Management and Homeowner Communication

Partners In Quality Management

Early one morning, after the kids were off to school, Mrs. Smith put a leash on Oliver, her little Yorkshire Terrier, and headed for her daily walk in the community park. Halfway around the park, Mrs. Smith and Oliver were confronted by a rather large pool of water. After retracing their steps back home, Mrs. Smith attempted to contact the company responsible for managing her homeowners association.

The Board of Directors for ABC Estates, in which Mrs. Smith lived, had changed management companies three years previously. Mrs. Smith didn't have the new number. After calling several neighbors, Mrs. Smith finally found someone who knew the name of the management company and their telephone number.

Mrs. Smith called the management company, only to be put on hold by the receptionist. After a couple of minutes of pleasant music on the phone, the receptionist came back on line and asked Mrs. Smith for the name of her manager. Mrs. Smith didnt have that information and answered, How do I know? I just want to report a water leak at the park.

The receptionist then asked Mrs. Smith for the name of her community. ABC Estates, Mrs. Smith replied. The receptionist informed Mrs. Smith that Joe Johnson, the manager for ABC Estates, was unavailable, and then transferred Mrs. Smith to the managers voice mail. Mrs. Smith left a short message describing the flooded park and left her home phone number.

The following afternoon the community manager called Mrs. Smith, who had gone shopping. The manager left a message on Mrs. Smiths machine giving his name and a number to call if she still wanted to talk. Two hours later, Mrs. Smith returned from shopping and listened to her messages. She immediately called Joe Johnson, the manager.

A receptionist at XYZ Management Company answered the phone and told Mrs. Smith that Mr. Johnson was not in the office. Mrs. Smith tried to tell the receptionist that all she wanted to do was report flooding in the community park - - but she was transferred again to voice mail. Mrs. Smith listened to Joe Johnson's message and yelled into the phone, Theres a water leak in the park and you're wasting our money by not getting it fixed. You don't need to call me back because Im going to call all my neighbors and find out when the Board of Directors meets again so I can have you fired!

How can Mrs. Smiths experience of poor customer service and poor communication be improved upon by a community management company?

The Board of Directors for ABC Estates was proactive and approved a management firm to implement an interactive website which, among other valuable information, included contact numbers for the management firm. In addition, the quarterly newsletter for the homeowners included the contact information for XYZ Management. Phone receptionists were appropriately trained and kept informed of current issues to enable them to explain to and direct callers to the appropriate personnel.

A Better Way to Communicate

After encountering a flooded park, Mrs. Smith returns home and looks up the phone number for the community management firm in ABC Estates quarterly newsletter. Or, she goes online and visits an interactive website which includes contact numbers for the management firm as well as lots of other valuable information. When Mrs. Smith calls the management office she is greeted with, Good morning, XYZ Management. How may I direct your call?

Mrs. Smith replies, Good morning. I would like to report a water leak at the park to Joe Johnson, my community manager. The receptionist replies, I can better assist you, Mrs. Smith, if I have the name of your community and telephone number where you can be reached. Mrs. Smith replies, ABC Estates and my home telephone number is 555-1234. The receptionist asks if the water is still running or is it a standing pool of water. Mrs. Smith says it looked like water was pooled around the irrigation system.

The receptionist informs Mrs. Smith that Joe Johnson is not in the office at this time, but has noted on the message board that he will be returning at 11:00 A.M. The receptionist informs Mrs. Smith that she will have Mr. Johnson's assistant call Mr. Johnson with Mrs. Smiths information and thanks Mrs. Smith for calling XYZ Management. Joe Johnson, ABC Estates community manager, calls Mrs. Smith a few minutes later. Mrs. Smith relays the problem and Joe Johnson informs her that Triple A Landscape firm has been requested to repair the irrigation problem. Mr. Johnson then let Mrs. Smith know that he will be posting on ABC Estates community website, under announcements, the status of the irrigation repair and thanks Mrs. Smith for her call.

Mr. Johnson returns to the office at 10:45 A.M. and checks his voicemail messages. Triple A Landscape has reported that the irrigation repair will be lengthy and water to that portion of the park will have to be turned off for a day and a half until the line is repaired. Mr. Johnson updates the announcements section of ABC Estates website, informing ABC Community about the irrigation issue and the status of the repair. Mr. Johnson also sends a memo to the receptionist stating the problem and the status of the repair at the park on ABC Estates. The receptionist then has the necessary information to give a brief status report to any other members of ABC Estates, should they call. The receptionist will also direct those concerned so that they can visit the community website for a more detailed report in the announcements section.

Mrs. Smith did attend the next Board of Directors meeting and at the open member forum stood up and stated, I applaud the Board of Directors for their commitment to communication to the membership and I applaud XYZ Management and our community manager, Joe Johnson. I have been truly impressed by their responsiveness. This has been the most pleasant HOA experience I have ever had. I really appreciate how easy you are to reach and how quickly you call me back when I leave a message.

Homeowner association management companies which we have dealt with in the past have been similar to government bureaucracies wherein one has difficulty in reaching the intended party. It took many days and much red tape and passing the blame to get a response. Thus far, this has not been my experience with XYZ Management. It's a refreshing change. Thank you for all your help.

Customer service and homeowner assistance is the life's blood of a community management company. Community management firms should at a minimum provide the following:

  • Receptionist who answers telephone calls promptly.
  • Pertinent questions are asked to best serve the caller.
  • Before the receptionist transfers a call, she will let the caller know if the person is available and, if not, the caller will be given the option of being transferred to voice mail to leave a message.
  • The community managers message will inform the caller as to when they might expect to receive a return call.
  • Community manager returns calls within quoted time-frames and, if caller is unavailable, leaves a complete message regarding resolution to the reported problem and/or community managers additional contact information and availability.
  • Community manager informs the receptionist of the problem, thereby enabling the receptionist to answer and assist community members who call with the same concern.
  • Community manager follows up with the community member who left the original message to complete the cycle of quality customer service.

Communication is a necessary tool for the membership of the community association. Boards of Directors and management firms better serve their memberships needs by a proactive commitment to keep them informed. Communication to the membership can be accomplished in several formats, among them being websites and newsletters.

A community website is a communication tool that provides community information to its members. The interactive qualities of a website give owners the ability to communicate with the board of directors, committees, or the management company at their convenience. No one is held hostage by the availability of others. Neighborhood Link offers free websites to HOA's and Neighborhood Associations for just this purpose.

Regarding Mrs. Smiths dilemma, because the Association did have an interactive website, Mrs. Smith logged on and found that the property manager had posted an informational announcement regarding the park irrigation system being repaired on Tuesday and the water would be shut off to that area. Mrs. Smith could also have found a community calendar outlining meeting dates and times of upcoming board meetings. Mrs. Smith noticed on the calendar of events that several of her neighbors meet weekly at the clubhouse for a scrap-booking party, which was of special interest to her. The community website also included community documents such as the governing documents, minutes of the board and annual meetings, and several other informative items such as budgets and financial statements.

Newsletters published at least quarterly can deliver information such as the management company's contact information, quarterly goals of the Board of Directors, community projects, and financial information of the community association - just to name a few.

Community boards of directors and community management firms who work together in a commitment to superior communication and customer service to the membership may wish to use some of the following tools:

  • Interactive HOA and Community Websites
  • Quarterly Newsletters
  • New Homeowner Orientations
  • Education for Board Members and Committee Members
  • Continuing Education for Community Managers and Support Staff

Achieving quality service takes a serious commitment from everyone in the community management firm. We should not wish to simply satisfy customers needs, but instead to exceed customers expectations.

Source: Association Times
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