Visitor Management Systems: What They Are and Why You Need Them
The implications of visiting a building in 2020 are unprecedented; contact tracing has never been more critical, especially for corporate establishments who have both employees and visitors to protect. Gone are the days that an unaccounted drop-in would be within the realm of responsible practice.
That’s where visitor management systems come into play. Below, you’ll find a one-stop-shop for everything you need to know about how to manage the guests that arrive on your doorstep conveniently and efficiently.
What are visitor management systems?
Businesses far and wide welcome all sorts of visitors beyond their staff members every day, be they job interview candidates, professionals from collaborative organisations, delivery people, or a surprise drop-in from a staff’s loved one. Plus, let’s face it – sometimes even employees themselves can add to the visitor count for the day if they forget their access cards at home.
The question to ask then is: what do they do if that happens? Are there clear directions (i.e. do they sheepishly approach the receptionist for a visitor card or bypass that entirely and log their details onto a cloud-based system)? Visitors come and go, and there’s no better prepared organisation than the one ready for them.
A visitor management system is a customisable flow that organisations follow to keep track of the people visiting their property. This flow usually includes collecting each visitor’s personal details, who they are visiting and the purpose of their visit. Of course, you can tailor the specifics to your business’s nature – that’s where the value of visitor management systems can really skyrocket.
Tracking visitor traffic is straightforward enough, but there’s plenty more to this flow than most organisations realise. Consider how visitors are welcomed at the lobby, the ambience of the space, or whether the reception area is clogged up with a queue. These are all variables that contribute to the visitor experience and that, importantly, can be managed well with the right visitor management system.
How a visitor management system can benefit you: The visitor experience
What is a visitor experience, you ask? It is most commonly used in the business-to-consumer (B2C) world, referring to the overall impressions a visitor has upon leaving a place (mainly applicable to places like museums and theme parks). This can include their feelings about the welcome wagon, their satisfaction with the receptionists’ hospitality, or even their connection with the elevator music.
But even B2B businesses are being held to a higher standard now, especially with the ease and accessibility of new technological innovations. Every touchpoint that people have with your organisation, whether they are clients or unaffiliated visitors, can and should be viewed as an opportunity to establish solid branding and build up your corporate reputation.
Visitor management systems allow you to control this crucial human touchpoint – each time your organisation sees human contact is a moment that an impact can be made. Making the right impression can be the difference between a scathing review and being voted the best place to work.
This is why the beneficial applications of visitor management systems are unbounded. Not only does a well-suited system reflect well on the reliability and preparedness of your organisation, but it also ensures your staff can breeze through visitor registration most efficiently and conveniently.
So, in summary, visitor management systems:
- Offer an unparalleled convenience in tracking visitor counts, which is a crucial step that cannot be overlooked especially in 2020;
- Improve the visitor experience and leaves a good impression not only on visitors but also on employees, and;
- If used right, have the capacity to do your PR work for you just by your organisation being able to receive visitors well.
The further importance of visitor management systems: Safety and security
Convenience is not necessarily the top priority organisations look out for these days – and for good reason too. Ensuring a standard, smooth process of tracking visitors to your corporate premises minimises the risk of having unknown exchanges with strangers, the dangers of which we are all too familiar with in the age of COVID-19.
Even during normal times, visitor management systems provide a line of defence against giving anonymous guests access to possibly confidential spaces within the organisation that are originally meant for employee eyes only. That secret sauce that makes your company unique has to be kept under as close watch as possible, after all.
Finally, the evacuative ramifications of an improper visitor management system could have dire consequences. In emergencies, it is imperative that your organisation holds a headcount for everyone in the building. This ensures that both employees and visitors can evacuate the premises safely, and be accurately tracked.
Who are visitor management systems for?
To directly address the assumptions that most have about visitor management systems: no, they are not just for large corporations, and no, they do not have to be ridiculously expensive.
Companies of any size can optimise a visitor management system. It’s simply a matter of sizing it to the scale of their business and streamlining the process to best suit and support their needs.
The same goes across multiple industries too. Whether you are operating a tech company or are in the niche healthcare service provider business, finding the right visitor management system will help you in both the short and long run. As with most things, the right fit will reap the highest benefit.
How do you begin finding the right fit, though? First, you have to familiarise yourself with your options.
