Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Multifamily Reputation Management Starts Offline

Person's finger leaving review on smartphone with boxes in background
How many people read reviews before leasing an apartment? A better question is, how many don’t? According to studies by Apartments.com, Entrata, NMHC/Kingsley Associates, and reputation.com, the majority of prospective renters — 80-98 percent, depending on which study you look at — want to know what other people have to say about an apartment community before they sign a lease.

With those numbers, it’s not hard to see why reputation management is a hot topic in the multifamily industry. You can find a lot of tips for monitoring and responding to reviews, but don’t forget that reputation management starts offline. After all, if residents have a positive living experience, what reason do they have to leave a poor review?

To create that kind of experience, you have to consider what residents really want. Some people value amenities such as outdoor kitchens or valet trash service, but many prioritize features that should be givens, like privacy and safety.

Here are three steps you can take to give residents the protection they need to feel that your community is the place they want to call home.

Respect Living Space


Even though they don’t own their homes, apartment residents want to maintain a sense of personal space and feel secure where they live. In fact, 63 percent of millennials say they’d move out of an apartment that lacks security.

A big part of maintaining those expectations is holding your staff accountable for when and why they can access units. If an employee enters an apartment without permission or proper notice, the resident who lives there will feel like their sense of privacy has been violated.

Case in point: A former tenant of a Washington property complained in a review that his apartment had been entered without permission or written notice three or more different times while he was away from home, and his front door was left unlocked.

1-star review: My apartment was entered at least 3 different times when I was not home and my front door left unlocked.


Having a clear key control policy and keeping accurate key activity records will discourage employees from entering apartments without authorization. In addition, using an electronic key control system that automatically notifies residents when the key to their unit has been removed increases transparency and reduces unwelcome surprises.

If you use smart locks, it’s important to treat security tokens such as fobs and cards with the same level of security you would traditional metal keys. For example, you wouldn’t want to program a token with access to all the units on the property, and you need to control who can use any preprogrammed security tokens.

Minimize Package Theft and Loss


Over the past decade or so, e-commerce sales have steadily grown. In 2018, they accounted for 14.3 percent of total retail sales, up from 13 percent in 2017 and 11.6 percent in 2016. As you’ve probably discovered, what this trend means for multifamily properties is more packages. The average property receives 150 packages a week, and 270 a week during the holiday season.

1-star review: Our packages are getting stolen from our front desk.It should come as no surprise, then, that many property reviews feature complaints about packages being stolen, the office refusing to accept deliveries, or residents not knowing when packages have been delivered to the leasing office.

Package delivery is a sore spot for property managers and there’s no easy solution. Still, it’s essential to maintain resident satisfaction by implementing an efficient package tracking method for logging deliveries. If your system of choice notifies residents via email or text that their packages are ready to be picked up, that's even better.

The National Apartment Association’s white paper “How to Effectively Manage Package Acceptance” includes some further suggestions for addressing package problems.

Safeguard Private Information


The moment a prospect submits a rental application, you have access to a wealth of sensitive information and documents: Social Security number, credit history, pay stubs, etc. Once someone signs a lease and moves in, you also have keys to their mailboxes, which can hold similar sensitive documents.

1-star review: OUR IDENTITY WAS STOLEN. Great job for not safeguarding tenant credit information.Failing to safeguard a resident’s personal information won’t do any favors for your reputation. In a review of a Michigan complex, a woman complained that her and her husband’s identities had been stolen a couple weeks after their rental application was run. She described how a leasing agent was stealing residents’ information, applying for credit in their names, and then retrieving any correspondence related to the thefts from the people’s mailboxes before they received it.

It’s important to implement both cybersecurity and physical security best practices to secure digital records as well as keys to mailboxes and other areas that contain residents’ personal information.

