Why You're Going To See More Video Receptionists

Someone will buzz you in soon

Key Takeaways

  • Zoom has a new feature that allows visitors to check-in remotely using its software.
  • Businesses want to use video services to replace in-person contact as they contemplate bringing remote workers back to the office.
  • Zoom’s service costs $499 per year per room and lets a receptionist speak to visitors and unlock entrances by video.
A guest is greeted by the virtual receptionist of the Vivenzo hotel
Pedro Vilela / Getty Images

The next time you check-in with a receptionist, it might be through Zoom.

The video conferencing company said its new service will allow people visiting offices to check-in without physical contact. All you have to do is start a Zoom call to speak to a human receptionist in a remote location. Experts say video services can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 once people return to offices.

"Any way we can limit physical contact right now will help stop the spread of COVID-19," Frank Weishaupt, CEO of Owl Labs, a company that makes video conferencing cameras, said in an email interview. "This tool will have wider use, outside of businesses, but for hospitals, doctor’s offices, schools, and other professions that are unable to work remotely."

Just Say Your Name 

Zoom’s receptionist feature works by having visitors approach a touchscreen in a building lobby, and the receptionist can talk with visitors over Zoom and remotely let them into the building. Another new Zoom feature aimed at social distancing will let users see how many people are in a room in real-time, using the Zoom Dashboard and Scheduling Display.

Harry Moseley, Zoom’s global chief information officer, told CNBC in an interview the new feature will let receptionists work from anywhere in the world. It’s intended for businesses to implement, and costs $499 per year per room.

"Any way we can limit physical contact right now will help stop the spread of COVID-19."

But Zoom isn’t the only company pushing for video receptionists. The Receptionist, for example, lets people check into places on an iPad and automatically notifies employees when their visitors arrive via email, SMS, and Slack. There’s also Virtelo, a video reception service that lets visitors press a touchscreen when they arrive, instead of talking to someone in person.

Observers say video receptionists aren’t likely to put anyone out of work, though, as they still rely on humans.

"As we’ve learned, not all jobs are easily completed at home, so even as we return to offices, it won't be at full capacity," Weishaupt said. "This will enable administrative positions to work remotely as we enter the new era of hybrid work."

Customer care worker talking to someone in a video call
Petri Oeschger / Getty Images

Remote communications are here to stay even as coronavirus vaccines trickle across the US, said Tristan Olson, the head of Venture, a company specializing in helping companies use video. Many businesses are trying to figure out how to keep employees working from home for the long haul, he said. 

"Even when in-person work returns, we foresee video products such as remote check-in being the norm," Olson added.

Signs That Screen You

Even signs might be screening you soon. The company 22Miles makes TempDefend, a digital sign meant to be positioned at building entrances that can be equipped with virtual receptionist capabilities. With this option, administrators are alerted of high temperatures when visitors are scanned. TempDefend also can check multiple users entering at a time, displaying each user’s temperature on the screen.

"To further reduce touchpoints, many kiosks can be equipped with voice control prompts to allow for instant communication and directions, or even with a virtual receptionist who can safely video chat and provide a secure check-in process via live video stream," Tomer Mann, executive vice president at 22Miles, said in an email interview.

Experts say the rollout of remote tools like video receptionists means you likely won’t be tied to a desk in the future. 

"Even as a receptionist, executive assistant, or office manager, jobs that historically require one person to be in the office, can now effectively work with their team remotely," Weishaupt said. "Office visitors will be able to seamlessly communicate with admin teams when they come in for either an interview, a new business proposal, or even required maintenance, and the team can still coordinate as if they were onsite."

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