Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The Surprising Link Between Key Control and Dealership Reputation

Businessman standing in pouring rain
Put yourself in a customer’s shoes for a moment. Let’s say you visit a dealership wanting to drive a specific high-end vehicle you saw online. When you arrive, the salesperson greets you outside and you tell him about the vehicle you want to test drive. He agrees and goes to retrieve the key. Meanwhile, you’re standing outside and it starts to drizzle. Ten minutes go by. The drizzle turns into a downpour. It’s now been 20 minutes. Finally the salesperson returns.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t find the key,” he says. “Can you come back tomorrow?”

As the customer in this scenario, how would you respond? If you’re really forgiving, you might give the dealership one more shot, but more than likely, you’ll decide not to return and might even leave a 1-star review online.

This situation — which is based on a few different actual reviews — reveals the often unexpected but critical link between key control and online reputation management.

How does key management affect your dealership’s reputation?

When you have process issues related to key control — whether in sales or service — customers notice. And if they have a poor experience, they’ll talk about it online. Just take a look at these snippets from real-life reviews about customer experiences in sales and service (many of these reviews were even embedded on the dealership’s homepage!):


    1-star review graphic: "It took him twenty minutes to find the keys while my friend and I were left standing in the rain."
  • I found the SUV I wanted to test drive. … She couldn’t even locate the vehicle on the lot.
  • He left me out in the sales yard for about 30 minutes looking for keys for the F-150 and then said he couldn’t find them and told me to come back the next day.
  • No effort was made to show the vehicle off, he knew nothing about the car, he didn’t know how many he had in stock, he took us up to the second floor to show us the other car and when we got there he realized that the car was actually downstairs, he never asked if we wanted to test drive it but the kicker was when we asked to drive it, it took him twenty minutes to find the keys [while] my friend and I were left standing in the rain.
  • Pathetic excuse for a dealership. My buddies and I were there looking at a Maserati for sale in their showroom. The sorry excuse for a dealership couldn’t locate the keys……really??


  • Unfortunately, I was very unhappy that my keys were misplaced/lost. After I paid for my service for my vehicle, my keys were nowhere to be found.
1-star review graphic: "After I paid for my service for my vehicle, my keys were nowhere to be found."

  • I arrived at the dealership at 6pm to pick up my vehicle just to see that it was still parked out on the street where I had left it, my keys in the drop box that was also unlocked! Very, very disappointed in this dealership!
  • The porter in the service department LOST MY KEYS. New keys had to be made, which delayed the technician looking at my vehicle for a day.

Actively monitoring and responding to reviews can help you promptly address situations like the ones described above, but what if the circumstances that prompted the review had never existed in the first place? Each customer’s feedback would likely have been very different.

Avoiding even one negative review can help your business, because it takes 40 positive reviews to counter the effects of a negative review. That makes sense since nearly 60 percent of car shoppers look at reviews to select a dealership for purchasing or servicing a vehicle. If they see multiple negative reviews, you’re likely to lose their business in addition to the original reviewer’s.

How do you improve your key control to avoid negative reviews?

While there’s a lot that goes into creating effective key management processes, the guidelines below are a good overview of the measures you’ll need to take to ensure poor processes don’t result in poor reviews.

1. Control your keys.

At the risk of stating the obvious, the foundation of effective key control is being able to control your keys. If you’re storing keys inside a metal file cabinet or on a pegboard and use a manual log to track usage, it’s no surprise that your salespeople are having trouble finding keys. The moment someone forgets to update the logbook and then fails to return a key, it’s lost. Unfortunately, someone might not notice that key is missing until they’re looking for it while a customer stands outside in the rain waiting for a test drive.

By using an electronic key control system to secure keys in both sales and service, you can receive alerts for unreturned keys, check available stock, and reserve keys. In turn, salespeople can get customers in vehicles for test drives faster and service staff can better protect customers’ vehicles.

2. Train your staff.

Having a key control policy is useless if you don’t also educate your staff. Just look at the training opportunities evident in the above customer reviews.

For example, if a salesperson can’t locate a key for a test drive, they should know how to handle the situation. Instead of asking the customer to return the next day, they could retrieve the keys to a similar vehicle and offer to let the customer drive that vehicle instead. After the test drive, the salesperson could then check to see who last removed the key to the desired vehicle and follow up with that person to track it down.

