I came across something earlier this year that I've found myself thinking about more and more frequently over the last few weeks. Tom Willis, PCAM®, of Association Bridge, LLC, wrote a very powerful article addressing the perception that those who work with community associations are complacent, power-hungry, or just plain evil.
He raises a lot of great points about how the industry can change. But the underlying theme is a lack of resources for CAM Professionals to best serve their customers.
He writes, "The truth is, due to a plethora of factors, the cards can be stacked against us on the whole ... [W]hen I see industry trends that fail to address the fundamental issues of commoditization a lack of customer service culture, I’m not so happy with where we are going in the macro. It doesn’t have to be this way."
Customer Service Starts with Communication
One of the most effective ways you can lay the groundwork for a thriving community is open communication between your homeowners and your community managers.
Communication with homeowners is such a simple, valuable asset. If a homeowner is unhappy with the level of communication from a manager, no number of barbecues or holiday parties will sway their opinion.
Unfortunately, as a community association manager you don't have the time to devote to just homeowner communication. You're managing vendor relationships, you perform tasks for the board, you handle inspections, collections, and connections. You're the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, and a partridge in a pear tree.
So how do you make it work?
Access to the Right Tools
You wouldn't expect a baker to work without an oven, right? That would be ridiculous. Imagine walking into a cake shop only to find puddles of cake batter for sale.
To that end, you also wouldn't expect a baker to work with a toaster oven. They could probably make it work, but it would be a hassle. It's not enough to just have a tool to rely on, you have to have the right tools.
Similarly, you need to have something at your disposal to help you do your job. Right now, that thing is probably your office phone, which blows up day in and day out with a constant stream of homeowner calls asking for static account information or updates to violations or when the next meeting will take place. Much like a baker with a toaster oven, it isn't doing the trick.
This is the fork in the road where you have a couple of options before you: hire a receptionist to handle those calls for you (or worse, use one of those "Press 1 for Accounting" phone bot services), or you find a better method of communication.
Supporting Each Owner
Take a minute and think about how you access personal information nowadays. If you want to know your bank balance, what do you do? Do you call your bank? Send a letter? A carrier pigeon, maybe?
What about when you want to check on the delivery status of a package you ordered? I certainly hope you aren't taking the time to call USPS, I wouldn't wish that misery on anyone!
Of course you don't call in about these things--you go online! You log into an online portal from your laptop or your cell phone (desktop, tablet, phablet...well, you get it) and check up on basic information anytime, anywhere. And knowing that you have that kind of unfettered access at all hours of the day is incredibly reassuring, isn't it?
You can give that to your homeowners, you know.
Providing a homeowner hub that grants immediate, 24/7/365 access to static account information (the award-winning Owner Access platform that comes standard in TOPS [ONE], for example) is a simple, effective way to strengthen communication within your communities.
By allowing homeowners to take control of their information, you remove that information ownership burden from yourself, while simultaneously giving your homeowners the kind of quiet support that keeps them feeling acknowledged all day, every day.
This kind of automated solution is becoming more and more common as the CAM industry catches up with the rest of the technological world. Identifying your pain points, like subpar homeowner communication, is the first step in deciding what kind of solutions to start implementing. The next is taking the plunge and embracing a solution that can streamline your business and give you more time in your day to make your homeowners happy.