The Future Front of House

Updated: Nov 9

How can companies handle visitors?

We remember positive experiences and, more importantly, we talk about them. Whether it was a visit to a museum, store, hotel or business, we come away from great experiences and we can’t wait to share that experience. Trip Advisor alone has over 800 million reviews on their website; imagine visitors could review their experience in your HQ, what would they say? Great experiences lead to great meetings, which lead to business. Your company can’t afford to have poor visitor management.


In a connected world where we have technology and instant communication at our fingertips, companies must keep up and ensure visitors receive an experience that is communicative, smooth, and safe.


Traditional visitor experience involves:

· Checking in with a concierge service

· Taking a journey through security barriers

· Greeting a security guard to let them through once attended by the host

· Being allocated a separate pass for the barrier system


This method of visitor experience is outdated and it’s easy for this process to become fragmented over time; it’s commonplace for visitors to spend time waiting in a queue to speak with the reception staff, for a security guard to provide them with a pass, or for their host to greet them.


Companies must consider the entire visitor experience; from the moment the guest receives an invitation to visit your building, right through to saying goodbye to them in the foyer; each step of the process should be carefully considered.


Modern visitor experience looks like:

· An informative email invitation

· Google Map directions your location

· Full confirmation of all details such as time, date, room, host etc

· A QR code to enable check in

· Contact details for the host

· Motion sensors to detect arrivals

· Contactless, seven second check in

· COVID self-certification options

· Thermal temperature scanning

· Tailored security access

· Directions to the correct meeting room


The ‘new normal’ workplace


Covid-19 has changed the world of work for everyone.

Many people were sent home in March with their laptops and notes to embark on a home working journey that is likely to carry over into 2021. Sitting at makeshift desks in kitchens and spare bedrooms, over 4 million office workers have spent most of the year with low risk to being exposed to Covid-19.


Meanwhile, 10.6 million people in the UK have quite literally risked their lives to keep essential services running in the country. Healthcare workers, supermarket employees, taxi drivers, care workers and many more professions stayed business as usual during lockdown. 15% of those key workers were at risk of Covid-19 due to an underlying health condition and just 14% of key workers were able to work from home.


A study by the Office of National Statistics shared that the most at-risk jobs in terms of being exposed to the disease are:

· Dental nurses

· Nurses

· Medical practitioners

· Residential wardens

· Care escorts


While those who are at risk due to their proximity to others:

· Dental nurses

· Dental practitioners

· Midwives

· Paramedics

· Ambulance staff

*Source, The Independent


It’s clear from this data that public facing key workers are at highest risk of being exposed to Covid-19. As businesses begin to think about their return to work plans, front of house staff and facilities teams who interact with large numbers of employees, visitors and contractors are likely to become at risk of catching Covid-19. Of 359 jobs listed in a UK statistics survey receptionists currently rank position 70 for exposure to the disease; a higher rank than taxi drivers, who in May were one of the most dangerous occupations to have during the pandemic. Building caretakers are ranked at 35, with an even higher risk of exposure to Covid-19.

*Source, BBC.


Receptionists have a multitude of responsibilities, but it’s no secret that the job is a very public facing role. Receptionists are known as “the face of the company”; they are the first person to interact with a visitor or employee in a traditional front of house setup. Receptionists greet people with a friendly smile, welcome and direct guests, show contractors to their work areas, take deliveries and assist employees with facilities enquiries. All of these tasks are crucial to the everyday operation of the building, but in a post-pandemic workplace, can prove very dangerous to anyone in that role. Receptionists are at risk of interacting with virus carriers, people who haven’t self-certified their health status, registered for track and trace, and people who aren’t wearing correct PPE.

And there are reputation risks. The world is watching and ready to criticise those who do not put the safety of their workers as a top priority. During lockdown, exposés by the media saw some industries thrust into in the spotlight for the wrong reasons, including fast fashion and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG). Unwanted press attention can be devastating in a climate of economic uncertainty; where consumer spending is directed towards careful purchases, the last thing corporations need is negative attention regarding a matter that should be taken care of.


