Last modified on October 3rd, 2022
By Brittany Benz
Clear and consistent communication is critical when it comes to keeping your homeowners and board members informed and satisfied. However, many association management companies are falling behind in their means of communication. According to an AppFolio and HOA-USA survey, unresponsiveness or long response times is the number one reason board members switched management companies in the past or are considering doing so now. This pain has been mirrored by association management companies as well. In fact, meeting customers’ needs and expectations is a top challenge for businesses today, according to a 2022 AppFolio Industry Pulse Report.
If you’re still relying on outdated methods of communication, it will be harder for your business to respond in a timely manner to board members and homeowners, which can have a negative impact on the relationship. As Matt Genaway, partner account manager at HOA-USA explains in a recent podcast episode, “The communication between a management company, the manager, the board members, and even more so the homeowners can really make or break the relationship. We get questions from both boards and homeowners, and so many of those questions have to do with communication. ‘Why can I not ask my manager a question?’ ‘Why are we not being filled in on what happened at the board meeting?’ That lack of transparency is really frustrating.”
Luckily, with the help of technology, you can streamline communication and increase visibility for everyone. Read on to discover 6 simple ways you can strengthen communications to build more meaningful relationships with the communities you manage.
1.) Send updates and reminders via text message
Today’s homeowners and board members expect to receive information about their association quickly and easily right from their phones. Whether it’s an update about a pool renovation or a reminder to pay their association dues — they want information without having to call or visit the office.
The most effective way to facilitate these kinds of updates and reminders is by sending a text message. By implementing a modern association management solution that has texting capabilities directly built into an online portal, you can keep all of your residents informed around the clock with just a few taps.
Bryan Fowler and his team at Southwest Property Management are able to build strong lines of communication with their associations through mobile communication tools: “With AppFolio, we can email and text all board members and homeowners in an instant. It makes it easy when there’s an emergency or a hurricane — we can let everyone know what to do at one time. On the communication side of things, that is incredibly valuable because you can keep everyone in the loop.”
2.) Offer ways to self-serve
In addition to receiving updates and reminders, homeowners and board members also prefer to complete tasks from their phones independently. While it may seem irrelevant to communication, self-service tools, like an online portal with online payments and architectural requests, actually play a large role in transparency, since they remove the friction residents face when trying to communicate with their management company.
Self-service tools also increase homeowners’ and board members’ satisfaction because they enable them to get work done faster and to access information more quickly. The benefits also extend to your team in that they reduce the number of one-off phone calls and emails they have to answer, allowing them to focus on bettering communication and providing a high-quality service.
For instance, Rob Bishop and his team at RCP Community Management use the self-service tools in AppFolio Property Manager to provide their homeowners and board members with the kinds of modern experiences they want and expect: “All of our customers are so shocked they can pull up the AppFolio app on their phone and have their HOA at their fingertips. It makes their lives easier. Our homeowners and board members love it!”
3.) Make board meetings virtual
In response to the pandemic, many association management companies switched to virtual board meetings in order to stay safe and connected, but now, after seeing the benefits, they have opted to continue this approach. By moving to virtual meetings, you can give your homeowners and board members more flexibility, while also enhancing engagement and communication.
Joe Rector and his team at Pelican Property Management have experienced the benefits of transitioning to virtual meetings firsthand: “We’ve switched almost entirely to electronic meetings and Zoom meetings, and I love it. I think virtual meetings are actually a stronger way to hold meetings because you can share your screen. You can get right to your point and show everybody very quickly what you’re talking about. People can do it from home. The engagement is up because people aren’t having to travel to get to these board meetings. So they’re much more likely to pop on, say, hello, and get their point across.”
For best practices and tips to ensure your meetings are effective, easy, and glitch-free, take a look at this helpful checklist.
4.) Gather feedback digitally
Effective communication is a two-way street, which means you should be offering your homeowners and board members ways to provide feedback easily and often. Try polling your residents every month using a digital survey platform, like Survey Monkey, to ask for their input on what they think your management company does well and where they see room for improvement.
When homeowners and board members feel you care about their opinions and take their feedback seriously, they will be more satisfied and more likely to trust your business. Once you have gathered their feedback, be sure to follow up in a timely manner with updates on what you are doing to address their concerns.
5.) Automate mailings
Not all communications can be conducted digitally for your associations, and there are times when you must send physical mailings based on the governing documents or other legal requirements your association has in place. However, printing documents, stuffing envelopes, and mailing these materials out takes more of your team’s time and can lead to human error.
You can increase efficiency by utilizing comprehensive management software that has a built-in mailing service that automates the process. For instance, with AppFolio Mailing Service you can send a variety of document types in bulk or individually with the click of a button. All you have to do is preview and approve the mail, and AppFolio handles the rest. This makes sending infrequent communications that require mailing much easier and ensures your residents never miss an important update.
Lynn Calkins of Teleos Management Group says automating her mailings has simplified what would usually be an incredibly tedious process and has freed up her team to focus on what matters most. “This is a simple and easy process — basically what I already do, but without running my own printer and envelopes.”
To learn more about how AppFolio Mailing Service works and the ways it can benefit your business, take a look at this article.
6.) Use a community calendar
Neighborhood events are the heart of every great community. Keep your homeowners and board members up to date on community happenings, such as barbecues and annual meetings, by creating a community calendar. You can do this by making a simple Google calendar and sharing it with your residents, or by implementing modern technology, such as our built-in Association Calendar. With the AppFolio Association Calendar, you can show your communities that you can boost operational efficiency and streamline communication by removing the need for additional tools to track events, projects, and key dates while empowering your homeowners and board members to be informed about what is happening in their association.
When you effectively communicate with your homeowners and board members, you create space for more meaningful relationships. By digitizing and modernizing your communications, you can boost efficiency, streamline communication, and exceed the expectations of your homeowners and board members. To find out if your association management business is communicating effectively and how you can improve that communication, complete the exercises in this guide.