In service, staff should be trained on best practices for handling customer keys, such as never letting the key out of their sight unless it’s safely secured in a key control system.

These are just a couple examples — ensure staff throughout your dealership is thoroughly trained on key handling best practices for a variety of situations.

3. Watch for online complaints related to key management.

If someone mentions an issue related to key control online, you’ll want to know about it ASAP so you can respond to the customer and address any process or training issues internally. Review sites like Yelp, Google, and DealerRater are good places to start. Keep an eye out for mentions of your dealership on social media (especially Facebook and Twitter) as well.

If you want to avoid reputation-damaging gripes about how you manage keys, proper key control is, well, key. Implement good processes now so you don’t have to do damage control later.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Is Your Key Control Ready for Flu Season?

Coworkers wanting to avoid sick man blowing nose
It all starts when someone comes to work complaining of a headache, dry cough, and fatigue. By the end of the day, they’ve got a bad case of the chills, a sore throat, and muscle aches. The diagnosis: flu.

Before you know it, your workplace is in the middle of a flu outbreak — along with countless other organizations across the U.S. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the flu causes U.S. employees to miss approximately 17 million workdays each year, with a price tag of $7 billion in sick days and lost productivity.

Hopefully your business has a flu preparedness plan (if you don’t, the World Health Organization and CDC have some helpful resources to help you create one). What most preparedness plans don’t account for, however, is how illness-related employee absences affect your key management processes. This flu season, there are a couple measures you can take to make sure your key control doesn’t take time off along with your employees.

Disinfect Keys and Equipment

The flu is highly contagious and can be transmitted even by talking to someone standing 6 feet away or by touching something an infected person has come into contact with. To minimize the flu’s spread, it’s important to keep germs at bay by washing your hands often and frequently disinfecting surfaces.

Your cleaning crew will handle cleaning common areas, bathrooms, and more, but what about high-contact areas involved in your key control processes? Think about all the pieces involved in key management — from the keys themselves to electronics — and follow the below cleaning guidelines.

Keys and Fobs

  • Keep a container of disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer near key storage areas. Have employees give keys a wipe-down before returning them and then use hand sanitizer.
  • If you store keys inside an electronic key control system, do not spray cleaner or use any kind of wet wipes inside the system and ensure that keys are completely dry before returning them.
  • If you have electronic keys cards or fobs, some people recommend cleaning them with rubbing alcohol, but check the manufacturer’s cleaning guidelines first.

Biometric Fingerprint Reader

  • If you use an electronic key control system with a fingerprint reader, clean the scanner with office tape at least once a week. Do not clean with soap, water, or cleaner.
  • For other biometric devices, follow manufacturer recommendations for cleaning.

Computer Accessories

  • To clean computer accessories such as a keyboard or mouse, disconnect the components from the power source and wipe them down with bleach-free disinfecting wipes. Make sure they’re fully dry before plugging them back in. CNET has a helpful five-minute cleaning routine.

Prepare for Unexpected Absences

Unfortunately, the flu doesn’t give advance notice, so figure out how you’ll address any interruptions to your key control processes as soon as possible. Below are some common scenarios to prepare for.

Keys That Require Dual Authorization

If a manager is required to authorize a key checkout, is there a different management staff member who can approve key use? If not, determine how employees should adjust their processes if they’re unable to access keys to perform certain job functions. Make sure you clearly communicate that plan to any employees who’d be affected by such a change.

Keys That Haven’t Been Returned

To avoid a situation where an employee takes a key home and then calls in sick the next day, set up alerts for keys that aren’t returned within a certain time frame so you can ensure they’re returned before the end of the day. Some possible exceptions to this rule are long-term issue keys, such as for employee offices, or fleet vehicle keys.

New Employee Setup

If you have new employees starting who will need access to keys, don’t delay processing any paperwork, setting up user accounts, or providing required key control training.

Delegating Routine Key Management Processes

Document routine key management processes so someone can easily fill in for those responsible for overseeing your key control system, reports, etc. A daily key control checklist is a good start.

Key Tag Creation

If you deal with a high volume of key turnover (if you work for a dealership, for example), make sure you have a couple people who are authorized and trained to set up and decommission keys.

By including key control in your preparedness planning, you don’t have to let the flu hurt your organization’s productivity any more than it has to.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

How to Select a Key Control Method for Your New Multifamily Property

Pile of keys
Marketing. Leasing. Hiring. Whether it’s new construction or a recent acquisition, a lot goes into setting up a multifamily property for business. To provide a good experience for your residents and protect your property’s reputation in the future, choosing a key and access control solution should be on your list of things to do before you start signing new leases.

