The art of checking members in (and out!)
In this post we explore the world of knowing who is in and out of your space, the different techniques you can use to make this process easier as well as how you can use the data to make the most of the available space and help your community of members connect with each other.
We refer to check-in as the action of letting your management system know a particular member or visitor has arrived to the space. Check-out, in the other hand, is just the opposite, occurs when a member or visitor leaves the space.
Having information about when members go in and out of the space can be used in many different ways but we see three repeating patterns.
An overwhelming amount of spaces offer these days part-time packages which let members in those plans use the space up to a number of days or hours a month. Surprisingly, a lot of these spaces don’t have an accurate way of knowing how long each member has been in the space during each billing cycle, and they rely on an honesty system or no system at all.
Checking members in an out can easily give you the data you need to keep track of how many days or how long each member has been in the space. In general, time is measured in either calendar days or in hours.
When using calendar days, members can be in the space for up to an amount of different days, but they can be in the space for as long as they want during those days. These plans are ideal for members who regularly visit the space but don’t need a full-time access.
When using time, members can be in the space for up to an amount of hours but these hours can be used across multiple days. These plans are ideal for those members who don’t visit the space regularily or following a predictable pattern (i.e. every week)
Having data around when members are in the space can also be useful to understand how and when your space is being used. Specifically, knowing when your busiest times are can help you promote less busy times with cheaper rates or use those times to organise alternative activities in the space knowing your will potentially disrupt fewer people.
With occupancy data at hand, you can easily build different plans that allow members to access the space at specific times of the day or weekdays. For example, you could have an off-peak plan that lets members access the space only after 6pm and during weekends.
An important benefit of knowing when specific members are in the space is that you can communicate this to other members via your online portal, a dashboard, wall display in the space or to other members of your team and hosts.
From the members perspective, having access to this information can be a real ice-breaker, many times now, I have private-messaged someone I knew was checked in and physically in the space. I may not seem like much, but the fact that you know that person is sitting somewhere around you, makes all the difference in the way you do that initial contact.
Make sure your management system and web portal allows members to opt-in to reveal this information, not everyone will be happy to share their check-in status.
A picture wall is a great way to present members in your community and quickly show others what they do and look for. It is also well known how out-of-date those wall can be!
Digitizing these walls makes them loose a bit their charm, but it also means they are always up-to-date and, most importantly, they can have access to all the data about members, including if they are in the space right now.
Lastly, and considering how bad I am with names and faces (!), hosts and other members of your team can have a helping hand if you present them with a picture and some basic information about members who recently checked in. Simple things like their picture, name and basic skills/needs can quickly help your team to connect that person who just walked in with someone who they know may need what they offer. This, when used properly, is huge!
That is all well but, how do we actually check members in?
There is a good number of ways of doing this, depending on what technology you use, how much you want to spend and how much you are able to affect the building where you are.
The basic-old pin code:
This means members voluntarily check in and, optionally, out. You would normally find a tablet on the front-desk or the entrance of the space where members will just punch their pin in to check-in.
- Advantages: it is cheap and easy to install
- Disadvantages: relies on members checking in and out or on a front-desk person being there at all times.
The basic-not-that-old access card reader
A step up from punching a pin code is to tap a card. With a reader that will scan the card and a piece of software that will validate and check the member in. These solutions normally rely on someone being at the front-desk all the time, which may not be an option for you. If you have such person, the software that runs the scanner can also display a pop-up with the basic information about the member, a picture, their current membership and even information about what they are looking for or potentially offering to other members of the space.
- Advantages: it is cheap and easy to install
- Disadvantages: relies on members doing it or a front-desk person.
A very popular way of checking members in is to use the information about who is connected to your WiFi or Wired network.
This works in a similar way to when you go to an airport and want to connect to the Internet. You open your browser and either login or, in some cases, register as a guest for a period of free internet.
WiFi check-in is the same, but it also keeps information about each device in your network (phone, laptops, tablets, etc.) and links that information with the member profiles. This means that we can know, based on the devices we see in the network, who is actually in the space and therefore check them in. The experience is pretty seamless and, when all the devices registered with a member disconnect from the network, the member is also checked out.
This is an excellent and pretty unobtrusive way of knowing who is in your space but also to offer trial days, guest passes and event passes to those individuals who may not be members (yet!) but are in the space for the day, having a meeting or attending a event. It is my personal favourite!
- Reasonably affordable to install.
- Pretty unobtrusive.
- Handles day passes and visitors.
- Handles part-time memberships well.
- You may need to technical helping hand if you are not into networking (nothing major!)
- Relies on members connecting to the Wifi/Wired network, if you regard this as a disadvantage.
At the top of the scale, you find spaces using access control technology, as in doors, turnstiles, speed-lanes access control, to know who is going in and out of the space. For each door reader and lock, you can assign an action (check-in, check-out or nothing) as indication to the system of what the member is doing: entering the space, leaving the space or just moving through it.
You can not only control and keep track of who can access the space and when but, having an access control hooked into your management software, lets you actually control which areas within the spaces members and non-members can access.
You can set specific members to be able to access the front-door of the building all the way to their own office if needed. Even link the locks to your booking and reservation system so meeting rooms are unlocked to specific members if they have made reservation for it. Sky is the limit here!
- Secures the building
- Handles day passes.
- Handles part-time memberships.
- Controls access within areas in the building.
- Costly and requires wiring, installation and maintained.
- Normally means a subscription services.
- Can be difficult to track check-outs.
As you can see, check-in members in and out is a massive topic and the data it produces can be really handy, not only to drive your offering and the use of the space, but also to encourage members to connect with each other and help your team to spark those much-needed interactions between members.