by Michael Patton
Package management had become a growing concern for apartment communities, even before “safer at home” and “quarantine” became a part of our everyday life. But the pandemic triggered an irreversible trend for consumers, who now rely on e-commerce for even their most basic needs.
As the pandemic took shape, responsive property management companies quickly identified the potential issue of the increase in e-commerce trends and took steps to accommodate their residents’ expanding package needs through various means. But operators are now beginning to realize that the package solution they chose may have been a step in the wrong direction.
The Common Solutions
Property managers have several options when it comes to managing residents’ packages.
- Many multifamily communities discontinued package services altogether when the delivery volume exceeded manageable levels. Staffing and space limitations made it unfeasible for on-site teams to continue to receive, store and distribute packages on behalf of residents. This left residents without a method to pick up their packages.
- Other properties met their package challenges by throwing a full-time, dedicated employee at the problem. In these cases, an additional associate is added to the on-site team and made solely responsible for receiving, sorting and organizing packages, notifying residents of package arrivals and facilitating package distribution.
- Rather than handle packages at all, some properties began allowing carriers to leave packages at resident doorsteps.
- Many management companies opted to repurpose existing square footage into designated, restricted-access package rooms where packages could be left by carriers for resident pick-up. Like doorstep deliveries, this eliminates the need for on-site teams to handle or manage packages.
- The last primary solution that operators deployed was package locker systems. Like package rooms, package lockers offer a designated space for package storage, only they feature individual storage spaces for each package, accessible only by the intended recipient.
Unfortunately, many operators found that it wasn’t as simple as selecting a solution and resolving the issue.
Has the Solution Caused More Problems?
Residents of communities that opted to discontinue package services probably never imagined that their packages might be turned away by their own management company, and they’re likely shopping for their next apartment community. Being forced to find a package solution on their own doesn’t sit well with renters who consider package acceptance, storage and distribution to be a service they already pay for. And now as we face potentials for more stay at home or quarantine orders, sending packages to any location other than home becomes even more complicated.
Hiring an associate whose sole responsibility is to manage packages might allow on-site teams to better keep pace with the increased package volume, but it’s hardly an economical solution and it doesn’t solve the issue of storage space. Also, those designated associates typically only work during business hours, restricting package pick-up.
While doorstep delivery isn’t common, without a predetermined drop-off window it leaves deliveries unnecessarily exposed to damage or theft. Especially in times of economic hardship, packages left in the open are susceptible to walking away.
Package rooms may seem like the simple solution, but how much square footage do you have to dedicate to packages? During the spring and summer months of 2020, the average package volume at multifamily communities exceeded the holiday season rush of 2019. At that rate, package rooms quickly overflow. Where do deliveries go? Additionally, due to their own current package volume issues, carriers are dumping their stack of parcels in the package room and leaving. There is no effort to sort or organize packages, which means residents have to sift through piles of packages to find their delivery. In the middle of a pandemic, think about how many sets of hands have touched each package before it is retrieved.
When it comes to package storage, package lockers are like individual package rooms, but with a less efficient use of space and drastically less storage capacity. That means that once package lockers fill each day, packages will start to pileup in front of them, blocking access to the lockers and creating many of the same issues found with package rooms.
While property managers may have thought they were resolving their package problems by deploying a traditional package solution, they’re finding that their solution has either exacerbated the situation or created entirely new concerns for their teams and residents.
What is the Solution to My Package Solution?
Forward-thinking property management companies are looking for a remedy that solves the multiple package pain points they’re experiencing.
- How do I free up enough staff hours to accurately manage and track incoming and outgoing parcels?
- How do I facilitate after-hours package pick-up?
- How do I create a process that prevents shared-surface contact and limits the health risks for my residents?
- How can I dedicate enough square footage for storage to accommodate my current package volume?
In short, you don’t. More and more multifamily operators are finding that package management has to be taken off-site.
A third-party package management system that stores parcels remotely, notifies residents of package arrivals and schedules direct delivery to residents can lift the package burden from on-site teams, and provide residents with an increased level of customer service. By taking an outside-the-box approach to resident packages, property managers can position themselves as industry leaders and put an end to the package problems that their previous solutions created.