Marianne Schaefer in Building Operations on January 3, 2020
The shareholders in the 40-unit co-op at 105 Fifth Avenue were not happy. Their guests were often waiting in the street for the building’s remote-doorman service to open the door. Delivery personnel were rarely so patient, usually walking away after leaving a missed-delivery slip. The co-op was paying about $2,000 a month for a remote doorman who wasn’t doing the job.
“When you pressed a button, a person in a call center would answer,” says board member Daniel Flax, an officer at a tech company. “Then this service would have to reach the resident by phone, who could then allow the guest or the delivery person inside. It was an acceptable solution many years ago, but it just didn’t scale with the increase of deliveries, and it was expensive because it relied 100 percent on human labor.”
Not only was the volume of deliveries rising, but more families with kids had moved into the co-op, Flax says, bringing an increase in visitors and service personnel, from dog walkers to babysitters and piano teachers.
In 2018, the co-op board, guided by its Andrews Organization property manager, started shopping around for a service that would better meet their needs. Eventually the board settled on the software company Carson. With the new system, when somebody rings a buzzer, a signal goes directly to that resident’s cell phone via the Carson app. The co-op installed new cameras so the phone will display a video feed of the person at the front door, and residents can buzz the visitor in by pushing a button on their phone. For deliveries, there is a special button, which is answered by a person at the Carson call center, who will give the delivery person access only to a locked package room.
“We liked that there is now a direct connection between the residents and their guests without a middle-man, but also that there is still a human element should you need help,” says Flax.
“Our response time is on average less than 10 seconds,” says Guy Blachman founder and chief executive of Carson Living. “We have less stress on our call center because visitors are let in directly by the residents. It’s only package deliveries that go through our call center. The resident will also get a notification on the app that they have a package.”
The Carson software was modeled after Building Link, the popular software for doorman-staffed buildings. (Building Link is a major investor and partner of Carson.) “Our vision was a solution for unstaffed buildings to have a 24/7 remote doorman staff,” says Blachman. “Even when residents are not home, they can open the door with their app, and they can send a permanent or one-time digital key to their housekeeper, dog walker, or a visitor. We also included the Building Link kind of communication for service requests and announcements.”
The Carson system works via smartphones, and shareholders had to be educated how to use it. “I do, however, think that our solution also works very well for people without smartphones,” says Flax. “For starters, we made sure that our key fobs continue to work. The Carson software also gives us the option of using the system with a landline. So when somebody rings the buzzer, their landline phone will ring, and the resident can punch in a key sequence to buzz the person in. We educated everybody so they have all the options.”
This co-op now has better service for a fraction of the cost. The monthly fee of $500 is about a quarter of the previous service, though there was a $25,000 charge to set up the system. Flax was unfazed by the set-up charge because the new system will pay for itself in less than two years.
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