First Impressions Count

First impressions last. It is true for networking and personal impressions, as much as it is true for a company and their branding. Whereas in networking, our aim is to build a professional relationship with another person, for organisations, their aim is to build a wider client base, and achieve the sales (and other) objectives for the organisations.

For personal networking, how do you prepare?

As a professional at an event, there are some golden rules, so to speak. You find countless advice on making sure you know what you’re there for, starter small talk questions, as well as other things about you, such as an elevator pitch, and knowing your brand.

It is the last of the three we’ll focus on, for organisations. Just as someone, nowadays, would look up potential connections on LinkedIn, checking out the web presence of a company is the norm. Branding is a part and essence of a company. As many as 40% who took part in a Proxyclick survey (2018) considered their perception of a company or a brand negatively impacted by their experience in the reception area.

The need for an integrated visitor experience is evident from the survey. So how do we provide a good visitor experience?

1. Web presence

The visitor, or client experience begins at the first contact with the company. This used to be the shop or office-front not that long ago. However, nowadays this could take the form of a google search entry, or a clickthrough from a blog or even a mistyped keyword-based search. While over 91% of users who visited shops visited their website the previous day, 57% users say they wouldn’t recommend a website with a poorly designed mobile site.

2. Branding

It is essential that your branding is reflected throughout the customer journey. Even before customers visit your physical office these days, they’ve already familiarised themselves with your company and whether the company was worth an in-person visit. But what I’m talking about here is more than just the physical branding, it’s about the essence of who you are as a company. The branding is like a promise of who your company is, that then has to carry throughout the culture and customer relations and in everything the company is. Does your company stand for a traditional pen-and-paper office feel, or are you positioning yourself as a company that is ahead of (or at least riding) the tech and regulatory curve?

3. Physical presence

If the web presence and branding act as a taster for your potential customers to get to know the company more, it’s the physical office environment that’s the main course, or the second point of contact which converts them from prospects to your customers. From the entrance to the exit, they need to feel your company’s identity in every decision you make about your office. Naturally, there’s the obvious such as the colour palette of the rooms being in line with your branding and identity, to bring out the seamless feel of customer service they had when they searched it up, to the real world. Investing in an interesting art piece may work as good conversation starter, oftentimes. You should look for a genre, or artist that would be familiar to your client-base. This uses positive brand affiliation, subtly connected your brand and company to another artist or genre they’re already affiliated with. Of course, you can also go the other way and mix it up, by throwing in something completely new if you have a find that would work as a statement piece.

4. Hospitality

All this being said, everything you’ve planned works as a background to the real stars in this instance- the front desk staff. Technology may have given us all the information that we need but that certainly hasn’t wiped out any one industry in its entirety- none that involves a customer facing element, anyway. There are still a large proportion of customers who prefer to have human interaction before making purchases. This is especially true when making purchases that hold personal value for the customer, or if what they’re buying is not a product, but rather services, or long term investments.

Your front desk staff ought to be those who can demonstrate the essence of the company, just like every other aspect of your company.

5. Visitor Management system

Technology often gets a bad rep in terms of it scarily ‘replacing’ people, but what I find is that it’s not replacing people, but rather encouraging us to develop more skills. You don’t necessarily ask for the ability to monitor sign in sheets, and/or typing skills anymore. What you’re looking for is the human aspects: friendliness, the ability to gauge customers and build a rapport with them while they wait for their next meeting.

They also act as the guardian to your office space, so knowing when and how to flag up suspicious individuals, and calling for support, are all important aspects that can’t be replicated by a computer.

This brings me to the final point. Demonstrating the perfect use of technology to help you focus more on the human element of your business. Having a visitor management system that takes care of all the admin and paperwork can work infinitely to your favour in terms of who you choose to have at the reception area.

You may have spent hours painstakingly picking out the best colours, tones, and layout for your reception area that spoke to your customer. But if you have a long queue of people built up from the time it takes to process paper records, it creates a negative visitor experience.

Your star receptionist suddenly stops being the awesome embodiment of your company ethos, to being a, well, paper-pusher. They’re handing out sign in and sign out passes, and collecting paper sign-in books and even attending calls from enquiries, not to mention having to alert your staff members that their visitor is here, and waiting.

Does your reception staff know the meeting schedule, are they able to cope with common scheduling mishaps, and unexpected changes?

All this needs to be taken into account when you decide on whether you need a visitor management system (which, if you’re even having a sign-in sheet, you definitely want to ease your GDPR compliance burden), and what your requirements are, for your system. There’s probably no need for identity cards if you’re a small business, with open plan offices where all your staff know eachother. Likewise, if you’re dealing with a high volume of visitors, you need to have sign in, and sign out mechanisms that’s easy for the customer, so that you can make sure the security of the building, your staff, and other assets are all taken care of.

I recently visited a building which had an office space with a visitor management system. The machine was the same colour as the walls of the office, and had a photo/visitor printing mechanism in place. This meant that the receptionist (who had taken me from the entrance to the reception area) could now leave me to fiddle with the sign in form, add the information myself, and take a photo for the ID, while she went off to alert the staff member I wanted to meet. She had it down to a T, so that she was back to help me turn around my pass to the right side of the ID pass wallet, which I’d slotted in sort of subconsciously. While it didn’t matter much how I had it, I (and I’m sure you) never really think about the ID passes except when we’re given one, or when I’m at a conference or workshops at which point I have the whole day to faff around with the pass (also they’re usually handed to me with the ID cards inside the wallets already). I really appreciated her comment and it made me realise she paid attention to all the little details. What’s more, the reception desk was minimalist and there were no paperwork, or previously signed-in visitors that I could peek at, as the visitor management system covered it all.

At the end of the meeting, I was able to type in my name so that I had no need to find my name from a workbook, nor do the frantic search for a clock in the reception, or dig up my phone so that I could record the time.

All in all, I had a very pleasant experience visiting the company, and was able to come out with ease. I also realised that the whole thing could’ve gone a different way if I had any number of things go wrong.

It’s important for you to think about all these requirements when designing your office. Don’t overlook the simplest of things, because, as they say, the devil is in the details.

Did you know, Ofec has the DigiGreet Visitor Management system that can help you have that winning visitor experience? Give us a call, or send us a message to see how we can help you.

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