Re-engineering the Front of House

Updated: Nov 16

Why re-engineer the front of house


The pandemic has brought into sharp focus the need to change the workplace, the realisation that:

  • Homeworking can be effective with the right tools

  • Thankfully Zoom and Teams/others are cloud-based or we would never have moved from 5m to 125m daily active users seamlessly

  • Irrespective of home working, there will be a return to the office

  • It’s the shape of that return and its timing that’s under question

  • The office as a workplace will need to change to be relevant as an effective workspace

  • The old “dumb container real estate unit” (Philip Ross, WorkTech Seminar) will have to become intuitive or its relevance will be heavily questioned

  • Safety will be paramount in that initial return

  • Productivity will have to be improved by to offset the travel to get there

  • The experience has to be “the best” so that people can work effectively

For Vpod, these are contextual; it does not address why will we will return to the office?


Three things are clear:

  • Only some of the workforce need to be there to contribute effectively day to day

  • Hybrid workers - in most cases the majority will work where they need to, depending on the task. McKinsey studies point to:

- Hybrid workers being very productive at home

- However, to innovate they need colleagues and face to face interaction

  • Meeting customers is the key and those customers equally have a choice, face to face or virtual.

So, for the workplace to be innovative and impress customers, the environment has to be re-engineered and tailored to those specific goals.


What type of re-engineering forces will be at play?


Broadly these can be split into four camps:

  • Cost reduction will definitely rear its head where companies are repairing their revenue and margin lines, which will be many of them

  • Experience will have a major part to play because both the employee and the customer have an online alternative that cuts the travel and associated costs but also depending on the style of travel, the productivity

  • Efficiency in many forms will play a key role. Manual processes, inefficient handoffs between different visitor management software, and productivity will all come under scrutiny

  • Workplace safety certainly for the next year or more, and risk removal factors thereafter will be a factor


So, let’s look at those factors one by one and view them in the context of the return to work and the very first place you come into contact with, the Reception or as the trade call it Front of House!

Cost Reduction


There are many ways to save money in the front of house / reception world simply because of its varied nature. Let's start with the gentle approach and get progressively more aggressive in how we approach it as each Facilities Manager and HR or Chief Financial Officer will take a different course depending on:

  • The workplace “make up”, multiple manned or unmanned receptions

  • Multi tenanted building

  • Single receptionist

There are several inescapable facts, the process of a receptionist and sign-in book (electronic or manual) with a barrier system for secure access control, often with a guard is:


People intensive – with multiple variations on manning levels, which we cover individually


Manual – often the reception caters for manual loading of data or joining up/connecting one process with another


Disjointed – the guest data is in Outlook (there will be a meeting invite) however has the information made it to the reception?

- Has the Meeting Host forgot to inform reception?

- Has the data from the outlook invite been keyed into any system?

- Has anyone booked a room?

- Can we get hold of the Host?


The Host experience is lacking, is my guest going to make it, what experience will they get?

- Will I get interrupted in one meeting to deal with the guests for the next?

- 37% of the time the experience is delayed (Business Insider) by up to 15 minutes

- Think of the impact of that on productivity?

- But also, it’s unnecessary stress for the host and a variable experience at best


The Guest

- Their experience should begin way before the reception

- All too often they have a meeting invite in outlook and an address, that’s it.

- They can be confronted by all sorts of factors that impact their first impression of you.

- Its “your brand” they will judge depending on how generous or inconvenienced they are.

- Do you want “your brand” experience to be variable, left to someone’s opinion?


Visitor management is ripe for re-engineering


We do not intend to be exhaustive in this list which could go on for pages in increasing detail but simply “signpost” the need to review what is often a “disconnected” not mapped out process with cost, efficiency, safety and experience upsides.


Now let’s tackle the Reception or Front of House environment, be it:

  • Unmanned

  • A single person reception

  • Multiple receptionists in a single building

  • Multiple buildings with single or multiple receptionists


Unmanned receptions


There is little doubt that unmanned receptions represent a great opportunity for improvement if:

  • You now think that any of the four variables of cost, efficiency, experience or safety need revisiting.

