Simplifying the Package Conundrum
Let's face it; no matter how you look at it, managing packages is one of the necessary evils of apartment management. So if there's anything we can do to simplify the process and improve the customer experience, then it's our job to look at all options.
Before Camden implemented our current system for managing packages, we manually logged all packages (time permitting of course) on a paper log and manually notified residents that packages were available for them to pick up from the office. If a package was lost (I mean, misplaced) then we had no way of auditing to see who accepted and released a package. Not to mention, we received phone calls throughout the day from residents asking if their package had been delivered. We knew we were not going to find the perfect solution, but we knew there had to be a better way.
Enter new technology to the rescue. We have begun using a platform that gives us a simple way to log packages using a USB barcode scanner or iPhone App, and release packages by capturing a resident’s signature (you can even use an iPhone App for this). While the current system does not eliminate all the manual steps, it does eliminate the manual steps of notifying residents a package was available. This practically eliminated all resident phone calls requesting package delivery status. To give you an example and put this into perspective, over the last 30 days, Camden Harbor View (538 units) in Long Beach, California has received 539 packages. This is pretty typical volume. As the holidays approach, we will see the number of deliveries double or triple! Incremental improvements make the difference.
As a bonus, our platform also allows our residents to choose how they want to be notified of a new package - email, text or automated voice call.
Behind the scenes we’re now able to get statistics on how many packages are being delivered to the community and when residents are coming to the office to pick up packages. This helps us to staff appropriately and see the trends of package growth overtime.
Like anything, there are still opportunities for improvement. For example, someone still has to physically except the packages from the carrier, log them into the system, and release the package to the resident. This requires time from our onsite staff, and residents still can only retrieve packages during office hours.
The solution? We are on the hunt!
We see huge potential for package lockers. Yikes! They are expensive! Amazon is already doing this for Amazon packages, and there are others focusing on the multifamily family industry. The challenge that we have seen is finding the “perfect” location to install these large package lockers. It needs to be covered, well lit, accessible to power, and able to get a cellular signal. We are also unsure about how many lockers to install. What happens when we have more packages than lockers? Which lucky package/resident gets the locker? Do we charge extra when residents don’t pick up their package from the locker within 24 hours? But, what if they are traveling on vacation for the week? That means a locker is out of circulation for the week. Hmmmm... you can see the dilemma. So many scenarios to solve for but we are not going to give up on this. We love the idea.
The future? In Make Magazine’s most recent publication “Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing”, they talk about how apartment communitiess will have a print shop where residents can order items online and have them printed in 3D at the apartment community using complex multi-material machines that will not fit in homes. Now, this is exciting! Products may not be delivered to our offices anymore; instead, our customers may be manufacturing their own products in our office. New ancillary income opportunity?
Kristy Simonette is the Senior Vice President of Strategic Services for Camden Property Trust.