Half of UK companies plan to introduce interactive technologies to help overcome challenges to ‘front of house’ (FoH) inflicted by Covid-19, according to research by an outsourcing provider.
Swiss Post Solutions, which provides solutions and services in document management, conducted a study among 300 medium to large businesses. It found that 41 per cent of businesses plan to outsource FoH services altogether.
The company says the research demonstrates how the pandemic has “exponentially shifted priorities, accelerated demands and introduced new challenges to FoH services”.
Whereas 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.
The findings also revealed that 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 with small companies (50-100 staff), the research also found.
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 how organisations will use their office spaces post-pandemic, the role of FoH 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 more than 1000 employees (67 per cent), suggesting that FoH services will still be required and will become even more critical in providing a positive visitor experience.
Gary Harrold, CEO UK & Ireland at Swiss Post Solutions, said: “The workplace is a rapidly evolving environment and this has been accelerated by Covid-19. Technology with 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.”
Harrold added: “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.”