiness related to your brand will decrease.
Checking in virtually or using a mobile check-in process allows them to go through any necessary paperwork ahead of time and, in some instances, avoid waiting in a physical line altogether.
Obtain Complete Client or Patient Information
When you allow clients to check in ahead of time, you can get complete information from them. For example, you might be able to obtain and better track information about why they need services. If you see patterns in requests for services, you can spot problem areas and fix them—often long before a customer comes back into your store for help with a product.
In the medical context, you can get accurate medical histories and patient information long before the patient appears for services. This allows you to recommend additional care, track accurate histories, and a lot more. Clients can also maintain their privacy better if they can complete medical questionnaires and surveys from home instead of a physical waiting room.
Decrease Staffing Needs
When you do not have a virtual waiting room, you often need a dedicated team member to help guests check in and place them in the queue. This person can be practically eliminated if you use a virtual waiting room. Not having these duties frees up your staff to address other needs, including providing the very services your customers need—instead of just placing them in line.
Using a virtual waiting room can also help you customize staff needs over time. You can track when your busiest times might be and determine how many people you need for any given shift. If done correctly, you can decrease waiting time significantly because you will have the right number of people to service customers as needed.
Implementing a Virtual Waiting Room
Creating a virtual waiting room is actually very simple. However, you need to know what types of services you want to use, and making this decision requires a solid understanding of what your customers want.
For example, a health care facility will often have a different kind of virtual waiting room compared to a restaurant or retail establishment. Each type of virtual waiting room should be tailored to how your customers interact with your business.
Health Care Settings
A health care professional or doctor might want to utilize the following features of a virtual waiting room.
- Automated appointment reminders for scheduled appointments and bookings
- Options to fill out patient paperwork ahead of the appointment
- Status updates to let patients know when their care providers are running behind
- Notifications when the doctor or other healthcare professional is ready to see them
- Virtual check-ins from the car or other locations
- Screening tools to check for COVID-19 symptoms and other concerns
- Two-way messaging or chat to discuss the need for an appointment or other services
- Follow-up surveys to measure satisfaction and similar data
Many retail establishments do not have a formal “appointment-setting” function. However, they might want to implement methods to allow for curbside pickup or other similar services. Retail establishments might want the following virtual waiting room features.
- Ability to set up a specific curbside pickup time and location
- Schedule appointments with customer services representatives
- Send notifications when products are ready for pick up
- Create options for buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) purchases
- Utilize people counters to track and report how busy the store may be at certain times of the day or days of the week
- Incorporate retail displays to check into internal queues or get more information about specific products or services
Some restaurants include the ability to make reservations, but many customers do not want to go through the formal process of making reservations if they can avoid it. On the other hand, customers also do not want to wait long for a table, either.
Restaurants can use a queue management system with the following features to cut down on wait times.
- Get in line to wait for a table while at home or anywhere else, usually through a virtual check-in
- Send notifications when their table is ready
- Check-in with virtual signage at the physical location to be added to the queue
- Include options to measure how busy the restaurant may be at any given time
Ombori Grid Can Create the Solution Your Business Needs
Whether your business currently involves a physical waiting room and you want to update it, or you are considering options to use virtual queuing in your business, Ombori can help. Ombori creates customized solutions for companies to assist with queue management, virtual signage, waiting rooms, gathering data, and a lot more. Contact us to schedule a demo or to get more information about how our team can help your business.
Rui is COO of Ombori Grid. Before joining Ombori in 2017, he worked in Beijing, Tokyo, Silicon Valley and Zagreb before ending up in Stockholm. He previously spent nine years in R&D at Ericsson as Operative Product Owner, and is a highly skilled leader in IT and communications with a successful track record of working closely with both stakeholders and management.