There are dozens of options to consider, with the most common being the following three methods:

  • A manual process using a pegboard and logbook
  • Electronic key control systems
  • Smart locks

When evaluating the best option for your property, ask yourself the following questions:

What does your target market want?

As with any other decision you make about your property, it’s important to consider who will be living in your community. Millennials, for example, often want apartments with smart locks. Older demographics, on the other hand, might feel strongly about having traditional metal keys instead of smart locks. One man, along with a group of fellow tenants, even sued his landlord over a smart lock system that required a phone app to enter the building, which he felt presented privacy concerns.

If you do stick with physical keys, what’s the best way to manage them? A pegboard system combined with a physical log is less expensive upfront, but an electronic system can securely store keys and capture a digital record of who’s accessed those keys. Put yourself in your residents’ shoes: Which method would make you feel most safe?

Does the key management method you’re considering fit with your brand?

For upscale communities, the key and access control method you use should reflect the message you want to convey. If you take a prospect on a tour using a key attached to a paper label, for example, that looks unprofessional — not to mention unsafe. On the other hand, using a system that automatically records when keys are removed and even notifies the resident by text or email when someone has removed the key to their home provides a higher level of security and sense of safety for the resident.

In other scenarios, electronic locks might make sense, such as if you’re branding your property as a smart community. If you do go this route, however, bear in mind that smart locks don’t necessarily eliminate the need for key control, as you still need a way to manage any traditional metal keys (backup keys for the keyless entry system, keys to storage sheds, etc.) as well as any smart tokens that come with the smart lock system.

What are your other properties using?

Think about the key control methods you’re using at other properties. Is there a certain method or system that works well? Are there communities that need a better way of controlling access to keys and apartments?

Consider using the same method across multiple properties. This strategy is beneficial for a few reasons:

  • Employee training can be standardized.
  • Reporting is in the same format, allowing you to get an accurate high-level view of activity across properties.
  • Purchasing and vendor management are easier.

While every property is unique, it’s important for every one of them to protect its residents through effective key control.

Is it scalable?

As you assume responsibility for additional properties in the future, how easy would it be to roll out the access control or key management solution to those communities? For the reasons mentioned above, standardizing a solution across multiple properties is a smart move.

How versatile is it?

Consider whether a system includes additional features or applications that can help you save time and get more value from your purchase. If you’re using an electronic system to manage keys, you might have the option to collect prospect data by scanning driver’s licenses, managing resident packages, tracking employee time clocks, and managing work orders.

Some communities are even taking advantage of smart lock systems to offer prospects self-guided tours (though property management professionals have divided opinions on whether or not this is a good strategy).

Manual key control methods, of course, are the least versatile, since they serve one purpose only: to store keys and record who’s using them when.

With on-site personnel being strapped for time and the constant pressure to do more with less, there are benefits to having technology that can multitask. When deciding what capabilities you want out of a technology investment, take the time to think through your staff’s daily tasks, how they interact with each other, and any software you have in place already.

Will on-site personnel get the training and support they need?

With multifamily turnover rates hovering around the 30 percent mark, an efficient training process is a must. Having a technology partner that offers customized training services can help alleviate the training burden, allowing you to focus on helping your new team members hone job-based skills rather than spending a chunk of your time on showing them how to use the technology and applications your property uses.

While there are plenty of tasks related to a newly built or acquired multifamily property that can occupy your time and attention, spending the time to develop an effective key control solution will be worth the investment. Not sure if you’re heading in the right direction? Download our whitepaper "Six Common Key Control Mistakes Property Owners Make."

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Customer Tip: Ensure Your Key Control Doesn’t Take a Holiday

Businessman handing keys to colleague with Christmas lights in backgroundAre you planning a vacation this holiday season? Make sure your key control doesn’t also take time off by completing the following tasks before you leave:

With these precautions, you can rest assured that your keys are secure and accounted for while you’re enjoying your time off with friends and family.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

How to Make Your Security Measures More Effective

Using keys to open a doorWhen you think about security threats to your business, do you think about somebody smashing a window and running off with a computer? What about a mysterious hacker from a distant country holding your proprietary data for ransom?

