In his first blog for Infologue.com Jose Saez, Operations Manager at security service provider, Portico Safe, discusses the need to fuse elements of guest services and front of house into the nature of security and the training and responsibilities of security officers.
Guest experience and safety are two of the most important aspects service providers need to get right in the post-pandemic era. As economies reopen and businesses return to their premises, organisations are investing considerable time, energy and resources into making their buildings and workplaces safe and appealing for both employees and visitors.
The dynamics have changed. In 2019, 27% of the workforce worked from home at some point according to the Office for National Statistics, increasing to an average of 37% in 2020 following government guidance to work from home where possible. Workspaces have therefore had to adapt accordingly. Indeed, as societies move beyond lockdowns and unoccupied buildings, the workplace has transitioned into a new era of being more of an experience-led destination for its occupants.
Far from being the central productivity hub characterised by rows of neatly assembled desks, offices are being repurposed into a series of spaces that enable collaboration and promote human and physical wellbeing. Although this trend was starting to emerge prior to the pandemic, COVID-19 has served as a major accelerant for facilities management providers to prioritise and champion the guest experience. This has implications for security, too. In our view, the traditional site safety vigilance role of the security officer is no longer enough to fulfil and exceed client expectations.
Often, they are the first point of contact when an employee or guest arrives at a building, and first impressions count. Security officers therefore need to reflect corporate brand values, provide a service that is second to none and ensure that guests are happy when they move beyond reception areas. Moreover, some people are still nervous about coming back to their workplaces, making the role of security guards as that first point of contact even more important to their overall experience.
Here, security officers must also deal with the complexities of COVID-19. This could entail duties such as conducting health checks and marshalling policies such as one-way systems and hand sanitisation. From our experience, this cannot be carried out effectively without the softer skills of awareness, compassion, and the human touch. People need to feel safe, of course, but they should also feel nurtured, understood, reassured, and comforted.
In light of these dynamics, a security offering should be designed to either complement existing front of house services or there should be one singular point of welcome that covers the safety and security aspect, in addition to guest experience. There shouldn’t need to be a choice between security and customer service. Rather, they serve as enhancements to each other and represent something of a virtuous cycle.
With Portico Safe, Portico’s security offering is designed to complement the existing front of house services. Through highly trained, SIA licensed security officers, we can provide an end-to-end experience that can tackle current and future security threats whilst creating an inviting and engaging workplace. To fulfil this pledge, we have developed an extended training programme that stretches beyond the traditional procedural SIA training given to security staff.
We are opening up soft skills training modules through a blended approach of in-person and online learning via our training hub, The Hive, all the while encouraging knowledge sharing between customer service and security personnel.
This cross-learning applies to receptionists too. If taught the essential security skills, they can provide valuable support to operations such as building lockdowns and fire evacuations, especially when security personnel are stretched and have to cover multiple entrances and exits.
These multidisciplinary skills should complement the technological solutions that are also being implemented as part of the great workplace repurpose. From automated room booking and cleaning management to digital check-in systems, there are many technologies being adopted to help companies make a safe and smart return to their premises. Knowledge of how they work is, therefore, key to generating a full understanding of the guest experience.
However, it is equally important that any digital enhancements do not detract from the human element that guests still value. Indeed, as well as being versed in the digital solutions that make up the new guest experience, security officers should be able to offer a seamless and personalised welcome whilst maintaining situational awareness.
And on top of expanding the remit of security training, organisations can also weave the guest experience into security by altering their hiring strategies. Recruitment should, first and foremost, be personality-driven. At Portico, we look for individuals with guest experience personality traits etched into their DNA.
I often say you can take a receptionist with the right attitude and teach them security skills, whereas it’s much harder if you have somebody with the right skills and wrong attitude.