  • From a “brand” viewpoint you do not want your brand “overtly messaging” we don’t care about what you, our customer thinks, which is what you are saying to the wider world taking an extreme viewpoint, by using an unmanned reception.

  • If you want to “customer enable” buildings that once were used for just employees with secure access, there is no need to now start looking at “manning” for the five reasons we covered earlier.

  • We will come to “How you do that later”, however as building occupiers review their portfolio’s a number of them are totally decentralising their corporate real estate strategy, moving to smaller hubs, and more local “spoke” locations.

  • We are going to point to options to “dramatically” re-engineer both the hub and spoke locations, from a front of house viewpoint, with all the four factors of cost, efficiency, experience and safety, firmly in focus.

A single person reception and visitor management

  • Single person receptions are fraught with pain for the visitor and facilities management team alike, Why?

  • They represent a single point of failure, a human, on their own, dealing with a highly variable traffic flow.

  • Huge peaks or spikes of traffic leave them overwhelmed, whereas long lulls in traffic see them in Facebook, Instagram or whatever social or business distraction calls for their attention.

  • “Designing in” a single point of failure will most process engineers say, is asking for trouble.

  • Worse still trying to deliver the best experience with highly volatile traffic is a manning nightmare, requiring shifts, coverage at peak times, a whole world of complexity and cost.

  • Then there is the safety and exposure, our last blog touched on the “the risk of infection to front of house staff” who were not far behind, taxi drivers, bus drivers and retail staff, in the levels of risk of contamination

  • Ultimately what’s worse, any Facilities Manager or Front of House expert will tell you this “single person receptionist” are subject to huge staff turnover, each event costing £2900 in training, recruitment and uniforms (more cost).

So, from a single receptionist, we have a single point of failure, with variable service delivery due to the varied nature of traffic or worst still a huge additional cost for staff cover/relief and replacement.


If that doesn’t cry out “re-engineer me” then I’d like to see a better case.


Multiple Receptionists


Here at least you have a fighting chance for some form of economies of scale as:

  • Someone has taken the conscious decision to bear the cost of that all-important first impression for visitors and visitors/staff alike.

  • Its highly likely the processes will be more sophisticated and advanced, however often, it is here where “manual” processes can get completely out of control with “people” literally being “the join the dots” between one system and another.

The opportunity for re-engineering here is often advanced with a framework of:

  • A huge cost in headcount, still largely conducting a high proportion of manual tasks

  • A huge variety of systems for badging, parking, security some of which might be connected, most of which are siloed required data to be keyed from one system to another.

  • If you’ve seen/read our recent blogs, then you’ll know we are ultimately aiming for the meeting host to initiate an “unchanged process of booking a meeting”,(in whatever calendar invite system they use, normally outlook) with visitors/guests and their data populating every system needed to deliver the very pinnacle of a great first impression, from the moment they get their invite through to the time they walk into the meeting.

The bandwidth or scope of re-engineering is huge, with at a basic level just the introduction of a digital process cutting swathes of cost and adding efficiency to the whole visitor journey. Initially one can start by adding digital capacity to manage huge variations in traffic enabling you to quickly deliver multiple £10,000’s of return on investment, in downstream savings.


Even if you are just looking to introduce “peak traffic efficiency” as an objective you can quickly hit a few home runs on:

  • Cost control, removing the excess needed for staff shifts to cover peaks in traffic

  • Experience, introducing digital processes that transform the manual interaction upgrading it with a host of digital tools delivered right to the guest/visitor's smart device

  • The impact on your brand is huge just thinking through the visitor experience can have a massive impact, let us share an example.


A first-class visitor management experience


Those that have heard of The Raffles Hotel in Singapore will know how they often confound visitors greeting them at the taxi door with “hello Mr Jefferys” leaving Mr Jefferys stunned, “how did that guy know my name?”

The Raffles Concierge had taken the step to re-engineer that key first impression, paying the drivers to text passenger details and their registration to the hotel in advance.


First impressions matter to us all, how does your front of house match up to visitor expectations?


Those that visit the Raffles Hotel quite often never forget it.


How do you want people visiting your brand to feel?


