The most wonderful time of the year is just around the corner. Online shopping has become a common way to find the perfect gift while saving time and money, and avoiding having to fight the crowds at the mall, all from the comfort of your couch. The biggest concern people have with online shopping is, of course, wondering, “Will it get there on time? Will it get there safely?”
That’s where the front desk staff at your high-rise comes in. “Buildings that used to get 20 packages a day may now get 70 to 80 packages through the front desk each day, thanks to the success of Amazon, especially Amazon Prime,” explained Jeff Edelstein, director of front desk operations at FirstService Residential. “During the holidays, that may increase to 150 to 200 packages a day. Logging in those packages and managing that process can be a full-time job. Every building is unique but all follow the same procedures as much as possible regarding packages: log them in, store them securely, get them delivered.”
Further complicating package management and tracking within a high-rise are the myriad delivery companies themselves. “The United States Postal Service will generally only make one delivery within a building, and that tends to be to the mailroom. Amazon also uses UPS. Other companies use DHL or FedEx,” Edelstein said. “So they all arrive at different times, and maybe not all to the same part of the building, if your building has a mail room and a loading dock receiving area.”
How to manage all of that volume? Sometimes, you have to bring in extra help. “We need the front desk to be vigilant at all times, standing, greeting and engaging guests. They can’t be looking down to be entering packages for hours on end,” Edelstein said. “So the answer may be to engage your concierge to help log in packages, if you have a concierge.”
Another option is to bring in a temporary worker. “You really need to bring someone else in as a swing shift person. Most front desks have a 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. shift and a 4 p.m. to midnight shift, so the swing shift would overlap both, usually working 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. or 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. They can assist with other front desk functions like answering the phone, but will primarily manage package login and pickup during that extra heavy time period,” Edelstein explained.
One example: Sunset Harbor Condo has discussed bringing in a temporary extra person from November 1 to January 1 to help log holiday packages because they are already having trouble with increased volume. Edelstein estimated that maybe 35% of the buildings he works with need that additional help. Another 45% have a full-time receiving person who handles packages and other deliveries to the building.
So you have the staff angle for package overload handled – what about where to put them? Most buildings have a secure storage room for packages, but they can fill up on regular days, never mind with the extra holiday traffic. Edelstein says he’s seen his associates come up with new and creative ways to handle holiday overflow.
“One team built a wooden box with a padlock, on wheels to assist in delivery. You can use security people to help with delivery just to get the room cleared out. In smaller, higher-end buildings, we can drop them securely in lobbies or via private elevators, provided the residents have signed a waiver that there’s no liability on the part of the association or management. Most importantly, people have to pick their packages up in a timely fashion,” he said. Edelstein estimates that 90% of high-rises require people to come to the front desk and pick up packages, with ID, and sign for them.
Communication is a critical tool in that process. A quality property management company will have a communication tool that includes package tracking. It will allow for the front desk to send an alert to residents, letting them know their packages are waiting to be picked up. Otherwise, communities can place notices in mailboxes, leave voicemails or manually let residents know they have packages waiting.
Aside from proper staffing, secure storage and easy communication to facilitate pickups, Edelstein said that organization is the most critical component of proper package management, and that is true year round. “Take a step back and look at the process. Is the best person logging the packages? Are they detail oriented? Getting the tracking numbers right? Are they making the right phone calls so people know they are waiting?” he asked “We have technology for a reason. Technology helps with accountability and tracking of what happens with every package. Just like cashiers do with their drawers, we conduct a package reconciliation at the beginning and end of every shift to help us keep track of what we have. It’s all about organization.”
As more Americans are relying on delivery of everything from groceries to prescriptions, package management is going to become a greater task for your high-rise building, never more than during the holiday season. Making sure you have the right people on your team, being organized and clearly communicating expectations about package pickup will help make the holiday season easier for everyone.
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