How does your organization handle visitors and guests who walk through your door? Whether you are conscious of it or not, your organization has a method for managing guests; a visitor management system. Visitor management is a plan and processes you have in place to:
- Greet and welcome guests
- Notify their host (the employee they are meeting)
- Handle deliveries
- Assist guests in getting to their destination
- Keep your location secure for the sake of both guests and employees
Unfortunately, many organizations give little thought to the way in which they handle visitors. Whomever the visitor encounters upon arrival has to take up the task. This person may or may not have been trained to serve guests -- and they likely hate it. Other workplaces do not put in a visitor management system because "they don't receive many visitors". While some offices do not host a lot of important meetings, these firms often do not consider lunch orders, package deliveries and friendly visitors -- the number of people walking through the door is likely many times your initial estimate.
Having a conscientious visitor management system in place helps to give your visitors a great impression of your organization and provides your place of business with valuable resources and information.
In order for any system to be effective, it is important that visitors are recognized. When guests arrive, they are apt to feel quite lost – especially if it is their first visit. Organizations can recognize and welcome guests in a number of different ways to help them know they are in the right place.
- Signs: A sign that points to a visitor check-in kiosk or registration desk immediately directs the guest to act. Signage that is easy to spot takes the uncertainty out of the process by letting them know exactly what is expected of them.
- A dedicated receptionist: A person who staffs the main entrance generally has as part of their responsibilities the acts of greeting and directing guests. This person might be a greeter or door-person (consider Wal-Mart and some high-end apartment complexes), an office manager, administrative assistant or a security guard.
Connecting the Guest with their Host
A visitor doesn’t just show up to your building for no reason. With only a very few exceptions – like someone who is lost and just asking for directions – every visitor has a need to meet with someone who works at your organization. Here are just a few examples:
- Delivery personnel: food and floral deliveries, office supplies, special event deliveries, equipment and product deliveries and more.
- Professional guests: vendors, job candidates, visiting professionals from a branch office or partnering organization.
- Personal Guests: Family members and friends who stop in to pick up an employee for lunch or friendly chat.
In the majority of these situations, the guest will know by name exactly who they are coming to meet. A few will have a general idea, but not a name, e.g. will want to meet with the person in charge of buying office supplies.
Visitors and the person they are meeting must be connected. Often, an employee, like a receptionist or security person, will call or otherwise notify the host that their guest has arrived. Sometimes the guest will wait for the host to retrieve them from the waiting area, while other times the receptionist will give directions, or actually leave their desk to escort the guest to the employee. A few electronic visitor registration apps will contact the host automatically via text, email, Slack, or other means.
Not all organizations require visitors to check in and out. Those that do add an extra layer of security for their guests and for themselves.
Visitor registration can look very different depending on the organization.
- Paper Logs: Some organizations require guests to sign in and out in a paper logbook. They are usually required to write their name, reason for visiting, the date, and the time of check-in and out. These logs are likely rarely referenced and tucked away in a back room once the log is full. Penmanship issues can leave them illegible if they are needed at a later time, assuming relevant files can even be located. They also aren’t very private, since anyone can see who signed in before them.
- Digital Logs: More and more organizations are moving toward digital visitor registration. The benefits are pretty obvious. Records are automatically stored and easier to locate if needed. Penmanship is a non-issue. More information can be collected and stored in a smaller (digital) space. Other relevant information and documents can be incorporated with the files, such as whom the person was meeting, the reason for visiting, and any non-disclosure or other agreements the person is required to sign. And, perhaps most importantly, because it is all digital, it is all easily searchable.
- Self-Registration vs. Employee Registration: Are visitors allowed to register themselves in a digital or paper log? For an extra layer of security, some organizations require an employee, such as a receptionist or security guard, to examine a visitor’s ID. In some instances, the employee will actively register the visitor themselves, while in other cases the visitor completes any registration forms under the watchful eye of an employee.
When you need to be able to spot visitors at a glance, your organization may require visitors to wear some sort of visitor badge or sticker identifying them as a guest. This is especially important as a security measure.
- Schools often require guests – whether volunteering parents or visiting speakers – to check-in and wear a badge.
- If your company is developing new products, has dangerous equipment, or deals with sensitive information, visitors may not be allowed in all areas of your building. A visitor badge helps people know whether a guest has access or not. (Some visitor badges are actually keycards that unlock doors to appropriate areas.)
- In case of emergency, a badge identifying a visitor will tell employees that the person isn’t familiar with the building and may need extra assistance.
