Two out of every five people claim their perception of a company or brand has been negatively affected by their experience in the corporate lobby or reception area. That’s a potential 40 percent of customers left with a bad impression according to a survey of 2,000 office workers carried out this summer across the UK and US. From unfriendly receptionists and having their name misspelled on visitor badges, to being late for meetings because of long queues in the lobby or the receptionist being unable to contact the meeting host, business visitors are being let down by a disjointed visitor experience.

We all know that first impressions count. And if an organisation fails to make a good one, it can negatively affect their bottom line – especially as there are 11 million face-to-face business meetings taking place every day across the US alone. But by integrating the different elements which make up the visitor experience – from parking and access control to front-of-house and hospitality – no visitor need be left out in the cold. Using – and integrating – the latest smart technologies enables organisations to provide the white glove treatment to every visitor.

Imagine the situation where a few days before their planned visit, the visitor – let’s call him John – receives a meeting request by email enabling him to pre-check-in on his phone. In the background, the organisation performs a security check to whatever level is required. Meeting room management and parking systems are triggered to find the best possible space for John and a unique QR code is generated to enable him to access the building. On the day of his meeting with Mary, John receives a friendly reminder with useful details including a map, directions, health and safety information and even the weather forecast.  

When he pulls up to the facility, the barrier to the car park recognises his number plate allowing him in and directing him to a space. At the front desk, he checks in on an iPad and Mary automatically receives a text to say he’s arrived. The receptionist makes him his favourite drink, which Mary pre-recorded on the system. He makes himself comfortable in reception, the receptionist having told him that Mary is running late. He logs onto the WiFi with the guest code he received by text and prepares for the meeting.

When the receptionist receives a text from Mary to say she is ready, John uses his QR code to open the security gates and follows the wayfinding on his smart phone to the meeting room. He uses the bathroom on the way – security automatically enabling him access to the bathroom and other common areas with his QR code, but not any commercially sensitive areas of the site. Towards the end of the scheduled meeting, John will receive a text with traffic notifications. After the meeting, he checks out and the system knows he’s left the building. It’s a smooth and seamless process – the integrated visitor experience.

The challenge is that no one vendor provides all of these solutions – and often the different technologies aren’t integrated. Visiting buildings still using archaic security and building technologies without smart integration feels like the polar opposite to John’s meeting with Mary.  But automated technologies are now capable of talking to each other to ensure that the safety and security of the building is assured while also extending the same warm, special welcome to an expected business visitor as they would a guest in their own home.

The cloud and Software as a Service are now capable of facilitating a smooth and seamless process between multiple technologies. For example, the Visitor Management System (VMS) will sync with the Access Control System (ACS) to automatically grant the appropriate level of access to a visitor, without the need for multiple, clunky security checks. The VMS syncs with the Room Booking system to allocate the appropriate space, the hospitality booking system to ensure the preferred refreshments are on hand to greet visitors, and the parking management solution to book parking spaces to maximise car parking occupancy.

The latest technology is taking this a step further: automatic number plate recognition facilitates the automatic opening of gates on arrival; facial recognition can automatically recognise visitors at the reception desk reducing administration time and improving the personalisation of service delivery; and humanoid robots are increasingly working as part of the front-of-house team greeting visitors and performing a range of tasks.

Integration take-up is improving. Two years ago fewer than 5 percent of meeting room systems required integration with any other system than basic digital displays. Now one of the first questions asked is about non-proprietary platform integrations. There are numerous drivers towards the integration of these systems: removing the inefficiency of inputting data into multiple systems; the growth of the smart building market; the proliferation of smart phones where people expect a millennial experience through technology; the migration to IP-based networks; and the desire for organisations to use best-of-breed solutions for each application area.

But there are challenges. For the Integrated Visitor Experience to deliver optimal value, suppliers must work to open protocols and not be protectionist. Data protection – particularly in Europe which comes under the new GDPR rules – is a concern and organisations must ensure they are managing data correctly. Wider acceptance and use of mobile is threatened by fears over cyber-security in some organisations. And there are concerns that smart technology may replace people, rather than complement them. The reality is that automated technologies are most likely to free up a person’s time spent on menial tasks or operate at night when nobody else is there.

In 2019, the corporate world is starting to join the dots between the technology experience customers expect when they visit corporate premises and the apparent ‘disconnect’ there has been to date. As smart cities are created, and visitors use the latest technologies such as high-speed rail, driverless cars and smart motorways, creating an Integrated Visitor Experience will become a true differentiator. And the result? A robust, safe and warm welcoming experience so that all visitors feel like genuine VIPs.

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Gregory decided he had to be an entrepreneur at a very early age. After a few successful ventures during his school years that made him popular among his fellow students (to whom he sold boxer shorts and music compilations), he obtained a business engineering degree from KU Leuven (incl. Erasmus in Barcelona) and left his home country to work abroad. He spent a decade between Munich, London and Paris, working for the private telecommunications division of Siemens AG and nurturing his interest for European politics, culture, languages and way of living. He returned to Brussels in 2000, working in two start-ups before co-funding Proxyclick. Since then he has been working tirelessly to develop the business first in Belgium, then across Europe and recently in North America.