Facilities Managers have a responsibility to keep everyone safe at work, including front of house staff. It’s a huge duty for Facilities, but if executed correctly, they can set the organisation up for a safe workplace throughout 2021 and beyond, with all staff working on tasks in a safe and secure manner.


How does guidance support front of house?


The Health and Safety Executive England have set out specific actions that workplaces should undertake to be Covid-secure, including:

· Risk assessment

· Social distancing

· Cleaning, hygiene and hand-washing

· Providing employees with information

· Home working

· Protecting vulnerable workers


These actions will protect front of house staff to some extent, but more must be done in order to protect receptionists and other front of house staff from exposure to the disease. Let’s breakdown the HSE guidance.


Risk assessment


While reception and front of house areas will undoubtedly be part of the risk assessment in the mind of a FM, the HSE risk assessment only mentioned reception areas twice. To ensure FOH staff are safe, Facilities Managers should ask themselves additional questions:

· Location of front of house staff – where will they respond to enquiries?

· Can people freely access the building?

· How can contact between reception staff and the general public be limited?


You can access a copy of the HSE risk assessment here.

Social distancing


The HSE advise using floor tape and signage to enforce social distancing in a workplace. While this does provide somewhat of a temporary solution, it also raises challenges:

· Psychological safety: will employees feel safe at work with masses of tape, screens and signs in your building? Will this encourage people to return to the office?

· Trust: businesses must trust employees to act responsibly in the workplace.

· This is a quick fire, short-term solution to a challenge that is likely to follow us for some years.

· If a company employs multiple reception staff, how do you keep them on the front desk in a socially distant setting?


Cleaning, hygiene and hand washing


HSE recommend workplaces supply hand sanitiser and disinfectant products, plus disinfect premises using fog, mist and vapour. This is great information to follow, additional thoughts for receptionist areas should be:

· Regular cleaning of the reception area

· Hand wash in the entrance area

· What methods should be used to keep receptionists safe from disinfectant products?

· What methods should be used to protect front of house staff from people traffic in a busy area like a reception?


Access the cleaning guidance here. Providing employees with information


Effectively communicating workplace changes should be done in a timely manner and contain plenty of information for employees, along with an option to ask questions if they need to. There are some additional considerations that should be taken into account:

· Are your workplace changes excessive?

· Are they easy to remember and follow?

· Are they long-term, or will they change in months to come?


Access HSE communication guidance here.

Home working


Because it has to cover multiple types of jobs at once, HSE guidance doesn’t cover reception or front of house staff in this topic. There are safety risks to working alone and employers have a responsibility to take care of employees who work from home. In terms of front of house staff,


Facilities Managers should think about:

· Is it practical to have front of house staff at home?

· Can front of house staff complete all tasks efficiently at home?

· Who is responsible for office related tasks?


Check out the guidance here.


Protecting vulnerable workers


If you have vulnerable front of house staff, working in a reception area with people traffic of any number will put them at risk of catching the disease. In order to get the best of front of house staff,


Facilities Managers should:

· Have individual discussions with employees to discuss their needs and concerns

· Put together individual plans for vulnerable staff

· Take concerns seriously


Find more information here.


The ideal solution


Front of house areas are just one of the many areas that a Facilities Manager needs to take care of during the pandemic. Meeting rooms, lifts, multiple floors, desks, toilets, canteens, outdoor areas are just some of the many responsibilities that facilities managers need to take care of. An ideal solution takes the front of house challenges and combines people with technology to deliver a safe, secure and efficient front of house experience.


Introducing Dialog




Dialog is a unique video platform that works like audio; organisations can centralise resource and communicate face to face with customers no matter the time or location. With Dialog you can centralise your reception, front of house, or any support function that traditionally requires a physical presence in order to achieve face to face assistance.

Innovative Technology

Dialog is a unique video call routing application, allowing organisations to route video in the same, fast and immediate way as audio.


