A warm welcome from the modern lobby…
“In a world where customers have likely asked digital assistant Siri to divulge a company‘s history before their morning coffee is brewed, organisations must keep pace with the technological age we’re in and deliver the front-of-house experience customers expect,” says Gregory Blondeau, Founder of ‘proptech’ scale-up Proxyclick. “If your website and e-commerce platform say The Ritz, yet your check-in experience is more akin to Fawlty Towers, there’s a serious disconnect for your customers,” he adds.
In other words, first impressions are vital. And visitors’ impressions of your brand and what they’re going to experience during their visit, begins the very moment they enter your reception area. The stark reality is, that your client’s first impression will be influenced by how they are greeted downstairs.
The good news is that tech is finally entering the built environment world. “Proptech” is born. Buildings and company lobbies will become technology hubs offering an array of services to visitors, contractors, employees and receptionist/security teams.
Soon, smart technologies will recognise your car as you pull into the car park, the access control is open for you as you get to the gate, you enter the elevator to the right floor, you can access the Wi-Fi and a social robot takes you to the right meeting room where your favourite drink and your host is waiting for you – everything taken care of in an integrated, smart way.
The front desk
Front-desk design is becoming more integrated with the visitor experience, utilising familiar consumer technologies such as iPads to help streamline the check-in experience. Organisations are finally retiring their archaic paper logbooks and implementing modern, app-based visitor management systems.
In the advent of smart cities and an increasingly networked world, mobile devices and the internet of things, will see lobbies increasingly used as impromptu work spaces. Technology now frees us from traditional silos; no longer will a workspace be defined by a specific desk in one office, workers will become truly mobile, and the corporate lobby will provide a flexible working space for employees and visitors.
The needs of your visitors are changing: portable technology now allows them to bring their laptops and tablets into lobbies and even catering facilities to work in a communal setting. Outside of connectivity and technological upgrades, companies are now also looking at different furniture options to facilitate mobile working; from mobile desk chairs or those with in-built laptop trays, to integrated power points and USB ports.
Balancing security with a warm welcome
A warm welcome and a strong office building security can co-exist. Security has certainly moved up the league table of priorities in recent years, but that is only because there are new threats now that weren’t there before. As a result, the warm welcome appears to be put to one side while certain measures are double-checked. The way to counter this lies in the speed of communication represented by new technology, coupled with the fact that you and the visitor know each other already. Instead of the client running the necessarily frosty gauntlet of reception in the traditional manner, what if he could utilise technology to instantly contact you and the front desk in advance, thus opening the way for a smooth entry to your company?
Instead of arriving as a stranger and a vague potential threat, the valuable client arrives at reception to an actual welcome; we know who you are, we’ve been expecting you, we’re looking forward to your visit and your visitor badge is already prepared. Modern visitor management solutions can help companies achieve a secure, yet warm welcome and should form the beating heart of every organisation’s lobby experience.
Considering the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), that came into force this May, data protection is also a challenge. With data breaches potentially costing businesses as much as €20 million or 4% of their company’s annual global turnover, companies cannot afford a ‘chink in the chain’ when it comes to ‘front of house’ operations and visitor data security.
To make sure an organisation is not in breach of the new data protection law, it is critical that robust data management systems are put in place early. With regards to front of house, collecting and storing a visitor’s personal data, means holding personal information such as names, car registrations, and contact numbers – all of which could put companies at risk of a data breach.
Experience over design
With touchscreen kiosks in the lobby area to streamline the check-in process, the role of the receptionist or front-of-house staff will change too. Rather than focus all their efforts on the physical check-in process, they are freed to enhance the visitor experience, helping visitors log-on to the Wi-Fi, find a place to work or help with further travel or hospitality requirements. The entire experience will become more personalised and enable companies to extend a proper warm welcome to guests.