Just picture this – you’re going for a meeting with a company who want to present you with an exciting proposal to re-vamp your website. From their corporate brochure, website and email correspondence, you are overwhelmed with the feeling that their culture is fuelled by technology and innovation. You receive the address via email, key it into your Sat Nav and arrive 15 minutes early for your meeting. Walking up to the building, it seems rather dated but you’re sure they are utilising juxtaposition and you’ll be wowed off your feet any minute now. You were wrong. You walk into the Reception area which can only be compared to the likes of an 80’s hospital waiting room. It just doesn’t fit, it doesn’t make sense, you actually feel like you’ve came to the wrong place as you frantically check the email in which they confirmed their address. Was everything you’d seen before a fraud? You start to doubt whether or not you can actually trust this company. I mean, it just doesn’t make sense?
Although this may sound slightly melodramatic, customers will begin to doubt your brand if you show any sign of inconsistency. When customers have a perceived image in their mind which doesn’t align with reality, it can make them feel uneasy. Take AG Barr for example, when walking into the reception of their head office, you walk through sliding doors which are shaped like a can of Irn-Bru. Eccentric and fun - just like the brand - it all makes sense, it fits. If a customer perceives you to be innovative and creative, they don’t expect to walk into a reception which would have seemed dated in the 90’s.
Your reception is the first point of contact for a client visiting your office. People say that perceptions and opinions are formed in the first 10 seconds of arriving at a destination, and we all know that first impressions are everything. Reception areas will give your client the first glimpse of the internal DNA of your company, who you are; and what you’re all about. If the first thing they see is dated furniture, flaking paint and worn carpets, then their going to assume you don’t really care. And who wants to be taken care of by people who don’t really care about themselves? So, to put you in the right direction, we’ve detailed below four of the main areas to think about when designing your reception.
A reception area is a great opportunity to subtly express to clients who your brand is; and what clients can expect from you. By using your own corporate colours and branding, you can communicate this without words. You could also utilise parts of walls within your reception area to tell the story of the history of your business and how you got to be the brand you are today. If you’re a business who is proud of being environmentally friendly, you could portray that with lots of fresh green plants dotted around the room. Even the smallest of details can impact customer perceptions.
Although reception areas have to be aesthetically pleasing, they also have to be fit for purpose and clean. Signage should be clear to avoid confusion and if long waiting times are expected then it might be an idea to have refreshments readily available. If you produce food or drink within your business, you could have free samples in the fridge for people to try at their leisure. Furthermore, it won’t matter how attractive looking your reception is if it goes hand in hand with an offensive smell or sticky floors. Ensure that your reception always has the highest levels of cleanliness by ensuring all communal areas are disinfected often.
No-one wants to feel uncomfortable when they walk into a new enviroment, so try and make your reception area as relaxed and friendly as possible. Couches and coffee tables make for a pleasanter environment than rows of industrial looking seating. Creating comfort is a big part of space planning: for example, if furniture is scattered all across the outward edges of the room, it could appear cold due to the feeling of distance. Effective space planning will ensure that the room feels adequately furnished and sociable. Also, introducing a subtle signature scent could add to the unforgettable experience.
If you’re company boasts that they are at the forefront of technology, then this should be represented in your reception too. This could be portrayed through innovative and creative furniture solutions or by fitting tablets or touchscreen displays to the walls, which customers can explore and fill up some waiting time. You could even introduce a charging station just in case your visitor is down to their last 10% - they’ll appreciate the thoughtfulness.