All Access

Dialog ensures customers can speak to specialists at any time, all at the control of your agents. Simple Immediate

Customers can access your services directly, connecting to a centralised pool of your specialists quickly and easily.


Anytime, Anywhere

Video can be delivered to any location, office, or on the move. Integrate Dialog with your processes

Dialog is a platform that can be embedded within your existing workflow. Be it web or app, Dialog is designed to integrate within your existing process.



Vgreet x Dialog


Facilities Managers can add immense value to their businesses by rethinking and re-engineering their workplaces. Now more than ever, Facilities Managers need to be innovative in their thinking to ensure employees and visitors can access buildings safely, with appropriate safety measures around the building.


Vgreet by Vpod delivers all of this and more in a unique visitor management experience.

The Dialog integration enables front of house staff to take video calls from visitors who may be in need of assistance. A visitor would either ask for help or touch the screen depending on the Vgreet’s contactless or toless technology, where the visitor can be connected to a member of your front of house team in a matter of seconds.


Keep staff safe


Visitors and front of house staff are both kept safe from being exposed to the virus using Dialog technology. Video communication technology leaves front of house staff to be relocated to a safer, central location where they can be scheduled to monitor reception areas as they usually would, in amongst administrative tasks, safe deliveries and more.


Keep staff out of harm's way, with them working efficiently, with Vgreet and Dialog technology.


Save money with Dialog


Using Dialog with Vgreet means reception staff can be relocated to a safer location, but can also enable Facilities Management to reprioritise tasks. Depending on the footfall of your building, staff can be given different responsibilities or moved into other departments.


A centralised team is more efficient, with better communication where receptionists may usually be isolated to a reception desk. Your team can cover shifts, take calls for multiple buildings, understand all of your buildings and individual processes, and work together, saving long term costs. Save on staff turnover with a happy, efficient and productive central reception team.


Summary


Front of house staff are at risk of being exposed to Covid-19. Facilities Managers must work to keep front of house staff safe, secure and working efficiently. The benefits of this are:

· Save money

· Reduce the risk to the front of house team

· Upgrade the workplace delivering a better experience


Opportunity 1: Single person reception areas


There are many reception areas with one receptionist and it can be a lonely and challenging task, with huge peaks and troughs of traffic in the early morning and evenings.


Single person reception teamsters can:

· Get lonely

· Create a large staff turnover more often than multiple staff receptions

· Cost more as when receptionists leave businesses are exposed to unscheduled recruitment, training and often uniform costs


Industry numbers show that it can cost £2,900 per replacement receptionist.


Example


An example would be if there were three buildings with one receptionist responsible for each; three buildings, three reception staff.

Facilities tell them they are being moved from reception and put into an office with their colleagues - a 3-person bubble, immediately several things happen:

· Your staff turnover issue evaporates as they start to become a team

· For multiple buildings you can even drive economies of scale

· Your staff are able to cover each other easily in the cases of sickness and holidays

· Your staff can focus on tasks in addition to reception

· A Vgreet digital kiosk routes calls through to them with one voice command “help please”


Opportunity 2: Multiple reception staff


If you employ multiple reception staff in your front of house, you have a reception team with multiple team members at risk of exposure.


Example

An example of how Vgreet and Dialog support multiple reception employees is:

· Facilities Managers move employees to the back office

· Facilities managers gain the centralisation efficiencies and add a Vgreet to tackle what were manual tasks, such as greeting, badge printing and informing hosts

· Pre-registration benefits

· Self-Certification benefits

· The visitor experience has been increased by touchless 7 second check-in

· And you have removed the congestion and contamination threat that a crowded reception area represents.


For the Facilities Manager, either of these two options provide huge benefits:

· Money saved, either on staff turnover or economies

· These savings pay for the Vgreet kiosk

· The kiosk(s) introduce a huge upgrade in service and efficiency

· The HR and Legal team's thank you for removing the risk

· Health and safety are now much happier

· And you have lessened or removed the risk of employees leaving


Save money, reduce risk, improve service with Dialog call routing and a VGreet upgraded service that removes manual processes and replaces them with digital ones.


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