Every company has had to adapt in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Deliveries replaced in-store purchases. In-office employees went remote. Plexiglass dividers were erected between customers and service staff.
One change some companies have yet to master? Virtual appointments. Leaders are still figuring out what services they can offer and how best to connect with virtual customers.
The virtual appointment movement was started by medical professionals in order to reach patients from home. Now, everyone from counselors to tutors to accountants uses them to stay safe and save time.
So, what’s the secret to virtual appointments? In fact, there are nine:
1. Digitize the Details
Virtual appointments require the customer and the company to get on the same page remotely. Online appointment software not only lets the customer choose a time that works for everyone, but it automatically sends out a reminder as the session nears.
Online appointment software can also take care of payment ahead of time. That way, there’s no awkward credit card wrangling as soon as the call starts.
2. Prepare in Advance
Virtual appointments can be held in a click, but that doesn’t mean they require no prep work. Whoever is handling them needs to show up prepared.
The nature of that work will depend on your type of business. It might be as simple as pulling up a customer’s record, or as involved as putting together an entire business strategy to discuss on the call.
3. Upgrade Your Audio
Nothing will lead to a rockier virtual appointment than audio problems. If you can’t hear the customer and they can’t hear you, literally nothing will get done. To prevent miscommunications or cancellations, invest in the proper equipment.
It shouldn’t take much to revamp your audio. A simple USB microphone can plug right into your computer. A quality headset will help you understand every word your customer says.
This is particularly important in certain lines of work, such as counseling. A customer’s story may hold clues about how best to address their needs.
4. Don’t Forget the Video
While audio is more important to most kids of virtual appointments, the visual experience shouldn’t be forgotten. Virtual appointments should replace in-person interactions as closely as possible. Without a solid webcam, they’re more like grainy phone calls.
Your computer or smart device may come with a built-in camera that makes the cut. If not, or if you simply want an upgrade, look into available webcam options. The clear video feed will help you and your customers better read each other’s body language.
5. Use Screen-Sharing
Screen-sharing will add a new layer to your virtual appointment experience. You can display your own screen on that of your customers to share graphics, videos, or other rich media with them.
Most video conferencing tools allow for screen sharing. All it takes is the touch of a button to set it up. Having what you want to share ready in advance allows you to quickly flip through the resources you need.
6. Dress the Part
If your doctor logs on to your virtual appointment wearing a t-shirt at home, the experience won’t feel very authentic unless you know each other on a very personal level. To maximize your virtual appointments, be sure to dress the part. It will make a subtle yet tangible difference.
Even a company polo will be more impactful than casualwear. Also, be sure to check your surroundings to ensure there’s nothing distracting in the background. Remember, you’re still representing your company in virtual appointments.
7. Put a Premium on Engagement
Virtual appointments open up so many opportunities for businesses that wouldn’t work as well in person. Make it an experience all its own, rather than merely a substitute for an in-person visit.
For example, a pediatric doctor can use graphics and game-like applications to engage youngsters. They may even start to look forward to their doctor visits if the experience is entertaining enough.
8. Get Serious About Security
Imagine a stranger standing in the room during your doctor’s appointment. Unsettling, isn’t it?
Think of your virtual appointments the same way. Your customers put their trust in you. It’s incumbent on you to make your digital security efforts known to them.
Make sure that virtual appointment links are private and encrypted. Hold your appointments in a location where private information won’t be overheard. Set strict penalties for employees who mishandle customer data.
While we might not see holograms for another decade or more, virtual appointments are no longer a thing of the future. Platforms like Zoom and Appointment make them possible; it’s up to you to make the most of them.