You’ve heard of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and likely even have a special software to help you. It keeps track of all the various customers, clients, vendors, networking partners and members who you regularly connect with for business purposes. It sets you on the right path to build relationships. But do you have a Visitor Management System?
While many people give significant thought to how they are managing regular contacts, visitors might not always be given the same consideration. However, a visitor management system can be a crucial part of your CRM and security strategies.
A Visitor Management System (VMS) is a conscientious strategy and standard system for handling all the guests who visit your organization. Like contact relationship management, having a visitor management system takes your visitors’ experience to the next level, eliminating chance from the equation.
Having a system in place also helps your employees. Employees expect guests all the time, like colleagues visiting from another office, job candidates, vendor reps, local inspectors and food delivery personnel. If your employees know what their visitors’ experience will be like, they can prepare their guests for what to expect, as well as rest assured that the visitors will be taken care of.
What Does a Visitor Management System Do?
A truly good VMS will have a number of different components to ensure that visitors of all types are handled with the appropriate level of care as desired by the organization.
Considers Every Type of Guest
Some organizations have taken care to ensure that certain visitors are greeted warmly and given the red carpet treatment. Hotels treat their guests well. Colleges greet prospective students with gifts and tours and pull out all the stops for potential donors.
But what about the boiler or telephone repair person? What about the pizza delivery gal? What about the person who wanders in off the street lost and needing directions? Will these people immediately receive the help they need? Will they be directed to their host or task with utmost efficiency?
A great visitor management system has a plan in place for each kind of visitor.
- Good signage: Signs are definitely included in comprehensive plans for visitor management. Exterior signs point people to the right buildings and entrances. This may include simple building labels for guests who are finding their hosts, but may also include specific signs for visitor types. For instance, some organizations have a special entrance for deliveries, or a certain door visitors should use. Interior directories allow people of all ilks to find the appropriate departments based on their need or task. If all visitor are supposed to check in at a specific location, a large sign stating “All Visitors Check In Here” helps them to know exactly what to do.
- Employee Preparation: In the best systems, employees have been trained in how to assist each of the different type of guest according to the needs of the organization. In particular, those employees who are near entrances or greet guests as part of their duties need to have been properly prepared. Are guests allowed to wander unattended, or do they require an escort? Does it depend on who they are and what their task is? Are delivery personnel supposed to wait in the lobby area for their host, or are they allowed to enter the office are to find them?
Even those employees who aren’t close to the door need to be briefed on what to do when they are expecting a guest. They need to understand what information to provide to their guest in advance so the guest knows what to expect. Employees also need to have guidelines in place if they notice a visitor wandering around.
Processes Needs Quickly and Efficiently
Visitors come into your organization for a reason. Whether they are there to repair the window or the meet with a top-level executive, a visitor has a mission upon entering. Your VMS is in place to help them move past the awkwardness of an unfamiliar location as quickly as possible.
- Quickly identifies guests: The first order of business when a guest arrives is to find out who they are and what their purpose is. This information is imperative for ensuring that the proper procedures are followed for that visitor. Depending on the location, the guest may be required to complete a registration form either on paper or with an i-Pad receptionist. This may be reviewed by a person or simply logged in a database.
- Connects guests with hosts: One of the main objectives of a visitor management system is to help visitors connect with whomever they are meeting. How this is done may depend on the visitor’s purpose. Sometimes a receptionist places a phone call to the host and the host meets the guest in the lobby, or pages the host. Other times, the guest is escorted to the host. Some electronic visitor registration apps contact the host automatically via the host’s preferred method. Either way, the sooner the guest and host connect, the sooner they can get on with their business.
Helps Keep the Premises Secure
Part of the goal of having a visitor management system is to keep your organization as secure as necessary. A set protocol for every guest and guest type is an important way to offer a higher level of security. Some ways to increase security include:
- Single Visitor Entrance: Requiring all visitors to enter through a single point not only helps visitors know immediately that they are in the right place, it ensures that visitors aren’t entering restricted areas, or wandering around lost without any assistance.
- Visitor Check In and Out: Requiring all visitors to check in and check out both deters mischief-making and provides a useful record. These records aren’t just for security purposes, either, though they can certainly come in handy when a crime needs to be investigated. Having the name, date and reason for a guest’s visit can assist with follow-up needs for your CRM. If this information is entered via an electronic visitor log, it can be automatically entered into any contact management software you already have in place.
- Visitor Badges: Visitor badges may seem like overkill in some organizations. On the other hand, requiring visitor badges for any guest that goes beyond a certain point ensures that everyone knows they are a visitor and only have access to certain areas. Your pizza delivery person may not need a badge because they never leave the lobby – assuming the host meets them there.
