The role of virtual waiting rooms amid the pandemic

July 2, 2020

No one imagined that standing in a long queue, keeping distance from others, waiting to buy groceries would become an everyday scenario around the world. The waiting experience has drastically changed due to the pandemic. This new reality is pushing industries such as healthcare, retail, and banking to reinvent their businesses to keep creating and delivering excellent customer services and experiences. 

It is no secret that the pandemic is accelerating the digital transformation of all industries, and virtual waiting rooms are helping companies adapt to social-distancing measures, optimize time and costs, and meet customers’ expectations.

How do virtual waiting rooms work and why are they gaining traction?

Virtual waiting rooms, also known as zero-contact waiting rooms, or virtual queues, are typically cloud-based solutions that help businesses and companies manage unexpected high traffic volumes leveraging web and mobile platforms. They provide benefits to both businesses and users as they enable companies to avoid slowdowns protecting the user experience and boosting customer loyalty.

As waiting can be tedious, virtual queues provide the opportunity to create a more enjoyable experience, they allow companies to engage with their customers as they can be fully customizable to fit the brand identity. They are part of the customer journey and can be a good asset to build a strong relationship with the users from the very early stages of interaction.

Virtual waiting rooms enable you to keep customers updated on details such as their position on the queue, the number of people ahead of them in the virtual line, the estimated waiting time, and product availability.

Hybrid queues combine the digital and the physical

When services can’t be fully delivered via digital channels, such as certain medical appointments, or when users prefer to go to a physical store, businesses can implement hybrid queues. In a nutshell, hybrid queues combine online and digital platforms with in-person visits.

Imagine a person who needs assistance with his or her banking account. The customer goes to the bank and registers on the bank’s online platform to be placed on a waiting list. The bank gives the customer an estimated waiting time and keeps him or her updated with the number of people ahead. Once placed first on the list, the customer is notified via SMS / push notification that he or she can now go to the bank to talk with a representative.

As a result, the customer won’t feel frustrated by unjustified waiting times, and will get assistance in a place that meets social distancing protocols – thus helping them feel more at ease.

Hybrid queues are enabling people to manage their banking accounts, purchase products, get medical care among other products and services in a safe way. 

How are virtual waiting rooms helping industries?

The world is experiencing explosive demand for digital tools to keep creating meaningful experiences, industries are harnessing the potential of virtual waiting rooms to fulfill the demands of customers during the pandemic. 

virtual waiting rooms

One of the sectors that is benefiting the most from virtual queues is retail. Grocery purchases around the world are seeing unprecedented demand. In Italy, Carrefour, the supermarket chain said that its Italian customers had doubled to 110,000, in early March. reported 215% increase in fresh food purchases from January to February compared to the same period in 2019.

The situation in North America is no different. A US based survey shows that 42% of respondents purchased groceries online at least once a week in March 2020 and grocery online sales in the country are expected to more than double over the next five years, from $50 billion in 2020 to $118 billion in 2025.

Virtual waiting rooms can help retail companies manage traffic peaks on their websites, avoid slowdowns and provide a better user experience. Best Buy, for instance, reopened stores and enabled customers to shop by appointment. People can pre-register on Best Buy’s mobile web or application and choose a date and time that is suitable for them. 

The supermarket chain, Schnuck Markets, updates its website to let customers know how many people are currently shopping and the number of slots available to enter the store. If there are no spots available, employees ask for the customer’s phone number, who will be notified via SMS when it’s their turn to shop.


Virtual queues are also becoming a crucial tool for patient care. Banner Health, a US healthcare system that works across Arizona, California, Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada, and Wyoming, deployed a virtual waiting room powered by a chatbot. Banner Health’s virtual assistant helps patients in both telehealth consultations and in-person appointments, including tasks such as giving instructions to patients, helping them complete intake forms, updating appointments, and informing them when it’s their time to go to an exam room. The tool has increased satisfaction ratings with a 70% reduction in appointment cancellations.

Transform the waiting experience

Companies today need to harness artificial intelligence and cloud solutions to be ready for the future of waiting. Providing live wait-times, smart routing to destinations based on resource availability, and the ability to enter the line remotely from any location is becoming a must to keep providing powerful user experiences amid challenging times. Businesses and industries are increasingly leveraging the power of a digital transformation to change and optimize how their waiting experience looks and feels like.

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