Understanding and optimizing an experience requires breaking it down into its component parts. The visitor experience – both from an organization’s perspective and a guest’s – is no exception. Analyzing what constitutes a successful visit can yield insights that lead to more reliable and effective security processes and a more complete audit trail for regulatory bodies. It also encourages empathy with guests’ perspectives, whether those guests are clients, candidates, or contractors. This insight can inform processes that reduce unnecessary stress, friction, and lost time for visitors, resulting in a more seamless experience.
The visitor’s journey typically has six stages:
In this piece, we’ll examine the challenges and opportunities that exist in each stage, and describe how a visitor management system (VMS) contributes to solutions.
Pre-registration: security and convenience prior to the visit
The visitor’s journey starts long before a guest’s arrival on site. It begins at the invitation.
Often, guest invitations and directions are communicated through a mix of emails, texts, calls, and calendar tools. Such improvised procedures risk complicating recordkeeping or worse, jeopardizing adherence to compliance requirements. It’s an approach that neglects clear, complete, and auditable communications and provides no insight that can contribute to security or the quality of a visit.
With a VMS, an organization can begin satisfying documentation, compliance, and security requirements during this stage. Hosts can confirm that guests know which documents they must bring and then politely remind them shortly before the visit. They can also ensure that contractors complete compliance paperwork and safety videos before they begin recording billable on-site hours. When required, hosts can smoothly arrange meetings outside of regulated facilities for guests without proper clearances so as to avoid frustrating mix-ups and unnecessary trips.
Pre-registration also offers the first opportunity to create an organized digital record of a visit. Visitor details inputted at this stage contribute to the seamlessness of the next, as electronic sign-in text fields at the facility can auto-populate with the guest information. Further bolstering seamlessness, an invitation can include all necessary visit information, including a map, parking information, directions to the gate entrance, host information, and registration barcodes.
Security and compliance also begin at this stage. As invitations are sent, a VMS can work behind the scenes to screen would-be guests against watchlists or verify necessary identification requirements long before they come on site. This means that individuals on restricted external and internal lists never make it to the door. These integrations enable companies to screen against hundreds of official lists, including those related to finance, politically-exposed persons, and international terrorism.
Arrival: crossing the perimeter
The arrival stage is the short period from the moment a guest crosses the facility perimeter to the moment they begin the check-in process. In this stage, guests have their initial encounters with an organization’s infrastructure and people.
The main challenges in this stage are on the visitor side: finding parking, navigating a large campus, and arriving at the right place. Solutions should focus on saving time and minimizing stress for the guest.
As mentioned earlier, many of these challenges can be addressed in the pre-registration stage. Regarding parking, a parking application integrated into VMS can reserve a parking spot in a company lot. This adds predictability and shows that visitors are a priority. Directions and instructions can also be sent through the invitation so that finding one’s way across the facility and getting to the right check-in is as smooth as possible.
Check-in: compliance crunch time
The check-in stage presents a number of challenges. From the visitor’s perspective, speed and convenience are the priorities. From the company’s perspective, compliance and security are paramount. Because of these sometimes-competing demands, this is the stage in which pains must be solved with the most finesse.
Often during this stage, visitor identity information must be recorded, watchlists checked, documents signed, and badges issued. Proper procedures must be followed to avoid wasting time and introducing risks. This is the period in which security and compliance programs are most likely to break down. Compromises made on the fly to smooth out the process — skipping steps, giving the benefit of the doubt, or not ensuring all fields are filled — can lead to costly compliance penalties or worse, consequential security breaches.
VMS maximizes convenience while contributing to security and compliance. Here’s how:
- Information: Information capture and identity validation are automated to the greatest extent possible. A VMS can provide two levels of identification (ID) verification and validation. At security gates, VMS can integrate with an ID scanner to verify the validity of government-issued documents like a driver’s license. At the point of check-in, an iPad can be enabled to scan a driver’s license or passport to capture identity information. These capabilities facilitate a complete and speedy process that ensures identification compliance requirements are met. Furthermore, programming the VMS to only record the necessary information from such a document tells the visitor the organization takes privacy seriously.
- Documentation: Non-disclosure agreements and waivers may need to be signed at this stage. With a VMS, these can be electronically signed as a prerequisite to host notification. This means that inadvertently skipping this step, running out of hardcopies, or otherwise beginning a visit to a controlled area before dealing with confidentiality and liability issues doesn’t happen.
- Watchlists: The guest can be screened against watchlists once more for up-to-date clearance. If a watchlist screening was not done at the pre-registration stage or if a second screening is desired, it can take place now. Apart from automating compliance, this process saves an enormous amount of time for companies that have hundreds or thousands of visitors per year.
- Configuration: A configurable visitor management interface — like Sign In Enterprise’s Experience Editor— gives the organization the flexibility to set up its digital processes in the ways it deems fit. This means that workflows and messages can be customized for different sites and even for different visitor types, ensuring that each visitor gets the smoothest process possible — one designed specifically for his or her profile.
Simultaneously maximizing security, compliance, and convenience can seem like threading a needle. Highly-customizable automated systems can do the job, ensuring complete recordkeeping for security audits while eliminating some of the major challenges inherent in manual processes.
The meeting: maximizing the outcome of the visit
After check-in, it’s time to achieve the purpose of the visit. Two parts of this stage are often critical to compliance: distribution of identification badges and the encounter with hosts. To a great degree, the processes that underpin each can be automated.
VMS can print badges that visibly identify the purpose and length of a visit along with relevant identity information. These badges provide a way to distinguish visitors from hosts and can be designed to self-expire.
Once all compliance steps have been completed, the VMS can automatically notify hosts and provide navigation directions and access permissions to the right areas. This helps to ensure that at no time can a guest move into an access-controlled space without authorization or an escort. To further improve the visitor’s experience, WiFi access can be enabled at this stage for the duration of the visit.
With all of this squared away, focus can turn to the task at hand: the visit’s agenda.
Check out: up-to-date visitor status
With a successful visit complete, the visitor checks out. This simple process gives the organization up-to-date information about who remains on site at any given time, which is extremely valuable in the unlikely case of an emergency.
Post-visit: the value of data
The value of interactions between the organization, its employees, and its visitors does not need to end when the visitor signs out. Through the VMS, relationships can be enhanced with post-visit digital communications and logistics optimized through the application of visitor data. This optimization can contribute to decreased costs, internal headcount decisions, and ongoing refinement of the visitor experience.
Examining the visitor journey reveals distinct points at each stage that can inhibit the visitor experience, facility security, or compliance fulfillment if they are not addressed with great attention to detail. An automated system — a VMS — can address each, meaning that the visitor gets the most seamless experience possible while the host organization keeps its facility secure and its records complete.