Everything you need to know about visitor management systems
Visitor management refers to the policies and practices that a company or an organization uses to manage its visitor flow. It usually refers to the visitors of a specific building or group of buildings, and it can entail slightly different things depending on the use case.
Before diving into use cases and features, it might be helpful to start with what a visitor is, why visitor management is important, and how visitor management systems work.
This question might sound rhetorical, but it is important to define who is and is not a visitor before installing or upgrading your visitor management system. A visitor can be defined as every individual that tries to enter your facility but does not belong to your organization.
This definition, even if limited by the context, gives a pretty easy explanation of who goes through a visitor management system before arriving at your office door.
Visitors can be more or less frequent and belong to many different categories. Let’s see some:
The list could go on and on, but these are most likely the majority of the visitors you will encounter.
Depending on the use case, visitor management assumes different levels of importance. In general, it is always useful to have a clear overview of how external individuals interact with your facility. This, in fact, can help out in case of security breaches and add an extra layer of security in terms of visitor screening.
For schools, the importance of visitor management is heightened in the screening part of the process. Keeping unwanted visitors away from the kids is the priority of every school, and that’s how VMSs contribute to school security.
When it comes to offices, on the other hand, visitor management systems are extremely helpful for both preventing unwanted users from entering the facility (former employees, scammers, burglars) and helping out in case of a security breach. Knowing who was in the facility when an item was stolen or a door was forced can be very helpful.
Now that we have talked about visitor management and why it is important, we can dedicate some time to explaining how most visitor management systems work. Although some companies may use manual visitor management procedures that do not include digital technology, we won’t focus on those, as they are getting obsolete and are rarely adopted.
The functioning of digital visitor management systems can be divided into two (at times, three) steps. The first step is that of authentication.
Authenticating the visitor is the single most important action at the core of visitor management. With the authentication process, the company or organization verifies an individual’s identity and intentions by checking the individual’s documents and making the individual sign the documents that are necessary for compliance.
Once the visitor is cleared, he/she can eventually move to the next step. Occasionally this is notifying the employee that needs to get in contact with the visitor. In other cases, the visitor can just move on to fulfill whichever task is needed before leaving the building.
Authentication is probably the most complex stage because it can happen in different ways depending on the scenario. Visitors can be authenticated by simply inserting their credentials on an iPad or tablet at the entrance. The software that controls visitor management can then make a quick check of the history of the individual and identify possible threats.
Other authentication processes involve more documents and, in particular, non-disclosure agreements. If a visitor is required to sign these documents before entering the company, the software will make sure that he/she will do that before allowing for access credentials.
Authentication is usually what makes or breaks a visitor management system customer when choosing the best solution. As a matter of fact, compliance is very important for many companies, and an easy way to enforce compliance is at the entrance when letting visitors in.
Notification happens when a visitor needs to meet with or has a dependency on an employee within the company. In this case, after the authentication of the visitor has taken place, the employee that has to meet the visitor gets notified that the latter is ready to be greeted.
It is not unusual that visitors are there to encounter employees of the company. Just think about it: almost everyone from maintenance to consultants are at the company because they need to either meet the office manager to know where the IT room is or to meet a specific employee for a meeting.
In some scenarios, however, this step is unnecessary.
In all scenarios, every visitor in any situation is located at your facility to fulfill a task. The task can be operational, the delivery of a product, a meeting, or just to leave a resume at reception. In each of these cases, the visitor management process finishes when the person fulfills their task and leaves the company/facility.
There might be some cases in which visitors fulfill their tasks without needing to notify any employee inside the company. These are, for example, visitors that leave a resume at reception for the hiring manager or an external company that needs to do some specific maintenance.
When talking about VMS components, in most cases it is easier than you think. The most important factor to keep into account is the visitor management software. The software is what controls compliance, is what makes the actual background checks, and is the one that issues access credentials. You can see it as the brain of the whole operation. Without this component, nothing else can function properly.
