Community association board members and managers might not immediately think of customer service as one of their priorities, but they should. Customer Service is typically associated with the retail industry, but it’s an integral function of any organization. The need for excellent services is just as vital to an association’s success as it is to a business that sells goods and services.
Board members and managers should think of their amenities, programs, projects, and rules as the products they offer; and their current and future residents as their customers. Customer service lies within the exchanges between community leaders and homeowners.
Homeowners have every reason to expect the highest quality of service from their community, especially because their most valuable asset – their home – is involved. They expect their association to help them preserve, if not improve, their property values.
Customer Service Skills
That’s why board members, managers, and staff members should be equipped with the necessary customer service skills when they assume their roles within an association. Whether it’s an owner concern, request, or complaint, a community leader must be prepared to offer a positive customer service experience. By doing so, even if the answer isn’t exactly what the owner wants to hear, the association can promote harmony and community spirit.
Association leaders also should:
- Respond promptly: Community association leaders have a responsibility to provide a professional, timely response (ideally within 24 hours) to homeowners.
- Be accessible: Make time for homeowners or have a reliable means for them to get in contact with you, whether that be by phone, email, or office hours.
- Listen: If a homeowner approaches you with a concern, give them your undivided attention and a chance to voice their opinions.
- Be unemotional: Even if a homeowner is screaming and cursing, remain calm and professional. Remember that he or she came to you for help.
- Educate themselves: Homeowners may look to you for knowledge on issues specific to your community and on associations in general. As a leader in the community, educate yourself on the rules and regulations of the community, and state laws. If you don’t know the answer, know who to ask for it.
- Empathize with an owner: When he or she brings forward a problem, try and find a solution to the concern that is prompt and reasonable.
Consider what types of interactions you have with your residents and create a list of customer service skills that would best suit those interactions.
For example, if you have a large community with hundreds of homes, many residents may decide to voice their concerns by email rather than in person. In this instance, it may be helpful to create a board-wide email etiquette policy to ensure proper customer service interaction with everyone.
If your community is small, you may just need to prepare for knocks on your door or questions at association meetings. Either way, you need to adapt your customer service methods to fulfill homeowner’s needs.
Be sure to ask owners what they look for in their association; it’s an effective way to determine what customer services skills they value. Consider conducting a survey to evaluate specific needs or wants.
Customer service is an important part of any organization, and the better experiences the owners have in their communities, the more associations will thrive. Your association manger can help board members understand their customer service obligations to their homeowner’s association.