Thursday, September 19, 2013

Satisfaction -- Not Expensive

Obtaining satisfaction in a homeowner or condominium associations is never an easy task, but these five (5) techniques cost little and will increase satisfaction:

1. Return Calls -- This sounds too simple; however, after teaching hundreds of association seminars across the country, the number one reason for homeowner dissatisfaction is failure of the manager or board members to respond in a timely fashion.

2. Be Transparent -- Again, this sounds too simple; just tell people what's going on. I have seen many Association disputes stem from boards that are reluctant to share facts with homeowners. I have rarely seen board members act poorly (on purpose), but sometimes boards don't relish advertising difficult decisions. I recommend associations develop a policy of sharing reasonable information with homeowners so that when an uncomfortable situation arises, a decision doesn't have to be made on a case by case basis. Keep in mind there are situations (for legal reasons) when an association is well within its right and perhaps has a duty to keep certain information confidential such as personnel, legal and collection matters.

3. Make Communications Simple -- I like the sixth grade test…if the average sixth-grader can't understand what we're talking about, you haven't made it clear enough. It's not that association directors or homeowners aren't intelligent, most are, but most will not spend very long analyzing what we are trying to communicate. A little extra researching and more susinct text or words will make things easier for people to understand. Remember, if it appears too complicated, many people will not understand it and assume it's wrong. In most cases, fewer and smaller words are better.

4. Maintain Friendly Disposition -- Again, pretty easy. Just be friendly and nice to people. Even if faced with a difficult conversation, there's no additional cost for being nice.

5. Hire Quality Contractors --Few associations get in trouble for hiring high quality contractors. Conversely, many problems stem from well-intentioned boards that hired an inexpensive contractor "to save money" but ended up with inferior work. Boards actually get few compliments for hiring the "cheap" but will get a lot of criticism for contracting for poor work. I highly recommend that associations focus first on hiring high-quality vendors and only then make sure they can also achieve competitive pricing.

Paul Mengert is President of Association Management Group serving homeowner and condominium associations in North and South Carolina.

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