Many campuses are vast in size — the University of British Columbia, for example, occupies more than four square kilometres of land. Within these campuses are research facilities, student housing, private housing, event centres, theatres and a myriad of other specialized buildings.
Managing visitors within these spaces can be challenging. Contractors, guest lecturers, event attendees, and other unfamiliar individuals enter the doors every day.
Universities are expected to offer a great visitor experience all while tracking guests and ensuring safety on campus. Compounding these expectations are the rigorous standards of data management that universities are required to uphold.
With the size and population of today’s campuses, post-secondary institutions are turning to technology, specifically cloud-based visitor management software (VMS), to meet these requirements.
Making guests feel welcome
Providing a great visitor experience relies on making the guest feel welcome. Hosts should know who visitors are, why they’re visiting and any other critical pieces of information.
In its guide to hosting international visitors, Virginia Commonwealth University urges staff to “be aware of religious considerations and dietary restrictions.” This is a great example of the kind of detail that is needed to demonstrate to visitors that their presence is valued and that can be made available to staff within a centralized platform through VMS.
Providing a personalized experience is the most sure-fire way for post-secondary institutions to demonstrate that visitors matter to them. Post-secondary institutions can use VMS to deliver personalization in a number of ways:
- Create a sign-in process that is relevant to each visitor, implementing different processes for guest lecturers versus contractors.
- Remember important facts about visitors by customizing the data captured on sign-in forms, which is valuable for other communication and operational purposes.
- Store check-in data so repeat visitors don’t have to re-enter their details on subsequent visits.
- Invite event attendees to pre-register so they can quickly check-in with a QR code.
- Look for VMS platforms that offer multilingual service to accommodate international visitors in their native language when they sign in.
Securing the campus
While visitors deliver a lot of value to universities, they also bring inherent risks alongside them. Universities are obliged to protect students, faculty and any other concerned parties from potentially harmful activities by visitors. They also need to provide that same level of security to the visitors themselves. Understanding who visitors are at every stage of their visit is a critical success factor in maintaining campus-wide safety and security.
Protecting campus residents requires thorough identification of visitors and clear parameters that define the spaces they are permitted to access, which can be denoted using colour-coded badges produced using VMS systems. It’s also possible to integrate VMS systems with criminal watch lists and government databases to screen guests in real time. This particular use case is especially relevant to university campuses, which have a multitude of access points and a decentralized staff working across campus.
In the event of an emergency, visitors need to be kept informed and accounted for. VMS systems can be used to send emergency alerts directly to visitors and view roll-call, which allows security and administrative staff to quickly visualize which visitors are on campus.
Protecting and managing data
The other piece of the security puzzle pertains to protecting sensitive information such as intellectual property. VMS can be used to help streamline processes that protect sensitive data such as material held within research facilities. During the initial visitor sign-in process, universities can require an e-signature to a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) or other legal documents.
Universities are also expected to comply with government policies that regulate data management. For example, some provincial governments in Canada require organizations to use local data centres to secure and protect customer/constituent data. There is a current shortage of data centres in Canada, but that is changing as VMS companies launch new data centres to help organizations comply with data residency regulations.
Equally important, organizations need robust data governance systems as data privacy regulations become more rigorous. Post-secondary institutions can use VMS to consolidate and configure the data they collect to adhere to compliance standards. Keeping that data within a centralized platform makes it possible to export a full report in the event of a data audit.
Visitor management software on today’s campus
The challenges of visitor management in modern universities and colleges are going to grow more pronounced over time. Unlike physical guestbooks and other manual processes, VMS will scale alongside campuses, remaining viable even as new facilities are built and more visitors and students appear on campus.
Carolin Wolf is the product marketing manager at Traction Guest, a developer of cloud-based visitor management systems (VMS). She has shaped business and brand strategies for large enterprises and smaller ventures, with a focus on the tech sector. She can be reached at [email protected]