Dealing with VisitorsTuesday, May 10th, 2011
“I want you to look after some visitors” is one of those dreaded instructions that bosses from time to time give you with a smile, believing that you will be overjoyed to get a bit of new company when in fact you will resent the whole experience. True, visitors can be an awful nuisance since they eat into what is probably a tight working schedule, and after all, what can you tell them? But think more carefully and you will come to recognise that visitors of all kind can play an important part in the development of the organisation.
Obviously you need to ascertain right away who the visitors are and exactly why they are calling to enable you to decide how to treat them. If they are customers they may be after background information about the company, what it does and how it does it. They may want to see how the products they buy are produced or how their orders are handled. You may not be a manufacturing company but a service organisation such as a call centre where there is nothing to see except people talking into telephones and looking at computer terminals. Even so, they may want to see how their calls are handled, what their own customers are told by your people, and perhaps what opportunities are taken to generate sales. These visitors therefore need to be impressed not only by what is going on, but also how you respond to their needs. If they perceive that you have been landed with them because nobody else can be bothered, and that shows, there is a good chance that they will move to a competitor. You therefore will be carrying out a critical task, just as important as that carried out by the person who landed the contract in the first place. Think therefore what might appeal to them. Have them sit in on and perhaps join a training session, even if you have to lay one on because none was planned.
Perhaps these visitors are potential customers who are doing the rounds of organisations in order to select the best one for their business. No doubt someone senior in the organisation will be drawing up a programme for the visit, but be sure to find out exactly what is your role and prepare for it thoroughly. If the visitors place a contract, your role almost certainly will be recognised.
Possibly you are being asked to look after a school visit. This gives you opportunity to generate interest in your organisation among some of the brightest pupils in the visiting group. Make sure therefore that they go away thinking that this is the sort of place where they would be fortunate to work rather than one where they may finish up if they fail their exams. Ask yourself what might interest young people. What are they studying at school? Are they specialising in something? Have they expressed an interest in doing or seeing anything? When planning the visit, avoid giving long talks but, if you do have to explain something, use plenty of diagrams. They will not be remotely interested in the history of the organisation or the extremely important role that you play in it. Instead give them plenty of hands on experiences and ideally something interesting to do such as making an assembly or practising phone calls on your internal system.
The visitors may of course be just a casual interest group such as a Women’s Institute. They will not bring you a major contract nor solve all your recruitment problems but, if you treat them well, they are likely to spread the word that you are a good organisation and nice people – and a reputation like that will do much to encourage their friends and neighbours to buy your products or services, if appropriate, and help attract people to your advertised vacancies.
Whoever they are, prepare well for your visitors. Check that your clothes are smart and clean. Wear a lapel badge showing your name in large letters and your job title. Be on time at the door to give them a warm greeting, then introduce yourself and try to remember and use their names. You probably will want to take them first into a comfortable room for a brief introduction, but then follow your planned programme. Before they leave, ask them if they have any questions and do your best to answer them briefly. If you cannot give clear answers, take the name and address of the person and arrange for an answer to be sent. Finally, if possible, give them a souvenir of their visit such as a sample of your product, a brochure, or even just a pen bearing the company name. Even consider a group photograph that you could send to them as well as to the press.
Obviously what you do on the day will be determined by the reason for the visit, but if you have any doubts as what this is, give the organiser a ring. That in itself will demonstrate your interest. During this visit, you will be projecting an image of the organisation to several people. Make sure that it is a good one and you will do your organisation a lot of good.