5 Hidden Costs in Your HOA Communication Strategy
A good HOA communication strategy enables you to run operations more smoothly, reduce costs, and increase resident satisfaction. By contrast, the lack of a communications strategy or an unclear strategy can result in lost efficiency and increased costs for your community. When creating a budget for your HOA communication strategy, it’s important to identify what factors drive costs up. That way, you can understand what efforts result in the most amount of money being spent and how to reduce those costs.
We found in our recent study that 79% of our clients reduced their communications cost without sacrificing quality but instead improving with Pilera. This had us thinking about what factors increase costs and we found that many of them are hidden or unforeseen costs. In this article, we’ll talk about:
- The costs you may incur in your current communication strategy and hidden aspects within them.
- How to reduce costs with technology so you can have more in your budget to deliver better resident experiences.
Short on time? Use our Table of Contents below to read the section that you’re most interested in.
1) Postal Mailing
Many communities include postal mailing as a part of their HOA communication strategy. Certain states like Nevada now require community associations to send notices via postal mail. Postal mail is useful in various situations such as sending non-urgent communications or reaching residents who do not have other electronic means of receiving information. In situations where you need to reach residents on the spot or during emergencies, digital communications are more effective.
Hidden costs of postal mailing
Postal mailing is an expensive form of communication and larger communities spend thousands of dollars every year. Doing this in-house means that communities will incur expenses such as stamps, envelopes, paper, and toner. Also, let’s not forget employee time dedicated to preparing letters and stuffing envelopes.
How to reduce costs in your communications efforts:
1) Transition to digital communications
When you transition to a digital communications system, your community or company can save hundreds of hours of labor and improve daily workflow. The cost of one postal mailing effort can equal months of digital communication costs. Each community can save at least $3,000 in their budget per year with automated email communications over postal mail. It’s important to make sure that your communications platform can provide multiple ways to communicate with your residents, such as phone, email, and text.
Resource: See our in-depth analysis of how much you can save with Pilera email communications.
2) Reduce manual effort in your postal mailing outreach
If you need to communicate via postal mail due to state/governing document requirements or because your residents prefer it over other methods, you can still save time and money. With integrated systems that can generate letters in bulk and mail them out, you can reduce the cost of supplies and employee labor. For example, Pilera’s new PDF letter generation feature enables you to create letters, download them in bulk, and then upload it to SouthData to mail them out.
2) Manual Resident Data Management
Having the most up-to-date resident contact information is vital to your HOA communication strategy. When contact information is current, you can reach residents when it matters most, like during an emergency.
Hidden costs of data management
Keeping your data organized and up to date can take a lot of time when using an email service provider such as Gmail or Outlook or an email marketing system like Constant Contact or Mail Chimp. Since accounting systems don’t integrate with generic email service providers or marketing solutions, updating contact information becomes a longer, more manual process.
This process involves:
- Managing unit information.
- Tracking who moves in and out, and then updating the appropriate list.
- Updating contact information manually.
How to reduce costs:
1) Integrate your Accounting Software with HOA Communication Software
When you integrate your accounting system with an HOA communication solution, resident contact information syncs from one platform to another. This eliminates the need for you to continually update information into your HOA communication platform.
Hidden lost time also happens when your data is inconsistent, such as when sending an email to an outdated email address. With an integrated system, you’ll have accurate, up-to-date information.
Resource: Do you currently use accounting software in your management business? Download a free PDF of Pilera’s integration with your accounting software.
2) Save time with dynamic distribution groups
As a new resident joins or leaves a community, you will need to keep your recipient list up to date. Many HOA communication platforms offer distribution groups to message specific groups of residents, but they don’t account for new residents or those who left. A dynamic distribution group such as Pilera’s will automatically maintain your list to account for these changes.
3) Gain insights through invalid contact reports
Are you seeing more email bounce rates than usual or text messages getting undelivered? Low delivery rates mean that contact information for some of your residents may be incorrect. A hidden expense that many managers and boards may not initially realize is the time it takes to fix resident contact information. Your HOA Communication Software should ease the process by providing you with frequent reports on invalid contact information. Pilera’s HOA Communication Software sends an automated report on a monthly basis on invalid email, text numbers, and phone numbers for each community. You can also view invalid contact information at any time directly in the app in the occupant list and within each resident’s profile.
