Guide to Understanding Visitor Management Systems

Do you view reception as an area  where visitors wait before they get the real taste of your business? Think again: your reception area most showcases what you stand for. Top-notch, VIP treatment in your reception area can boost your organization’s safety, security, and reputation.

Unresponsive receptionists and disorganized check-in methods leave a poor impression. When everyone visiting is there to do business with you in some capacity, displaying yourself as a responsible, trustworthy, and dependable business partner starts with your visitor management system. 

A well-oiled visitor management system does more than simply check in visitors; it serves as a hospitality indicator. Think back to the times you were poorly greeted at an office—and how it influenced your perception of the company: 

  • You sat patiently in the welcome area, waiting for reception to inform your meeting host of your arrival. They’re so busy managing other tasks that by the time they get to it—you’re late for your meeting.
  • You show up early to a presentation and need to review last-minute changes your boss made to your PowerPoint. There’s nobody at reception to provide you with the lobby Wifi password. 
  • You’ve anxiously arrived for a job interview. Reception keeps a paper list of the day’s expected visitors, and they cannot find your name. 

Think of a streamlined visitor management system as a “set redressing” for your outdated reception strategy. Just as Starbucks upped visitor impressions by transforming the blasé coffee shop into a cozy living room atmosphere, offices are reimagining their check-in experience. To do so, they’re eliminating outdated, paper-based methods and debuting visitor management systems that leave a remarkable first—and last!—impression. 

What is a visitor management system? 

Visitor management systems help you manage and keep track of the comings and goings of visitors. While outdated paper sign-in methods do little more than record names and arrival times, a fully digital visitor management system can introduce valuable tools into your reception strategy: 

  • Touchless check-in: Guests can scan a QR code and fill out entry paperwork like NDAs on their own mobile device.
  • Health screenings: Many office spaces now mandate a temperature check at the door. You can also allow visitors to complete health questionnaires on their smartphones. 
  • Self-service badges: Guests can print badges at a self-service station or receive the necessary access codes on their phones. 
  • Meetings that start on time: One study found that a meeting’s late start can negatively impact the quality of ideas generated in the meeting. With the right VMS, you can send automated arrival alerts to meeting hosts through text, email, or even Slack. 
  • Automatic check-out: In case of a security or health concern, you’ll have an accurate record of who’s in the building when. 
  • Keep track of visitor trends: Maybe someone is responsible for digitizing your paper check-in records. But in most cases, they’re shredded or tossed in the trash. By going digital, you can learn what hours are busiest and what access points guests use the most often. These insights help you make changes to your guest experience while also improving social distancing measures. 

With many visitor management systems, the experience sparks before they even walk in the door. You can create automated workflows that email directions, parking instructions, lobby Wifi passwords, and the meeting room location before the guest even arrives. 

Who should you count as a visitor? 

Visitor management systems manage and track visitor foot traffic throughout your office space. Visitors include: 

  • Job candidates
  • Current or potential clients
  • Current or potential visitors
  • Meeting attendees
  • Delivery people
  • Contractors or agency partners
  • Regulatory professionals or government agents
  • Compliance officers
  • Friends or family members

The current health crisis has added a new group to the visitor category: employees. Now, you might consider everyone who steps foot into a building as a guest: from the CEO to the reception team themselves. 

Benefits of a visitor management system

Think of your reception area as the storefront of your business, giving visitors a peek into your corporate culture and how you treat customers and employees. Long lines, disorganized sign-in sheets, and missing appointments are subtle tells that are a harbinger of poor business acumen. 

Paper-based sign-in methods are not only inconvenient, they can also have a lasting impact on a visitor’s willingness to conduct business with you. Here’s why: 

❌ Your company comes off as outdated: If you position your company as future-forward or high-tech, this should be the experience you serve your guests. Archaic methods like an old notebook and worn-out pen leave a sour taste. 

❌ Your company looks irresponsible: Do you leave a dossier of the week’s visitors available for all to see? This does not encourage visitors to view you as a company that values privacy. Competitors can quickly skim what other companies have visited that week—and see exactly who they met with. 

❌ Your company appears unfriendly: Reception is almost a live exhibit of your corporate culture, where potential customers and hires can have a full view of how you treat other visitors. If a potential client sees a long line of ignored guests, they can leave with a negative impression of your customer service. 

Walt Disney understood that every detail of Disney’s entryway influenced the overall customer experience. He adopted this essential strategy when designing Main Street USA, the central shopping thoroughfare of the Disney theme parks. “Main Street facades are presented to us as houses we’re invited to enter,” wrote cultural analyst Umberto Eco, in his book Travels in Hyper Reality. “But the interior is just a disguised supermarket, where you buy obsessively, believing you are still playing.” 

Your welcome area is the atmosphere you can curate to control a visitor’s impression of your business. The right choices can influence whether heavy-hitting clients want to do business with you or if hot-shot potential hires will take the job. By digitizing your check-in methods with a visitor management system, you can show guests how outstanding your business is to work with. 

Industries that use visitor management systems

We’ve all experienced visitor management systems in hotels, banks, and doctor’s offices. Companies across all industries are now looking towards these digital concierge services to improve their own visitor management strategies: 

  • Advertising
  • Aerospace
  • Automotive
  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation
  • Banking
  • Chemical manufacturing
  • Communication service providers
  • Computer and electronic equipment
  • Construction
  • Financial services
  • Government
  • Insurance
  • Professional services
  • Manufacturing
  • Publishing
  • Real Estate
  • Tech
  • Telecommunications
  • Transportation
  • Utilities
  • Warehousing

VIP reception treatment isn’t reserved for business behemoths. In the wake of the pandemic, even the smallest offices have adopted tech-based check-in techniques. 

Go beyond the first impression

We’ve all heard that “first impressions count,” but many companies are also transforming their visitor management strategy using the peak-end rule. This theory posits that in reality, most of us recall past events based on the final moments or the most intense moments. 

We might have a great job interview, but we focus on the challenging parking situation when we tell our friends about the experience. We have an OK meal at a restaurant, but a free dessert at the end transforms it from a meh night into an overwhelmingly positive one.

Your visitor management system should also consider how you treat goodbyes. Automatically distribute lunch suggestions upon exit, or provide self-service parking validation at the door. 

Reimagine reception: Why a warm office welcome is so important

How you greet and process visitors is at the crux of your organization’s industry reputation. It’s why storefronts and office spaces and hospitality desks fanatically pore over the lauded in-store experience offered by Apple. You’ll never see a queue at the register in an Apple store: employees peruse the grounds with iPads to help you wherever you happen to be standing. Come in for a service appointment, and you’re immediately greeted by the agent assigned to your issue. Staff is even instructed to pepper your first name throughout the conversation—so you subconsciously feel remembered. 

In The Experience Economy, authors Pine and Gilmore encourage all organizations to think of their business as theater. Every touchpoint, from how you greet guests at the door to what pens you offer in your reception area affects how visitors view your business. With the right visitor management system in place, you can give your visitor experience the VIP treatment it needs to serve as an essential part of your organization’s success. 



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