virtual front desk

Can a Virtual Front Desk be as Friendly as a Live Receptionist?

Creating a virtual front desk is an easy, efficient, and intuitive way to manage guests and visitors. But, are you worried it will take away from the personal touch of a live receptionist?

The truth is, digitizing the front desk isn’t ushering in a new age of cyborg-driven lobbies. Far from it. At The Receptionist, we know this first hand from helping hundreds of businesses manage their front-desk operations that no software system can fully replace the skills and judgement of a competent, proactive, human receptionist.

Receptionists these days are taking on a lot of new roles that reflect the changing needs of today’s customer-service-focused, brand-competent companies. (Related: Does Your Office Need a Director of First Impressions?)

That said, if your business is currently operating with an empty front desk, a standalone virtual receptionist can be a huge help. It will save your staff from being interrupted each time someone comes to make a simple delivery, and it comes loaded with features like reports and emergency evacuation lists.

Unfortunately, a free-standing tablet sitting alone in your lobby can backfire if you don’t set it up properly. Although it will certainly make your company look modern and tech-friendly, it can be really off-putting to visitors if it isn’t easy to use.

However, if you take these steps, you may be surprised at just how friendly, personal, and welcoming your visitor management software — despite being a simple tablet on a stand — can be.

Here’s everything you need to create a virtual check-in that’s almost as friendly as the real thing.

1. Use A Friendly “Tone”

Receptionist software can’t actually speak, of course. (At least most of today’s tablet-based apps don’t attempt to.) But you can definitely establish a “tone” with word choice and sentence structure to convey a casual and caring attitude.

Most receptionist software lets you customize the text that is shown to visitors on any given screen. Use that opportunity to make your screens “sound” like a real person would talk. Avoid any buttoned-up, stiff salutations or technical terms or jargon. Read the text on the screens out loud to see if the words you choose sound awkward or come out easily.

For example, you might start the check-in process with a greeting like “Hi there!” to up the friendly vibe. Get the marketing department’s input on the copy used throughout the visitor management process. It should be consistent with the rest of your branded materials.

2. Leverage Videos

Some parts of visitor check-in can really benefit from visual aids, such as photos or videos. In particular, safety protocols are often best conveyed with video, which can give visitors a clearer idea of what they’re supposed to do (or not do) once they step inside.

In fact, at some companies, safety videos may be a requirement for entry. Visitor management software can show these videos and keep an automatic, timestamped record of which visitors have viewed them.

Videos can also have the benefit of adding a really personal, friendly touch to the check-in process as long as they use the same friendly and welcoming tone we just mentioned described in the last section.

If you think your visitor check-in process could benefit from a welcome video, make sure that the messages are friendly but as brief as possible. The last thing you want to do is potentially waste your visitors’ time, especially if there’s no human receptionist around to get the context of their visit or help them through any potential frustration.

3. Create Intuitive Check-in Processes

Speaking of keeping things as brief as possible, your “virtual reception” experience will only be a pleasant one if visitors can avoid any unnecessary steps.

For example, a human receptionist can intuit right away when someone is there to make a food delivery versus coming in for a job interview and ask for the appropriate information. The visitor management system should be able to do this as quickly as possible, too, using a custom check-in process for each visitor type. We explain exactly how to create your visitor types in this post: How to Build Your Company’s Own Visitor Management System.

Modifying the check-in process to make it as simple and as intuitive for each type of visit will go farther than almost anything else to making it friendly and welcoming.

4. Pre-Register Your Visitors

It’s a great feeling to be recognized as soon as you walk into an office. No one wants to feel like their visit was a surprise.

The best human receptionists know that it’s important to keep track of who is scheduled to visit the office so that they can greet them by name and be as prepared as possible for their visit. This is especially important for job candidates or potential clients whose visit has high stakes for your business. (Learn more in our full post on preparing for VIP visitors.)

With visitor management software, the visitor’s hosts can put all of the visitor data (name, job title, contact info, etc.) into the system so that when they get there, they can simply approve it from the convenience of the tablet.

5. Quickly Connect to a Real Person

One of the easiest ways to make a virtual receptionist more personable is to make sure that it connects visitors to a real person as soon as possible.

Visitor management software can do this through a customized series of notifications that allow users to set up exactly how (SMS, email, chat program) employees want to be notified when their visitors arrive. It should also allow users to set up backup contacts for each employee.

Allowing visitors to communicate with the host directly from the tablet is a nice touch, as their check-in experience will end with specific instructions from their host about what to do next.

6. Add Some Personal Touches

There are certain things that software just can’t do: Stand up and walk with the visitor in the direction of the restroom if they need it, for example, or get the visitor settled into the conference room where they’ll have their meeting.

However, today’s visitor management systems are customizable enough that you could still attempt some similar personal touches.

Although our app can’t pour your visitors a cup of coffee (yet!), it can certainly display a note that invites visitors to help themselves to refreshments in the break room. A simple note at the end of the check-in process about where to find the water cooler or the bathrooms could also be helpful.

In fact, you might also pay special attention to how the area around the tablet is set up. Instead of directing visitors to the break room, why not make some self-service refreshments available right there by the check-in station? You could also add a nice bouquet of flowers near the tablet stand to put visitors at ease.

Even if your office reception area tends to stay empty, don’t skip the decor and ambiance. #receptionistapp Click To Tweet

In our post on “wow features” for the reception area, we talk about how to add statement-making focal points to make an impression on visitors. These elements will still make an impression even if there’s no live person behind the desk. Don’t skip the decor and the ambiance in the reception area just because it tends to stay empty most of the time. If you make it welcoming and situate the tablet stand prominently, your visitors will feel welcomed and expected even if there’s not a person there to greet them right away.

Finally, if you think your office might benefit from a friendly tablet-based visitor check-in system, we invite you to try us at The Receptionist. Our app is easy to use, fully customizable, and even has a free trial so you can check it out for yourself today.

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