First impressions count. Whether a business is welcoming prospects or existing customers, even potential new recruits, in a post-COVID environment the initial interaction is now, more than ever, a direct reflection on a business’ brand values. To handshake or not? Mask wear or not? From the moment the visit is booked through registration and into the meeting, the way a business interacts with its visitors will have a long-standing impact on the brand and, says Dan Harding, CEO, Sign In App explains, it is time to put serious thought into how best to make visitors feel welcome and safe.
Face to face meetings are back; contractors are in demand. But how many companies are really thinking about what that means – to visitors, employees and the overall perception of the company?
After two years with little physical interaction, most companies have been very solicitous when it comes to reopening offices. Employees’ hybrid working demands are accepted and many businesses are asking employees to be vaccinated and boosted, as well as showing a negative Lateral Flow Test (LFT) before coming in to the business. Presenteeism is very much out of fashion: any individual with the smallest cough or sniffle is encouraged to stay at home.
So far so good. But what is the policy when it comes to welcoming visitors and contractors? Customers, prospects, potential recruits – these individuals need more than just a welcome, they need to be impressed. The pre-COVID focus on an attractive reception, good coffee and conversation provoking artwork in the meeting room is no longer the biggest factor when it comes to creating a great first impression. Visitors need to feel welcomed, safe and comfortable – and that takes work.
Businesses need to think ahead and ensure everyone’s expectations are set long before someone arrives in reception. No one wants to worry about whether or not they should wear a mask or, even worse, endure an uncomfortable should we / shouldn’t we moment regarding hand-shakes or social distancing. Who wants old school form filling and plastic name tags; however much hand sanitiser is offered?
An uncomfortable reception experience will set the scene. Why would a customer or prospect invest in a business that hasn’t had the foresight to think about how best to create a positive post-COVID visitor experience? What potential employee is going to feel confident to join a business that has got off to such a poor start.
The entire visitor process needs to be managed, planned and designed to minimise confusion and maximise confidence.
Setting the Scene
Using a visitor management system, visitors can be pre-registered, with contactless apps minimising the need for physical interaction when they arrive in reception. The pre-registration process also provides a chance to highlight the company’s health and safety strategies and ensure visitors know what to expect. A brief overview of company ‘meet and greet’ policies – including mask wearing, hand-shaking and distancing – avoids any confusion when they arrive. This can be supplemented with an option to request specific safeguards if preferred. A simple yes/no tick box for mask wearing, for example, would ensure every meeting attendee knows what the visitor is expecting and removes the risk of those uncomfortable moments when a visitor may be torn between wanting to ask for masks and feeling embarrassed – moments that have a negative impact on their perception of the business.
In addition, a company can choose to add a health questionnaire to the visitor registration process, including questions regarding vaccination and test status and where the individual has travelled recently. This reinforces the message that the business is committed to the health and well-being of its employees and business partners, providing the visitor with improved brand confidence even before the visit occurs.
It is fabulous to have visitors back on site and many people are looking forward to reinforcing relationships made over Zoom with face-to-face meetings. But businesses need to recognise that life has changed. Post COVID, the brand perception starts at the front door – and to maximise the value of these meetings the onus is on businesses to put serious thought into visitor policies and ensure everyone feels comfortable and confident from start to finish.