Without thoughtful communication, relationships between board members, residents and property managers of community associations — aka, HOAs — can go from smooth to contentious in a hurry. From single-family communities to high-rise condos, everyone has their own ideas about what’s best for the neighborhood. But despite what most headlines will have you believe, the reality is that homeowner satisfaction in managed communities is reported to be at an all-time high, and embracing the right communication style to connect with their community is a key reason why.
Savvy HOA boards accept that resident age and lifestyle require them to customize their communications and work with property management companies to deliver them through new channels that reflect what their residents prefer, marking a new era in resident-management relations. By identifying trends within communities, HOA boards in conjunction with property managers are employing more effective tactics to convey important information, make decisions and even defuse tension.
Sharing in bits and bytes: Millennial messaging
For example, younger generations are more receptive to messages delivered through digital media, online property management platforms, and mobile apps. In high-rise communities where millennials are prevalent, association boards are using these channels to connect with their tech-savvy residents. Apart from distributing important building information, board members are also able to get better buy-in and feedback on community initiatives. The use of digital media lives up to its name, as previously hard-to-reach residents are now being brought into the fold to create richer living experiences and more representative communities.
“Community relations, like technology, should evolve with the user,” said Alan Missen, CIO of FirstService Residential, the country’s leading property management company. “People’s widespread use of digital platforms as primary conduits for daily information and interaction must be reflected in a managed community’s communication network to create more touchpoints of engagement among residents, boards, and staff.”
Offering on-demand communication tools to capture working families
Single-family or master-planned communities are where more established residents, mainly working professionals and families, call home. They tend to prefer email or texting over in-person meetings, with the added option to source information themselves. The community management industry is responding with innovative tools that allow these self-directed individuals to engage on their own terms.
One of the biggest markers of progress in the industry is the increasing adoption of online resident portals. FirstService Residential CONNECT is an online property management platform that allows residents and boards to communicate directly with one another and with the community manager without being disruptive to any party.
Residents can check account balances, reserve amenities, manage visitor access and track package deliveries. Online property management platforms also enhance board members’ ability to spot and respond to operational needs and make improvements while reducing costs and delivering added value to their community, which ultimately leads to increased resident satisfaction and support.
Keeping a hold on traditional communication
There is no denying that growing numbers of mature residents are “plugged in” and finding their voice in the digital age. Nevertheless, more traditional forms of communication, including emails, physical mail, and in-person consultations, are still preferred by this generation.
While face-to-face conversations are welcome, the pitfall is they can open the door to confrontations just as easily. Understanding this, community board members, with the assistance of property managers, are increasingly employing personalized communications techniques to navigate difficult personalities in the face of such interactions.
For instance, summarizing a complaint in writing after a resident airs their grievances can help them feel heard. Laying out the logic behind a decision can help residents feel more comfortable with the process, even if they don’t like the decision itself. These small changes are much more effective in managing relationships than simply saying, “Thanks for your comment.”
As HOA boards focus more on these kinds of interpersonal tactics, they’ve seen fewer disgruntled residents and more small issues remain small issues. The key is to communicate directly, plainly and sincerely.
Becoming an interpreter
Forward-thinking HOA board members and community managers say effective communication is all about speaking the same language as their residents. That means delivering messages in a way they’ll respond to and be comfortable with. By mirroring preferred communication channels, association boards and residential managers are changing the game to give everyone a voice and create stronger communities.