Today, you can review pretty much any experience on websites like Yelp and Google Reviews. Restaurants, movie theaters, parking garages—even workplaces. To make sure your workplace earns five stars, you need to provide guests with a great on-site experience. If you don’t, your workplace may be subject to a low rating that others (including your executive team) will see.
That’s why it’s important for us workplace managers to adopt practices that improve the visitor experience. Much like Yelp, there are review sites like Glassdoor where people share their positive or negative experiences at a company. Not to mention Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and even YouTube are channels for feedback too. These reviews can either improve or adversely affect recruiting, your brand, the culture, or the company as a whole.
Visitor management takes a page from the hotel industry
A lot goes into the visitor check-in experience at the front desk. Within seconds of walking into a lobby, visitors need a valid ID. They need the name of the people they’ve come to see. In some cases, they need to fill out a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), take a health check, or complete other paperwork.
Like at a hotel, it’s important to know why a guest is visiting so you can customize their experience accordingly. For example, you may want to send an invitation to job candidates ahead of time. This allows you to provide information on how to get to the office, navigate the building upon arrival, and what to do when they arrive. For more regular guests, like a contractor or vendor, you may only need the visitor to check in at the front desk and carry on with their work.
Whichever check-in style occurs, hospitality should always be at the forefront of the visitor experience. Much like a hotel or a retail space, a visitor should be greeted warmly, prompted to check in, and offered a beverage and somewhere comfortable to sit. Don’t underestimate how far a simple, “How are you?” can go in creating a warm and welcoming experience. In addition, I’ve always advocated that cleanliness makes or breaks a first impression, and it definitely is true for optimizing a visitor’s experience. An unclean or disorganized workplace will reflect negatively on workplace management, as well as your company’s brand and culture.
Today, a key part of a great check-in experience is health and safety. You can show your guests that your workplace is a safe space for them to visit by having them certify that they’re healthy. They can do this by showing proof of vaccination, a recent negative COVID test, or completing a health check.
This visitor management experience is not unlike the one we’ve come to expect at a hotel. The difference is that hotels infuse the experience with hospitality. The “wow” factor associated with great hotels is a concept that companies are learning to duplicate in their workplaces.
Read on for five hotel-inspired ideas that give you a glimpse into the new world of visitor management.
1. Show speed and efficiency through seamless visitor management
There’s a lot that reception has to do to process each visitor. Get through the administrative stuff quickly—and with style—by using visitor management software. Visitors can sign in and have their photos taken on an iPad, which will then automatically create a badge for them. Before the guest has even peeled off the badge’s sticker, the software will notify the meeting host that their guest is waiting.
With your visitor management software, receptionists can also quickly verify IDs and check names against blocklists. They can even check for proof of vaccination and ensure that guests have answered the required health questions. Hosts, who may not have seen their guests in person before, receive their visitor’s photo, so they can find and greet their guests right away.
Visitor management software helps companies subtly send the message that they are up-to-date with the latest workplace technology and care about their visitors’ time. It also communicates the company’s investment in the health and safety of everyone on-site. In addition to creating a seamless experience for visitors, it takes the work out of ensuring the office is a safe environment.
2. Offer five-star service in a five-minute timeframe
The truth is, your reception staff probably doesn’t have a lot of time to spend with each visitor. If your visitor management software is speeding up the reception process, a visitor’s time in the lobby isn’t going to be long, so every second counts. The five-star hotel approach here is about creating comfort, meeting immediate needs, and exceeding expectations. Visitor management technology can help here, too.
- Use your visitor management system to pre-register the guest. Along with the invite, send NDA and safety paperwork that the visitor should fill out in advance (e.g. proof of COVID-19 vaccination). Don’t forget to include helpful information, like directions to the office and options for parking if they choose to drive.
- Send the visitor a temporary WiFi password and instructions to show their ID at the reception desk.
- Help visitors get comfortable. Provide a tray of items they might need, especially for an important meeting or a job interview. Keep a fresh supply of hand sanitizer, water, and breath mints in the lobby.
- Address each visitor warmly and by name. Even if there isn’t a lot of time to talk, be sure reception staff lets visitors know about the amenities they can access while they wait. This will help the visitor feel welcomed, and it will communicate that they are seen and that the entire visit doesn’t have to be about business.
3. Make sure the lobby design reflects your brand
Companies often miss the opportunity to allow visitors to connect with the brand. You should aim for guests to remember their experience long after their visit. You can communicate so much with thoughtful interior design. Good lobby branding is more than company logos and colors. People seek out authenticity and need to connect to a brand personally. And the design of the lobby must be part of the brand.
When visitors walk into your lobby, they should understand what the company is about just by looking at the design, decor, and technology. Companies that promote innovation might offer wireless device charging built into the furniture. A company with a more casual environment to foster creativity, collaboration, and individuality might use design elements like exposed brick, live plants, and colorful, comfortable furniture.
Great design ideas come directly from what’s true about the company and what makes you proud to work there. Just like in the lobby of a five-star hotel, the combined experience of design, decor, and technology will send the right message to each visitor.
4. Give visitors something to do
Meetings run late, quick in-person conversations delay the host, and other unexpected things can get in the way of a timely greeting. Keeping people in the lobby too long is not a good practice, but a well-thought-out lobby experience should keep your visitor busy. Think of including some of the following:
- Provide visitors with a temporary WiFi password so they’re able to connect securely to the internet
- Ensure plugs and outlets to charge their laptop and phone are easily accessible
- Provide cold drinks and grab-and-go water and snacks to show visitors you care about their comfort
- Have magazines laid out and available to read—preferably magazines that are related to your industry
- If possible, staff your front desk with a person to greet and chat with the visitor
5. The check-out experience is just as important as check-in
Just as the check-in experience is important to creating a great impression on visitors, so is the check-out experience. A great check-out experience tells your guest that the relationship and the journey don’t have to end.
Here are a few tips for creating a great check-out process that improves the overall visitor experience:
- Ask visitors how their experience was
- Give guidance on how to exit the office easily
- If available, offer the visitor some company swag like a pen or a sticker before they depart
- Provide a glimpse of the weather, e.g. “Enjoy the great sunny weather!” or “Hope you stay dry out there!”
Ending a visit on a great note, regardless of how the visit went between check-in and check-out, will reflect positively on your team, company, and brand. It’ll also contribute to a hospitable, friendly, and confident culture.
These are just a few ideas, inspired by the hospitality industry, to uplevel your visitor management and improve the visitor experience. Some you can implement right away, and some require planning and design work. Whatever you choose to do, remember to let your company’s values, culture, and mission be your guide.
Want some more ideas for making your company stand out from the crowd and build your brand? Download the 2022 guide to creating a great visitor experience.