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What is a Visitor Management System? 2020 Guide

A visitor management system is a system designed to help manage the flow of visitors. Modern visitor management is usually carried out via digital means, using software and interactive kiosks, but they can be as simple as a pen and paper log.

The primary purpose of a visitor management system depends heavily on the needs of the organization deploying it.  For example, large corporations require advanced visitor management systems that offer greater functionality, such as kiosks with integrated printers for visitor badges, virtual concierge software, and building access management. Smaller organizations, such as elementary schools, may only need a simple counter-mounted tablet to allow parents and guardians to check students in and out of the building securely.

Why are visitor management systems important?

At their simplest, visitor management systems are important as they allow businesses to keep track of who is in the building at any given time. Paper logs do this buy requiring visitors to sign in when they arrive and sign out when they depart. Advanced visitor management kiosks go beyond the basics with software that can capture visitor photos and print them directly onto temporary badges, and add access controls so that the badges must be scanned in order for visitors to enter certain areas of a building or campus. For organizations with greater security needs, these extra layers of protection are crucial as it helps keep both employees and intellectual property safe. 

Beyond security, these systems also help organizations like museums understand their own facility management needs better. For example, knowing which areas of the building generate the most interest from visitors can help them better identify potential staffing needs in high-traffic exhibit halls, or learn which types of displays are most popular so that they can create similar content in the future. 

visitor management.

Common Visitor Management Tools

As mentioned previously, visitor management systems range from very simple to incredibly complex, but as long as everyone follows the system, almost anything can work. 

  • Sign-in Sheet: Pen and paper is a tried and true system that has worked for centuries. A visitor simply writes their name on a piece of paper alongside their reason for visit, time and date, and then signs out upon departure. Then a receptionist can identify who has been or is currently in the building, and when or whether they have left the premises of the business.
  • On-premise Software: A big step up from the pen and paper solution even at its most basic, on-premise software greatly simplifies visitor management. Using computers or tablets, visitors sign in electronically, often using a touchscreen. Depending on the sophistication of the system, printed visitor badges are often an option, as well as building access control codes that may be scanned from the badge to allow entry to more secure areas. When the visitor leaves, they simply sign out of the system and return their badges.  
  • Cloud-based Software: Identical to on-premise software in almost every way, except the software is stored on a "cloud" server that is not onsite at the business. The greatest advantage of cloud-based visitor management software is that just about any system update can be handled remotely, which generally means less maintenance.

Features and Benefits of a Digital Visitor Management System 

Here are a few of the features and benefits that make up an effective visitor management system:

Easy Sign-In

Whether it is via pen or paper or computer system, visitors should be able to quickly and easily input their information and be on their way without much hassle. Essentially, anyone should be able to use the system without training or prior knowledge. 

Visitor Logs

The key component of any visitor management system is the ability to keep an accurate record of who has entered the building or premises. Visitor logs should be kept and saved for set periods of time in order to keep staff informed regarding who has or hasn’t left the premises. 

Electronic Notifications

Visitor management systems can be equipped with the ability to send electronic notifications via email or text. These notifications may be intended for any number of purposes: informing security or receptionists that a new visitor has arrived, alerting employees that they have a guest, or to communicate emergency information to anyone on the premises, including fires, security threats, or severe weather information. 

Legal Documents & Policies

Companies that handle sensitive data or intellectual property often require additional security measures to be put in place so that certain classes of visitors are under a binding legal agreement during their visit, such as a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). Visitor management systems can seamlessly integrate the signing of these documents during the check-in process, simplifying the process and creating a digital record of the agreement for both parties. 

Badge Creation and Printing

Visitor badge generation and printing can be another useful feature of visitor management systems. Badges provide a clear way for staff to identify visitors, and can be as simple as a name tag, or more complex, including a visitor photo, e-signature, and scannable building access codes to limit movement or allow access to areas that may house sensitive information. 

Fingerprints and Other Biometrics

Companies with greater-than-average security needs can integrate their visitor management kiosk system with features that create even more layers of protection, like biometrics. Fingerprint scanners and retina scanners are two types of biometrics that are commonly integrated into these kiosks for added security.

Ease of Software Integration

It's important to know that the visitor management system selected will properly integrate with other systems, including security systems, databases/record-keeping software, and operating systems to avoid problems post-installation. 

COVID-19 Facilities Management

The COVID-19 pandemic has made visitor management more important than ever when it comes to keeping visitors and staff safe. Visitor management systems can be integrated with touchless temperature scanning and monitoring software and hardware in order to track or limit access to those displaying or reporting COVID-19 symptoms. 

How do digital visitor management systems work? 

  1. Visitor signs in: A visitor provides all the requested information, such as name, email, photo, and/or phone number. 
  2. Notification: Companies can opt to have an email or text notification sent informing them that a new visitor has arrived.
  3. Staff member greets the visitor: If security measures are in place to limit building access, a staff member would then greet the visitor and ensure they find their way to the meeting place at which they are expected.
  4. Visitor signs out: Prior to departing the visitor logs onto the system again to check out of the building.

visitor management.

What are the benefits of digital visitor management?

The primary benefit of a digital visitor management system is to alleviate the need to manually register and track visitors. The system should simplify the process for both visitors and staff. 

For businesses:

  • Professional impressions: A digital visitor system is far more modern than pen and paper, and the truth is that public perception and first impressions matter. 
  • Data collection: When organizations have large volumes of visitors, they also have access to a pool of rich data about them, from email addresses to specifics about key demographics. This information can help companies know more about their visitors and guests, and therefore, how to serve them best.  
  • Streamlines visitor check-in and check-out: Visitor management systems help take pressure off of staff, freeing them up to focus on more important tasks. 
  • Increased security: By keeping a record of who is in the building, organizations are better able to provide a safe and secure environment for staff, visitors and guests.  

For visitors: 

  • Better organization: For visitors, a visitor management system is important as it helps keep them on schedule for any meetings they may have by streamlining the check-in process.
  • Less time waiting: A streamlined check-in and check-out process means less time waiting.
  • A more positive experience: Ensuring that the visitor management process is quick and simple makes it easier to create a positive experience for visitors. 

How to Choose the Best Visitor Management Solution

Choosing the right solution can seem complicated, but it can be simplified when you know exactly what you need your visitor management system to do, and then balance that with any necessary budget constraints. Below are some things to consider before purchasing a system:

  • Understand your visitors' needs: Understanding your visitors' needs will help to identify what is necessary and what is not for your business. If you only have a low volume of visitors, then pen and paper is a perfectly fine solution. If your staff can’t handle your current volume of employees and visitors then a digital solution is recommended.
  • Understand your budget constraints: Budget is an extremely important factor consider at the very start of the selection process. It is easy for projects to quickly spin out of control when there are many potential options and integrations. Stick to what you know you need, for the price you require.
  • Understand the system's features: Understand the technology you are asking visitors to use, as well as its limitations. Visitor management software is meant to be simple and straightforward. If it is at all confusing, then it will end up going unused, ultimately wasting budget that could have been better directed elsewhere.  
  • Understand integrations with current technology:  Understand how your visitor management software integrates with your current systems and how they can ultimately work together to benefit you. 
  • Understand the brand: There are many different visitor management software solutions available. All offer unique features and value propositions, so do your research and understand each system's limitations and strengths to ensure the one you choose is the best one for your organization.

 

Digital visitor management systems are commonplace in many successful businesses today, and with their benefits, it’s not hard to see why. They provide a streamlined means of tracking new visitors and employees and above all, keep them safe while on your organization's premises. 

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