- Situational Preparedness: Unfortunately, part of a good visitor management system will include having a system in place to handle unwanted and sometimes dangerous guests. A disgruntled customer. An angry family member. An armed thief. A disruptive homeless person who wanders in off the street. Employees – especially those with workstations near doors – should be briefed on the best way to handle such unpleasant and scary situations. Do they handle it themselves, and if so, how? Or do they call a security office or 911?
When truly used effectively, a visitor management system helps your organization thrive. All of the factors that we’ve just outlined set your organization up for improved relationships with the various visitors who are a part of your operation.
- Great first impressions: A well-thought-out system gives your visitors a much better impression compared to if they entered and got lost, weren’t greeted at all, or felt shuffled around.
- Potential for contact relationships: If your guests are all logged into a database, the information is readily available for follow-up. Your employees can write thank you notes, extend special offers, set up a meeting to discuss vendor possibilities and so much more. You can even automate it! Like when you attend a sporting event or concert and receive an email as you are leaving recapping your experience. A modern visitor check-in app can contact your guests by email or text message.
Most workplaces have some form of visitor management system in place, though it is not always one that has been consciously considered or formalized. There are several types of visitor management systems, and you’ve probably seen many versions.
The No-System System
Some workplaces are very loose about protocols. Informal rules for guests might exist, but are often broken. Some co-working locations and flex workspaces might fall into this category. A no-system location might look like this:
- A visitor coming to meet a member or employee walks through the door and either fumbles around until they find their host or asks the first person they see.
- If they ask whomever they see first, this undesignated receptionist is interrupted, resulting in less working getting done. This person may resent having chosen the desk near the door due to the interruption.
- Visitors are likely not required to give identification or enter their information into a visitor log. There isn’t one.
The Designated Receptionist
The visitor information desk in a museum is an example of a designated receptionist. This person’s primary job is to assist visitors in having a great experience. Hospitals also tend to have designated receptionists, both for patients checking in and for visitors coming to see a patient. Guests of employees may use a separate entrance and be greeted by a different person altogether. In many of these cases, visitors are required to check-in, and provide personal information that must be entered into a database.
The Semi-Dedicated Receptionist
A semi-dedicated receptionist greets and orients guests as part of their primary responsibilities. However, in many offices, such receptionists serve additional functions. Often, the face of an organization is the administrative assistant to a director or manager and is also responsible for handling this person’s schedule, typing letters and memos, and otherwise keeping the office organized. Visitors interrupt this person’s additional work. It is an expected interruption, but an interruption nonetheless.
The Self-Check-In Kiosk
As automation becomes more prevalent in so many areas of business, we are seeing the adoption of visitor check-in kiosks. You can now order your own food at McDonald’s, self-checkout at a number of grocery and superstores, and self-check-in at airports. There are definitely benefits to self-serve visitor registration.
- Fewer errors: If guests enter their own information, they are far less likely to enter incorrect spellings of names, addresses, place of business, etc.
- Data collection: As noted above, having the data collected immediately in electronic form allows for better CRM. It is much easier to analyze data collected electronically.
- Less frequent and shorter interruptions: Even locations that have a semi-dedicated receptionist can benefit from such kiosks, since they don’t require the receptionist to be interrupted for longer than necessary. If a receptionist has other duties, allowing guests to enter their information into the electronic log themselves reduces the time taken away from other work.
The Security Guard
When security is a higher priority – and it is becoming a higher priority all the time – a security guard might be the designated receptionist. Security guards often bring an authority presence to a building entrance. They may or may not require ID and log information into a visitor log, though doing so adds an additional layer of security. Additionally, some will provide guests with a designated visitor badge or card that provides access. One benefit to utilizing a security guard in such a capacity is their training; they may be more able to properly handle unwanted guests or visitors acting in a suspicious manner.
The Paper Log
Museums, public gardens and many other locations may have some form of guest book. This is generally a fairly informal log, and not everyone signs in. On the other hand, some organizations require visitors to sign a paper logbook. Considering a paper log can be difficult to read and fill pages and pages, it is a rather inefficient way to track visitors and their purposes. It requires a person to scan or manually type the information into databases for data collection purposes. If the logs are stored for any period of time, they may take up boxes of space in a storage room.
Multiple Systems (aka, the Chinese Menu)
When constructing a visitor management system, it doesn’t necessarily have to be an all-or-nothing approach. Many of the above systems can work in tandem with each other for optimal effectiveness. For instance, a self-serve kiosk with a semi-dedicated receptionist can offer efficiency for both the guest and the employee. An electronic visitor log that is maintained by a security office who requests ID offers great security.
Summary: Visitor Management is Right For You
No matter the size or structure of your organization, having a visitor management system in place can save you and your guests a lot of headache and time. When everyone knows what to do, how to do it and what to expect, things just run more smoothly. Your organization can benefit from improved relationships with all your visitors and from an organized approach to collecting visitor information. Your visitors will be pleased to achieve their purpose – meeting you and the members of your organization – in an efficient and welcoming manner.