There are non-security reasons for visitors to wear identification as well. If your employees are trained to spot guests by their badges, they can also be trained to offer guests services above and beyond. This, obviously, depends upon your business, but rolling out the red carpet for guests and offering assistance where needed can be what helps you acquire a new, enthusiastic customer, member, or business partner.
Benefits of Visitor Management
Having an effective visitor management system in place has multiple benefits for your organization.
How many times have you walked into an establishment and wasted a bunch of time trying to figure out what to do, where to go and how to find the person you need? It doesn’t feel all that different from calling a customer service line and being passed from person to person, telling the same story over and over again.
Now imagine the opposite. You know when you walk in the doctor’s office that you approach the reception desk, fill in the appropriate forms and wait for your name to be called. There is no second-guessing.
You want the same efficiency at your organization, and it isn’t just a benefit to your visitors either.
- Eliminate Wasting Time: If your visitors are wasting less time asking multiple employees where they are supposed to be, your employees are also wasting less time answering their questions.
- Make the Right Thing Obvious: Designating a person or a registration app to deal with guests and making it obvious for visitors where they should start ensures people get to the right place and do the right thing on the first try.
- Plan Ahead: With a regular visitor registration plan in place, hosts can inform guests prior to their arrival what to expect. This makes guest feel more comfortable upon arrival. In turn, the host can expect to be contacted by the receptionist or registration app upon their guest’s arrival. This frees them up to think about other tasks until that point.
If a stranger is just a friend that you haven’t met yet, a visitor is the stranger of the organizational world. Every guest who walks in your door is a potential client, partner, member, or employee. We know that first impressions are incredibly important. What does your visitor management system say about your business to your guest? You want it to be a positive message.
- Are you organized? If your guests feel lost or bounced around, they may get the feeling your organization is unorganized. On the contrary, if your system efficiently gets them to the right place, you appear to have your act together.
- Are you welcoming? When a visitor is greeted with a smile or a friendly sign, they will feel more welcomed to your organization. Even better if there is a personal greeting waiting for them to show they were expected! You want this to be the start of a positive relationship.
- Who are you? Does your visitor know what your organization stands for? What your purpose and vision is? What products or services you provide? Their education can start the moment they enter your building. Signs and displays in the lobby invite guests to learn more about what you do. Carrying your organization’s branding onto electronic registration kiosks immerses visitors in your visual identity. This could be a great opportunity to feature products and recent innovations onscreen as well.
Visitor and Employee Safety
We’ve already briefly mentioned how having visitors check in and out can add security for your organization. Safety and security are increasingly on the minds of organizations and their employees. Visitor registration increases your security in a number of ways.
- Crime Deterrence & Prevention: When every person has to register, would-be criminals may realize that their presence is recorded. While it is certainly possible that a person intent on committing a crime may have planned for this and use a fake name, those who have not planned ahead may have second thoughts when they have to provide their name. Consider it a built-in cooling off moment that can prevent theft, injury or worse.
- Crime Investigation: In the unfortunate circumstance that a crime does occur, having a record of exactly who was in the building during a certain time can greatly assist with catching the culprit. Imagine a valuable item or items were stolen at your place of business. Using your logs, you can greatly narrow down the number of possible suspects. Even if the crime was not committed at your organization, having those records might assist law enforcement in tracking a suspect in the area.
- Emergency Preparedness: If a fire were to occur in your building, would you know if everyone got out? If you have your visitor and employee logs backed up to a cloud storage solution, you would have records to check. This is a safety measure for your visitors.
- Securing the Premises: How do you know when everyone has left for the night? Assuming you have a workplace that shuts down, with a regularly nightly check of your visitor log your security personnel know immediately whether they need to be on the lookout for someone. This person could be up to no good, hurt, or simply lost.
Data Gathering and Analytics
The amount of data you can amass about your visitors can be a boon to your organization.
- Prospect Mining: Visitors are often prospects in one or more ways. Based on the information given to a series of questions (name, reason for visiting, etc.) the information gleaned from a visitor log can be entered appropriately into your contact management system (CMS). Potential customers can be placed on customer lists, while vendors can be placed on vendor lists.
- Data Analysis: Are there patterns in who is visiting when? Has a potential customer visited more than twice? How many candidates came to the job fair? How many potential coworking members took the Thursday tour? This can tell you how effective and popular certain events are.
- Follow Up: If you get the answers to the questions above about the job fair candidates or potential members, you have a perfect contact list for following up. Send thank you notes to the job fair candidates and additional information to the members. That customer who visited more than twice? Maybe they find a coupon in their email inbox.
Having an effective, efficient digital management system in place can have multiple benefits for your organization. It is important to have all the necessary components in place and formalized, rather than have a haphazard way of welcoming guests. Doing so can be one step in building your organizational success.