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Managing Keys: Is this your Worst Nightmare?

Imagine the scenario. Your client arrives to collect their keys. You go to the cabinet, and they aren’t there. Who has them? Where are they? Who had them last? At best you look disorganised – at worst you look unprofessional and a risk to your client’s security.

How did this happen?! The answer is quite surprising. Most letting agents don’t consider the release and return of keys as a ‘process’ which needs attention.  And… if that process isn’t cared for, it is easy for it to go wrong. However, if it is properly managed, it not only stops you looking like a risk, but also saves the team time and can even impress your clients.

So do YOU have a key management process?

Basically, if you hold keys that you issue to different people throughout the day or week, then yes, you do.  But have you ever given any thought to what that process really is? Perhaps surprisingly, a lot of people haven’t.

Whether you’re a letting agent, accommodation manager, facilities manager or receptionist, it can really help to have a clear process for looking after your keys and help make sure that things are done consistently and efficiently.

In this blog, I’ll explain what Key Management is, why it’s important and outline some of the things you might want to think about when designing yours.  Don’t worry- it won’t take long to put right!!

What is key management?

Key management is the active process (or, really a set of processes) that businesses use to keep track of their physical keys.

These keys may be owned by the business itself (for example, they may unlock storerooms, lockers, offices, meeting rooms or classrooms) or they might be keys you hold so that you can grant access to the property of others (e.g. in a real estate agency, property management or service companies such as cleaning and security).

Although the way you manage key will probably be unique to your company, the 4 basic processes that you’ll need to take care of are more-or-less the same for everyone. These processes are

  1. Taking charge and tagging of keys.
  2. Issuing and returning keys.
  3. Monitoring key use
  4. Archiving

Let’s have a look at these in a bit more detail.

1.Taking charge

When you receive a set of keys for the first time, you usually need a process for capturing the details of that key and making sure that you can find it when you next need it.

If you’re a building manager or concierge, you may only need to do this once while setting up your process as the keys that you manage will rarely change.

If you’re growing a property portfolio of rentals, lettings, or serviced accommodation, then you will likely be taking charge of new keys all the time. The way you do this process might be different, but the things you do will likely be very similar.

  1. Record what the key is for, property address, room number or car registration.
  2. Give the key a reference number. It’s almost always a very bad idea to write what the key is for directly on the keys, so you’ll need to give a reference number or some other identifier so you can find it again.
  3. Give it a storage location. This may or may not be included in the reference number that you just gave it.
  4. Record the key ring details. What specific keys are on the key ring? Are there any other things like electronic fobs associated? Are there any other aspects of the key that should be recorded? State how it should be used.

2. Issuing and Returning

Once you have charge of a key, you’re likely to occasionally give it out to different people and you’ll need a process for tracking who you’ve given it to.

This is typically done with pen and paper (not something I’d recommend in the 21st century) or an electronic system of some kind.  When capturing who has taken a key, we recommend you always do the following:

  1. Record the key reference
  2. Record who is taking the key (and is now responsible for it)
  3. Record when it’s due back

You may want to capture a signature or provide some sort of receipt for keys given out. Many people find this is less necessary if you have a good electronic audit system in place.

When returning keys, you’ll need to track those keys back in and state where they’ve been stored.

3. Monitoring

Monitoring is critically important. This is the process that is most often overlooked and where things usually start to go wrong.

It’s rarely enough to simply have a process for issuing and returning keys – it’s the active monitoring of which keys are out which are due back that prevents the hassle of chasing around for a key at the last minute.

Even the best of us forget things every now and again and when we’re busy, it’s very easy to forget that we’ve still got the key.

The most common cause of key-loss is when someone forgets to sign them back in and the problem isn’t noticed immediately.  It might be weeks before the key is needed again and the problem is uncovered, by which time it’s often too late.

It’s therefore crucial that you have a regular process to check which keys are still out and which should be back by now, making sure you chase any late keys home before they have time to become lost.

You’ll need regular activities to:

  1. Check key status
  2. Chase overdue keys

4. Archiving

At some stage you may stop managing a set of keys. Perhaps you’ve stopped working with the property that the keys are protecting, or for some reason you’ve changed over a lock.

It’s crucial ensure you take action at this stage and that you record what you’ve done. Having keys you no longer need lying around only adds clutter and increases the chances of future mistakes and security risks.

The process here will probably vary depending on your industry.  Do you need to return the keys to the owner or dispose of them securely? What records do you need to keep? Does anyone else need to be informed?

What does your Key Management process look like?

Hopefully you agree that having a fully thought-out process is not an option, but is 100% necessary to keep your keys safe and prevent wasted time in the office. If you don’t have one, why not get get it in place right now?  If you’ve got a process- have you got all the bases covered?

Is your process written down?

Putting your process in writing is really important.  In many industries, it’s now a necessity, where legislation and codes of conduct require evidence that you are working in a compliant manner (for example the Letting Industry in Scotland).

Writing your process out also helps you to clarify the areas that may not be working efficiently.  What I often see is that most people give most attention to the first two processes (Tagging, Issuing and Returning) but the crucial monitoring and archiving are often less well defined.

Would you like some help with documenting your process?  We’re working on some templates to help.  Why not register your interest here? Or get in touch to discuss further.

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Combating the August Myth: It’s ANYTHING BUT a quiet month

August is a time for holiday and relaxing, right?  Then why is it that everyone I speak to at the moment is stressed?  There’s a “received wisdom” out there that businesses in the Northern Hemisphere generally shut down over August, and it simply isn’t true in a lot of cases.  The problem with received wisdom like this is that it can often mean that we subconsciously relax, and drift into August, only to find it’s a super busy month.

