Do any of these sound familiar?
- Every day at around 2 pm (or whenever the delivery driver shows up), your front office is inundated with boxes from Amazon, perishable meal kits, and other packages
- Your staff spends way too much time logging deliveries and notifying residents
- You have residents coming in every day asking if their items have been delivered yet
- Your residents complain that they can’t pick up their packages outside of regular office hours
- You have a leaning tower of packages in your back room that has been hanging around since who knows when
- Some residents have had their packages stolen from outside their doors
These are common occurrences anywhere many people receive packages — multifamily buildings, student residences, and so on. And they’re likely to become even more prevalent as the online shopping craze continues to grow.
The U.S. Postal Service delivered 15.2 billion packages in 2016, a 16% increase from the year before. (source)
A package management system can help building managers handle deliveries accurately and efficiently while taking the burden off of their front desk staff. This article describes what exactly a package delivery system is and why so many property and student housing managers are choosing it as their next amenity.
What is a package management system?
Package delivery the old-fashioned way: Pen and paper
You’re likely well-acquainted with the old-fashioned way of managing package deliveries:
A delivery driver arrives with 10 or 20 or 200 packages and either drops them inside the door or wheels them to the back room. Then a member of the front desk staff logs the deliveries on a piece of paper in an overstuffed binder, scoots the parcels around so they’re out of the way, and spends an hour or so sending package notifications via email or text messages.
Later that day or the next day (or three weeks down the road), a resident shows up to collect their package, so a staff member has to dig through the pile of packages to find the right one.
There are many problems with this system:
- Sometimes no one is at the front desk when the delivery driver arrives, so the packages get put just anywhere.
- Sometimes no email or text notification gets sent, so residents never know they have a package waiting.
- Sometimes residents just never come to pick up their packages, so the boxes just accumulate until the annual clean-out-the-back-room day comes along.
- Sometimes the contents of the packages are perishable, and, well, things can get disgusting.
It’s not a great system (it’s not really a system at all). And with residents’ desire today to have everything RIGHT NOW (thanks, free two-day shipping), the old-fashioned way doesn’t cut it for most buildings.
Package delivery of the future: Package management systems
The problems described above are why innovative companies like Silicon Valley-based Smiota developed the package management system, which is an automated technology for handling parcel deliveries.
There are two main types of package management systems:
- Smart lockers. Smart lockers are secure locker banks that allow delivery drivers to deposit packages and residents to pick them up whenever it’s convenient. Smart lockers can accommodate packages of any size, and some even have refrigerated and frozen options for grocery deliveries. Best of all, the entire process is automated — the system sends a notification via text or email to the resident and tracks the package from delivery to pickup.
- Mailroom software. For buildings that aren’t ready for full lockers, package management software is a tool that mailroom staff can use to receive packages, send notifications, and release packages to tenants just using a smartphone.
Both of these systems leverage cutting-edge technology to automate the whole package process from delivery through receipt:
- The courier scans and deposits a package in a locker or the mailroom
- The system automatically sends the resident a text notification
- The resident uses a unique password or a mobile app to gain entry to the locker or mailroom
- The system automatically send the resident a text notification when the package has been picked up
It’s that easy! And it has many other benefits as well. Let’s take a closer look at how automated package delivery systems increase efficiency, security, and building desirability.
Benefits of package delivery systems: Security
The old-fashioned approach to package delivery isn’t secure. A package management system provides not only security, but traceability from the moment you receive a package to the moment the recipient pics it up.
Challenge #1: Theft
Package theft can happen to anyone, especially when parcels are kept outside doors or at an unattended desk. This happened to Smiota CEO Manju Kashi, and it’s why he decided to create a solution.
Package delivery rates are increasing every year. In fact, UPS, FedEx, and USPS have delivered almost 6% more packages per year since 2012. More packages means higher vulnerability to theft. Buildings that don’t have surveillance or a secure spot to place packages are especially at risk.
Not only does theft cost building tenants money, but it can also cost building owners their reputation. With real estate being so competitive in hot markets, no building owner can afford to have a bad Google review about package theft.
A package delivery system stops theft in its tracks.
Challenge #2: Complete chain of custody
A complete chain of custody allows you to track packages back to their source. This is especially useful if something goes wrong and a package is misplaced (which, according to one former USPS employee, happens about 1% of the time, 2% during high-volume times like holiday season). Unfortunately, at many residential buildings, the chain of custody stops at the office door.
Even if you have someone at the front desk writing down when packages were delivered and picked up, there are limitations. What if the recipient scoops it up while the front desk staff is on lunch or showing prospects around the property? What if the receptionist makes a human mistake (gasp!) and forgets to write it down?
While your building might not be receiving top-secret documentation or forensic evidence (or maybe it is), a complete chain of custody is critical to building trust with your tenants and protecting you from angry residents and scathed credibility.
Benefits of package delivery systems: Efficiency
With the digital age comes a greater demand for efficiency. The pen-and-paper method of package management isn’t efficient for anyone!
Challenge #1: Staffing (or lack thereof)
Most buildings don’t have staff members dedicated to managing packages. They have apartment managers, customer service managers, and leasing agents. Delivery management duties usually fall to one or more of these staff members, which means they spend a lot of time during the week doing tasks outside of their primary responsibilities.
