You have one chance to make a first impression when visitors enter your office for the first time. In the case of VIP visitors, such as prime job candidates or potential clients, it’s especially important to nail that impression.
When visitors walk in, the front office should give them an idea of your company’s priorities and personality. That impression should pave the way nicely for the conversations and job interviews that will follow.
As we mentioned in our post about making an impression on job candidates, being aware of key details really contributes to building a remarkable first impression. The details generally fall into three main categories: design, staff, and tools.
But wait! Before you dive into the details, you need to get clear on your reception area’s mission.
Your Brand Starts Here
What’s the exact message you’re trying to send with your reception area? For most companies, the message will tie in with your brand: the other characteristics and values you want to associate with your company.
For example, if you’ve branded your company as fun and vibrant, the main mission of your front desk might be to energize and inspire everyone who walks in.
If the most important thing for your company to project is a sense of expertise and professionalism, the main purpose of the front desk might be to evoke feelings of trustworthiness, efficiency, and competency.
If you’re a luxury brand, you might want your front office to make a distinctive statement that surprises and even intimidates visitors.
It’s not always easy to summarize the mission of your front desk in a concise statement. For help, think a little more about exactly who will be coming into your reception area (related: How to Categorize Your Business Visitors) and what will make them feel comfortable and ease them into their time in your space.
1. The Best Interior Design Style Tricks for Your Reception
Even if you’re not an interior designer by trade, you can still keep these design basics in mind as you align your reception area with your company’s brand. Even just a few adjustments can go a long way.
Most small companies don’t have lots of money in the budget to pay for a big, airy reception area.
However, even in smaller spaces, you can do several things to make the area more calming and spacious. Start by removing any clutter for a cleaner look and downsize the furniture (think sleek, modern chairs instead of big fluffy ones). Outside of design, you can also ensure that guests aren’t kept waiting in the reception area long, so there’s little chance of things seeming crowded.
If your space is truly limited, you might not even need a full desk in the reception area: guests can check-in via a mounted tablet using a visitor management app like The Receptionist. You can then customize who gets alerted when visitors arrive, and how they get alerted (they can even choose custom intervals). You can also set backup contacts in case the first contact doesn’t respond, and let visitors correspond directly with staff via the tablet as they wait.
Changing the color of your front office area is one of the least expensive ways to experiment with the energy you want the reception area to project.
If the front desk’s primary mission is to be welcoming, consider a warm or cheerful color. If you’re going for a calming vibe, a neutral or cool color will be best. And brightly colored accents can be a great way to energize the front desk of a company trying to project a bold or upbeat culture.
You can certainly incorporate your brand’s colors into your reception area, too, but don’t feel limited to those. It’s not a team locker room, after all.
If there’s one area where an office’s standard harsh fluorescent lighting might need an upgrade, it’s reception.
Natural light is generally more welcoming and easier on the eyes than artificial light. If possible, arrange the furniture in a way that maximizes any natural light your space already has.
However, there have also been plenty of advancements in light bulbs that mimic daylight, and you can experiment with them (and with lighting sources) to see which one gives off the type of lighting that looks the best in your front desk area.
Graphics and Decor
Graphics, decor, and accessories all go a long way toward pulling your reception area’s look together in a way that completes the statement you want to make.
There’s no one way to do this: designers play with the elements of line, form, texture, and pattern to create a cohesive style. Companies striving to create a relaxing vibe might want to add a beautiful live plant to the front desk (or, to take it a step further, a vertical garden).
These days, we have tools like Pinterest to help collect ideas of spaces that we like and want to draw from: just type “reception area” or “front desk inspiration” into Pinterest’s search box and you’ll be well on your way. From there, it may help to narrow your search down by industry or by design style (try using descriptors like “modern,” “traditional” or “organic”).
2. Why Your Reception Staff Are Crucial
A big part of the style of your front office has to do with the person sitting behind the front desk, including their appearance and behavior.
We just discussed the aesthetics of the office itself, but it’s worth mentioning that your human receptionist should also follow your company’s brand when it comes to their physical style. A casual and hip tech startup isn’t going to want their receptionist to look buttoned-up with a tie and blazer, for example. The opposite might be true for the receptionist of a high-billing service like a legal office or a luxury brand.
Note that you shouldn’t enforce different aesthetic standards with your receptionist than with the rest of your company; all employees should generally follow the same established dress code. However, it’s fair to note in the job description for your receptionist that a professional appearance (whatever that means for your company) will be required in this role.
Tone of voice and word choice are a big part of any brand, regardless of whether those words are written on the company’s “about” page or spoken by your staff.
For example, companies that want to impress their visitors might encourage receptionists to address visitors more formally (with a “good afternoon,” for example), while companies whose mission is to make people feel welcome may go with a “hi there” instead.
Along with your tone’s formality level, it may help to instruct receptionists on which specific words and phrases to use in common scenarios to make sure you are present a unified picture to everyone who walks through your front door.
The key to a remarkable first impression
There are plenty of ways to structure the role of the receptionist, as we wrote in our full post on the subject. Most companies don’t have enough visitors to dedicate someone solely to visitor management, so front desk workers are often responsible for other administrative or executive tasks as well.
However, if you put the wrong demands on your front desk staff, you’ll make it really difficult for them to do their jobs well. Either they’ll busy with the phone, or they simply won’t have as much energy or attention left for the task of visitor management when someone walks through the door. That could affect their ability to greet guests and check them in properly. And there’s no way to do over that less-than-positive first impression.Don’t put so many demands on front desk staff that visitor management loses priority. Click To Tweet
Even if your staff is dedicated solely to visitor management, you’ll have to clarify how the front desk duties will be handled when they can’t be at the desk. After all, they will sometimes need to call off work. They also need to take breaks and eat lunch. No one wants to walk in on the receptionist mid-bite. (Related: 6 Awkward Reception Scenarios and How to Avoid Them).
3. Visitor Check-In Process
The final piece of the puzzle when it comes to your reception area making a great impression are the tools you use for the visitor check-in process.
For example, a paper sign-in log sends the message that your company is traditional or perhaps old-fashioned. Same with agreements that require signatures on paper. It’s generally understood that electronic alternatives for these elements are more secure, less prone to error, and more private. Want your company to seem modern and competent? Time to switch to digital.
Making an impression on your visitors starts with the staff at the front desk. Fill out the form below to download a quick list of phrases your receptionist can use to foster more personal connections with guests.
Finally, if you’re considering upgrading your visitor management system with a tablet-based software, we encourage you to try The Receptionist. To learn more, check out the program’s features or sign up for a free trial and discover how the app can radically change your office’s first impression today.
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