Letting Agents: Avoid this Big Mistake with your Keys!

So, what’s this big key mistake that many people are making?

Have you ever had that embarrassing situation when you can’t find a property key with a client standing right next to you? It usually isn’t your fault – ‘someone else’ had it last (but no one knows who or when)! It’s an agent’s nightmare.

Did you know that there’s one thing you can do right now that will immediately make a difference, and it will barely cost you any effort at all.

How? Very simply, nominate one person to be accountable for the key management in each of your offices. Read on for the evidence….

First, let me pose a question to you: In your office who is really responsible for keys?

We have proof that as soon as someone in a lettings branch is responsible for key management, instantly, fewer keys will be mislaid and they are always much easier to locate.

In most offices the keys are usually managed by:

  • No one in particular
  • Everyone … so no one feels responsible
  • The boss (who doesn’t have time to give it the attention it needs!)
  • An unofficially nominated person with no training or support

Is this how your lettings agency works? Then you’re not alone, but you get well ahead of the competition, by getting the right person in charge.

What do you do when you can’t find a key? Ideally, you want to go to the person who last had it – but how do you know who that was? Well, if there’s a good key process, this should be easy to find out.  And here’s the thing- get the right person in charge of the process, and the process itself will begin to improve.  However, for many letting agents this isn’t the case, you just get a chorus of ‘who’s seen the key!’

So how do we choose the best person for key manager?
Who you chose for this role will be crucial to your success – pick the wrong person, and the whole thing won’t work.

The best person depends on your business, but here are the main characteristics they should:

  • Like attending to details
  • Be a ‘nice and tidy’ person!
  • Have a good knowledge of your property portfolio
  • Be proactive and have initiative
  • Be senior enough to have clout!

Who shouldn’t be accountable and why?

  • The boss – they should have other priorities!
  • The office junior – they lack authority and experience
  • A temp – your key controller needs to know your business inside and out, and the role needs to offer continuity – you don’t want to keep retraining!
  • Everyone – this means that no-one takes responsibility, and leaves it to ‘everyone else’, so nothing is done
  • No-one – this guarantees failure!

Why should your key manager be bothered?

Clearly it is essential for your business and professionalism to manage your keys effectively. So, good control is good for business.

How do you ensure that your key manager ‘gets this’ and is motivated to undertake this task? They may be daunted to take the job on if your current system is creaking at the seams or is antiquated!

If, like most agents, you're coming from a position where things are already in a bit of a mess then your new key manager may not be all that thrilled about taking it on. So how can you help?

Looking after keys can be a thankless task, so it's really important that the person in charge is supported both by management giving them authority to set and enforce the rules, but also by support staff. Unless yours is a huge company, looking after keys is unlikely to be their main day job. You may need to allow them some time to get on top of things when they get started.

It also helps if you're willing to invest in making things better for them. If they spot weaknesses in the system, provide them some resources to make improvements.

Putting the right person in charge will not solve every key issue you face, but it will certainly be a good step to significantly improve things.

Key Control – it’s important, it’s a process and it needs managing!

First and foremost, you need to acknowledge that key management is a process rather than something which ‘just happens’. Once a business process is identified, then it can be improved and made better for the benefit of all its users. This is definitely the case for key management. For more about what your process needs to cover, see this blog.

So what next steps can you take today?

  • Appoint someone as Key Manager
  • Make sure they are the right person
  • Make them accountable and know what ‘success’ looks like
  • Ensure they are supported
  • Consider implementing a software solution to help them

Do you need some help or are interested in a solution for your office(s)? Then please call me today on 03300 88 55 00

Want to know more?

By Tim Hill
10th January 2018

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