How to Manage Parcels for Student Accommodation in 2020
Monday, September 21, 2020
We have also released a new feature that allows signatures pickups! Check it out.
Why Manage Parcels in the First Place?
Black Friday and Christmas are just around the corner, and here at Deepfinity, we have named this time of year “Parcel-ggedon”. Mailrooms and student housing receptions are about to be flooded with parcels, so we thought we’d put together a guide to help you manage them. This guide is to help mailroom teams and front-of-house staff get through the next 2 months. If you want to know the magic solution to all your problems, just skip to the end, otherwise enjoy the article!
Student accommodation (aka Student Housing) is plagued by online shopping, which results in a daily torrent of parcels. But if you’re reading this article you probably already know this and are looking for a solution to all your problems! Well, you came to the right place! In this article we will go over the different methodologies used to manage parcels that we have seen over our last 3 years working with dozens of student accommodation buildings, and share the tips and tricks that defined the most effective ones.
While this article focuses on our experience with student housing, it definitely applies to parcel management for residential and offices buildings.
Why Manage Parcels in the First Place?
Accepting parcels for your residents in one of the most positive points of contact you will have with them… if done correctly. Picture this; every time you hand a student a parcel, it’s like you’re giving them a gift! But this positive point of contact assumes that there are no issues when it comes to parcel handoffs, and from our experience there often are. Here are some reasons to log the parcels when they arrive into the building.
Proof of delivery and pickup. Around 500,000 pieces of mail and packages go missing every week in the UK alone. Parcels will inevitably get lost before they arrive to your building or after they are collected by the resident. Logging all the parcels that come in and out of the building can help you resolve many issues when residents come claiming that their parcels were lost by you. If the parcel was collected, you can show them on the archived log that they picked up the parcel and signed for it. If it was never delivered, you can show that too. We have resolved so many issues by having a log that building managers were able to refer to.
Speed up collecting: While many couriers send notifications once parcels have been delivered, a few still don’t. This means that a package could be delivered for a student and never be picked up. Parcels could be held in the reception for long times, particularly if they are packages from the students’ family from overseas, with some of their local food! Imagine holding a parcel for a month, the food could go bad! On the other hand, imagine how grateful a student would be that you got the parcel to them as fast as possible.
Receptions Vs Mailrooms
Traditionally student housing will not have mailrooms, as no one anticipated the high volume of deliveries that the buildings would be receiving. Instead most student housing buildings will accept packages from Amazon, DHL, UPS and so on through the front of house reception and store these either behind the reception on some shelving or in a retrofitted back office that has some shelves. Students will then come to collect parcels from the reception, and sign for them either digitally or on paper. This isn’t ideal, but it gets the job done.
Some student housing, usually larger buildings have built-in mailrooms. Usually deliveries to these mailrooms are conducted from a back-of-house delivery bay. Occasionally these mailrooms might be connected to the front of house and deliveries come through there.
Mailrooms and receptions have slightly distinct characteristics which will lead to different parcel management styles.
Storage capacity: Mailrooms have much more dedicated parcel storage space. Usually a level on the shelf will be dedicated to a floor on the building, this makes parcels easier to find after they are stored. Receptions on the other hand usually do not have enough space to segment parcel per floor. We offer consultancies on mailroom design based on over 50,000 data points we’ve collected over the last 3 years. Get in touch with us if you would like some help with this.
Staffing: Mailrooms usually have dedicated staff to operate them as they receive high volumes of parcels and mail. Receptions on the other hand rely on the front-of-house staff to manage deliveries made to the building. These receptionists however have more pressing work such as maintenance requests, billing of students and customer service to take care of.
Software: Mailrooms are built up and setup with software from the get-go. This is in stark contrast to buildings that manage parcels through the reception. Often parcel management is overlooked by the Systems and Operations Managers to the detriment of the Front of House Staff, which means that all systems are implemented post facto and there often isn’t the budget to buy parcel management software.
How to Manage Parcels
Record Parcel Delivery
After a parcel is delivered by a courier to the student accommodation reception you must log its entry into the building and notify the resident (student) that it has arrived and is ready for collection. The data points you should record about each parcel are as follows: Name of recipient, data and time of parcel delivery, courier company (who delivered the parcel, for example DHL, USPS, Royal Mail, Amazon, etc) and a unique identifier. The method of logging this information changes depending on whether you are using software or doing everything on paper.
Paper Based Approach (Free Deliveries Management System)
Using a paper-based and email notification method is time-consuming, but free. We have attached a document you can download and print to record all your deliveries. The unique identifier is usually the barcode on the parcel; but it's really inefficient to copy it down. So we suggest you add a 4-digit number using a sharpie and record that into the paper ledger like the one below. Download the word document from here.
Once all the parcels have been logged into the ledger you can send off an email to all the residents telling them that parcels are ready to be collected. We suggest you create a template that you can use every time a parcel has arrived, then BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) email all the people that received a parcel from a single email. You want to use a BCC so not to divulge the email of the students to each other (Sent and CC’d fields can be seen by recipients).
A template you might wish to use is as follows. Note that we omit personal information so that each email does not have to be individually crafted for every student. Instead they can be sent out as a batch:
Subject: "Parcel Ready for Collection"
You have received a delivery and it is ready for collection, See you soon!
Any other info on holding times and reception opening times*
Your Team Name*"
If no software is used it can take some time to notify tenants that their parcels have arrived, hence its good practice to setup a pickup time. For example, if you wait until 4 pm to give out parcels - according to our analytics by 4pm 90% of parcels have been delivered - you should have ample time to log everything in before people start coming and asking for their parcels.