Office staff salaries that can easily hit $40K or more. Can you really afford to have your team spending their time logging packages into a binder?
A package delivery system frees up your staff’s time so they can focus on higher-value tasks, like showing apartments. It also allows your residents to pick up their packages at any time, without you having to hire an extra staff member for nights and weekends.
Challenge #2: Keeping up with deliveries
E-commerce is taking off like gangbusters as retail giants offer free or low-cost shipping, the popularity of subscription boxes explodes, and fresh groceries arrive right at your door. With so many consumers enjoying the convenience of having everything shipped directly to them, more people are receiving more packages than ever before.
Don’t forget, that’s just everyday traffic. Imagine this:
Your 150-unit downtown Denver apartment building is at about 90% occupancy. From the conversations you’ve had with your tenants here and there, you know they’re scrambling to get ready for the holidays. You recommend your favorite places to shop… and at least half of them are online.
Your tenants take your advice, and the week before Christmas you end up with 25 additional packages coming through the door each day. The situation can conservatively be described as chaos.
Managing the chaos can be incredibly time-consuming and frustrating. And people aren’t exactly known for having extra patience around the holidays.
A smart package delivery system removes this entire burden from you plate and ensures everyone knows their packages have arrived safely and are ready for pickup.
Challenge #2: Measuring productivity wins
Metrics are the only way to know if new systems, practices, or policies are working. When it comes to package delivery, you might be left scratching your head. How do you know if your system is working, or, more importantly, if it’s not?
Smart package delivery systems offer administrative tools to boost your front desk productivity in a way you can measure. For example, on Smiota’s admin web app, you can:
- See your history of packages received and picked-up
- Open lockers
- Manage overdue pickups
- Remind recipients to pick up overdue packages
It’s tools like this that give smart package delivery systems a competitive advantage over manual package management.
Benefits of package delivery systems: Value-added amenities
The National Apartment Association has declared this the “age of amenities wars.” To compete in this market, upgrading the property with new amenities and technologies isn’t optional.
Challenge #1: Retaining and attracting tenants
Getting the right people into your buildings is a constant challenge.
Think about the last time you showed your property. Was your potential tenant blown away? Did they compliment little design details and swoon over how much natural light was splashing in?
Or did they sign off with a flat, “This could work…”?
First impressions are important. Amenities like doggie daycare and an automated package management system will have new tenants scrambling to sign the dotted line and existing tenants renewing their lease… maybe even earlier than the deadline!
Challenge #2: Keeping up with shopping trends
Ipsy. Blue Apron. Barkbox. Free shipping. Fast shipping. Shipping from Costco?!
While convenient for users, these trends pose significant challenges when it comes to logistics. Beyond the obvious increase in the number of packages, you might find yourself wondering things like, “How on earth am I going to accommodate residents receiving groceries at my building?”
It’s easy to jump to the conclusion, “Well, I’ll just let the residents handle it. If they want meal kits delivered, they’ll just have to keep track of their deliveries themselves.” That’s all well and good until someone forgets to cancel their order of seared sesame tuna from HelloFresh before leaving for a long weekend.
The right package delivery system will help you keep up with shopping trends. For example, Smiota’s refrigerated smart lockers offer a solution for the meal kit and grocery delivery trend. They can be adjusted to accommodate dry, chilled, or frozen foods with just the push of a button on the locker’s touchscreen interface. As soon as groceries are delivered, a notification is delivered straight to the recipient’s phone. In addition, the locker temperatures are constantly monitored so that residents can feel secure about the freshness of their food.
Modern delivery systems also make oversized packages no problem. The lockers come in various sizes, so they can accommodate that bulk order of laundry soap that was just too good of a deal to resist.
Choosing a package delivery system
Now that you know the main benefits of package management systems, let’s look at how to choose the right one for your building. Here’s what our customers tell us are the most important features of Smiota:
- Ease of use: Whenever a new technology is introduced in a facility, it’s paramount that it’s easy to use and adapt to. When choosing a package delivery system, consider how easy it will be for the building owner, tenants, and couriers. Also, make sure you’re getting the level of customer service support you need.
- Security: One of the main benefits of installing a package delivery system is to ensure that packages are secure. With a system that includes smart lockers, packages are placed in a locker that can only be opened by the courier, recipient, and in some cases, the admin. With secure mailroom software, it’s easy to complement your new system with security cameras inside and outside the room.
- Smartphone integrations: From the end user’s point of view, being able to access delivery information on your smartphone is a must. Most package management systems offer text message notifications. Smiota has an iOS and Android app that alerts recipients as soon as their packages are dropped off and allows them to open the locker directly from their phone.
- No attendant necessary: Not all package delivery systems can go unattended 100% of the time. Choosing a smart package delivery system that can stand alone eliminates the time and money it takes to train someone else how to use it.
- Refrigerated lockers: Groceries can be delivered right to your front door, and people are catching on… quickly. Your building needs to be ready for it. Getting ahead of shopping trends like meal kit and food delivery will help you attract and retain tenants.
- Pricing: This is the #1 concern of customers. Yes, package delivery systems are an investment, but if you crunch the numbers, you’ll see that cost is significantly less than hiring another person to manage the increasing influx of packages.