Whenever a company moves into a new space, they would like to spruce up their office with the latest digital tools that will make office life more productive while increasing their brand value.
New offices are designed with the open workspace concept in mind, where everything is revolves around a do-it- yourself approach. From picking meeting rooms to choosing where you sit, the modern office provides occupants with the power to control their day without being tied to a specific desk. One of the areas where companies consider complete automation is the reception. The idea of having a completely automated reception where everything is self-service. The moment the visitor walks-in to the point where he or she gets to meet with the intended host is automated. Essentially, the idea of completely doing away with the human face and the associated interaction.
When we talk about a reception, the receptionist forms a major component of it. So, we can never talk about one without the other. The receptionist, the human face makes the reception. So, talking about a reception-less office means doing away with people and the crucial first contact with them.
While the thought of going 100% digital seems possible and even exciting, we think that a complete reception-less office is not the way to go. Here in why:
The Reception & The Receptionist
The reception is one of the most important areas in the office that forms the first impression of visitors. A beautifully designed reception with an approachable staff always sets the stage for the upcoming interaction the visitor will have with the company and its brand. A bustling reception indicates the energy of the company. A friendly and welcoming receptionist who knows the visitor before he or she introduces themselves and makes the registration process smooth can form a lasting positive impression.
The receptionist wears many hats, including:
- Welcoming and performing visitor orientation.
- Maintains security and acting like a gate-keeper.
- Handling and coordinating package deliveries and acceptances.
- Handling both internal and external calls.
- Attending to staff needs.
- Ensuring office supplies are replenished.
- Coordinating meeting room arrangements.
- And in some cases, double up as the secretary to many of the senior management roles.
All these tasks are crucial to the effective functioning of the company as a whole. The receptionist is the glue that keeps the team running smoothly like a well oiled machine.
What Receptionists Don't Like
When we asked many of the receptionists about their jobs and their pain points, the most usual complaints are:
Coordinating meetings and resolving conflicts
Many receptionists find the issue of scheduling meetings and resolving conflicts are a major time waster. The need to field calls, re-prioritize room allocation, confirming meetings, reminding organizers and ensuring room preparation consume a lot of time away from other activities. Close to about 30% - 40% of their time is consumed in this activity.
Registration of visitors
Another pain point is that the receptionist may not be aware of the visitor who arrives at the office and needs to gather information from the visitor before calling the host. In some cases, the host may not pick up the phone and the receptionist has to disappear into the office to look for them, leaving the visitor waiting. This certainly does not form a good impression on the visitor. Another 10% - 15% of their time is consumed in this activity.
What Receptionists Love Doing
On the other hand, receptionists love their work and take great pride in being the glue that binds the office together. They are the ones who know every staff in the office by name and sometimes their families. They love interacting with people either face-to-face or through the telephone. They consider themselves the ambassadors and brand promoters of the organization. They take pride in ensuring that the office hums smoothly without any friction. They are the know-it-all in the company and can get things done, sometimes even before it is needed.
The Reception-less Office
Consider having a reception-less office. Meaning there is no one managing the front desk other than digital tools. When a visitor arrives, they will be confronted with a set of displays that welcome them and commence on the on-boarding process. Upon registration, the visitor will be shown the way to the meeting room or asked to wait while the host is being notified. While this sounds futuristic, it also feels cold and character-less. Digital technologies can help to smoothen operations and increase efficiency and productivity, but a company is built by humans for humans. Using digital tools at the right places, for the right purposes is essential to creating a brand and is reflective of the culture.
The Ideal Reception
Having understood how a receptionist is crucial to the functioning of the office and what it would look like to have a complete reception-less office, it is important to ask the question - what is the ideal reception?
From our experience in talking to several receptionists at our customer's offices, the ideal reception will still be one with a human face behind the desk. However, the receptionist's tasks are more focused and his or her role clearly defined. The best approach to creating an ideal reception is to offload all the non value added tasks from the receptionist's plate so they can focus on the more on being the brand ambassador of the company. For example:
- Having a booking system that delegates the task of booking meeting rooms, desks and resources to the staff themselves, so they can coordinate the meetings.
- Having an integrated visitor management system that allows the staff to key in the expected visitors and have a dashboard for the receptionist to know who is coming and where to direct them. This will help them welcome the staff and onboard them as quickly as possible to have a smooth experience.
- Automatically notifying the host, informing them that their visitor has arrived.
- Having a touch screen lobby kiosk to know available rooms or desks so they can book the space themselves and be on their way.
These activities will free up close to 40% to 55% of the receptionist time so they can focus on activities that brings greater value to the company. Receptionists can spend time having meaningful conversations, engaging with the visitors or attending to phone calls.
While the direction towards a reception less office is an ambitious one, companies cannot totally eliminate the receptionist. It would be rather strange to have an empty lobby where the visitor is lost on where to begin. So, the role of the receptionist will change rather than be eliminated all together. The receptionist can be more value added tasks such as interaction towards the visitor, addressing ad-hoc enquiries and also be involved in having meaningful conversations with the visitor while waiting for their host, giving them a positive experience interacting with the company and increasing brand perception. They can even become help in orienting the visitor on the company and its products. They become the brand ambassadors for the company to form that crucial first impressions of a warm, welcoming and friendly organization.