Provide your visitors with a first-class experience using the Vgreet invite. The invite and Vgreet process removes 9 areas of hassle for the visitor:

  • They know where they are going with the address PLUS the Google Map for their smart device.

  • The contact details of the host enable them to update them if they are early for a coffee or late in traffic.

  • The QR code enables the Vgreet scanner to recognise them instantly against the invite and check them in with any validation process you like.

  • In its simplified journey, its 7 seconds before your touchless Express check-in is complete.

  • From the motion sensor to voice recognition the visitor check-in process is contamination free.

  • You can add Pre-registration surveys, Self-Certification questionnaires to the fully customisable journey, keeping both HR and the legal team happy.

  • And the pass you print can be coded to enable escorted visitor arrival when your host turns up, after receiving the instant notification, you'd arrived, on check-in.

  • Or alternatively, once your security team are happy to enable the visitor through the barriers to a designated floor, particularly handy for Multi-Tenanted buildings.

  • It doesn't stop there, the Condeco integration gives them the room details that they are journeying to and the "way-finding directions of where the room is on the floor plan" and of course how to get there.

Facilities Managers have a choice as they begin to reengineer visitor management in their buildings:

  • Compromise on service for a low-cost solution?

  • Compromise on cost for excellent service?

  • OR choose a hybrid method where you can provide excellent service at a reasonable cost based on a ROI method?

However, the efficiency gains are enormous:

  • Who wouldn’t want to give their visitors a Raffles Type experience?

  • Moving Reception staff and upgrading them to 'Raffles Like' Concierge

  • Dancing with the creation of the visitors first impression is way more fun, than manual tasks, behind a desk, praying for something more interesting.

  • You can Add Self Certification and Guest pre-registration to the process and still deliver a 3-second check-in.

  • An upgrade to the visitor experience that now looks like, you helped me get to the building, you helped cover the eventuality of me either being late or early with host contact details, you helped me self-certify, telling me you take safety very seriously.

  • You created a digital record that I’ll gladly opt into, for track and trace and experience upgrades (as long as you don’t use my details for anything else)

  • You removed manual tasks like host notification, replacing them with automatic SMS and Email (or any other notification)

  • The Express check-in is Touchless, with motion sensors and voice activation guiding me to a QR code scanned check-in and staff there to recover the process if a visitor feels they have lost their way (rare occasions).

  • And here is the key, managing the blend of people and technology to deliver a vastly improved safer, cheaper and better visitor experience.

However, we are now ready to take that to the next level!


Every venture capitalist and entrepreneur reading the above would be reaching for the “Re-engineer this now” opportunity, however, we cannot forget that depending on where we are in the world we could or will be thinking about or in one of the four phases of managing the pandemic. Before we suggest the re-engineering solution, we must paint the answer against the backdrop of where we are in that journey.


Front of House return


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.


In order to protect front of house staff, a solution must be in place as soon as possible to manage the return to the workplace anxiety and uncertainty that employees will undoubtedly be experiencing.


Remember the 4 Rs


The 4 Rs is a concept that helps Facilities Managers to understand where they are in the Covid-19 journey and how to get to their workplace to be the most efficient it can be. Following this concept takes the workplace from being an empty container to a smart and efficient environment for productivity to flourish. Ignoring the new normal and expecting things to return back to normal in a few months is not feasible. Here’s a recap of the 4 R’s:


React

The first R, React, involves Facilities Managers working with other key departments to deal with the immediate emergency, react to threats to business operations and begin to understand the situation.


Respond

Once the immediate emergency is under control, crisis teams are able to respond to the situation at hand and come up with a plan to be able to recover from the crisis. In the case of the pandemic, the response was guided by Governmental legislation and regional directives that were in force locally.


Recover

The recovery stage of crisis management is what businesses must implement in order to begin to recover from the pandemic, in a way which benefits the business but also considers employees. The phrase “new normal” is the term used by many; what is the new normal for businesses?


Re-engineer

Re-engineering the workplace is an opportunity for innovation and change in workplace strategy. Having worked closely with multiple departments in 2020 has brought a great opportunity for Facilities Managers to engage these stakeholders and create a workplace strategy that meets the needs of each, enables easy processes and, most importantly, keeps building occupants safe.

