How to stop people forgetting to sign out keys

One of the biggest concerns I hear when talking to estate agency owners and lettings managers is that they have a constant battle with staff who forget to sign out keys. Very rightly, most people realise that knowing where your keys are ultimately comes down to how well you can get everyone in your team and your extended team to follow your processes.

Whilst it’s very easy to say “I’ll never get my negs to do it properly” and just accept this as a fact of life, in reality, signing keys in and out correctly is just an organisational habit that you can encourage within your company. Here are a few things you can try, if you find that people are constantly forgetting to sign out keys.


Locking up keys is costly, inefficient and usually unnecessary

Some assume that the best way to ensure people always sign out keys is to lock them into the cabinet, and that short of this nothing will work. In fact, physically locking keys down can have its own problems, such as the impracticalities of the space needed, and cost. Most people in the estate agency, lettings and property management sectors don’t opt to go down this route.

Instead, here are some practical steps you can take today:

It starts with looking up the key

Making sure a key is properly signed out begins with the look-up process. When someone needs a key, they first need to identify the one they need. If the key is easy to identify immediately on the keyboard anyone can just walk in and take it off the hook without following the sign-out process.

An example of how Keyzapp helps with this, is with the option to randomise the key-hook numbers. If a person has to look up where the key is in the cabinet, they are halfway through the sign-out process already. Keyzapp’s search function is super-fast, allowing them to identify and click to sign-out their key in seconds.

It seems counter-intuitive to make finding a key more difficult, however giving out key information in the wrong place can actually cause more trouble than it’s worth.


Put one person in charge

In most agencies, keys are reliably signed-out when they are given to contractors (whether they are signed in or not is another matter entirely, and I’ll save that for another blog post). That’s because the contractor needs to go through a member of staff in order to collect the keys.

With staff, there is usually a greater degree of trust, and people often allow a “self-service” approach. Whilst this is often the quickest way to do things, it can reduce accountability and open the door to inconsistency.

Where just one or two people are in charge of issuing keys, the process is more reliably followed. Those with the responsibility feel an ownership of the process, and will usually take care to ensure things are done right. They also know that if something goes wrong, that they are accountable to the rest of the team.

If you are going to put one person in charge then it’s very important to support them. Those in charge of keys often feel frustrated, because they have to invest significant time to lookup, issue and chase keys. It’s important to recognise this job as important, and provide them with everything they need so they can do it efficiently.

Rotate the person in charge

If you want to highlight the challenges of key management to everyone in the whole team, you might try allocating the responsibility to different people on different weeks. Once people understand better the consequences when things go wrong, they will be more inclined to to remember to follow the correct processes when they need to.

London buses – they all come at once

A typical busy lettings office may give out on average 10 keys a day. That is an average of 20 transactions as each key has to be issued and returned. This sounds easy, and it is; after all that’s only an average of three transactions an hour. But just like London buses averages are tricky things.

A bus is scheduled every 10 minutes, but in London you can wait for half an hour and 3 buses will turn up at once. People who need keys are just like that, they arrive together; they often want them at the start of the day, not one or two very hour. Unsurprisingly these are also busy times because other people need attention for phone calls, visits and meetings at the same time. This is when a good key system saves you time, precisely when you need it most.

The average of 10 keys a day can also give you a distorted picture, it makes life look easy over a day, when in truth most activity is concentrated into a few busy times. This can be further distorted when you consider what a daily average of 10 keys means; some days only 1 or 2 keys are issued, on others it can be more than 20, but the average will still be 10.

Our records for some customers demonstrate that 4 out of 10 (40%) of all key transactions happen between 9 am and 11 am; what’s more for these customers 7 out of 10 (70%) of key transactions happen before 1 pm, lunch time.

We created Keyzapp to help people with the promise of making the mundane process of issuing keys easy and enjoyable. This makes it possible for everyone to manage keys, particularly when they are busy and under pressure.