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.

Keyzapp Quick Facts: Beyond Barcodes

What does Keyzapp bring over and above the traditional barcode system?

Barcodes were all the rage in the late ‘90s. Some enterprising agents and software makers began using barcodes to track keys and some of those systems are still around today. Barcodes were just the first step- they make some things easier, but key-based headaches have continued in many places that use them.

Keyzapp represents a major step forward. Here’s why:

 

You’re not tied to a single computer

Most barcode systems require special equipment & software, meaning you can only use it one or two computers. Keyzapp works on all computers, (scanners are optional) and almost every phone or tablet on the market today*

This is far more convenient- staff can look up keys at their desk and sign them out when they get to the cabinet.

Track every key movement

Most of us transfer keys in more than one way Sometimes, they are passed between people when outside of the office. Because Keyzapp works anywhere, these events can be audited and captured as well.

 

Absolute scanning simplicity

With barcodes you often have to open up your software click inside a particular box for a key scan – this is fiddly and hard to learn. With Keyzapp, simply tap the fob on the reader or phone and you’ll be taken to the right place without even touching the keyboard!**

 

Lower administration

Many barcode systems require you to print your own barcodes. This passes the cost and a time-consuming process to your team; they have to open the software, manage a stock of labels, print the barcode (then unload the labels) and then attach it to keys. Keyzapp’s fobs and stickers come pre printed and coded, you simply attach them to your keys and start scanning.

 

Lower cost hardware

Our NFC readers for PCs and Mac, are typically half the cost of the cheapest barcode scanner. With Keyzapp, your smart phone can scan fobs at no extra cost.

In summary…

Upgrading from barcodes to Keyzapp gives you:

* Far greater convenience and flexibility

* No admin headaches

* Ability to track more activities

* A faster, more user friendly experience

* Bang for your buck

What really makes Keyzapp work is the way it enables your people to follow your key process consistently every single time, so you have complete peace of mind. Book a demo today to see how it can help you.

A big day – an easy system

In a small way yesterday was a big day. After several months of planning and preparation we shot the final parts of our new promotional video and made our new web site live.

As part of these activities I had to look at and review Keyzapp as a system. Sometimes you can get caught up in business activities and you lose sight of the fundamental product. Nicki, who will be seen on the video using Keyzapp, had to learn how it works; after only a few minutes she was looking up and issuing keys like a professional.

In the evening Tim and Emma published our latest web site and I am particularly pleased by the revised “How it works” page, not a massive change but I think does a good job introducing people to how easy Keyzapp is.

Yesterday was a big day for me because in looking at the process again with new eyes I am very proud of the system we have created, particularly with how easy it is to learn and use.

* Where else can you look up a property and locate the keys in a matter of a few key presses?

* Where else can you scan a key fob and ID card and to issue a set of keys in a few seconds? What is more the system is just as easy to use without key fobs and ID cards.

* Returning keys is the easiest part of all– one click and you are done. Real time saving!

A big day for me, it reinforced how easy our key management system is – I am proud of it.

Your key management system will change soon

One thing we can be sure of is your business environment will change.  If I look back 15 years the business environment was very different from today, 15 years before that it is almost unrecognisable.  I was going to start this blog by saying that people do not like change, but this is really not true.  Facebook started in 2004, Twitter started in 2006 and the first iPhone came out in 2007, look how big they are now. If we take Twitter as an example, 0 users in 2006 to 500 million in 2012, only 6 years.

The change being brought about by these technologies is still in it’s infancy in the business environment, but it shows that people can adopt changes very quickly.  People are more resistant to change in the business environment for many reasons, but despite this resistance our business environment is changing quite quickly.

In many businesses the system to manage keys has been the same for over 100 years; keys are issued and returned using a paper log book to record and manage them.  This has already changed for some high security organisations but for many they still use the 100 year old paper log book.  If you still use a paper log book, change is only round the corner.  The question is not will I change my key management system but why, how and when; questions that I will return to in future posts.

New technologies mean that information can be read from key fobs and ID cards easily, quickly and cheaply.  When you combine this with the internet, mobile devices and cloud computing, you can be assured the pace of change is about to pick up.

Managing keys electronically saves time and improves accuracy; this in turn enables you to give a better service to your customers, both Landlords and Tenants.