It can be a challenge to shift traditional, in-person services to virtual services. But many small business owners will need to go digital while Canadians practice social distancing because of the coronavirus.
Offering online services may help maintain your cash flow and pay the bills. They may also lessen the disruption to invaluable services, without which some could suffer physically, mentally, or professionally.
There are many ways to move your small business online or through virtual means. Service based businesses like restaurants, bakeries, or spas, can offer gift cards that can be redeemed at a later date.
Here are some tips for providing remote services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Stay flexible in your communication strategies
Offer to meet clients virtually in just about any space: on the phone, over email, or over a video conference. Consider services like FaceTime, Teams, Zoom, BlueJeans, Google Hangouts, and Skype.
2. Create a high-quality experience with the right technology
Make your virtual sessions successful by working somewhere with a reliable internet connection. Ensure privacy for your video-conferencing sessions by locking your meetings so that you don’t get any unwanted visitors.
3. Research virtual service options in your industry
Some counsellors and therapists, for instance, are practicing teletherapy. Meanwhile, CCPA-compliant apps can help healthcare professionals better communicate with patients via text. And when in doubt, many industries can use YouTube or Facebook Live or live Instagram videos to deliver client services.
4. Encourage group participation
Don’t limit yourself to one-on-one meetings—consider virtual meetings or group presentations as well. Some conferencing services have screen-sharing and whiteboard options, so you can write on your screen to demonstrate examples. Some video services and webinar platforms even have settings to mute attendees in a one-way presentation to avoid background chatter.
5. Tell your clients about your plans
If you’ve found a way to continue helping your customers in a virtual space, let them know. Your new style of doing business might even work better for some clients. Think of it as a learning experiment for future use. Share your new online services proactively with an email, social media posts, or even a personal phone call.
6. Increase transparency on projects
Create a secure, virtual workspace you and your client can share to reduce communication errors that you’d normally sort out in person. That way, you and your client are always looking at the same documents and deliverables when discussing your services online.
7. Communicate office hours to avoid overworking
It may be tempting to take client calls at all hours, especially if you’re worried about losing business. But setting boundaries is good for both you and your customers because it helps prevent burnout, ensuring that you’re doing your best work. It’s best to make a firm plan now and stick to it, especially if you decide to continue offering online services in the future.
Stay safe, stay positive
Many service workers, like plumbers and electricians, need to visit their customers’ homes. If you can’t avoid it, ask whether anyone in the house is ill, sanitize everything you touch, and avoid touching your face. Adhere to Health Canada’s recommendation to stay 2 metre away from anyone else in the home at all times.