Facilities Managers must ask themselves a hard question in order to achieve the 4 Rs; are they creating a space which optimises the new way of working for employees?


You can read the full detail of the 4 Rs in our recent blog post.


Managing receptions


Employees will expect to see a physical safety presence when they return to the office. Many offices are adopting a safety tape, signs and screens method, which is not the best way to achieve a safe and secure reception. In short: tapes and signs are the path of least resistance for the Facilities Manager. Quick, easy to order but not a good long-term solution, expensive, inefficient and threatening for the employee. Here’s why:


Psychological safety

Masses of yellow tape, the erection of plastic screens, confusing arrows all over the floor and threatening signs in your office that yell orders will not encourage employees to return. With a third of office workers wanting a vaccine to be available before they return to work, the presence of these items will serve as a constant reminder of the pandemic and will leave them feeling anxious. Most importantly, you will struggle to get them back in as you aren’t providing a safe and relaxed environment.


Trust

We’re all adults, right? We’re all aware of the pandemic, the risks that we take to leave our homes each day or mix with people from another household. Employees need to be trusted to make the right decisions, not told or threatened with orders. Forward-thinking employers who have worked to build trust with their employees send the wrong message with tape and signs; we don’t trust you. Employees who trust their employer will go out of their way to do a good job and will likely be wanting to return; make sure you send the right message on their first day.


Cost

The cost of purchasing these items will rise depending on the size and number of buildings that you manage, all for them to be disused in months to come when a vaccine is developed. How happy will your Finance Director be when they realise how much has been spent on a short-term solution?


The labour costs of executing and maintaining this way of working are also costly. If front of house staff members spend time making sure employees and visitors are entering and exiting the building safely, there will be less time to complete tasks that matter. In addition to the cost of this method, additional costs in sanitisation will build up. Without a smart way of knowing who has accessed what areas of the building, Facilities Managers will need to arrange for entire office cleaning, individual desk and meeting room cleaning. The cost of this adds up; a smart purchase if used correctly, but if not, expensive. During this uncertain economic climate,


Facilities Managers must be efficient with budget spend.


Do you still want to use tape and screens?

Front of house to “back of house”


With the right visitor management solution, front of house staff can be protected, work efficiently and provide excellent customer service. The right method can be cost-effective, efficient and provide Facilities Managers with a high level of building analytics.


The safest way to protect receptionists is to keep them away from the risk and have them working away from front of house. However, they still need to be able to speak with customers, visitors and employees where necessary. Visitor management software can provide an end to end solution for your organisation and be the connection between receptionists working in safety and visitors.


Visitor Management Hardware, Software and People.


There are many software packages on the market that can provide Facilities Managers with everything they need to keep staff safe and deliver an excellent experience.


Vgreet by Vpod provides an end-to-end visitor management system with built-in visitor management software that solves problems for Facilities Managers and their stakeholders.

For those looking for a front of house solution that supports front of house staff, minimises Covid-19 risk for employees and provides out of hours support, a mask and tape will not cut it.

Provide a safe working environment for 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.

  • Facilities Managers move front of house 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

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

  • Money saved, either on staff turnover or economies

  • These savings pay for the Vgreet visitor management kiosk

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

  • The HR and Legal teams thank you for removing the risk

  • Health and safety are now much happier

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


Read more on the 16th November as Vpod announces its fourth exciting technology partnership!


Summary


The new service will enable Facilities Managers to:

  • Remove Front of House staff from “direct contamination” in the reception area.

  • Deliver economies from centralising reception resources.

  • Deliver overflow services enhancing the experience at peak times.

  • Whilst stripping out costs with digitally efficient and more comprehensive processes.

  • Deliver true VIP service to every visitor, long before they get to the reception area.

  • And revolutionise the service with a UNIQUE technology and people led service.

  • That’s not all, we are going to introduce data and insights into the reporting of how you manage your employees and or visitors coming back to the office.

  • A whole suite of “before and after” data sets and dashboards that “put you in control” with visibility and transparency you have never seen or had before.

  • If you want to be on the release distribution list, get a sneak preview or upgrade your Front of House visitor Management experience we’ll guide you on the journey.


Don’t get left behind!



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