Losing something is the worst; everyone knows that. But not as well known is the pain that occurs when tasked with returning all the stuff that gets found, even with lost and found software.
Napolean established the first modern Lost and Found the solution in Paris in 1805. Since then, there have been many solutions to help manage the lost and found process, making it quite challenging to pick the right software for your organization.
So we wanted to put together a complete guide to navigating the options of Lost and Found Software.
Disclaimer: Liff Happens is one of many software creators trying to solve the massive lost and found problem. We are attempting to present an unbiased view of the Lost and Found Software landscape, but we are only human.
Lost and Found Companies
A list of features...
No. Feature lists are painful and probably why you’re reading a guide about Lost and Found software.
A long list of random features is not helpful without the context of what problems those features even solve. For example:
- Multiple payment providers… sounds like a useful feature but payment for what?
We thought exploring the common problems for lost and found will provide some context to understand why and then videos to check out the various offerings.
Problem: Loss doesn't align with Found
Leaving something important behind can be incredibly stressful for the consumer. Anxiety and panic are common reactions when essential items go missing, having a massive negative impact on their experience.
For consumers, loss is an intense problem.
Property is lost and consequently found all across the property grounds. Delays in item recovery, miscommunication, and the simple challenge of keeping thousands of items organized plague even most experienced lost and found offices.
For organizations, found is a high-frequency problem.
Intense ≠ High-Frequency
A large part of the frustration and inefficiency in the Lost and Found process result from the staff’s and customers’ problems being misaligned.
- Customers focus on a single intense experience, while the staff has thousands of items to manage and are frequently interrupted with many more customer inquiries.
- Customers discover or worry about their problem any hour of the day, while the staff has a 9 to 5.
Each party’s misalignment inherently focuses on different outcomes and leads to frustration, poor experience, and ultimately a painful process.
Customer Challenges: Discovery, Reporting, Resolution
After losing property, your customer will typically be looking to answer 3 basic questions:
- Discovery- where can I find help for my problem?
- Reporting- how do I tell the organization what is missing?
- Resolution- how do I recover my item if found or move on if not?
Understanding your customer’s journey throughout this process and the specific challenges they might encounter is essential to deliver excellent customer service and remove frustration from the process.
Discovery- where can I find help for my problem?
Customers are not accustomed to losing items, and they are especially not well educated on your specific process. Once a loss event occurs and eventually notice (this could range from instantly to several days later), the customer must discover your organization’s specific customer service process.
Customer Service is ubiquitous. We’ve all contacted or used customer service many times in the past in a wide variety of mediums. So the customer will begin searching for the common tools they’ve used previously, such as; your website, an email address, phone number, social media, chat, or show up in person.
Without a clear and definitive process in place, your customer will likely contact you in any way they prefer or contact you in every way available, depending on the problem or person’s intensity.
Reporting- how do I tell the organization what is missing?
Once contact information has been found, the customer needs to provide details about the problem, typically describing the missing item and any contextual information. Depending on the preferred medium, this usually leads to structured or unstructured.
Unstructured: Voicemail or an email. Some of the most common tools to submit information about a missing item. By leaving a voicemail or email, the customer is not provided any hint at what information might be relevant to provide. So the result is inconsistent loss reporting information that will require staff to decipher for relevance and commonly follow up for more information. A big inconvenience for the lost and found the office and overall an inefficient process.
Structured: Online Forms or a ChatBot. Online Forms have become one of the most popular tools for reporting details about a loss item because it can specifically guide a customer on what kind of information might be relevant for locating the missing property or verifying ownership once found.
Side note: too much structure can create an even worse process. Categories on categories on categories are confusing, and too much overlap becomes inhibitive by narrowing the scope of reporting so much that items cannot be efficiently matched.
Resolution- how do I recover my item if found or move on if not?
After the discovery and reporting steps, the customer now needs to get their item back, if found, or grieve over the loss and move on with their lives.
Item isn’t found: For most customers, this results in no communication from the organization. The foundation of a terrible loss and found experience is the line “we will only contact you if your item is found.”
Only providing aid if an item is found does not help the customer seek aid but rarely acknowledges that you even tried.
Bare minimum- you want to show a transparent process and that the customer took every effort to get their item back so they can move on.
High Bar- help stem the bleeding. Certain items lost, and the context of that loss (like theft) can lead to many negative outcomes, such as identity theft or phishing scams. Don’t let a negative experience worsen by providing some common education to help recover from their situation.
Item Found: the victory point for any lost and found process. Depending on the organization, returning an item can require logistics, records management to record a successful return, and verification practices so the item is going back to the right person.
Organization Challenges: Discovery, Management, Resolution
Organizations must handle similar challenges in the Lost and Found process as their customer but at a much larger scale.
- Discovery- where are items found, and how do people turn them in?
- Management- how are items tracked and compared to customer inquires?
- Resolution- what is the return or disposal process?
A majority of organizations’ problems when it comes to lost and found results from awareness and information matching. Efficiently and quickly collecting items from across the property and matching those found items to the customer inquiry is 90% of the job, but it could be a complicated 90%.
