There are no second chances when it comes to first impressions. In business, this is particularly relevant as first impressions can pave the way to a done deal or a deal breaker. Customers and candidates get a sense of a company the moment they walk through the door. Everything, from décor to energy can impact the way a guest responds to an organisation, but it is the very first welcome that underpins that long-lasting impression. With only one chance to get it right, the front-of-house (FoH) experience must be second to none.

To that end, there is a greater demand for a five-star approach from in house facilities management and corporate real estate teams. We are seeing a shift from stuffy, sterile corporate environments to more of a home-from-home ‘look and feel’ with a touch of luxury. I’ve even heard of an organisation that has hired a first impressions director to ensure that attention to detail prevails, right down to the colour configuration of the flower displays, the origin of the coffee beans and the clothing worn by those staffing  the visitor desks. To truly stand out, FoH teams should go the extra mile to create a welcoming, comfortable environment with appropriate refreshments, music and reading materials.

Technology is also playing a part in revolutionising the FoH experience. In a session called ‘Designing for people’ at the IFMA World Workplace conference, Emily Thrasher of Proxyclick, a visitor management platform, stressed that tech will not replace human interaction, it will just make it easier. The entrée team couldn’t agree more. Wi-Fi should be accessible within a heartbeat; the configuration of the space should be intuitive by design; and the checking in system should be fast and smooth. Those are some of the basics. But tech can also enable a more interactive, immersive and seamless guest experience. This allows hospitality teams to go one step beyond, mirroring the approach of high-end hotels. With the right data at their disposal, for example, the people greeting visitors will know everything there is to know about the guests in question, from the reason they’re there to their favourite beverage so it can be served on arrival.

At Vacherin, we’re seeing that our clients are actively demanding a more cohesive approach when it comes to their FoH image across catering, security, customer service and concierge to streamline their corporate image. That’s one of the reasons why our specialist reception service, entrée, has grown by 25% over the last two years. The key to a successful front of house experience is providing a bespoke service and a personal touch, making each and every guest feel special. As workplaces become more collaborative, receptions and restaurants have to double up as meeting and entertainment spaces so flexibility is the name of the game. Training is also vital in equipping FoH personnel with the soft skills required. The hospitality team need to get under the skin of the business they represent. The people on the front line of the visitor experience are essentially brand ambassadors; they have to mirror the ethos and culture of the organisations they serve. Communication is key. Through the art of conversation, we can find the right blend of services to transform an average experience into an unforgettable one. It takes 20 years to build a reputation so let’s invest as much thought into the next 20 to ensure we pave the way to better business outcomes.