The “key” to a good strategy is mixing and matching different methods, instead of relying on just one. For example, it’s better to have one lockbox and a key at a neighbor’s house, than to have two separate lockboxes.
Always choose the most direct, manageable and convenient method as your first choice. Part of this is using your common sense judgment, and part of it is gauging who your guest is. Is your guest a young traveler that would love to head to a local coffee shop to pick up the key and take in the atmosphere? Or, is your guest traveling for business, and just wants to open a simple, straightforward lockbox next to the door?
As a back-up plan, pick a method that may be less convenient, but more secure and foolproof. Having a key at a neighbor’s house is a good backup strategy because you know the key isn’t going anywhere. The same goes for using a locker or keycafe service.
If you’re relying on a keyless method like a Smart Lock, your back-up plan should include a physical key in case your guest has a problem with the electronics. An example of a keyless strategy would be as follows: Smart Lock with a back-up key hidden in the garden and a Plan C key at a neighbor’s house.
Forming Back-Up Plans
When exchanging keys, it’s best not to rely on any single method on its own. Mistakes and delays happen, so having a Plan B (and even C!) can’t hurt. That means mixing and matching the different delivery solutions outlined in this series to come up with a full strategy that covers all options. You should have at least two (ideally three) exchange options available to your guest: your intended mode of exchange as well as an emergency key location.
Here are some back-up plans to give you some idea inspiration:
Putting two lockboxes with different codes in two different places (for example, one on your property, another on a neighbor’s).
Install a Smart Lock, but keep a spare key at a neighbor’s house in case the technology doesn’t work.
Mail a key, but keep a spare key hidden in the backyard or on a friend’s property in case mailing goes wrong.
Using a lockbox while keeping a spare key in your office at work.
Give a spare key to a friend, and they can send it to your guest via Uber.
Have a service like KeyCafe or City Co-Pilot as your back up plan (if using this, aim for your guests to arrive at a time when the service is open).
Initiating a Backup Plan
In the instructions you leave your guests, clearly outline all of the available backup key options that you’ve prepared. That way, if something happens with the key late at night they won’t have to contact you for help.
If a guest does contact you about a key emergency (for example if the key isn’t in the lockbox), respond asap with an alternative. Be professional and sympathetic, regardless of whether or not it was the guest’s fault.
Here are some examples:
“I’m really sorry the key wasn’t in the lockbox. Fortunately, I keep a backup in the coffee shop next door. Just give the barista my name. Again, my apologies, please buy yourself something at the cafe, it’s on me.”
“I’m sorry to hear that you lost the key! Don’t worry, I have a backup key at the next door neighbor’s house (the white house on the left). Just give them my name and they’ll give you the spare. I’ll call them right now to tell them you are coming over.”
Hopefully, you won’t have to use the strategy but on the off-chance that you do, make a note of how you dealt with the situation and what worked. Knowing this could give you ideas for a new plan should something go wrong in the future.
How To Build an Airbnb Key Exchange Strategy & Back-Up Plans