By Lecia Anderson
If I’ve learned one thing about package management at apartment communities, it’s this: it’s not a “set-it-and-forget-it” type of situation.
The demands of residents always are changing, and the volume of package deliveries is certain to continue to increase.
Apartment operators have to realize that what works today may not be optimal in a couple of years. As in all other areas of multifamily management, operators have to be responsive to changing package-management needs and committed to innovation in addressing those needs.
A Growing Issue
Statistics can help illustrate the challenges confronting apartment owners. For instance, e-commerce sales in the U.S. totaled $601.75 billion in 2019, according to the Commerce Department. That represents an increase of 14.9% from one year earlier. In 2018, online sales rose by 13.6% on a year-over-year basis. At JVM, it’s not unheard of for some of our communities to receive more than 140 packages on a given day.
In response to the growing volume of package deliveries and our residents’ desire to be able to pick up those packages whenever it is most convenient for them, JVM communities feature package rooms equipped with either lockers or shelving. When a carrier delivers a package, he or she scans it and places it in the room. The scanning notifies the resident that the package is onsite and generates a code that the resident can use to access the room and pick up the item.
These systems offer powerful benefits. They 1) allow residents to pick up their packages when it’s easiest for them and 2) minimize the involvement of onsite associates so that they can concentrate on their many other important responsibilities.
With these cutting-edge solutions in place, it was tempting to think we had the package-management challenge forever solved.
But as we quickly learned, that was Package Management 1.0.
Always on the Lookout to Improve
Believe it or not, it seems as though we’ve already entered a new phase of package management at apartment communities.
For instance, one of the recent improvements we’ve had to make at JVM is adding refrigerated areas to our package rooms.
Residents are consistently having groceries and prepared meals delivered, as well as wine and fresh flowers. If you don’t have a way for these items to be properly stored, you’re going to have unhappy residents.
Another adjustment communities may have to make to their package-management systems is to give delivery drivers 24/7 access to the package room. Amazon drivers in particular often arrive at a community after the leasing office is closed. We’re working with Amazon to implement a “virtual key” system that will allow their drivers to access our package rooms after hours. This will ensure that our residents get their packages as soon as possible.
Regardless of whatever improvements a community makes to its package-management system, it’s important to keep residents and carriers up to speed about any additions, changes, etc. After installing or adjusting a package-management system, we will host an education event for the residents and offer them pizza, beer and wine. We’ll say, “Come on down. We want to talk to you about this wonderful amenity that we are enhancing or that we’re installing.” We’ll walk them through everything. As simple as they sound, education events like these are hugely important.
Moving forward, it’s tough to say what specific changes in package management are on the horizon. The demands of the residents are changing so quickly.
But one thing is certain: package management will soon look different. New solutions and improvements to existing ones will be needed.
The key is for operators to be ready.