When visitors come into your office for the first time, you have one chance to make a first impression. In the case of VIP visitors, such as prime job candidates or potential clients, this impression is particularly important.
When visitors walk in, the front office should give them an idea of your company’s priorities and personality. That impression should pave the way nicely for the conversations and job interviews that will follow.
As we mentioned in our post about making an impression on job candidates, paying attention to the details add up to help make the right impression. The details generally fall into three main categories: design, staff, and tools.
However, first, you need to get clear on your reception area’s mission.
Reassess Your Brand
What’s the exact message you’re trying to send with your reception area? For most companies, the message will tie in with your brand: the other characteristics you’re trying to associate with your company.
For example, if you’ve branded your company as fun and vibrant, the main mission of your front desk might be to energize and inspire everyone who walks in.
If the most important thing for your company to project is a sense of expertise and professionalism, the main purpose of the front desk might be to evoke feelings of trustworthiness, efficiency, and competency.
If you’re a luxury brand, you might want your front office to make a distinctive statement that surprises and even intimidates visitors.
It’s not always easy to summarize the mission of your front desk in a concise statement. For help, think a little more about exactly who will be coming into your reception area (related: How to Categorize Your Business Visitors) and what will make them feel comfortable.
1. Interior Design Style
Even if you’re not an interior designer by trade, you can still keep these design basics in mind as you align your reception area with your company’s brand. Even just a few adjustments can go a long way.
Most small companies don’t have lots of money in the budget to pay for a big, airy reception area.
However, even in smaller spaces, you can do several things to make the area more calming and spacious. You can remove any clutter for a cleaner look. You can downsize the furniture (think sleek, modern chairs instead of big fluffy ones). And although it’s not a design issue, you can also ensure that guests aren’t kept waiting in the reception area long, so there’s little chance of things seeming crowded.
If your space is truly limited, sometimes you don’t even need a full desk in the reception area: visitors can check in via a tablet on a stand using a tool like The Receptionist. The software lets you customize who gets alerted when visitors arrive, and how they get alerted (they can even choose custom intervals). You can also set backup contacts in case the first contact doesn’t respond, and let visitors correspond directly with staff via the tablet as they wait.
Changing the colour of your front office area is one of the least expensive ways to experiment with the energy you want the reception area to project.
If the front desk’s primary mission is to be welcoming, consider a warm or cheerful colour. If you’re going for a calming vibe, a neutral or cool colour will be best. And brightly coloured accents can be a great way to energize the front desk of a company trying to project a bold or upbeat culture.
You can certainly incorporate your brand’s colours into your reception area, too, but don’t feel limited to those. (It’s not a team locker room, after all).
If there’s one area where an office’s standard harsh fluorescent lighting might need an upgrade, it’s at the front desk area.
Natural light is generally more welcoming and easier on the eyes than artificial light. If possible, arrange the furniture in a way that maximizes any natural light.
However, there have also been plenty of advancements in light bulbs that mimic daylight, and you can experiment with them (and with lighting sources) to see which one gives off the type of lighting that looks the best in your front desk area.
Graphics and Decor
Graphics, decor, and accessories can all go a long way toward pulling your reception area’s look together in a way that completes the statement you’re trying to make.
Of course there’s not one way to do this; designers play with the elements of line, form, texture, and pattern to create a cohesive style. Companies striving to create a relaxing vibe might want to add a beautiful live plant to the front desk (or, to take it a step further, a vertical garden).
These days, we have tools like Pinterest to help collect ideas of spaces that we like and want to draw from: just type “reception area” or “front desk inspiration” into Pinterest’s search box and you’ll be well on your way. From there, it may help to narrow your search down by industry or by design style (try using descriptors like “modern,” “traditional” or “organic”).
2. Front Desk Staff
A big part of the style of your front office has to do with the person sitting behind the front desk, including their appearance and behaviour.
We just discussed aesthetics of the office itself, but it’s worth mentioning that your human receptionist should also embody your company’s brand with the way they present themselves. A casual and hip tech start-up isn’t going to want their receptionist to look buttoned-up with a tie and blazer, for example. The opposite might be true for the receptionist of a high-billing service like a legal office or a luxury brand.
Note that you shouldn’t enforce different aesthetic standards with your receptionist than with the rest of your company; all employees should generally follow the same established dress code. However, it’s fair to note in the job description for your receptionist that a professional appearance (whatever that means for your company) will be required in this role.
Tone of voice and word choice are a big part of any brand, regardless of whether those words are written on the company’s “about” page or spoken to visitors by your staff.
For example, companies that want to impress their visitors might encourage receptionists to address visitors more formally (with a “good afternoon,” for example), while companies whose mission is to make people feel welcome may go with a “hi there” instead.
Along with your tone’s formality level, it may help to instruct receptionists on which specific words and phrases to use in common scenarios.
Attention to Visitor Management
There are plenty of ways to structure the role of the receptionist, as we wrote in our full post on the subject. Most companies don’t have enough visitors to dedicate someone solely to visitor management; front desk workers are often responsible for other administrative or executive tasks, as well.
However, if you put the wrong demands on your front desk staff, you’ll make it really difficult for them to do their jobs well. Either they’ll tend to be on the phone, or they simply won’t have as much energy or attention left for the task of visitor management. That could affect their ability to greet guests and check them in properly.
Even if your staff is dedicated solely to visitor management, you’ll have to clarify how the front desk duties will be handled when they can’t be at the desk. After all, they will sometimes need to call off work. They also need to take breaks and eat lunch: No one wants to walk in on the receptionist mid-bite.
3. Visitor Check-In Process
The final piece of the puzzle when it comes to your reception area making a great impression are the tools you use for the visitor check-in process.
For example, a paper sign-in log sends the message that your company is traditional or perhaps old-fashioned. Same with agreements that require signatures on paper.
It’s generally understood that electronic alternatives for these elements are more secure, less prone to error, and more private. Companies that want to be seen as modern and competent should use them.
Article Credit | TheReceptionist.com