Homeowners often have questions or concerns they would like to raise but have no medium to do so in an instant. This is why some HOAs are considering online support. But, is HOA online support even a good idea?
In an HOA, it is only normal for residents to have questions and issues related to their property or the association at large. While some of these concerns can usually be raised during the annual meeting, not all homeowners get the opportunity to voice out their opinions.
In the past, before the advent of the internet, residents had to send in their concerns via hand-delivered letters. Thanks to technological advancements, more and more HOAs are adopting electronic methods of homeowner communication.
While many associations have websites in place, some have started to consider adding online chat support for homeowners. Although this is a noble and helpful undertaking, an HOA board should first consider whether the act is even worth exploring. So, should the board use HOA online support?
Adopting online HOA customer service has some obvious advantages. For instance, it is a service that adds further value to the experience of homeowners in the community.
Homeowners like knowing that their voices are being heard. In fact, they expect it. That is understandable considering they pay regular HOA dues in exchange for a certain level of service. By adding chat support, your HOA board will definitely see a rise in homeowner satisfaction rates.
Another benefit of using online chat support is convenience. Imagine homeowners being able to reach your HOA board in an instant, with a mode of communication right at their fingertips. Perhaps, in the middle of grocery shopping, they think of an idea that they believe will benefit the community.
All they need to do is take out their smartphone and send a chat message before they forget it. No more taking down notes for later and then not even remembering to tell the board about it.
Finally, adding online chat support encourages homeowners to confidently voice out their issues without fear of getting shot down. A lot of residents keep their opinions to themselves out of fear of confrontation.
Not everyone has the courage to bring up a concern that they feel personally affected by. With online support like chatting, your HOA board can open itself up to a world of new suggestions. After all, it is much easier to hide behind a screen.
Like most things in life, HOA online support also has its drawbacks. If your HOA board decides to pursue the project using your own resources, it will take some time and effort — not to mention plenty of funds.
First of all, setting up your own chat support via a website requires a sizable budget. Web development does not come cheap. It will also take a while before you can launch the platform, seeing as it needs to undergo quality testing to make sure no bugs slip through the cracks.
Of course, you can always turn to existing mediums like Facebook or Twitter. While these can significantly reduce the amount of money required to set up chat support, you will still need personnel to constantly monitor these sites. Facebook has Messenger Bots you can try out.
That means either sacrificing much of your own time to answer messages or paying someone else to do it. Either way, it will take resources that smaller HOAs might not have.
Furthermore, not all boards want to be within reach all the time. Chat support implies a certain level of availability, and most board members simply do not have the extra time to devote to such a task.
Since setting up online chat support takes plenty of resources, some associations turn to HOA management companies for help. Most HOA management companies offer homeowner communication services as part of their package. These packages usually only include voice and email support.
There are also companies that offer HOA management online chat support where their own employees answer the questions and concerns of the associations they handle.
It is important to note, though, that not all HOA management companies offer chat services. If your HOA is particularly looking for one that offers it, make sure to ask about the service during the selection process. Perhaps you can even raise the possibility of including it in your package if it is not already there.
While online chat support does have its benefits, it is not the only mode of communication HOA boards can use to stay in touch with community members. Homeowners can always send emails, though the board runs the risk of getting bogged down by piles of emails. Some emails may also go straight to spam (always check your spam folder!).
Voice support is an equally viable option for associations. Homeowners can call in and voice out their concerns over the phone. Unlike chat support, though, voice calls imply a certain window of availability. Board members may only be able to answer calls during their free time. After all, board members are only volunteers and also have full-time jobs outside of the HOA.
As mentioned above, a lot of HOA management companies already offer HOA email support and voice support. Some even have text (SMS) support, which is similar to chat support in many ways. If your association can’t swing online chat support, then SMS is the next best thing.
In the end, only you and your fellow board members can answer this important question. Every HOA is different, therefore, you may not have the same needs as others.
If you think voice and email support are enough, then perhaps it would be a waste to add a third avenue.
The HOA board must consider its options carefully, especially if it intends to pursue HOA online support without help from a management company. When deciding, remember to prioritize the needs of the association. Will this benefit the community or will it only serve as another waste of resources?