Visitor management has been a topic that we’ve been hearing about a lot in the commercial real estate industry recently. Even though this topic isn’t new and visitor management solutions have been around for a while now, property managers are seeking new, innovative ways to improve their processes and approaches to managing visitors. And this is understandable considering the daily threats that large commercial buildings face and an ever-increasing focus on the tenant experience.
One of the challenges is finding a good balance between protecting your building and providing a seamless and simple check-in process for building visitors. If your building has a convoluted and complicated check-in process to get visitors up to a tenant’s space, visitors will get frustrated and in return, the tenant that they are visiting can become unhappy with management.
Technology changing visitor management
There are a few ways modern technology is shifting the way we manage our visitors, but new technology always poses challenges. Just because it is new, doesn’t mean it is better (or the right fit for your property). Two ways we’ve seen technology impact visitor management is:
Using mobile devices for credentialing. We’ve seen many properties start to implement the use of mobile devices as your credentials rather than a printed-out badge to gain access to the building. Since most people already have smartphones, this seems like a good choice. Getting a badge emailed to your mobile device and then scanning it at the turnstile for access eliminates the time it would take you to wait in the security check-in line, show your ID and get a badge.
The Challenge: This actually seems like it will work, but in practice, that’s a different story. Imagine a busy executive, who is running late to a meeting, having to sort through hundreds of emails on his phone, just to find that emailed QR code. Another issue we could face here is, say a visitor lost their phone and found the badge on their phone and got access to the building even though they weren’t the owner of the phone. Then you would have a person in your building that isn’t accounted for in your system. Obviously, this scenario is a little far-fetched, but the point is not having someone or even a process in the building verify who you are could create some major security issues.
Biometrics access control. Some properties are going even going the extra mile and experimenting with biometrics. This measures certain physical or behavioral characteristics to validate a person’s identity, in hopes to enhance building security. Depending on the building, you can see procedures like fingerprinting, hand printing, retinal scanning and in some cases, we even see facial recognition making its way into the visitor check-in process.
The Challenge: While all of this sounds great, there are sometimes that technology can actually be more of a hassle. Depending on how advanced the technology is, it can create more challenges and frustrations for visitors.
Speaking from personal experience, I have had to go through biometrics access control while traveling internationally. And after many attempts at the facial recognition not matching my face to my passport I had to be taken to a separate line to go through customs the ‘old way’ and have a security officer check my passport manually. In this case, it would’ve taken me far less time to have had my passport checked manually than using biometrics technology.
Not only do technical issues like this happen all the time making travelers frustrated, and in CRE, tenants, and visitors, but they also increase the amount of time it takes to get people through the security lines. If I were a visitor instead of a traveler at an airport and had to try to gain access multiple times to get to a meeting in a property I would be extremely frustrated. That frustration will be obvious to your tenants and in turn, they could also be frustrated with property management.
If your visitor process is working, why change it?
This begs me to ask this question – Should commercial buildings stick to the fundamental way of checking in visitors until this technology is evolved to make the check-in process simple? If we aren’t quite there yet with technology, why force something that might look and sound great but won’t make the lives of our security teams easer? After all visitor management is a pretty fundamental and basic process so why make changes to something if it’s working well.
Visitors expect to get checked in, past security and through the turnstiles quickly and without much effort on their end. To do this property management teams need a solution to manage visitors that has a portal where tenants can enter visitors and a central location where security teams can check in, add and alert tenants of the arrival of visitors. The most successful solutions will:
- Eliminate the use of paper logbooks, speeding check-in time for visitors
- Store critical information about each visitor including specific people that could be red flagged
- Run custom reports so teams can analyze visitor trends and better prepare for peak times
- Send automatic alerts when visitors arrive so tenants can be more prepared
- Print badges with visitor photos to ramp up security measures
Everyone is always looking for ‘the next big thing’ in terms of technological advancements but the latest and greatest technology isn’t always the right answer and may not work for every organization just yet. Until other technologies become more advanced and are vetted against specific challenges, stick with a visitor management program that enables you to quickly and smoothly check in visitors.