Monday, February 17, 2020

A Simple Guide to Key Control Jargon

Wooden mannequin surrounded by question marks
Every industry has jargon that’s confusing to the average person. This can cause problems when industry professionals try to communicate with anyone outside their area of expertise. In the UK, for example, medical terminology became so confusing to patients that misunderstandings began affecting quality of care. As a result, the Royal College of General Practitioners told doctors to avoid jargon when speaking with patients.

While key and access control lingo isn’t so complicated that it’s almost a language in itself like medical terminology, we do believe that clear communication is crucial to helping businesses.

Whether you’re researching key management methods for your business or need to order parts for your electronic key control system and aren’t sure what they’re called, the following list of terms is for you.

Common Key Control Terms


Audit Trail — A key control audit trail includes reports with specific details each time someone uses a key. This data includes who removed it, when and why they removed it, and when the key was returned. Also called a key control log. Read more about why audit trails are important.

Access Card — A plastic card that, like a credit card, is programmed with data that only a special sensor can read. It provides access to restricted areas or systems. View an access card

Control Panel — The part of an electronic key control system where a user performs system functions such as checking out keys, running reports, and adding new users. It often includes a touchscreen. View a control panel.

Eyelet — A metal ring that’s used along with a rivet stem and washer (both terms defined below) to attach keys to key tags. View photos and order supplies from our online catalog (current customers only).

Key Fob — A keychain-sized piece of hardware that restricts access to secure areas or systems. It grants entry by generating a random code, emitting an electronic signal, or being scanned by a special reader. Car key remotes are one of the most common types of fobs. View a key fob.

Lockbox — A small, hinged box containing a set of keys. They’re commonly attached to house doors in the real estate industry and to car windows in the automotive industry. Read more about lockboxes.

Key Tag — A paper or plastic identifier that’s attached to a set of keys. Some tags, especially paper ones, have the key’s information written directly on them. Others have an embedded computer chip that’s coded with information about the key. These key tags are used with an electronic key control system and are more secure than labeled tags. Learn why it’s helpful to set up a key tag preparation station.

Key Control Log — Another name for an audit trail. The key control log is a set of reports with details about each transaction.

Key Plug System — An updated version of the traditional wooden pegboard. Keys are attached to pegs and inserted into slots on a numbered board. Also called a mechanical peg system or lock plug system.

Module — A component of a mix-and-match system; think of it as one piece of a puzzle. For example, the KeyTrak Guardian allows customers to choose modules for lockers, keys, or cards.

Pegboard — A board with regularly spaced holes that hold hooks. Keys or other items are placed on the hooks. View a pegboard.

Reader — An electronic user authentication method that scans a piece of hardware such as a fob or biometric characteristic such as a fingerprint. Read about why you should use fingerprint readers with your key control system.

Rivet Stem — A long, thin metal piece that’s used along with a washer (defined below) and eyelet to attach keys to key tags.

Server — A computer that controls an electronic key control system. View a key control system server

Zap Strap — A thin rubber-coated wire that’s used to attach keys to key tags.

Proximity Card — Another name for an access card.

Washer — A donut-shaped metal piece that’s used along with a rivet stem and eyelet to attach keys to key tags.

To learn more about key management, read “A Four-Minute History of Key Control” and “Do You Need to Improve Your Key Management?

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Three Condo Concierge Horror Stories

Gloved hand opening doorConcierge service is a hallmark of a luxury living experience. But what if the concierge decides to take advantage of residents rather than serving them? Without the right employee accountability and controls in place, that’s a real risk — just read these concierge horror stories.

The $200,000 Jewelry Heist


At a condo complex in Cleveland, Ohio, a concierge used his access privileges to enter four different units, from which he stole over $200,000 of jewelry. He then worked with an accomplice to pawn the stolen property.

The Booze-Loving Concierge


One Virginia concierge treated a resident’s home as her own personal bar. Upon entering the unit, the employee was caught on camera guzzling the resident’s alcohol.

The Man in Black


While traveling in Thailand, a Vancouver, British Columbia, woman checked her condo’s security camera footage and observed a man in black — whom she recognized as the building’s concierge — enter her home, slip on a pair of white gloves, and help himself to several hundred dollars from her dresser drawer. Another woman in the same building reported that a total of $5,350 in cash had disappeared from her home in two separate incidents — with no evidence of forced entry.

How to Protect Your Residents


When provided conscientiously, concierge services are a much-appreciated complement to busy people’s lives. To reduce the risk of a dishonest employee abusing their access to condo dwellers’ homes, use electronic key control to enforce the following checks and balances:

  • Avoid using master keys and require concierges to check out the key to each unit individually.
  • Set up alerts when a concierge has a key for longer than necessary and restrict access to keys outside of their normal shift hours.
  • Notify residents by text or email when the key to their unit is checked out.

Take the time to thoroughly assess how you treat key access. Are you providing residents a service or is your complex a nightmare waiting to happen?

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Top 12 Questions to Ask Key Control Vendors at NADA

Fast-moving crowd on trade show floor
What if purchasing an electronic key control system were like purchasing a new vehicle? In some ways, it is: You’re looking for a system that’s reliable, meets a set of specific specs, and is backed by top-notch service. Most of the time, unfortunately, you don’t have the opportunity to take multiple systems for a test drive, so to speak, in a single day — except at the NADA Convention & Expo.

As the industry’s largest event for new-vehicle dealers, NADA is the perfect time to select a new key control system, among other products and services, because you have the opportunity to see and compare multiple options at once.

With more than 500 companies exhibiting at NADA, however, it’s crucial to map out a strategy. If you’re in the market for an electronic key control system, here are some questions to ask to make the most of your time:
  1. Will the vendor customize a solution for your dealership or is it a one-size-fits-all product?
  2. Can the system and vendor grow with your needs?
  3. Is the software tailored to the auto industry?
  4. How do employees access keys and assets?
  5. How are transactions tracked?
  6. How user-friendly is the system?
  7. What reports does the system offer?
  8. Can the system be accessed remotely?
  9. Do you have to install the system and train your employees yourself?
  10. What support services are offered after the system is installed?
  11. Does the company have a track record of product development over the last three to five years?
  12. Does the system accommodate the number of keys and/or dealer plates you need to store?
To help you evaluate and compare potential electronic key control vendors more thoroughly, visit our Resources page to download our Key Control Checklist and Electronic Key Control Scorecard.

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!):

Sales


    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??

Service


  • 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.