Discovery- where are items found, and how do people turn them in?
As we previously saw in consumer challenges, Discovery is an important part of the Lost and Found process. Not only does an organization need to make the process easy to find for its consumers, but turning in and handling found items also needs to be easy to find for staff as well. Most commonly, if a consumer finds an item, they will drop it off on the nearest employee they can find.
Management- how are items tracked and compared to customer inquires?
Managing Items and Customer Inquiries is where the large numbers of Lost and Found can get quite problematic. The Lost and Found Office needs to track found items as they are turned in, maintain organization for the found property throughout the hold period (anywhere from 7 days up to 1 year), compare customer inquires to the found property for any matches, and ultimately check the items out when returning or disposing of an item.
This is a critical process to return process, save staff time, and not be generally miserable. As customer inquiry and found property count increase, the process becomes exponentially more complex and time-consuming.
Resolution- what is the return or disposal process?
Good or bad, all things must come to an end, and your organization is not an item storage business, so you must remove property from the Lost and Found.
Return Items- the process of returning found property once the owner has identified falls into two buckets; pickup or delivery. Each method can be a minefield of challenges, preferences, and exceptions. As an organization, it is important to reduce complexity for the lost and found office to maintain efficiency and speed in this process and be aware of the common customer preference to deliver an excellent customer experience.
Item Disposal- Disposing of items can be as simple as tossing everything into the rubbish bin or a highly involved process requiring multiple employees regularly. Item disposal is an important step in the process. It frees up space for the newly found property, supports your organization process, and can be the final check to ensure no items are going missing within your lost and found process.
Lost and Found Solutions
Now that we’ve had a quick look at the common problems with the lost and found process, we some context to evaluate the available software solutions.
Liff Happens was founded by two Chicago brothers, Benji and Warren, in 2018. Initially launched in the Event Industry, the team designed a software platform to solve lost and found at the extreme volume and environments found at music festivals and other live events. Short weekends with high loss rates provided the perfect background for developing and deploying software to immediately impact consumers’ experience.
With the pandemic and suspension of live events, the Liff Happens team has been working with various organizations to expand into additional industries, including airports, college campuses, and arenas.
Notable Customers: Coachella Music Festival, Firefly Music Festival, and Rolling Loud Music Festival.
Founded in Germany in 2014 by Markus Schaarschmidt, Antonio Vega, and Tobias Freyberg. Originally launched as the Central Lost and Found Office and primarily focusing on returning items from consumers to consumers. Have it Back has created various lost and found platforms and approaches; check the Have it Back press page. They primarily focus an enterprise application to manage large scale found items and a consumer reporting tool to locate, claim, and report missing items.
Notable Customers: Dallas Fort Worth and Seattle Airport
Owned by the Bee Factory LLC, RepoApp was founded in 2015. One of the first products to directly list found items on an organization’s website, in a structured listing. RepoApp advertises a wide variety of industries, such as cruise lines, airports, hotels, and more.
Notable Customers: Columbia University, Trump Hotels, and Toronto Blue Jays
Started in August of 2010, one of the oldest lost and found products on the market currently, the Co-Founders Brian and Mac begin software development in Nevada. After partnering with shipping organizations, including USPS and FedEx, and bringing on their first partner, The Silver Legacy Casino, a Chargerback beta was created. A “free” software package hype-focused on the shipping of lost and found items back to individuals at the customers’ expense.
Notable Customers: a really long list of hotels and whatnot. Check them all here.
Started in 2013 with a focus on solving loss for Police Departments. The software provides a customer application to register your property and then report it missing. Police Departments or other organizations can attempt to match those missing items to found property and initiate a return.
Notable Customers: Lake Washington Institute of Technology and Arizona State University
One of the youngest companies on the scene, oddly also from Chicago (what is the deal with lost and found in Chicago?). Bounte was found by Stephen Sinclair in 2019, primarily focusing on the handling of found items. Bounte uses barcoded bags to store, log, and organize found items with an industry focus on hotels.
Notable Customers: The Whitehall Hotel Chicago, Red Roof, and Ritz Carlton
Our third entry for Lost and Found solutions from the city with big shoulders. Crowdfind launched on July 26th, 2012 by co-founders Jay Sebben and Pinaki Saha. Originally kicked off as a C2C application, they quickly pivoted to an enterprise platform with early partner Navy Pier. Seeking to build on its “Image Lead Workflow” (don’t worry, we’re still puzzled on what that means too), Crowdfind branched out from Lost and Found to a tool managing maintenance tickets along with a whole new brand called Pixit.
Both Crowdfind and Pixit are owned by Jay Sebben’s holding Company L Street Collaborative. However, Crowdfind’s most recent SEC Filing shows a precarious financial situation, with a $417,482 loss in 2019 and reportedly over $2,000,000 in debt.
Notable Customers: Navy Pier and LAX Airport
Want to chat more about Lost and Found?
Drop us a line below and we’d be thrilled to talk!