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Receptionist welcoming a guest

Business & Industry

Redefining perceptions of corporate reception

A receptionist is the face of a company. That much is obvious. But the role of the modern receptionist goes much further, incorporating marketing, sales, human resources, communication and event management.

Bianca Angelico, Guest Services Transformation Manager at Sodexo UK, believes the role of the receptionist is changing as a result of the “experience economy”. People expect more when they enter a building, comparing the service and treatment they receive not with other offices, but with hotels and restaurants.

Redefining ‘reception’ as ‘guest services’ is one of the keys to reflecting this shift. It’s why Sodexo is piloting a new Guest Services offer that brings together reception, switchboard, help desk and concierge. Bianca comments; “Our ethos is Our Services, Your Way. It’s about creating a family of services that come together to engage both guests and employees.”


Receptionist gathered in a groupFirst Impressions

The importance of a first impression should never be underestimated.

According to Roy Morgan Research, 66% of companies will not give a supplier a second chance if they make a bad first impression. And a well-trained professional who makes the right impression is even more valuable than you might expect, as prospective customers are seven times more likely to leave an enquiry if they are able to speak to a dedicated receptionist.

"Speed of response to enquiries is the number one factor in choosing a supplier.”

Roy Morgan Research

Bianca worked in hospitality from a young age and it is from hotels and restaurants that she now takes inspiration, applying their lessons to corporate guest services.

She created an experience wheel, which maps out the key factors in making a strong first impression, and in delivering a quality ongoing experience. Elements such as signage, the administration of guest passes, refreshments and even the availability of WiFi are among the touchpoints that reflect an organisation’s identity.

The wheel is used to assess each of these touchpoints individually, ensuring every aspect of a guest’s visit is reviewed and enhanced, with nothing slipping through the cracks.


The Heartbeat of Your Business

One of the reasons Sodexo refers to ‘guests’ rather than ‘visitors’ is the implication that a visitor is like a tourist, wandering in without purpose, or the perception that they can only be a client. A guest is invited, has a purpose, and may include the organisation’s own staff.

Receptionist serving guest

“In the past, people have treated the receptionist as though they are only external facing,” Bianca explains. “But the guest may be an employee calling from another site and saying ‘I don’t know how to get to you. Is there parking? Your receptionist is your heartbeat. Organisations need to provide a better experience for staff. They know they need to do something to attract and to retain talent, to create a culture, and that starts with the guest services team.”

Mass media company NBCUniversal have put huge emphasis on developing a modern guest services strategy that meets the needs of everyone. Receptionist Elias Fonseca, who helps to drive exceptional experiences in the London offices believes guest services are an underrated resource in the workplace.

“People often think the job of a receptionist is to be at reception. However this is only a small part of what the guest services team does. Among other responsibilities, we act as the main communication channel between our client and the other soft services in the building. And in doing so we take away the customers worries and liaise with the other teams to resolve any issues or deliver the customer’s request.”

"Our Sodexo Guest Services team at NBCUniversal are hugely instrumental in eliminating stress when managing our room booking system. Their excellent management approach, and attention to detail in dealing with requests from our EA/PA group and NBC staff, streamlines the booking process through exceptional client service and catering which ensures everything runs efficiently and smoothly.

It has been great working with Sodexo, they have brought enthusiasm, drive and a positive energy with an intuitive approach. Bianca recently gave a training session to our EA/PA Network team where she demonstrated helpful tips using our meeting room booking software along with an overview of the role of the Guest Services team."

Johnnett Boreland, NBCUniversal

For employees this means a personal and supportive experience that’s made easier, slicker and more streamlined by Elias’ team. “We always try to get to know everyone and address them on a first name basis, it helps to bring a relaxed and personal feel to the professional setting. Through open communication we keep both clients and employees fully up to date with things like schedule changes. It all adds up to make their day run smoother”.


The Modern Receptionist

Of course, one of the strongest preconceptions receptionists and guest services teams must overcome, if they are to truly become the heartbeat of an organisation, is the notion that they simply sit behind a desk without adding much value.

The modern receptionist is a skilled communicator, a problem solver and a facilitator.

“Being on the front line, you become so used to being a problem solver that it becomes something you thrive off,” says Bianca. “That’s part of the training, thinking like a leader rather than a follower. Your next big role is being a connector - you may not have all the answers, but you know everyone in the building, so you know who will.”

Beyond the experience the individual can offer, guest services teams are contributing to the overall design and feel of a space. Inspired by the best hotels and their focus on sensory experiences, teams are now experimenting with scent.

“Sensory marketing is a big part of our future offer. If you can affect the sense of smell, you've improved a guest’s experience by 40% before you've even communicated with them,” Bianca explains. “If I walk into a building and I recognise the smell, it reminds me instantly where I am and what I’m here to do.”

Receptionist serving guest with glass of waterMusic is another key to the sensory experience, as the tempo of the music that plays in a space creates a subconscious expectation of the speed of service a guest will receive. Classical music is often chosen in retail outlets that want guests to linger. For more energetic environments, a faster beat is preferred.

As buildings evolve to offer a better experience for guests, so too does the contribution of guest services. The role of the person ‘behind the desk’ is becoming more sophisticated and more creative as they contribute ideas to the design, layout and facilities available, all of which are vital to the guest experience.

Creating Opportunities

Recognising the breadth of skills a good receptionist possesses puts businesses in a better position to take advantage of those skills. Bianca notes they are playing a more active role in human resources, particularly in the induction of new staff in an organisation.

"Receptionists are the unsung heroes. They make your day. They know so much about people personally and professionally and the role they play is crucial to guests.”

Bianca Angelico

Receptionist handing a guest their coatAnd for the people who take on guest services roles, opportunities abound. Elias Fonseca notes more men are entering the profession as they realise its potential for career development, including paths to customer service and facilities coordination roles, and a change in mindset.

“When companies focus more on what a person can bring to the role as professional, they will gain much more from their employees. Guest services are essentially human services. It’s a role that should exemplify modern human values. Gender shouldn’t even be considered a factor when we think about today’s receptionist”.  

For companies that recognise and support receptionists and other guest services staff, invest in their training and take the time to ensure a positive cultural fit, the rewards are extensive. A better first impression leads to growth, while a trained problem solver on the front line helps set the tone for an entire business.

To find out more about how Sodexo can improve work and transform workplace experience for your business, click here to contact us.

May 08, 2019

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Bianca Angelico

About the author : Bianca Angelico

Bianca is the Guest Services Transformation Manager for Sodexo Corporate Services UK & Ireland. She has a degree in organisational psychology and marketing management, and has been working in the workplace industry for several years. Bianca has wealth of understanding about the facilities management and workplace industry through her different volunteer roles within IFMA, IWFM and CoreNet. She is Co-founder and Communications Lead for Emerging Workplace Leaders Network. Her efforts in helping young talent in the industry has resulted in her being recognized as a Young Leader by Tomorrow Meets Today and was awarded a WeAreCity Rising Star Award in 2018. Bianca is also a keen speaker at many different industry event across europe.

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