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04.05.2021, 14:01

Overcoming COVID-19 Front-of-House Challenges

Front-of-House/Security, United Kingdom

Swiss Post Solutions (SPS) has published new research on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on front of house strategies in the UK.


According to its report, half of all companies plan to introduce interactive technologies to help overcome new ‘front of house’ (FOH) challenges that have been imposed by COVID19. A further 41% of businesses plan to outsource FOH services altogether.


The research, which was conducted amongst 300 medium to large businesses, also demonstrates how the pandemic has exponentially shifted priorities, accelerated demands and introduced new challenges to FOH services. While most UK businesses (75 per cent) used to rely on their own staff to man reception and greet visitors, the latest data suggests a 156 per cent increase in companies now considering outsourcing this function to an external provider. 


In fact, technology has become so fundamental to supporting FOH services that 43 per cent of companies state they will move away from staffed receptions entirely. This echoes wider trends in business process outsourcing, where organisations are seeking services that use digital and hybrid technology to take control of essential business processes, encompassing document management and guest services.


Other key findings: 

  • 91 per cent of businesses believe the way they manage front of house services will change as a result of COVID-19, with 95 per cent stating their entire strategy has been impacted
  •  Larger businesses with more than 500 employees are most in need of FOH support and are 96 per cent more likely to outsource FOH services compared to small companies (50-100 staff)
  • The demand for technology is consistent across all business sizes, with over 50 per cent saying that COVID-19 will increase their use of technology to support guest services


When it comes to the day-to-day FOH challenges that concern businesses, there has been a seismic shift since the arrival of COVID-19. Pre-pandemic, companies were most concerned about ‘time’; time taken to check in visitors (42 per cent); time taken to resolve queries (40 per cent); and delays between visitor check in and collection (38 per cent).


A year on, while these are still important factors, businesses are more concerned about health and safety, stating that their top three challenges are:

  • Ensuring the health and safety of visitors and employees (67 per cent)
  • Maintaining hygiene protocols (38 per cent)
  • Managing safe flow of visitors to ensure social distancing (31 per cent)


Furthermore, 88 per cent of those surveyed advised they will require visitors to complete a pre-arrival health questionnaire to support COVID-19 safety measures, with 46 per cent saying this is already in place.  


Gary Harrold, CEO UK & Ireland, SPS, explains: "The workplace is a rapidly evolving environment and this has been accelerated by COVID19. Technology and outsourcing to expert providers has become the go-to solution for organisations focused on resilience and post-pandemic renewal. This shift in front of house strategy follows the patterns we have seen in other areas of business processing. For example, our research last year showed that following this crisis 80 per cent of organisations are now looking to digitise mailrooms, with over 70 per cent seeking to digitalise document processes. This is now being echoed across on-the-ground business services such as guest services and front of house.


"Alongside the usual pressures for front of house services, businesses are now having to consider the wider impact of social distancing restraints and safety protocols. However, UK companies understand the benefits that technology and automation can provide; embracing interactive technologies enables organisations to totally rethink their front of house and guest services model and change visitor processing as we know it."


In response to these findings, SPS has bolstered its Guest Services provision to ensure customers can embrace interactive technology that enables them to adopt a modernised visitor experience. Talking of the company’s evolution, Harrold says, "SPS has a strong track record of providing outsourced services for a myriad of business processes. Strengthening our Front of House and Guest Services provision was a natural next step and, given the latest research findings, it was important that a technology-led approach sat at the heart of our offering.


"We’re encouraging businesses to use this time to reconsider how they perform FOH visitor and meeting room management services. The last year has taught us that it’s vital for companies to adopt a more agile model; in our experience, those that utilise technology-led services and hybrid receptions are better positioned to drive continuous improvement."


When it comes to how organisations will use their office spaces post-pandemic, the role of front of house is ever-more important. Although a quarter said they plan to close their offices altogether, 44 per cent of businesses feel that while remote working will be encouraged and/or expected, office spaces will become central hubs for meetings and other company activities. This is even more prevalent in large businesses with over 1,000 employees (67 per cent), suggesting that front of house services will still be required and will become even more critical in providing a positive visitor experience.


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