While those two scenarios are certainly risks you should prepare for, oftentimes the biggest security threat to a business is far less obvious and rarely prepared for. Did you know that employee theft costs U.S. businesses $50 billion a year? In fact, privilege abuse and human errors are among the leading causes of data breaches.

Locked doors, gates, and security cameras are great first steps toward making your facility more secure — whether it's a single office building or a sprawling complex — but lacking the ability to hold your employees accountable will still cost you in the long run.

Here are some steps you can take to improve the security of your business that go beyond the basics.

Establish Security Protocols

Security cameras and access-controlled doors and gates are great, but they can also be rendered meaningless if they aren't used correctly. For example, how easy is it to get into your secure buildings during regular working hours? Could somebody who isn't employed by you follow an actual employee through an open door and easily gain access to valuable assets or information?

That's why it's important to have established security protocols and best practices. Access to secure areas should be restricted to only those who need it and using identification badges would make it easy to identify people who don't belong in certain areas. Also, consider securing building, equipment, and vehicle keys when they're not in use in a locked box or electronic key control system to prevent misuse or the potential loss of a key.

Foster a Culture of Security

Like basic physical security measures, new protocols will only be as effective as the employees who stick to them. If your employees are unaware of the new rules or simply don't practice them, they leave the business and their fellow employees at risk of theft or violent attacks.

Be sure to regularly train your employees on new security practices and emphasize the importance of adhering to the protocols. You must foster a culture of security if you want your measures to work, and employees need to understand they'll be held accountable for any security breaches.

Maintain Access Logs

Knowing who accessed what and when is a critical part of holding employees accountable. For example, poor key management could lead to an unauthorized person using a company vehicle with no oversight. If that person was in a wreck, your business could then be held liable for not restricting that employee's access to the vehicle. And if your access logs don't show the keys every being checked out, how could you defend yourself?

Whatever security measures you take, be sure you have a way to accurately track access to keys and secure assets and areas. Use an electronic key control system to automatically log key activity, prevent key misuse, and hold employees accountable.

For more tips on protecting your business, check out our eBook "Five Steps to Make Your Facility More Secure."

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Finding Success When the Automotive Market Is Down

Hand holding up lightbulb in front of chalkboard reading 'New Mindset, New Results'
Since the Great Recession, the automotive industry has been on the upswing, but the tides are turning. In 2019, unsold vehicles hit a 10-year high, with automakers and dealers holding on to a 78-day supply. This comes amidst other industry challenges: job cuts, a shortage of skilled technicians, the prospect of self-driving vehicles upsetting vehicle ownership, rising interest rates, and more.

In response to this market shift, dealers are feeling pessimistic about what the future holds for the industry. If you’re in that camp, it’s not hard to see why you feel this way. For a successful 2020 — regardless of what the market does — start with the strategies below.

Look for Untapped Opportunities to Save Money

When you’re strapped for cash, even seemingly small costs can mount quickly. Take the time to evaluate what unnecessary costs or inefficiencies are cutting into your profits. One dealership made the decision to simply offer customers paper cups they could fill at the water fountain rather than providing bottled water, saving $6,000 per year.

If there are tools available to help you address inefficiencies, weigh the investment against the money it’ll save you in the long run. For example, having a documented key control process and using an electronic method for tracking keys can help cut down on the cost of replacing lost or stolen key fobs or even vehicles.

In some cases, you might not need to make any changes to your operations to create more room in your budget. Dealer reimbursements are a great way to recoup money for something you’re already doing. Let’s say your service department offers transportation to customers bringing their vehicles in for warranty work. Some manufacturers, such as GM, will reimburse a few dollars each way for shuttle rides. If your manufacturer reimbursed $5 per ride, that’d be $500 for 100 shuttle rides a month, or $6,000 a year.

Whatever changes you make to help your bottom line, be sure they won’t be detrimental to the customer experience.

Address Threats to Your Revenue and Reputation

Don’t let thieves help themselves to your hard-earned profits or hurt your good name. Protect your business from common types of theft. Some examples include the following:

  • The Craigslist scam, which involves a thief posting a vehicle for sale in an online marketplace and then stealing it from a dealership’s lot once the crook finds a buyer for the vehicle.
  • The key-swap scam, where someone swaps a vehicle’s original key fob for a dummy fob, returning later to steal the vehicle.
  • Organized theft rings, which often target dealerships that keep keys in vehicle-mounted lockboxes or other easily accessible places.