Usually paired to this, there is an iPad or tablet that is used for the more operational part of the system. These steps are, for example, adding credentials, e-signing documents, and taking pictures of the visitor. A tablet is the perfect choice as it offers a broad screen and allows for touch features. It also usually comes with a camera, and all of these features make this solution preferable compared to a laptop, for example.
It is not unusual, however, to see laptops or even mobile phones instead of tablets for this type of operation.
The third (and highly optional) element of a visitor management system is a printer. A printer can be helpful in case some documents require a real signature and not an “e-signature” or for scenarios in which you need to print a “badge” for the visitor. Most of the time, however, this is done digitally.
Now that you know what VMSs are and you have an idea of how they work, we can talk about the features you should look for when choosing a visitor management system.
As we mentioned in the paragraphs above, compliance is a major factor to keep in consideration when choosing a visitor management software. With these criteria in mind, let’s go through some of the features that your VMS needs to have:
Apart from these necessary features, there are others that will take the VMS to the next level:
Finally, we’re able to take a look at the best solutions that the market has to offer. With regards to the offering, contrary to other solutions, there are not too many visitor management software providers to choose from. Or, at least, there are not too many high-quality ones.
Although we do have a more specific article about the best visitor management software, we can briefly dive into the most searched-for brands.
Envoy is the obvious name that comes up whenever you’re looking for a visitor management software. There’s a reason why the name of Envoy is often associated with excellence and great products: the company has been leading the visitor management market for years now, and it seems like it will continue to do so in the future.
Their platform user experience is smooth and constantly improving, and the sign-in process is quick and gets straight to the point.
Envoy and Kisi also have a long-standing relationship, consolidated with one of the most requested integrations on our platform. If you’re interested in learning more about the Kisi x Envoy integration, check out our dedicated article.
Eden is an example of a company that does not sell visitor management as a core business but as part of a bigger solution. Their visitor management software ticks all the boxes as it allows for fast sign-in and even allows visitors to pre-register and get screened in advance. You can also sign documents and get notifications through their dashboard.
If you want to know more about Eden, check out our integrations page.
Proxyclick is another name that you will probably have encountered in your search for a visitor management software. The product is great and the dashboard is clear and easy to use. The price point is even slightly lower than Envoy, so it’s a great solution for those who do not have the budget for a more complete solution.
One of the recurring critiques of Proxyclick is about their lack of integrations with regards to access control, but otherwise, the solution is very solid and is the preferred option of many prestigious companies.
Other companies sell visitor management solutions, often as a secondary product (which does not necessarily mean lower quality). If you want an overview of more VMS brands, with indications on pricing and features, visit our article dedicated to the best visitor management software.
Hopefully, if you’ve taken a look at the previous chapters of this guide and checked out our linked resources, you now have a good overview of what a visitor management system is, what it is composed of, and which are the best brands. You already know the essential features and you’re only looking for the last details about installation and setup.
In order to set up a visitor management system you must start with the software that you’ve chosen. Different software requires different setups and hardware depending on their features and compatibility. Let’s, for the sake of simplicity, assume you choose a software that works for multiple devices, uses an iPad for the visitor sign-in, and requires a badge printer.
A great place to start is the software website. They probably have instructions on what tablet models and printers are compatible with your solution and detailed indications on how to connect the two.
After everything is up and running, you can ask for support from your software’s customer service to integrate it with your security system and, in particular, your access control system. Here’s one article we’ve written about the topic.
A good relationship between visitor management and access control is vital for the well-being of your company. As a matter of fact, if you have both solutions but the two do not communicate with each other, this might very easily lead to security breaches. Imagine a visitor is not granted access by the visitor management system but still enters the building because your office door lock is being held open.
Or worse, an investor or business partner that can’t get in the building because the visitor management system did not grant access to him/her.
Kisi understood the importance of this integration a very long time ago, and that’s why we can offer multiple integrations with very prestigious visitor management system brands. Our solution is future-proof and 100% committed to securing your facility and your employees. If you want to learn more about Kisi’s visitor management features, check out our features page, or otherwise contact our sales team!