By Beth Gilbert / Published April 2021
Now more than ever communication plays a vital role in community association management. With so many homeowners spending more time in their homes and less time interacting face-to-face with the board and their manager, it’s imperative to make sure they still feel connected and engaged when it comes to what’s happening in their community.
However, not all associations are delivering on this. According to an AppFolio survey, 40 percent of homeowners find their management companies unresponsive, and 50 percent believe their boards are unresponsive. While keeping open lines of communication may be a challenge for many community association management businesses, it’s possible to overcome it. Below I’ll talk about some simple ways you can streamline communication to ensure your homeowners are connected and informed.
Your homeowners need to know about what’s going on in their community on a daily basis; whether the pool is closed due to repairs or a new streetlamp is being installed, it’s critical to provide frequent updates and reminders. The fastest and most effective way to facilitate these kinds of updates is by sending a text message.
In fact, according to a Gartner study, text messages have an average open rate of 98 percent. You may be asking yourself, how will you find the time to input every contact into your phone? If you have a modern community association management system, all of this information is automatically stored in a central location visible to your entire team, so you can effortlessly send messages en masse without having to use your personal cell phone account.
Another way you can boost communication with your homeowners is by sending a monthly newsletter via email. Within this piece, you can include things like neighborhood updates, community events, changing policies, and more. This allows you to clearly demonstrate the value your management company is bringing to the community every month while keeping all homeowners on the same page.
The homeowners of today and tomorrow prefer to complete tasks themselves from their phones, such as paying association dues or submitting an architectural request. By embracing software that empowers homeowners to carry out these kinds of tasks all on their own and to check the status, you can increase efficiency and customer satisfaction. Self-service tools also save your team and the board time, so they can focus on what matters most—delighting homeowners.
Think about the time you and your team could save by not having to answer one-off emails and phone calls about common area maintenance. Such self-service tools remove the manual processes from your day, so maintenance can be easily submitted online with photos, and you can easily assign vendors to carry out the work.
Between work and family, homeowners don’t have a lot of extra time on their hands, which makes participating in association meetings cumbersome. When homeowners don’t attend meetings, they can get left out of important association conversations with your management team and the board. Increase participation and engagement by hosting these meetings online through a video conferencing system that enables homeowners to join from anywhere. Using this format, you can still leave time for questions and engage with homeowners the same way you would in person but in a virtual setting.
While the majority of homeowner communications should be conducted digitally, there are times when you must send physical mailings based on the governing documents or other legal requirements your association has in place.
Modern community association managers are finding that they can increase efficiency by utilizing management software that includes a mailing service, so they don’t have to do the manual work such as printing, stuffing, and mailing envelopes. This makes the infrequent communications that must be mailed much easier.
Digital surveys are another great way to enhance communication and foster more community engagement. Try polling your homeowners every month—ask for their input on what they think your management company does well and where they see room for improvement. Based on their feedback, you can make active choices to better your association and build stronger connections with homeowners. Once you gather their feedback, be sure to follow up in a timely manner with updates on how and what you are doing to address their concerns.
Communicating effectively with your community association means communicating clearly. When your homeowners know you’re doing everything you can to make sure they are in the loop, they will be more trusting of your management business and also more likely to engage in the decision-making process of their association.
A few ways you can increase transparency are by sharing important documents, community calendars, and messages with homeowners digitally. When everything is accessible online, homeowners can better understand how their association functions and what your team is doing to meet their needs.
Communication isn’t always easy, especially when you have so much going on in your day-to-day; however, with the right tools you can keep your homeowners informed, engaged, and connected around the clock. You can do the majority of the tasks listed above with the help of community association management software that has a comprehensive online portal that is accessible from anywhere on any device. From sending messages and documents directly to homeowners to enabling them to self-serve right from their phone, an online portal can not only streamline communication but provide a better experience for your homeowners and team members.
Senior Director of community association market, AppFolio
Beth Gilbert is the Sr. Director of the community association market at AppFolio. Beth brings more than 15 years of product experience to AppFolio and is currently responsible for developing the vision and strategy for the community association market. She is passionate about building relationships with customers to learn about new ways to partner in the success of their businesses. For more information, visit www.appfolio.com.