The holidays are almost here!  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. Online shopping isn’t just for the holidays anymore and package volume has increased year round. Joe Padron is a regional director for FirstService Residential in Atlanta and director of front desk operations. He trains people in front desk operations, including package management, for dozens of high-rise buildings and has done so for several years.

“A heavy volume of packages is now pretty steady, all year long, thanks to buying habits and the direction society is going,” Padron said. “People want to make the most of their time, so they have more daily essentials delivered.”

Space to hold those packages is an issue in some buildings. “Buildings that were built 10 or more years ago weren’t built for the volume of packages that come in now. They have limited storage space because no one could have anticipated today’s boom in online shopping and shipping,” Padron said. “It’s being addressed through renovations to their front desk and lobby areas, and we also recommend that developers building new projects build in extra space for packages compared to what they used to do.”

How to manage all of that volume? “Getting people to sign waivers absolving management and the association of liability so that we can deliver directly to their units is helpful. I see more of that now. We’ll get 100 packages a day easily at some of our buildings,” Padron explained.

Of course, if residents don’t come to get packages in a reasonable amount of time, space can run short as parcels pile up. Padron said he sees this most often due to residents being out of town when auto-shipped packages arrive, making that in-unit delivery a valuable option if possible.

Another option to help manage the holiday package rush is to bring in a temporary worker. “If the board’s budget allows for a temporary worker to come in for the holiday season swing shift, that’s a great idea. Some communities have that built into their budget as a standard annual expense,” Padron said. “If you have staff from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., add someone from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., for example.”   

Communication is a critical tool in the package management process. “We have four or five deliveries of packages a day, every day, up to 80 a day on a normal basis. There can be confusion from residents who get notified that a package is delivered, from the carrier, but that doesn’t mean we’ve had time to log it in properly,” Padron said. “Residents need to understand that, from a liability standpoint, we are tracking everything that comes in and goes out, for their protection. It helps when the residents understand that the alert they need to respond to comes from us, not the carrier.”  

How to communicate when those packages are ready? If your property management company has a good communication tool, you’ll be able to easily send messages to your residents with status updates. FirstService Residential Connect offers ease of communication from management to residents and vice versa, including email and text notifications of things like packages to be picked up.

Aside from secure storage, proper staffing and easy communication to facilitate pickups, Padron said that organization is the most critical component of proper package management, and that is needed year round. “It’s important that the management team is talking about this well ahead of time and a plan is in place when that increased volume starts to come in. Working faster causes errors and packages getting misplaced. Sometimes the front desk needs to slow down and make sure that things are correct. Be clear with residents and let them know, in a polite way that precision is important, even if it takes a little longer.”

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.

Thursday November 02, 2017