London Business Centre Group Trials Virtual Assistant

Workspace Plc - Vgreet

Business centre operators and receptionist staff are busy people. So given the chance, would you give them a virtual helping hand?

That’s what London-based business centre and coworking operator Workspace Plc is doing. They’re trialling a touchscreen greetings system called Vgreet – a video receptionist that’s logged on and ready to help 24/7.

“We first came up with the idea of Vgreet two years ago,” said James Friedenthal, Business Development Manager at Workspace. “We wanted a front of house system that would aid visitors, including clients and couriers.”

We’re not talking robo-receptionists and android assistants – at least not yet.

According to James, the system was initially trialled in Club Workspace, the coworking side of Workspace Plc. Having proved its worth, the team recognised its potential and decided to roll it out across other centres.

“We’re now installing Vgreet in half a dozen centres, with more to come,” said James.

Far from replacing staff, the touchscreen system is placed at the entrance of workspaces and is designed to provide assistance alongside in-house receptionists and centre managers. Vgreet also serves as a subtle yet clever marketing tool to entice more footfall into the workspace.

Open plan business centre design

According to James, Workspace Plc business centres and coworking venues are moving towards an open plan model, with airy ground floor lobbies, communal breakout spaces and on-site public cafes. They are designed to be bright and welcoming, and Club coworking spaces are generally located on the ground floor within easy reach (and sight) of those buzzy, people-filled spaces.

Workspace Plc's Vgreet at the Metal Box Factory, LondonThe Metal Box Factory (pictured right), a new addition to the Workspace portfolio, is a prime example. This development features an attractive ground floor atrium leading to a cafe and a Club coworking space, with managed spaces positioned on higher floors.

In a space like this, where visitors are presented with an open, airy space, a virtual greeting system makes perfect sense.

“Guests can walk straight in and use Vgreet to navigate their way around,” James explained. “They can interact with the touchscreen to search for customers based in the building and dial through, intercom-style, to speak directly with the person they’re visiting.”

As such Vgreet is also a business directory, allowing customers based in the centre or the Club coworking space to see what other businesses share the building. James describes this as “a big selling point” and a valuable networking tool for business owners – particularly as it gives smaller coworking customers the chance to meet and network with larger or more established firms.

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Customer service hotline

The system also acts as a directory for other parts of the Workspace business such as events and meeting room hire, product or company updates, and information about local amenities. There’s also a direct link to the customer service team in head office.

Beyond that, Workspace has more plans for Vgreet’s future.

“There is much more we want to do with Vgreet,” added James. “It has been very well received and our clients find it very useful, as do our staff. It’s ideal for visitors who tend to breeze in and out, such as couriers.”

For a company the size of Workspace Plc, which manages 4.2 million square feet of space across some 90 properties, that’s home to over 4,000 businesses employing in excess of 40,000 people, a virtual receptionist system offers clear benefits for customers and provides welcome relief for front of house staff, too.

While a system like this is unlikely to offer value for smaller business centres and independent coworking spaces, there are clear advantages for centres covering a large square footage, multi-location groups, or centres with limited frontline support or centralised customer support teams. Of course the optimal ‘virtual’ approach is to customise the system to your requirements – which may be a simple client directory, a customer service hotline, or a fully fledged virtual assistant offering support outside of main business hours.

What’s your take on virtual receptionists, and does your business centre or coworking space use one?

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