The above quote from one of the greatest people of all time is enough to portray the importance of a customer. The quote is true to its word, however, present day organizations receive many more types of visitors than just customers and ensuring security while processing visitors can be quite a challenge. To overcome this challenge, many organizations leverage a visitor management system for quick, efficient and secure visitor processing.
In this article, we will have a deeper look at visitor management system, the process of visitor management and its need in different organization types.
Who is a visitor?
Any person other than the pre-authorized individuals (e.g. employees, stakeholders, security staff, etc.) who seeks a valid access to your premises is a visitor. Customers, suppliers, vendors, interviewees, service providers, friends, relatives, government officers, and even a person who does not fall in any of these categories, can be a visitors. Visitors arrive at your facility with a purpose, understanding which, is a part of the visitor management process.
Customers are also a type of visitors and in some business types (e.g. tourism, theme parks, hospitality, etc.) customers are referred to as visitors or guests.
Visitor management starts with the arrival of a visitor and the front desk executive has to identify visitor’s needs and to notify the host. For example, if a friend or relative of an employee arrives to meet him/her, it would be appropriate to ask the visitor to wait at the reception until the host arrives. In another example, if an interviewee shows up, his/her appointment should be confirmed and the HR executive and he/she should be escorted to the interview area.
If the organization uses visitor management system with self-service kiosks, the visitor can be instructed to fill the details and print badges. On the other hand, traditional visitor management systems require the front desk employee or security person to fill the visitor details. The system may automatically notify the host about the arrival of the visitor.
Visitor management and visitor registration system: why do we need it?
As the name implies, visitor management system is a computer based system to manage visitors. It can be a standalone system or can be integrated with other systems used in an organization. In today’s highly competitive environment, organizations cannot afford wasting time in any business related activity. Saved time means saved money that that is what ensures survivability amid today’s merciless competition.
A visitor management system (also referred to as visitor registration system) serves two purposes: First, it saves time at your front desk which is often wasted with traditional visitor registration systems. Second, it keeps your business secure from intruders and outside threats which may access your facility posing as visitors. An efficient visitor management system will save time, organizational resources, infrastructure and business critical information.
Almost all middle to large scale organizations and many small scale outfits have some sort of visitor management system in place. They understand that visitors cannot be allowed to wander in unidentified state. Consequences of letting an outsider freely roam around your business premises can be fatal. Organizations, especially commercial outfits may contain resources and sensitive information, securing which can be crucial for business continuity. Any unauthorized individual can intentionally or unintentionally pose harm to the businesses operations.
Visitor sign in software
Efficiency of visitor registration system depends a lot on the underlying visitor sign in software. On the same hardware specifications, efficiency of the visitor sign in software can make a lot of difference in functionality and throughput. Some technology firms offer off-the-shelf visitor sign in software while many other may also customize them as per client requirements. Today’s organizations use many other systems and require them to integrate and exchange information with each other; modern visitor sign in software also come with the integration ability with other systems.
Today, vendors offer web based as well as locally installable visitor sign in software and business can pick the one suit their needs. A visitor sign in software can enhance security, promote safety and revolutionizes your visitor sign in experience. Some visitor sign in systems even offer interactive and easy to use self-service interface, through which visitors can sign-in without any help. It gives visitors a sense of control and they do not have to share their information with the front desk employee or the security person. Self-registration systems can be setup using inexpensive Android tablets or iPad.
Visitor management process: key steps
Security checkpoint, office reception or the front desk can be the place where visitor management formalities are initiated. Some visitors has to be stopped at the reception, while others have to be granted access till a certain area like labs, production floor, human resources, etc. Level of access should be clearly defined while processing the visitor. Some visitors stay for a short duration while others may require access for days or weeks. Defining the level of access and duration is usually a one-time formality, which can also be performed again if required. The visitor’s subsequent attempts to access the facility should be frictionless unless there is a need for reassessment of any security incident is identified.
Some visitors bring along equipments like portable computers, data storage devices, smartphones, etc. These equipments can be used to copy and store data, if visitors are able to connect them with the IT systems or the network of your organization. However, taking electronic equipments along can also be a business need for some visitors like demonstrators, business executives, etc. Level of access granted to the visitors should complement the equipment policy and IT department of the organizations should ensure that IT systems or the network does not entertain any external devices that can pose threat to the business sensitive information.
Every visitor, who has been granted access to your premises, should be in identified state all the time and his/her level of access should to be clearly defined and visible on the visitor pass. It helps security personnel to quickly spot any unidentified visitor or an identified one at the areas where he/she should not be.
Visitor registration / pre-registration
The process of visitor management starts as soon as he/she makes the first contact at the front desk. In some organizations, security personnel can be responsible for processing a visitor instead of a receptionist or front desk executive. Greeting visitor and making him/her comfortable is as important as knowing his/her purpose of visit and starting with visitor registration.
