The phrase “virtual services” gets bandied about a lot these days, but that doesn’t make it any less confusing. We sort of think we know what it means, but we’re not quite sure. It pops up in so many different places, it’s hard to pin it down to a precise definition.
Virtual services are a relatively recent technology. They’re something that the business community introduced to the world in various forms over the last twenty years. Today you can get virtual assistants, virtual address for mail boxes, and even virtual offices.
Virtual suggests “not quite real,” though, which is a rub for some people. When they buy a virtual service, they want to know that they’re getting something worth their money in return.
What Are Virtual Services?
A virtual service is another name for tech-enabled service that another agency performs instead of you doing it yourself in-house. The technological underpinnings can be simple – as is the case with virtual assistants who just use a phone – or more complicated. Ultimately, virtual services encompass anyone that provides businesses with services through some sort of technical means, but is not a part of that business.
The concept is actually quite sophisticated. Companies that adopt it get multiple benefits, each of which is specific to the firm itself.
Why Businesses Use Virtual Services
There are all sorts of reasons why companies might opt for virtual services. They offer a host of benefits that are simply inaccessible in-house.
Perhaps the most obvious is that they help to improve customer service. In many cases, the primary person or “key man” in the business isn’t available to operate the telephone or respond to email. Instead of just allowing communication to go unanswered, virtual services step in and fill the gap. When a customer or client calls, they pick up the phone and then, essentially, do their masters’ bidding, carrying out conversations according to their instructions. They can do things like schedule appointments, quote prices, and forward complaints. In fact, because real human beings do this job, they’re able to do most receptionist-type tasks.
Businesses also use virtual services to enhance their services. For instance, some brands can’t afford swanky offices downtown. For that reason, they often use virtual mailboxes. These give them mailing addresses that appear to indicate that they have a prime location when, in fact, they’re in cheap offices out of town. The virtual mail house then sorts their mail and either forwards it in the post or emails it.
Some brands need virtual services for the flexibility that they offer. Firms that hire an in-house marketing team as full-time employees can’t just stop paying them on the spot with no explanation. Employees’ rights, union action and the law all weigh against them.
For that reason, they will often just outsource these services, only paying for what they need in chunks. For example, a smoothie brand might ask a marketing company to do their web design and SEO.
Then there’s the time issue: the sheer amount of work that goes into the most basic (and mundane business tasks). Firms spend much of their week simply carrying out routine operations, without focusing on meeting customers’ needs or innovating at all.
Virtual services are tools that time-stressed companies can leverage to free themselves from some of the drudgery. For instance, recruitment companies can reduce the pain and hassle associated with finding people to work for them. Influencer outreach firms can cut down on the search costs associated with finding a suitable partner to work with on social media, and so on.
Lastly, virtual tech is often a money-saver. It’s far cheaper to buy services a la carte and then get them delivered over the cloud or via the telephone than to employ directly.
Perhaps the best example of this is in the area of IT support. If you want to employ a team of IT professionals to take care of your network, it’ll set you back hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. However, just getting an agency to do it might cost you $10,000 per year, and sometimes less.
Virtual services are an innovative new technology because they involve new methods of organization for producing goods and services. As such, they are becoming more important. Businesses are starting to see how they can help them in their daily operations.
Of course, they’re not a panacea. You can’t outsource every task your firm performs. But you can certainly reduce a lot of the effort associated with running a business and being successful.