Types of visitor management systems
For simplicity’s sake, there are only three broad categories that you need to take note of:
- The not-so-good old pen and paper type;
- The on-premise legacy software type, and;
- The cloud-based type.
As tech-savvy 21st-century dwellers, you can guess just by the names which of the types can give you maximum convenience, efficiency, and extent of customisable elements. So why don’t we go ahead and start building up to the good part?
The pen and paper type
There are times when you need nothing more than the traditional pen and paper to get a flow out and get things done. It is never such a time when it comes to visitor management systems.
From its name alone, this type of visitor management system is quite self-explanatory, and its dangers and cons should immediately jump out to the learned business owner. So instead of a boring list of its significant pitfalls, here’s a painted picture of the pen and paper method in action – you can pick out the flaws all on your own.
The receptionist’s table features a heavy, worn logbook that looks jarring in the wider room environment. It is lunch hour on Valentine’s Day. Many devoted partners are attempting to surprise their loved ones who are likely employees of the organisation – but no one can be sure, because they haven’t had the opportunity to declare the purpose of their visit yet.
Ben, the lone receptionist manning this station, is gesturing apologetically to the growing line in front of him as he answers the front desk hotline. Until he finishes his call, the guests grow increasingly disgruntled while waiting.
On the call, Ben finds out that something in the office was stolen. Still, even knowing when it happened with the help of security cameras, they are unable to track the visitors of that day because some of the archived logbooks have missing pages. Following this tracking fiasco, Ben’s manager further tells him to make sure logbook entries are written legibly. Ben stares at the next visitor in line, wondering how to tell her to make her handwriting nicer.
See our point yet? Of course, we don’t mean to be over-critical of this type of visitor management system if you truly believe it is the best option for your organisation. We will probably just need a lot of convincing to see why.
The on-premise legacy software type
This type of visitor management system is an improvement by leaps and bounds from the previous type because it’s digital. And, if nothing else, having an electronic sign-in sheet means no more relying on the legibility of visitors’ rushed handwritings.
Nevertheless, making the logbook electronic rather than physical does not eliminate all the tangible storage space you’ll need to account for with on-site software. You would essentially be replacing the old paperback logbooks in the storeroom with big hard drives that need to be powered or cooled, and generally maintained, so the systems all run fine and dandy.
Plus, think of the money you have to spend on such maintenance. Acquiring the software alone would probably have burned quite a hole in the company wallet: the installation of servers, the anti-virus patches, other hidden costs. Afterwards, engaging future software support sometimes comes at an extra cost, and we all know how much software companies love their version upgrades.
Finally, remember what we said about the importance of visitor management systems earlier? A big reason you should adopt one is in the event of emergencies. Imagine how useful your on-premise software can be when you’re trying to get everyone away from the premises.
We will stop belabouring the point. Excited to know more about the system that we recommend?
The cloud-based type
The cloud—a remote, never-sleeping storage space that you can access anywhere in the world with WiFi. Seems like such a magical zone, doesn’t it? It even comes with soothing imagery.
Well, let’s demystify it (don’t worry, we promise the spark will still be there). In actual fact, visitor management systems that operate with the cloud have connected interfaces that present visitors’ information to receptionists in an easy-to-manage dashboard. How many steps does that already sidestep?
Subscribing to a cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) solution as your visitor management system is, by all standards, the soundest business decision you can make for your organisation (even Forbes says so). It’s fast, automated, non-bulky – in other words, the cloud is no longer the future; it is already the now.
The best part is most cloud providers don’t mind losing out for a month or two to prove their worth to you in the form of free trials. So if you have commitment issues, you can take some cloud applications for a spin and decide from there how to choose the system that will make your life easier and extensively more convenient. The money comes later, your satisfaction first.
Now that you understand what visitor management systems are all about and what types are recommended, you’re ready to venture into the world and choose your visitor management partner. There are a bountiful number of cloud-based SaaS solutions available at this point.
Remember to think about your organisation’s needs, the type of visitors you usually get and the visitor experience you want to give them. Of course, make use of those handy free trials that cloud service providers offer – they exist for your benefit.
As always, only you know what’s best for your organisation, so don’t be afraid to explore your options and switch your systems up to stay up-to-date with your needs. Choose wisely!Back to the Zipline Blog.