“We think the surest way to lower tensions and resolve the disputes between the neighbors is through more dialogue between them, not less.” – Richard Bouche
Homeowner relationships are the foundation of any residential community. Forbes released an article in 2019 describing 8 ways to improve communication between people. We narrowed down some key takeaways that HOA boards might apply in their own communities.
First Impressions are Important
A few seconds is a small window of opportunity to make a quality impression. This little time is what sets up the relationship and creates trust. Therefore, it is important to communicate loyalty and give them reasons to have confidence in you. Gather information in this first interaction like how residents prefer to communicate and what they are looking for.
Partnerships Mean Teammates
Acknowledge residents as wanting the same positive outcomes, even though their approach may differ. Working towards the success of the community together may eliminate any competitive feelings. Being transparent about problems and sharing ideas regarding solutions with residents builds camaraderie and trust. An HOA board’s goal is to enhance the living experience within the neighborhoods served and share end goals as a community.
Show You Care and Are Reliable with Action
Taking interest, making life easier for homeowners and residents, showing you value their thoughts seriously and applying effective communication will go a long way! According to Kuester Management Group, “It’s unwise to simply tell a resident he or she needs to do this or that. Instead, make it a priority to always explain the circumstances, to expound upon what the rules are and why they must be enforced, and to make it clear that you are treating all residents fairly. Being proactive in this way is often very helpful.”
Show genuine pleasure in getting to know fellow homeowners. Ask and actively listen about their work life, personal life, hopes and dreams and understand how they make decisions. Follow up on things they share with you.
Make Life Easier
Eliminate stress and burdens homeowners may feel by doing things like preparing agendas for meetings so they do not feel their time is wasted and they know what to expect. Explaining steps in process and using modern technology (email, e-newsletters, website portals) to save time and energy can go a long way in keeping a happy experience for the communities working with you.
Take Them Seriously
It may be hard to field yet another complaint, especially in larger communities. However, by following this same method each time, resolutions become easier. When someone reports a problem or complaint:
- Express your concern and plan to address it
- Look into the issue, gather information and take appropriate steps
- Follow up and communicate what actions you took
- If appropriate, apologize sincerely.
Issues that are ignored tend to fester and create larger problems down the road.
Remember that all people communicate differently. Therefore, having consistency in many different avenues of transmitting information is what secures effective communication. Make records of all communication sent and received from homeowners so that the entire team is on the same page- including noting pertinent elements of phone conversations. Nothing is more frustrating for people than having to repeat themselves multiple times. Setting short timelines for addressing emails, calls or even social media messages can ease the relationship into a relaxed and trusted environment.
As many businesses aren’t allowing in-person meetings due to COVID-19, you might not be interacting face-to-face with community members as often. It might be a good idea to give check-in emails or calls when resolving a problem to allow positive interactions that make residents feel cared for. To keep the stronger face-to-face type of connection alive, try using an online meeting app like Zoom or FaceTime during this time.
Side note: Have you considered giving a tutorial to homeowners who have not used Zoom before? There are a wealth of resources online. Here is a video I like to share for beginners who have never joined a Zoom meeting before: https://youtu.be/9isp3qPeQ0E
Finally, there are some people that don’t communicate electronically. You may need to call or even write them a letter on paper and mail it. Don’t ignore sectors of your community that may not be hip on using email or other online communication tools.
In a nutshell, communicative, long lasting relationships are what creates peace and success within a living community. Following these guidelines will help maintain happy homeowners and in turn, will make you happy doing your job.
“Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.” – C.S. Lewis