At some point in our work lives many of us have been tasked with looking into something we have little to no knowledge of. Probably the biggest, although by no means only, one for me was finding a CRM for a previous employer. I’d not used any CRM’s before and so didn’t really know what they did that a spreadsheet didn’t do and what the point of them was when a spreadsheet seemed to suffice at other places I’d worked.
After signing up to a few free trials I realised my lack of knowledge meant I wasn’t really assessing anything other than what they looked like so I looked up and read a few blog articles and was then able to assess them much better and make an informed decision.
The idea behind this article is to provide the same sort of information about another niche (ish) product, and one that I do know a lot about… visitor management systems. Hopefully it will help those of you who are looking for a visitor management system without really knowing what they do and what the point of them is.
What is visitor management?
First things first. Let’s make no assumptions here and first tackle what visitor management actually is.
Really any formalised process your organisation has that helps you know and keep track of who has visited your office / location. To be honest the process doesn’t really even need to be a formalised, documented process… just one that is relatively informal and you are supposed to do counts.
What visitor management entails varies pretty wildly from organisation to organisation. Most people have at some point visited somewhere and been asked to write their name in a visitor book. Well that is a visitor management process for that organisation. They know who has been to visit them, when they did so and whether they are still on site (assuming they also ask people to sign out). Other organisations will have many more requirements… they may need to take a photo of each of their visitors, print a visitor badge, get visitors to agree to policy documentation and more besides.
What a particular organisation does in terms of visitor management (i.e. what their visitor management policies are) varies for a number of reasons. The size of the organisation can have an effect, what industry they work in, what type of building they work in, where they are, who visits them and plenty of other factors.
What do we mean by “Visitor Management System”?
In short, a visitor management system is a digital tool that assists organisations implement and meet their visitor management policies.
A visitor management system (or VMS) is generally made up of two core pieces of software. The first is a web application which acts as a dashboard and is used to administer the system as a whole. The second is a tablet (generally iPad) app which visitors will use to sign in when they arrive at a building’s reception area or lobby. Some systems, like Welcm, also have a third app – a smartphone companion app that provides a range of features for employees of the organisation with the VMS.
One of the primary purposes of the dashboard is to allow an organisation to set up their sign in tablets. This means customising the sign in flow, selecting who signs in at the device (e.g. visitors, staff, couriers), adding corporate logos, editing messages and more. The sign in flow I refer to is the stages a visitor will go through in order to sign in via the tablet. The flow often includes taking a photo of the visitor, collecting their details (name, company, vehicle reg etc), selecting their host (who they have come to see) and printing a badge.
As well as setting up the tablets the dashboard is where the organisation’s visitor list will be held. This visitor list is the digital equivalent of a traditional paper sign in book. The dashboard will generally have the facility to allow reception staff to sign in visitors on their behalf. This is a useful feature which can be of help for a variety of reasons but is particularly helpful to improve the accessibility of the system as a whole as not everyone will be able to sign themselves in on a tablet.
Whilst the dashboard will do more than just the things I’ve explained above those are the two core elements. Other elements would be delivery handling, a staff list, system settings, location setup and more besides. Whilst visitor management systems are still not present in the majority of buildings, they are becoming more and more common. Organisations are realising that there is significant value in replacing their traditional paper sign in books with a more modern digital visitor management system that provides a range of benefits well above and beyond those provided by a paper sign in book.
How does a visitor management system work?
I’m not talking technically here… I’m referring to user interaction. That is to say, what does a visitor do when arriving on-site at a building with a visitor management system installed and what happens when they do it. Whilst the precise details will vary slightly from organisation to organisation, the following flow is a good representation of what will happen at most places.
1. When the visitor arrives they will use a touchscreen to sign in rather than the traditional visitor sign in book. This will involve some or all of the following steps:
- Enter their name, company, vehicle registration
- Agree to / digitally sign policy documents (e.g. health & safety procedures, NDA, visitor data policy)
- Have their photo taken
- Select the person they have come to see (their “host”)
- Receive a visitor badge
2. A notification will be automatically sent to their host alerting them of their guest’s arrival and the visitors information will be saved into the visitor management system dashboard.
3. The host makes their way to the reception area / lobby to greet their visitor
What benefits does a visitor management system provide?
I’ll keep this section brief as the answer to this question can be made into an article in its own right. To help build a business case for installing a visitor management system we will do just that. For now though, here are the highlights.
- Visitors will receive a better first impression and overall experience of your organisation
- The sign in process is streamlined
- Building and data security is improved
- Health and safety is improved
- Ensures your organisation meets obligations with regards to internal policies and external regulations
- Reporting is greatly improved
- Staff efficiency is improved