Tech vs. People in the Office Lobby

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One of the biggest misconceptions we face at The Receptionist when it comes to our brand is the idea that we’re trying to replace all the humans in office lobbies with machines.

For some businesses with low visitor traffic, a sign-in kiosk in the front lobby might be a great standalone solution — especially if no one on staff particularly relishes the idea of sitting up front near the door. However, for many more businesses, digital check-in apps and guest registration systems are simply tools that front desk employees can use to make the guest check-in experience easier and more effective.

After all, there are certain tasks that technology just can’t handle, and some tasks that humans can’t do as well as machines. When it’s time to delegate the work of visitor check-in to both humans and machines, here’s how we suggest breaking down responsibilities.

Recording the time and date of check-in: Technology

This one is a no-brainer. When you use a digital check-in app, the time and date are recorded automatically with no need for humans to write anything manually — or even look around for the nearest clock or calendar to double check. Besides being easier, technology also leaves no room for estimation or error, which makes your records more accurate.

Collecting personal data from the visitor: Technology

When visitors can type things like their name, contact information, and the purpose of their visit into a tablet instead of dictating them to a person in the reception area, there are several advantages:

  • The visitor doesn’t have to state their personal information within earshot of everyone in the waiting room and the office (which is a potential privacy violation).
  • Having the visitor input their data directly into the digital system eliminates the need for the front desk staff to scan or transcribe the information themselves, which can be tedious and prone to errors.
  • Because they’re typing it in themselves, visitors have a chance to review the information for accuracy before it’s submitted.

Collecting paperwork and legal agreements: Technology

With the right digital sign-in app, administrators can establish a sign-in workflow and a set of requirements for each type of visitor in advance, and the technology will take each visitor through those established steps when they arrive on site. This workflow often includes collecting signatures on legal documents such as non-disclosure agreements and visitor policies. In the era of COVID-19, some visitors even sign an agreement that they are not exhibiting symptoms or haven’t traveled to any hotspots in the last few weeks.

There are several advantages to letting technology handle visitor agreements:

  • Because the process is automated, there’s no chance of an administrator simply forgetting to hand over the form — which has the potential to leave the employer in legal jeopardy in the worst-case scenario. These programs can require visitors to sign any mandatory agreements before they advance to the next step in the sign-in process.
  • Most modern sign-in systems, especially in the era of COVID-19, can make the signature process completely contactless for anyone with a smartphone. Instead of signing on a shared clipboard or tablet, people can agree to legal documents on their own phones — which gets rid of the need for shared styluses and pens.
  • Visitor sign-in apps keep timestamped records of these agreements securely and back them up online so that you always have them when you need them, and there’s little chance of the records getting lost or damaged like a physical copy might.

Maintaining evacuation lists: Technology

The odds are relatively slim that at any given moment you’ll need to quickly get everyone in your building back out.

But emergencies do happen, and employers or building managers absolutely need to be prepared for them. If there’s a fire or other disaster, you don’t want to have to try to remember who exactly came into the office that day in a panic and scramble to find their contact info.

In the case of emergency evacuations, a mistake in the visitor log can be a life or death issue. That’s why it’s best to leave the list building to software, which can produce a real-time list online that your staff can access safely from outside the building as long as they have an internet connection.

Tech vs. people in the office lobby

Verifying visitors’ identities: Humans

When it comes to making sure only the right people are allowed to access your place of business, robots have nothing on humans.

To make sure that only scheduled and qualified humans advance past the lobby, receptionists must verify that people are who they say they are, which usually requires communicating with their host (if the visit is for a meeting) or the visitor’s corporate office (if the visitor is a contractor). Humans may also check for visitors’ credentials (such as a corporate badge) or their driver’s license and compare the image on the card to the visitor’s face for verification.

That said, technology can certainly make the human job of verifying visitors a bit easier. For example, some of our clients at The Receptionist use the camera feature on the tablet-based sign-in app to visually verify that the visitor in the lobby is who they were expecting by glancing at the visitor’s photo (which is often taken for the purpose of printing visitor badges) before the visitor is admitted.

Monitoring the lobby for suspicious activity: Humans

Some visitor management systems may automatically check visitors’ photos against a “do not admit” list, and others may even run visitors’ names through criminal databases before they’re admitted.

But in our opinion, these features aren’t as important as hiring an observant receptionist who has been trained to identify suspicious behavior and act quickly if they sense a threat.

For more on security training for your front desk staff, check out these articles:

Making small talk and putting visitors at ease: Humans

Even if your visitor sign-in tablet incorporates friendly photos and videos and uses a welcoming tone in all of its instructions, in our opinion, technology can’t hold a candle to a friendly live receptionist putting visitors at ease.

Humans can read visitors’ body language and tone of voice in an instant, anticipate their needs, and answer common questions right away.

If it’s important to you that visitors feel especially comfortable as they’re checking in because they might otherwise feel nervous (such as if you run a therapy practice or a medical office), it will be really important to make sure a caring human greets visitors.

Optimizing the visitor experience: Humans

Someone on staff needs to take responsibility for improving the visitor experience as a whole. They need to consider the organization’s brand, and tailor the lobby’s aesthetic, seasonal decor, refreshments, and overall check-in experience to reflect that brand.

They’re the ones who need to pay attention to problems both visitors and employees have with the check-in process, and they’re the ones who need to make changes to improve the technology.

Having a live receptionist who can take the lead on optimizing visitor experience is something that no amount of technology can replace.

Having a live receptionist who can take the lead on optimizing visitor experience is something that no amount of technology can replace. Click To Tweet

For more on the crucial role of a human receptionist, check out these articles:

And if you’d like to try The Receptionist for iPad to make your live receptionists’ jobs easier, check out our features or request a custom demo.



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