All of your office’s visitors should be treated with care and respect; but occasionally, you want to roll out the red carpet for a VIP guest.
Whether these visitors are star job candidates, potential partners, big clients, or corporate leaders, making a good impression right from the start is important. However, despite the fact that these visits are usually planned well in advance, most organizations don’t make much effort to welcome VIP guests in any special way.
That’s a missed opportunity. In many cases, just a few extra planned details can go a long way toward making your team look professional, polished, detail-oriented, and conscientious.
In addition to making sure your lobby makes the right impression and your check-in process is as streamlined as possible, there are still a few ways to go above and beyond to add an extra degree of thoughtfulness for your VIP guests — and the effort needs to begin as soon as the meeting is put on the calendar.
Before They Arrive
Most of the important work in welcoming VIP guests happens long before they arrive. Regardless of whether you have a dedicated front staff or not, you can take these simple steps in advance to make sure you make a good impression.
1. Have a Plan
It’s the host’s job to notify the rest of the staff — most notably the front desk staff — of the VIP visit details so that everyone playing a role in their visit has plenty of time to prepare. The visit should be noted on any shared office calendars, along with whatever reminders are needed to ensure awareness of the VIP’s impending arrival (the last thing that you want is for them to feel like they were not expected). The receptionist should be expected to recognize the visitor and greet her or him by name.
If there’s a visitor check-in process at your organization, the host should supply all known details to the receptionist (or to the visitor check-in software) when the meeting is scheduled. Having the VIP visitor fill out known fields like their name and company does not respect their time.
Sending a welcome packet prior to the visit can be a nice way to show visitors you’re expecting them and that you care about their experience. Contents may include things like driving directions, relevant area maps, instructions for parking, directions for building access, visit itineraries and a list of bios of people they’ll be meeting with.
Welcome packets don’t necessarily have to be printed out and mailed, although that can be a nice touch in some cases, along with a hand-written note. The welcome “packet” can also be sent via email. Although it’s less formal in digital form, it gets the job done and is appreciated by visitors.
In addition to sending packets several days before the visit, some companies may also choose to have a copy of those relevant materials available when the VIP arrives.
2. Personalization is Key
Making sure staff are prepared to greet the VIP warmly and check them in seamlessly is a great start.
But to make their reception extra special, the welcoming staff will need additional context about why the visitor is coming, where they’re coming from, and what some of their personal tastes and interests are.
Consider what one academic wrote on this forum about how his team would add a personal touch to the recruiting process. When they called the job candidates’ references, they would also ask personal questions about that candidate’s interests. Then, they used that information to make each of their visits more pleasant. For example, they hooked up a cycling enthusiast with other cyclists within the faculty for his visit, and they took a “foodie” to a gourmet grocery store and farmer’s market.
You don’t have to do reconnaissance on each visitor via their references if it’s not appropriate. In some cases you can even just ask them directly. In others, they may already have a relationship with people on staff who are aware of the VIP’s favorite foods, drinks, restaurants or hobbies. Use this info any way you can to make the visitor more comfortable.
3. Anticipate Their Needs
Even if you don’t know anything personally about the VIP visitor, you probably know a bit about what they had to go through to get to your office. You can take a cue from upscale hotels like The Varsity Hotel in Cambridge: Their staff leaves a luxurious bubble bath product on the tub for guests who they know have travelled long distances, along with a note about relaxing after a long journey.
Although suggesting a bubble bath is almost never a good idea in a business relationship, you can still make an effort to help VIP visitors settle in after traveling. If your guests have just come from the airport, they could probably use some water and refreshments. They’ll almost certainly need to be pointed in the direction of the bathroom, so be sure to show them where it is, even if they forget to ask initially. If they’ve never been to your city before, they may appreciate a map and a list of suggested activities. And if they have a very full itinerary, they’ll appreciate scheduled breaks — and access to coffee.
As we mentioned in our post about essential soft skills for receptionists, empathy is the skill that people receiving guests need the most, and it comes in very handy in these cases. Even simply suggesting that you understand what the visitor has been through (“I know traffic can be terrible coming from that direction at this time of day!”) creates a connection with them that starts the visit off right.
4. Prepare the Office
All the efforts to make your visitor feel comfortable and welcomed won’t last long if they encounter a less-than-professional office or struggle with the equipment they need for their visit.
You’ll need a checklist to run through the day before the visitor arrives. The checklist should include making sure all the tools they’ll need are available and working. That often requires testing audio and visual equipment and anything else they may expect to use.
The checklist should also include double-checking that the correct meeting rooms have been reserved for the correct times, and that the office will be clean and tidy. Note any problem areas (the bathrooms, the kitchens, the parking lot) and put staff on notice before the VIP arrives. Make sure there’s plenty of coffee, tea, water, and refreshments stocked and available to offer the guest.
Before They Leave
We mentioned this point in our post about impressing job candidates during interviews, but it bears repeating: the visitor’s experience doesn’t leave when their meetings are over. It ends when they leave the building — or, if you’re in charge of their accommodations while they’re in town, it ends when they check out.
Take care to walk the visitor back out of the office. Make sure they know how to get to where they’re going next. Consider leaving them with a parting gift, such as branded apparel from your organization. After they’ve gone back home, follow up with a note thanking them for their visit.
This likely won’t be the last VIP visit that your office will have to prepare for. Keep the prep checklist and make it part of a standard operating procedure when important guests are expected.
Finally, if you’re looking for a tool that will make it easier for your front desk staff to manage VIP guests and check them in, we invite you to try The Receptionist. With The Receptionist, hosts can pre-register visitors themselves. Office guests check in on a tablet using procedures that your staff can customize. If you’d like to learn more, you can contact us or try our free 14-day trial.
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