There’s a lot that goes into reputation management. Monitoring and responding to reviews will help you shape your online reputation — but that’s after people have already voiced their opinions. By creating a positive living experience, starting with the three steps mentioned above, you can influence how people talk about your property online and prevent them from rushing to complain about you on review sites and social media.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Customer Tip: Create a Tag Preparation Process

Tags in KeyTrak drawer
Any key control process is only as effective as its users. That extends to simple tasks like preparing key tags for use with your KeyTrak system. To make the process secure and efficient, follow the best practices below:

  • Ensure a designated system administrator or manager is the only person who can access fastening tools. This will prevent keys being removed from or added to the system without authorization. If a key needs to be removed from the key tag, the administrator must be notified to reattach it.
  • Tag keys as soon as possible and put them in the system. The longer you wait to start tracking keys, the more your risk grows.
  • Store tags and fasteners separate from the system. Ideally, keep tagging supplies near a PC where the administrator or manager can access our Web Plus remote software. That way, administrators don’t have to transport tagging supplies back and forth to the KeyTrak system, and they can prepare tags and add new keys to the system without tying up the system.
  • Follow industry best practices for labeling key tags. In certain industries, labeling key tags is acceptable. For example, in the automotive industry, key tags usually include a vehicle’s year, make and model. Generally, however, you should avoid labeling key tags with door numbers or other details about the key. This is especially true for multifamily properties or high-security facilities where a lost key puts someone’s safety at risk.
  • Closely monitor your supply of key tags so you don’t run out. To order more key tags quickly and easily, visit our online supplies catalog.

By following these simple tips, you can ensure your key control process is as effective as possible. For more helpful information about getting the most out of your KeyTrak system, be sure to read some of our other customer tips as well.

Monday, April 8, 2019

How to Prevent Student Worker Security Risks

College student in a dorm room.
Transportation, computer labs, student housing — almost every university offers a wide variety of employment opportunities to students who'd like to earn money and get valuable job experience while they complete their degrees.

Depending on the student worker's role, you trust them with access to heavy vehicles, campus network servers and dorm room keys, among many other sensitive and valuable assets and areas. While this access is critical to the students' ability to do their jobs — and provide a great educational and living experience to their fellow students — a lack of clear security protocols and accountability can leave your university at risk.

What's the Worst That Could Happen to Me?


You likely have handbooks that outline rules, responsibilities and consequences for what happens when student workers fail to meet existing security standards. However, inadequate security practices might mean you won't know there has been a problem with a student worker's access until it's too late.

Consider that one of the biggest security risks for any business is its employees. When it comes to protecting your campus and students, your security protocols can be a matter of the least common denominator — your campus is only as safe as how the lowest-ranking person on your staff treats their access to secure assets and areas. Do you trust a 19-year-old resident assistant (RA) to make the right call on not loaning a friend a master key at 3 a.m. in the middle of midterms?

Your student workers who have access to keys — both physical and electronic — are the gatekeepers to the safety of your other students. Without proper oversight and accountability, even simple mistakes can have dire consequences.

One Texas university learned this lesson the hard way when a man who had been dating an RA allegedly used a master keycard belonging to the RA to access another student's room. Police said the man had intended to commit a sexual assault. The RA was unaware that the keycard had been taken or that the assailant knew her PIN until after the attack happened.

What Can I Do?


Tailored security training should be a priority for every employee — from department deans to student workers — on your campus to equip them with the tools and knowledge required to prevent major security breaches. For example, student workers need to know how to spot potential criminals trying to gain access as well as understand the real-world consequences of losing a key, which affects the safety of their friends and fellow students.

You should also consider a key management system that automatically tracks key and asset access so employees know they'll be held accountable for how their credentials are used. An electronic key control system would help you secure your university's keys while tying access to individual employees. The system you choose should be able to alert higher-level staff when a key is accessed outside normal hours or isn't returned within a given time frame so key use isn't abused either by student workers or somebody close to them.

Protecting the students on your campus is one of your top priorities. But putting too much trust in your student workers without oversight could leave other students vulnerable to theft or assault. What will you do to prevent your student workers from abusing their access privileges?