Using Parcel Management Software
We strongly suggest using some type of parcel management software. While we do believe Parcel Tracker is the best software out, using even one of our competitors is better than nothing. Logging parcels with software is orders of magnitude faster than without software. For example, with Parcel Tracker it takes 3 seconds to log in a parcel and notify the student it has arrived, I know, try to contain your excitement. Picture this: if a courier delivers 100 parcels these can be logged into the system with Parcel Tracker in 5 minutes, by paper it would take 1.5 Hours, ok, you can scream now 😂 .
Storing Parcels when you have SMALL BUILDING
At small buildings we suggest that parcels are ordered on shelfs by room number. This can however be difficult if the rooms are not properly written on the parcel label (and often they are not). When using any parcel management software, if you enter the name of the resident/student, their room is displayed, and you can use this information to write the room number on the parcel label if it is not apparent.
The alternative is to organize the parcels based on the recipient’s name alphabetically. As there are often multiple names on a parcel, we suggest you organize alphabetically based on the very last name. For example, for “John Doe Smith”, you would put the parcel under “S” for Smith.
Storing Parcels when you have LITTLE STORAGE and a LARGE BUILDING
There are multiple ways you can manage deliveries and high volumes of parcels when you have little storage space. If you are a large building without a mailroom, we suggest you number your parcels and store them based on the number. We discovered this system working with clients that had to manage large volumes of deliveries but had little storage space. Here’s how it works:
When logging a Parcel into the system (software based, or paper based) you tag the parcel with a numbered label such as the ones shown below.
If you cannot purchase labels a sharpie pen will do. Then when you log the parcels into the system you use the numbered label as a unique identifier and sort the parcels numerically on your shelfs. This makes them much easier to find when students come to collect them. In the log you can see what is the unique number of the parcel associated to the student and as you know the parcels have been arranged incrementally on the shelfs, they are much easier to find.
With our Parcel Tracker Software there are 2 types of parcel scanning modes; single step and two step. The first is meant to capture all the information including unique identifiers of the parcel label in one photo. However, if you wish to add numbered labels like we suggest then we suggest using the two-step scan mode. The first scan allows you to detect the tenant and the second one to record (manually/or by scanning) the numbered sticker. When a student then comes to collect a parcel, the unique number will be displayed so you can quickly find the parcel label.
The best methodology to help manage the storage space in large buildings is to have a parcel management system that sends SMS notifications (You can do this with most Parcel Management Systems). This can reduce the turnover time from around 9 hours average to 4 hours average. Parcels are then picked up on average 2 times faster, which halves the number of parcels you have to be making space for at any given time!
Storing Parcels when you have LARGE STORAGE and a LARGE BUILDING
The Storage practices for large buildings with large storage space is like small buildings with little storage space. What we mean by that is that you can allocate a shelf level per floor in the building and store parcels per floor and room number.
You could also divide up the space alphabetically and store parcels based on the name of the recipient as explained in Small building, Little Storage Space section
Bonus Storage Tips
We have found some cool ways of saving extra storage space. The best one so far is to send high priority notifications to residents. The type of notifications sent to students can affect how quickly parcels are collected, and effectively the amount of storage space you have available. For example, leaving a paper slip in the residents mailbox notifying them of a collection has the slowest pickup times associated with it. Email is second best with around 9-hour turnaround times and SMS notification usually a 4-hour turnaround time. That means between you receiving a parcel and it being picked up by the student it only takes around 4 hours for the package to be picked up. If you can change from email to SMS notifications you could easily be increasing your effective storage space.
Another great tip we have gotten for our clients is that smaller parcels can have a box dedicated to them. When a smaller parcel arrives, you arrange it into the box based on either room number, numbered label or alphabetically.
Giving Out Parcels
The most important thing when giving out parcels to recipients is to log the time the parcel was given out and the signature used.
Using Paper based Log
With a paper log system, you will be able to look ba
ck and see the exact information on the parcel delivered and ask the student to sign out each parcel individually. There are many limitations with this system: often students leave for holidays, and it takes them weeks before they collect a parcel. By this time the parcel entry in the log is buried a few pages back and difficult to find.
Using Parcel Management System
With a parcel management and mailroom software signatures can be collected digitally. Some systems requires you to purchase a signing pad, others will allow you to receive a signature directly from the mobile device.
The beauty with Parcel Tracker is that at every collection all the parcels for the residents are shown. For example, if 2 parcels arrived 1 week ago and were not collected, then another parcel arrives at a later date after which the student comes to collect it, all these parcels (3) will be sorted in one session. Effectively, when you search for the students name or scan the QR code on the notification they received you will be able to see all the parcels that are stored for the same student and haven’t been collected yet, regardless of if they were delivered in a single go.
Get the Internal parcel Tracker’s free trial, its mailroom app that helps with internal parcel tracking. Best of all you don’t need any card information. Even if you aren’t planning to pay for it, just do yourself the favor, get it for this Christmas’ and Black Friday’s flood of parcels, (we don’t take any credit cards). It will really help you out!
And in great Consumerist Christmas spirit, we’ll give an extra 2-month trial for the first 5 companies that request it!
Free Package Tracking Options
In our experience front of house and mailroom staff always want a software to help them manage parcels, after all if it saves them lots of time, why wouldn’t they. Unfortunately, they often don’t hold the strings to the purse and are unable to purchase software that would help them. We have worked with companies that are very responsive to their staff needs, but we have observed the opposite as well. For the latter, we have listed some ways of managing the deliveries for free:
If you receive under 200 packages a month you can use Parcel Tracker for free forever, simply sign up here.
Use email template + Bcc people receiving parcels + use paper excel ledger (the material is attached here and process described in this article
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