Here are some thoughts on what makes August a unique month in the business calendar, and what that means for the way we approach the summer. Continue reading “Combating the August Myth: It’s ANYTHING BUT a quiet month”

Free Tickets to ARLA Exhibition 2016 – Excel London

If you’re looking improve an aspect of your lettings or property management business, the new-look ARLA Exhibition on 12th April in London’s Excel Centre is a must-attend event.  This year, for the first time, the exhibition is free and open to all, with over 75 exhibitors covering all aspects of the property industry.
Check out the list of exhibitors here >>>

The exhibition accompanies the annual conference of the largest industry body, the Association of Residential Letting Agents. Since you don’t need to be a member of ARLA to attend, you can benefit by networking with your peers and seeing what others are up to in the Private Rental Sector. Continue reading “Free Tickets to ARLA Exhibition 2016 – Excel London”

Resolutions 1 month in, don’t stop now!

[fusion_text]Just like my colleague Tim many of us use the New Year as an opportunity to look back, take stock and make resolutions for change.  Not many of our resolutions last beyond week 3, why?

One reason is because we have all had a Christmas and New Year break and the first two weeks back are just not normal, it is only when you get into week 3 that our work routines resestablish themselves properly.  So if you have not succeeded with your resolutions, don’t stop, try again.
 
“Perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding the 20th.” Julie Andrews Continue reading “Resolutions 1 month in, don’t stop now!”

Centralise Key Management

Overview

Whether you are already managing a large number of offices or beginning the process of expansion, Keyzapp can help remove a significant co-ordination challenge.

Keyzapp’s solution

As all growing businesses know, successful expansion brings with it its own set of challenges. In the lettings and property management industry, a bigger portfolio means more keys to take care of – often spread across multiple offices and teams. As lettings and management companies typically grow out from a central location, branches are often only a few miles apart, and landlords and tenants expect to be able to deal equally with one branch as they do another. With the management of keys spread across multiple locations, there’s plenty of potential for things to fall through the gaps if no rigorous system is in place.

Keyzapp enables you and your staff to manage keys across multiple offices and offsite locations with complete ease.

Simply logging on to Keyzapp allows you to view the location of all your keys. Whether you need to identify whether a key is in the office or confirm that it has been issued to contractor, checking online takes seconds and saves calls between offices and rummaging through desks and cupboards.

Centralising your key management system also enables you to avoid issues that occur as multi-office operations become out of sync with each other. A common complaint from our customers is that contractors turning up at an office only to find there is no key available for them, resulting in a callout fee. Using Keyzapp, your staff can ensure that a key is in stock before an appointment is made.

Our customers always emphasise the importance of knowing exactly what’s going on with their properties, and recognise the benefit of being able to track this quickly by viewing a key history. Since keys can be issued from a number of different locations, paper-based systems and spreadsheets start to fall down as accurate records of key history, and it becomes difficult and time-consuming to pull together all the activities that happened on a property. Because Keyzapp works seamlessly across multiple offices, all key issuing and returning records are stored securely in a central location. A single click will tell you everything you need to know about where, when and who had a property’s keys. Our customers report that this saves a lot of time in investigations and it is used frequently to double check contractor invoices.

Setting up IT systems across multiple offices can be hard work, but with Keyzapp all you need is an internet connection and you can have multiple offices up and running in minutes!

The easiest way to attach keys to key rings

Here’s a life-saving (or at least nail-saving!) tip for anyone who has to regularly attach keys or key fobs to key rings.

When building demonstration kits for our Key Management Software, we couldn’t believe there was no fast, simple method for attaching key rings to key fobs.  The best we had come up with was using a small flat, screwdriver to lever the ring open and then insert the key or fob.  Then we found this YouTube video, which shows that the humble staple remover has the answer! Continue reading “The easiest way to attach keys to key rings”

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Stay on top of the little things: My one & only New Year’s resolution

Samuel Johnson wrote that “It is by studying little things that we attain the great art of having as little misery and as much happiness as possible”.

If you are anything like me, you and your staff may well have just spent a considerable amount of time catching-up on a whole number of little things that you never got round to during the year. Like me, you might also be vowing to do more of it as you go along next year. Continue reading “Stay on top of the little things: My one & only New Year’s resolution”

2016 – Customer-led Lettings Success

A few weeks before Christmas, the Keyzapp team attended The Negotiator Conference in London, one of the largest annual forums for those working in the sales and lettings industry.

While the debate about the strengths of traditional versus online agencies burnt on, the clear success message was about customer service.

We were not only there to demonstrate the benefits of our Key Management System; we were there to listen and learn from those who have and continue to innovate and lead the sales and lettings industry. Continue reading “2016 – Customer-led Lettings Success”

7 great insights from Innocent Drinks CEO (with thoughts for the property industry)

For me, the stand-out speaker at yesterday’s Future Decoded event in London was the first- Richard Reed, CEO of Innocent Drinks. Richard focussed on creating high-performing teams through staff and customer engagement. Given his company’s massive 94% engagement score (which compares to a UK average of just 17%), this is something he clearly knows a lot about. As Richard spoke, I couldn’t help relating some of what he was saying to our own property industry, where staff turnover is often high, competition is fierce and having the right people, all of them engaged and motivated, is a major competitive advantage.
Here’s what I took away: Continue reading “7 great insights from Innocent Drinks CEO (with thoughts for the property industry)”