Visitor registration is done by capturing visitor details in the visitor registration system. Some visitor registration systems allow hosts to pre-register their visitor a web portal or a smartphone apps. In case of pre-registration, host can provide details like name, time of arrival, purpose, location, place to meet, etc. in the system. They system may also generate a QR code or PIN for the visitor for easy sign-in and verification.
These details are recorded in the visitor sign in software and also sent required details to the visitor via the SMS or email as configured in the visitor registration system.
Capturing visitor data and enrollment
Capturing details of the visitor in visitor management system is the next step of the visitor management process. If a visitor has been pre-registered, the visitor registration system already has the required data. However, his/her photo can be captured (if required) to print on the badge or visitor pass. Verification of a pre-registered visitor can be done using a PIN or the QR code sent to him by the system.
Details of the visitors, who have not been pre-registered, can be captured by the front desk executive or the visitor can enter them on their own if the organization uses self-service kiosks for visitor registration. This process does not require any employee to engage in the process, hence saves time and resources.
Organizations that already have biometric access control deployed across the facility can also choose to process visitors using their biometric data. The visitor management system should also be integrated with access control system to allow visitors to access the facility with their biometrics like fingerprint, finger vein, etc. It will allow security person or front desk executive to quickly enable access for the visitor to all applicable areas. This is relevant in organizations where biometric access control is deployed throughout the organization.
Printing badges / visitor passes
Printing visitor badges or visitors passes is the next step in the visitor management process. Visitor passes or badges serve as the visitor ID and security personal can quickly identify a visitor at any time while he/she is in the premises. Visitor passes also include time limit of visitor access. The visitor or the host / escort can be intimated if the validity of batch has expired and visitor can be escorted back to the reception.
Some visitor sign in software can also allow customizing visitor badges that include name and photograph and contact details of the visitor as well as the name of the escort/host. Amount of details to be printed can also be customized is there is a provision for that in the visitor sign in software.
Post enrollment and data capture, visitor is granted access to the facility. The access is, however, only limited to the areas defined during the visitor enrollment. The visitor is escorted by a security person to the host. In some organizations, the host is called at the reception to escort the visitor. Visitor can stay in the facility until the validity of his/her visitor pass. Validity of visitor access should be visible on the visitor pass so that the security personnel can check it during the whereabouts of a visitor.
Visitor sign-out and surrender of visitor pass
A visitor should be formally escorted out of the facility before the expiration of his/her visitor pass. Modern visitor management system can send text notification on mobile phones or emails about the expiry of visitor pass to the host. If visitor stays more than defined period, security personnel are informed and the visitor is tracked down and escorted back to the reception. The visitor has to surrender his pass and sign-out formalities are completed.
Generation of visitor reports
A visitor management system can help security and admin departments generate vital reports that can provide real-time visibility on aspects like visitor on site, visitor pass validity, visitor punch details, etc. It can also generate weekly, monthly and yearly reports than can help organizations improve their visitor management strategy as required. Modern visitor management systems can export reports in many file formats like Excel, PDF, RTF, Word, etc.
Web based visitor management system
Both personal as well as business computing is moving towards the web. Web and cloud applications are increasingly replacing their local counterparts. Organizations are increasingly opting cloud solutions for their computing and data storage needs. Web and cloud apps can be accessed from anywhere, which helps organization to perform business transactions on-the-go. Many local applications and data storage solutions have already gone extinct. Businesses also like the simplicity of using cloud and web applications as there is no or minimal need for installation or configuration, browser is all you need to do your business computing.
A web based visitor management system offers all the functionality with goodness of web. There is no need for installation or configuration. You do not have to worry about hardware compatibility either. Only your web browser needs to be compatible with the web application. Web based visitor management system can also be accompanied by a mobile application, which can further help manage visitors even if you are away from your workstation. It can receive notifications, pre-register a visitor, check details like pass validity of a visitor and more.
Regardless of the size and type of the business outfits, visitor management systems have become crucial to ensure efficiency and security in today’s highly competitive and volatile business environment. Facilities like government and corporate offices, manufacturing plants, warehouses, storage facilities, educational institutions, retail outlets, etc. attract a large numbers of visitors each day. Processing visitors without a foolproof visitor management system is not only time consuming but can also be highly insecure practice.
Government facilities, especially those engaged in citizen services and directly interface with people, can have a large number of visitors on a daily basis. A visitor management system becomes a must-have for government facilities that attracts many visitors workaday. Government facilities are often blamed for being slow and sluggish visitor processing is one of the reasons behind this inefficiency. Quick visitor processing can not only leave a lasting impression on the visitors, but also keep employees and resources secure from intruders.
