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Improve communications with homeowners with these 3 technology solutions

200,000,000.

That is the number of letters that homeowners receive from their community association each year. That is a lot of mail. That is a lot of communication. Yet, if you do a “Google” search, you will consistently find that the #1 reason a management company loses a community is due to a perceived lack of communication.

The Community Association industry is a laggard when it comes to the use of technology.  Yet, today nearly two-thirds of all Americans own a smartphone and 87% of all Americans have internet access. So, even though mail is still necessary, your homeowners are expecting more from you.

So, I would like to share with you three (3) specific technology solutions that will drastically improve how homeowners perceive your communication skills.  They are:

1.     E-Bills

2.     Online voting

3.     HOA websites

Incorporate these strategies into your business model and 4 things will happen:

1.     You will retain your current portfolio

2.     Gain a significant edge on your competitors / although that competitive edge is closing quickly and will soon become a minimum expectation.

3.     Increase your revenues, I’ll provide specific examples.

4.     Lower costs, I’ll provide examples here as well.

E-Bills

Definition

E-Bills are defined as an online solution that enables customers to receive and pay bills over the internet through a computer or mobile device.

Benefits

For the homeowner, E-Bills provide convenience: Offering your homeowners the option of paying online gives them the freedom to choose when, where and how they pay.

For the Management Company, E-Bills provides much more value:

o   Cash flow – in a study of 25 utility companies that implemented E-Bills, they found that 63% of all E-Bills were paid at the time they were read.  In other words, payment is being made 2-3 days before the others even get their bill in the mail.

o   Cost savings – An E-Bill costs, on average, 75% less than a traditional paper bill.  There’s no postage, no paper and no waste.

o   Accuracy – Paper bills require human intervention, which can result in errors.  Once your E-Bill system is set up, it is automatic…no human intervention.

o   Cutting Edge – if your company offers E-Bills, it will be perceived as a cutting edge company…and people like cutting edge. Think Apple and Tesla,

Due Diligence

The following should be considered when selecting an eBill provider:

o   A provider should be full service. In other words, able to process E-Bills along with printing and mailing the paper bills for those who have not opted in.

o   This goes without saying, but the system must be secure. The easiest way you can tell, is if the URL address begins with https instead of http.

o   There needs to be an online “opt-in” process.  This is where the homeowner types in their email address, validates it and then checks a box providing their authorization to receive E-Bills instead of paper bills.

o   The E-Bill needs to be mobile friendly. If the homeowner cannot easily view and pay the bill from their phone, they won’t be happy and they won’t use it.

o   You will want to have access to a dashboard, where you can view, confirm delivery and resend any E-Bill that is requested.

 

Online Voting

Definition

HB 5322 – ELECTRONIC VOTING, NOTICE AND USE OF TECHNOLOGY SIGNED INTO LAW.
HB 5322, the Electronic Voting Bill introduced by CAI, was signed into law on August 25, 2014.  The bill establishes that electronic votes are valid and may be used for the purpose of establishing meeting quorums.  The bill also provides that a verifiable electronic signature satisfies any requirements for signatures on documents. The bill acknowledges that if an owner either does not have the capability or desire to conduct business electronically, an association shall make reasonable accommodation, at its expense, for the person to conduct business without the use of electronic or other means.

Benefits

For the homeowner, online voting provides convenience: Offering your homeowners the option of paying online gives them the freedom to choose when, where and how they pay.

For the Management Company, online voting provides much more value:

o   Quorum -There’s not a lot of information on the impact of online voting as it relates to voter turnout. However, the small European country of Estonia instituted online voting back in 2005.  That year 1.9% of the population voted online. In 2014, the number increased 15X to 31%.  It appears that people will indeed use online voting, which means achieving quorum more often.

o   Revenue potential – Online voting can become a revenue source for the management company.  This cutting edge service has value to the HOA and can become a profit center for those management companies that offer it.

o   Accuracy – The traditional ballot process involves human beings, which can result in errors, which can result in the need to redo an election.  Online voting is automatic, its’ “real-time” and it is accurate.

o   Cutting Edge – if your company offers online voting, it will be perceived as a cutting edge company…and most people like cutting edge companies. Think Apple, Tesla,

Due Diligence

When vetting providers and systems remember the following criteria:

o   A provider should be full service. In other words, able to process votes online but also print and mail the paper ballots. Paper ballots still need to be mailed, as that is where the instructions for voting online will be provided, plus you need to provide the paper ballots for those who do not vote online.

o   This goes without saying, but the system must be secure. The easiest way you can tell, is if the URL address begins with https instead of http.

o   Online voting needs to be mobile friendly. If the homeowner cannot easily vote from their phone, they won’t be happy and they won’t use it.

o   You will want to have access to a dashboard, where you can view, edit, download, save and archive election results.

Websites

Definition
There are 325,000 community associations in the U.S. today.  Two out of three associations still don’t have a website.  Every single community association should have a website because, if you do your due diligence, these can be profit centers versus cost centers.

At a minimum, a community website should include:

  • Calendar

  • News posts

  • Association documents

  • Online access to assessments and online bill pay

Benefits

For the homeowner, websites provide convenient 24/7 access to information:

For the Management Company, websites provides much more value:

o   Revenue potential – Your community websites are advertising opportunities for service providers… landscapers, banks, insurance companies, restaurants…just about any company that sells to consumers.

o   Cost savings – There are no-cost community website options out there. If your community’s website communication needs are simple, paying high development and maintenance fees is like throwing money out the window.

o   Reduced administrative overhead – By providing information on a website, you reduce the number of phone calls to your office.

Due Diligence

The following should be considered when selecting a website provider:

o   The websites should be easy to maintain and update by people who do not have technical backgrounds.

o   The websites should be easy to remember / find on the web.  If you want homeowners to utilize your sites, they need to be able to easily find them.

o   This goes without saying, but the websites need to be secure. The easiest way you can tell, is if the URL address begins with https instead of http.

o   There needs to be an online “opt-in” process.  This is where the homeowner types in their email address, validates it and then checks a box providing their authorization to receive eBills instead of paper bills.

Conclusion

In the words of Jack Welch, Chairman and CEO of General Electric, and renowned author of the best-selling book “Winning”,

“Change before you have to.”

Heed that advice. Incorporate and embrace technology into your business and you just may be able to execute upon yet another great quote from Mr. Welch…

“… bury the competition.”