The traditional office building is undergoing an unexpected transformation as a result of the Covid-19 health crisis. Employees across multiple sectors have experienced working from home and consequentially, employers have realised that there are cost-efficiencies to be gained by thinking differently about how remaining office space is utilised.
An interesting concept is that of automating a reception space. There are typically fewer people located in office buildings so arguably less need for a reception capability in the first place, however there is still a need to keep those colleagues who are present, as well as the building premises safe and secure. There are also the routine tasks that remain, such as logging visitors, managing deliveries and dealing with call management.
In light of the health crisis, social distancing and occupancy management are front of mind; digital solutions offer a risk-free alternative to creating a virtual environment which could be a beneficial compromise for employers looking to apply a more creative solution to a front of house offering.
Creating a superior reception experience
In the simplest terms, automating reception means introducing digital solutions to support the delivery of reception services.
This can be done to different degrees, from digitising the switchboard through an IVR (integrated voice response) that can interact with callers or offering visitors digital sign-in to an online visitor log book, through to an entirely human-free environment with a virtual presence delivered through screens and other technology.
Advances in technology mean there are now a variety of options available to streamline the reception experience as well as drive cost benefits through reduced headcount and improved processes.
Complete visitor management
There is a range of elements to consider when looking at an integrated, virtual reception offering:
Virtual receptionist: using motion-activated sensors, a virtual receptionist is a figure that appears on screen to greet visitors, provide the information they need through intuitive messages and touch-screen menu selections and then connects employees with visitors through audio or video calls.
Visitor management: a digital approach to visitor management allows visitors to check-in, scan any required ID or supporting documents and undertake a site induction, all at the touch of a button. Visitors can be scheduled in and even complete pre-registration before they arrive at the premises, or can check in when they arrive following a simple set of instructions to complete the process. Employees are alerted when their visitor arrives and can either collect in person or provide additional instructions depending on the nature of the visit. You can read more here about: How footfall management is changing the footprint of building design.
Visitor verification: from remote visual verification to registration, ID validation, database screening, and visitor reports, there are many options available that allow companies to verify visitors during the check-in process.
Delivery management: a smart, connected virtual reception system can be programmed to differentiate between corporate visitors and delivery drivers and provide the appropriate instructions depending on the situation. Deliveries, no matter how large or small, can be accepted into the right part of the building and virtually acknowledged, minimising the need for unnecessary contact and ensuring delivery drivers can drop and go without waiting in line to be attended to.
Interactive information: The clever use of widgets means employees and visitors alike can interact with a virtual reception set-up to browse the web, view the latest news, book travel tickets or even access internal staff directories or policies.
Covid-19 compliance: In light of enhanced hygiene regimes, social distancing and restricted occupancy, it’s more important than ever to limit unnecessary interactions – a digital setup can support these measures and more by ensuring new visitors to site are aware of any preventative measures in place, ensuring hand sanitisation takes place and even using thermal scanning technology to identify signs of a temperature or other virus indicators before allowing access into the premises.
Data and commercial considerations
Many systems boast high levels of data security and privacy in compliance with GDPR, meaning any data stored on the system can be removed quickly and simply. This consolidated approach to visitor management also means there is an audit trail of movement in and out of a building as well as access to comprehensive management data and metrics to build a greater understanding of how an office environment is being used.
The commercial business case also stacks up, with virtual receptions costing around 75% less to run per year than a more traditional reception set up. It’s estimated that over 90% of reception tasks can be automated, meaning only light-touch human support is needed to create a working virtual reception.
Broadening the concept of reception
The term reception is often synonymous with an office building but the concept applies much wider.
Hospitals and doctors surgeries are already early adopters of virtual reception technology with many using it to divert check-ins away from the busy reception staff, freeing them up to deal with issues that require human skill, expertise and emotion.
Schools, universities and other academic institutions have a need to manage the flow of staff, students and visitors within each of their buildings for safety as much as anything. A virtual reception set-up allows this to be achieved at any time of day with the same standard of service, a positive experience for the user and knowledge that the correct process has been adhered to.
In retail, many interactions post-Covid are based around click and collect services, including returns, all of which can be managed by a virtual set-up that identifies an individual, tracks their order and administers the action needed – directing to a collection locker or printing the labels needed to facilitate a return.
A holistic approach to building management
For those looking to deploy an automated reception solution, there are a number of opportunities to integrate this into a smart system of building management. This could incorporate building security, footfall management and even computer-aided facilities management (CAFM) to give a full, turnkey approach to building oversight.
Aside from the fact that lots of businesses are struggling with empty-reception syndrome, visitors have decided to stay away as much as possible, preferring virtual meetings instead. In turn, this has left businesses exploring what their future property strategy looks like with potential closures and repurposing all on the table.
Whether shared, flexible or full-occupancy buildings, workplaces can derive real benefit from a virtual reception set-up. With a personable and safe service alongside significant cost-savings, it’s technology worth understanding.
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