Some government facilities can be high security sites and visitor management becomes crucial at these facilities. Biometric visitor management can be the potential solution for high security government installations. It will not only help clear queues but also elevate the level of security without deploying any additional security measures.
Healthcare industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. It also forms one of the biggest industries in the United States and is one of the trillion dollar industries in the country. After banking, finance and government services, healthcare is considered to be the most vulnerable industry for unauthorized access to patient records.
In many countries including the USA, healthcare is regulated by a government agency and healthcare outfits have to comply with the regulations laid by the government. In the United States, these regulations are defined in Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) which was enacted in 1996. Healthcare facilities hold a lot of personally identifiable patient information, which needs to be protected from unauthorized access.
A visitor management system can not only help healthcare facilities stay compliant but also process daily visitors and patients, which can save a lot of time wasted in processing visitors. Our in-depth coverage on how biometric visitor identification can empower healthcare sector can be found here.
Educational institutions are always in critical need of identifying visitors. Educational facilities in the United States have seen some of the deadliest incidents of gun violence. These incidents have affected a large numbers of students and their families and many have lost their lives. According to a report published in The Washington Post, more than 187,000 students have been exposed to gun violence at school since the Columbine high school shootings in 1999.
It is very crucial for educational facilities to isolate threats out of visitors as an intruder may enter the facility posing as a visitor. Educational facilities often have a lenient visitor control which may lead to undesirable and even fatal incidents. Safety is a larger concern than front desk efficiency in educational facilities; however, a visitor management system can help achieve the both.
An education facility can be a very populated place in during admissions and a large number of visitors like candidates, their friends and family may seek access to the premises. A visitor management systems can help efficiently scrutinize individuals who may pose harm to the people and the institutional resources.
Retail sector outfits like stores, shops, outlets, etc. make end-points of many industries, where consumers can go and buy the products they need. No wonder they attract a large number of visitors including customers, suppliers, service providers, etc. Without an efficient visitor management system in place, it can be very difficult to keep tab on the people entering or exiting your retail outfit.
Some retail outfits are experimenting with biometric technology to keep the store safe from intruders and trouble makers. These outfits are taking up face recognition to identify their visitors. If the recognition system finds any troublemaker in your facility it can raise alert. That is not all, retail giant Walmart is using facial recognition technology to catch shoplifters. This is done by putting troublemakers and shoplifters on the surveillance list of the face recognition software and telling system to raise an alert if it finds any surveilled individual in the premises.
Non-profit organizations can attract a large number of visitors on a daily basis, especially those who are engaged in humanitarian, social, healthcare, human rights, educational, etc. services. Many of these organizations provide their services in remote areas deprived of government attention. A large number of visitors may show up in services like healthcare camps or educational courses facilitated by non-profit or non-governmental organizations. Since these organizations do not work for profits, they rely on donations and government aids, which is often inadequate.
With limited resources, it becomes very difficult to manage visitors. A visitor management system for visitor registration and identification can dramatically reduce burden from NGOs and they can concentrate their resources on the core activities instead of form-filling and managing visitors manually.
Tourism and hospitality
A visitor management system is a must-have for business outfits operating in tourism and hospitality sector. Tourism and hospitality industry is highly dependent on customer convenience and an efficient visitor management system can dramatically improve the level of convenience. For example, guest and visitor management with biometrics in which they can check in without the need of keys or cards can leave a lasting impression on your guests and visitors.
Tourism and hospitality is one of the fastest growing industries across the globe. The industry had hit 1.6 trillion dollar mark in 2017 which continued to grow in 2018. Some countries and islands are highly dependent on revenue from tourism and hospitality industry and it is the main source of their income.
Recreation centers and theme parks
Recreation clubs offer many activities and member may opt for some activities and skip others. Members have to pay as per their selected activities and are only authorized to access areas of selected activities. In recreation clubs, access control system which is integrated with a visitor/member management system can provide access or deny it depending on the eligibility of the member.
Recreation centers, amusement facilities and theme parks are visited by thousands of visitors every day. The numbers of visitors can be overwhelming on weekends and holidays. Operating recreation centers and theme parks without an efficient visitor management system can be a next to impossible task. A visitor management system can particularly help with visitors who repetitively visit the facility. Once enrolled with their details, their records can be processed quickly without wasting any time. It will help save time and process more visitors per hour. Biometrically enabled visitor management system can further save time and process visitors much faster once there are enrolled on the system.
Ignorance is bliss, but you have to be fortunate enough to relish it. Most businesses ignore critical aspects related with their safety thinking that worse will never happen to them. Unfortunately, visitor management is one of those ignored yet important aspects in many organizations. Visitor management is often sidelined and stay limited to making visitor entries and printing badges. However, this important process is not just about printing nicely designed badges hanging around the neck of your visitors. It is a safely procedures and can make huge difference in your overall physical security efforts.