by Matt Greene
There are a number of differentiators in multifamily that owners and property managers lean on to promote their properties. Location, amenities, technology, services and square footage all come at a premium. But with all else being equal, the tipping point is customer service.
Residents have spent more time at home during the pandemic than ever before, which puts a microscope on the service levels provided by on-site teams. It has been a challenging tightrope to walk, considering that recommendations from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and local health departments have dictated restricted access to the very amenities and neighborhood hot spots that may have sold residents on the property in the first place. Renters have started asking how communities can continue to charge the same rates when residents don’t have the same access to amenities and property features.
In an effort to protect on-site team members, management companies also limited their leasing office presence and person-to-person contact with residents. At least in part due to these staffing limitations, many companies stopped receiving packages on behalf of residents, as well. The timing is unfortunate, considering that the number of packages arriving daily at apartment communities since the start of the pandemic has skyrocketed. Renters have turned almost exclusively to e-commerce in their effort to avoid public spaces. The simultaneous elimination of package services, or an inability to adequately manage the new package flow, has had a significant impact on residents’ view of their communities’ customer care.
So, what happens when services are limited or discontinued, and the resident experience is soured? And how can teams leverage technology and services to overcome that perceived decline?
Prevent Package Problems
The package tsunami that hit multifamily communities this spring has been overwhelming for on-site teams, and it has yet to let up. Projections show that package volume likely won’t ever return to previous levels. Companies have even gone as far as repurposing amenities to store packages and hiring new associates for the express purpose of managing and distributing deliveries. While other apartment communities attempt to make do with the facilities and manpower they already have in place.
The reality is, package management currently requires exponentially more time each day than it did previously. Whereas on-site teams barely kept pace with package volume before, most are now falling fatally behind. As a result, arriving packages often aren’t sorted or securely stored because existing package systems and storage facilities are woefully over capacity. The environment is ripe for theft or lost packages.
Unfortunately, it only takes one missing package to lower residents’ opinions of their community or management company. Once lost packages become a trend, that diminished perception becomes permanent.
In contrast, an efficient and dependable package system can not only bolster residents’ opinions of their community’s customer service but build brand loyalty over the long run.
Maintain Package Services
Like amenities, residents view package management as a service that they already pay for. When package services are eliminated, residents typically feel shortchanged and slighted. And it impacts their satisfaction with their overall living experience.
Management companies that have ceased receiving packages on behalf of residents have primarily done so on the basis of space. Multifamily properties weren’t designed with the current package flow in mind. The increased package volume in recent months has rendered most package facilities untenable, and apartment communities typically don’t have additional square footage to dedicate to deliveries.
Instead of discontinuing package management altogether, more operators are pivoting to third-party, off-site package services that offer a fresh take on package delivery. Residents can see the value in a more sophisticated approach to package management, particularly as their dependence on e-commerce increases.
With those man hours previously spent on packages restored to their workdays, on-site teams can return their focus to personalized customer service and ensure that their residents’ non-package needs are met.
While the current package climate has the potential to damage relationships with residents, customer-centric multifamily companies have the opportunity to demonstrate their dedication to their clients through a progressive approach to package management.