Even if you’re never the target of theft, the benefits of investing in prevention measures such as employee training and secure key control far outweigh the consequences of dealing with the aftermath of stolen keys or inventory.

Stay Positive

You can’t control the market, but you have a say in how you respond to it. In fact, it’s imperative that you stay upbeat in less than ideal conditions. Being positive has a neurological impact, which in turn can increase job performance and employee morale.

In a Stanford University study of how being positive affects children, the lead researcher commented that positivity is as important as IQ to academic success. The group of children who participated in the study were better able to answer math problems, retain memories, and solve problems when they practiced being positive.

Only 25 percent of job success is related to IQ, and optimistic employees have clear advantages over cynical ones:

  • They recognize potential even in a less than ideal environment.
  • They’re motivated to work harder to overcome obstacles.
  • Their creativity flourishes, helping them come up with creative ways to reach their goals.
  • They inspire coworkers to be more successful at their jobs.

To encourage a positive culture, start by increasing employee satisfaction by making sure employees have access to the tools they need to do their jobs successfully, celebrating successes, and leading by example.

What changes will you make to increase your dealership’s success?

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Don’t Let Employee Turnover Sabotage Your Key Control

Resignation letter in employee's box of belongings
Employee turnover is a topic you’ve likely heard a lot about recently. The total turnover rate — including terminations and voluntary departures — across all industries nationwide has increased each year since 2014. In 2018, the turnover rate reached 19.3 percent — up from 15.7 percent in 2014. In fact, the voluntary turnover rate on its own was at 14.2 percent in 2018.

While it isn’t impossible to reduce turnover in your organization, it can feel like fighting an uphill battle. This isn’t good for businesses, as it costs anywhere between six to nine months’ salary on average to replace a salaried employee.

However, the effects turnover has on businesses is more serious than you may realize. In addition to being expensive, attrition can also create holes in your organization’s key management practices. Here are the three main ways that turnover will sabotage your key control.

Former Employees Retain Key Access

When employees who had access to keys leave the company, failing to revoke access privileges and collect all keys in their possession immediately after they leave is a major risk to your facility. Imagine the damage they could do with a key or two — or even a couple hundred, like a man in North Dakota, who managed to steal 200 apartment keys, as well as 38 garage openers, master keys, and nine vehicle keys from two separate former employers.

While this may be an extreme example, it’s worth mentioning because it illustrates the potential consequences of not having the necessary tools or policies to secure your keys. An electronic key control system would be able to deter ex-employees from stealing your keys, thanks to features like biometric logins and a secure drawer that can only be opened by authorized users.

Once you have a system in place, it’s important to make sure you collect any keys in an employee’s possession when they leave, as well as strip any access they had to the keys on all systems to protect your organization from security risks related to former employees.

Experienced Employees Take Their Knowledge With Them

Another potential problem that turnover causes for key control is when your key control officer/administrator or other experienced employees leave your organization, taking valuable knowledge with them.

Whether an employee had valuable experience and detailed knowledge of key security policies, losing them hurts. But you can do multiple things to help overcome the loss.

One of these things is to document all key control policies, which helps new employees you bring in as replacements (more on that later). To encourage employees to follow policy, you can use an electronic key control system to help enforce your key management protocol. You could start by assigning user access levels for each employee. That way, anyone without access for certain keys won’t be able to sign them out — or steal them.

One final way to ensure you aren’t left out to dry when experienced employees leave is to assign more than one person to be in charge of key control. If possible, you should look at people with more than one year at your company and who are familiar with how things are run.

New Employees Aren’t up to Speed

When you experience turnover and replace the old employees with new ones, the new staff members lack the knowledge about the way your company runs and won’t be familiar with every policy right away. This lack of knowledge may cause them to make mistakes or be slow with decision making. Once again, this is a great example of why you should document all policies and ensure employees are familiar with them.

If you do have an electronic key control system in place already, new employees may experience a learning curve as they familiarize themselves with how your business uses the system. To make this process as smooth as possible, take advantage of all training resources your key control provider offers. These may include best practices guides, live video training, and phone support.

Experienced employees leaving and inexperienced ones coming in make the job of protecting keys a little more difficult, but it doesn’t have to be so hard. If you take the necessary precautions, you can stay on top of the key control game. Just because your employees are leaving doesn’t mean your key control has to go with them.