What is the best way to achieve a positive and mutually beneficial relationship with one’s clients?
It is achieved by having that great relationship with your boards, which is truly a beautiful thing. When, on those few occasions, the environment is something less than desirable, striving to have solid business fundamentals in place at all times provides the best opportunities at achieving the desired results.
Whether it is a new community or a new board at an existing property, we sometimes find ourselves working with adversaries instead of strategic partners.
In the case of new communities, success has been realizedby focusing on how the property works, addressing points of pain, helping establish the priorities, emphasizing our commitment to safety, and demonstrating the ability to be a highly competent service provider, with not only the on-site support contracted for and viewed in real time but also by making sure they know the depth of the corporate resources that are available at all times to support their community.
With new boards at existing properties, the focus is on getting a firm grip on the new board’s perceptions of what it takes to manage the property. Taking time to educate the new board in diplomatic and productive ways is beneficial.
Beyond the aforementioned differences, the fundamentals are very similar, whether the community is a new opportunity or a new board that has emerged at an existing property.
Listen well and communicate extensively, while understanding that listening well is the more important element. Take action. Combined with professionalism, this will lead to a cohesion that engenders respect and trust.
Understand the motives of the board volunteers.
Establish communication protocols, which in addition to keeping residents informed will also establish outreach and relationship-building directly with the community.
Continually exercise the team’s proactivity muscle. At the same time, recognize that having rapid response reactionary tools in place is necessary. The idea is to make reacting the exception and not the rule. Cross-train the team to be customer service eyes and ears. Have systems in place to ensure what is seen is reported and acted upon.
Be aware of community unrest and seek out the details and the players. It is important to be aware of community concerns, real or imagined, that are being associated with the board of directors. This awareness helps to manage the concerns with a good conclusion for all involved or to be in the best position to manage the situation as a mediator until resolved by the people of the community.
Know contract details and manage execution of the terms in ways that are effective and readily verifiable to the appropriate client volunteers and interested community members.
Be flexible in contractual compliance. Build trust by allowing some items not specifically spelled out in the contractual scope of work. These items should fall into the existing skill set of your team members and must not run afoul of local ordinances. For example, you can make a deal to temporarily suspend other services which are contractual as a tradeoff or offset for the labor costs involved.
Avoid having financial relationships with banks or insurance companies as part of your contractual client relationship. If there are any financial ties with vendors and you propose to provide ancillary services to your clients, then fully disclose this beforehand.
Create a positive and productive work environment as this will speak volumes to competence and help mitigate defensive attitudes among decent-minded volunteers. A happy and productive on-site team is a win-win-win.
Keep your LCAM associates and clients on the cutting edge of our industry. For associates, consider combining in-house seminars, keeping them abreast of leading-edge industry developments with no-cost CEU credit courses needed over the course of the two-year license renewal period.
Provide co-sponsored webinars with leading industry service providers, such as law firms and insurance agencies, for your clients.
Provide new board member orientation seminars and certification classes.
Introduce clients to accounts payable software where secure invoice management from receipt to approval to payment is done with ease completely online, and reports with various search criteria are a keystroke away.
Present violation software equipped with GPS where a list of the violations comes up automatically for selection, a letter is formatted, pictures taken on hand are immediately inserted, and the actual letter is mailed to the homeowner all in one process. Tracking for compliance and generating reports are a breeze.
Enhance the communications regimen with mass emails and texting. Quality communication may be the single best customer service tool we have.
Provide access to website portals for easy common charge payments and for estoppel needs.
Never commingle association and corporate funds. Every association account must be in the name of the association only, and it is best to assign different associates to the three bookkeeping functions—accounts payable, accounts receivable, and monthly financials.
The right combination and balance of professionalism, communication, flexibility, proactivity, team building, and cutting-edge technology are the secrets to overall success. These principles are exceedingly useful with some new clients and new boards of directors.
Senior Vice President of Operations, Seacrest Services
Steve Kittredge is Senior Vice President of Operations with Seacrest Services Inc. For more information, call (561) 697-4990, email info@SeacrestServices.com, or visit SeacrestServices.com.
Professional Growth Through Learning
FCAP (Florida Community Association Professionals) is a member-based professional organization dedicated to training, equipping and advocating for Florida community association professionals including managers, service providers and community volunteer leaders.