4) Roll out a resident portal
A resident portal is not only a great way to engage your residents but it also helps you to get the most accurate contact information. Your residents can update their contact information and how they’d like to hear from you in the resident portal. Having a self-service resident portal puts the pressure off your managers and will save time. With Pilera’s resident portal, your residents can manage their contact information and communication preferences. Additionally, any time a resident updates their contact information in Pilera, you’ll receive an automated email notification about it.
3) Lawsuits & Fines
Your HOA communication strategy should also outline how to keep your community in compliance with regulations. A lack of communication with residents on maintenance, safety issues, or rules can result in your community getting sued or having to pay hefty fines. With the average lawsuit costing a business $54,000, this potential hidden expense can put a strain on your community’s financial resources.
How to reduce costs:
1) Secure your communications and data
Can you easily reference an announcement you sent to residents about a maintenance issue from a year ago? If the answer is no, then you may need to look into a communications solution that will automatically track your outgoing communications in one place. The communication platform should also provide you with real-time analytics for each message you sent. Did the resident open a text message, click on an email link, or pick up a phone call? This information can be critical in case of a lawsuit where you need to present information and protect your community.
2) Mitigate issues from the get-go
Frequent communication is better than a lack of communication. That’s why it’s important to mitigate issues from the start and keep your residents informed. The most effective way is to encourage your residents to choose how they want to hear from you – phone, email, text, or postal mail. Based on your governing documents or state laws, there may be certain communication guidelines that you need to comply with. For example, Florida law requires condominiums with over 150 units to provide residents with a password-protected website or portal to access documents and other important community information. As we also mentioned earlier in this post, Nevada is requiring communities to use postal mail for all communications. It’s important to communicate regularly with residents and through the right channels.
4) Inbound Phone Calls
Are the phone lines constantly ringing in your management office? Are hours spent with residents on the phone preventing your staff from focusing on more vital issues? Inbound phone calls are less commonly seen as a hidden expense. However, when the number of calls increases over time, it can result in lost efficiency.
How to reduce costs:
1) Keep your residents informed
Keeping your residents informed is essential to a community’s success. It reduces operational issues in the long run, which helps to regain your staff’s efficiency. When you communicate more frequently, you’ll see fewer inbound calls to the office. Here are some ways you can reduce inbound calls:
- Message your residents about emergencies, maintenance alerts, reminders, and upcoming events.
- Notify residents when you have posted an important document to the portal, such as updates to amenity rules.
- Update residents on the status of their maintenance, customer support, rule violations, architectural requests, and other tickets.
2) Promote resident self-service
Promoting self-service within your community through a resident portal or website can significantly reduce inbound calls and operational costs. A self-service resident portal enables residents to access information on any device or at any location with a minimal amount of help. With a resident portal or community website, your residents can:
- Pay their dues/rent online and access their financial balance/ledger.
- View all messages you have sent them.
- Submit maintenance, support, and architectural change requests. Communicate with their managers and receive updates so they don’t have to call the office.
- Manage their own unit so managers have the most up to date information. Your residents should be able to add contacts, addresses, guests, pets, insurance, and more.
- View answers to commonly asked questions in a searchable knowledge base.
5) The cost of outdated systems or processes
Are inefficiencies in your current HOA communication plan causing employees to spend hours sending a message, creating content, tracking when a message was sent, or which residents received a message? If, yes then it’s likely that inefficient processes or outdated software are resulting in high labor costs. According to Frevvo, 57% of business leaders expect that when they automate processes, they can save 10-50% of labor costs.
How to reduce costs with technology:
1) Identify software features that automate processes
As we’ve mentioned earlier in this post, automation is key to improving your team’s efficiency and reducing labor costs. When evaluating communication software, identify ways in which you can automate previously manual processes. Features in Pilera like emailing at a portfolio level, creating templates, scheduling messages in advance, analytics, and communication archives can automate every stage of the communication process from sending a message to confirming message delivery.
2) Look for a system with unlimited manager access
Many communication platforms will limit the number of employees you can have logged into the system. As you require more employees to log in and access information, software costs will increase. That may limit your company from purchasing more licenses, which can hurt team productivity. Something to consider when evaluating communication software for your plan is if it allows an unlimited number of managers to log in. With more employees can access communications, you can improve visibility in the office. You can also reduce unnecessary back and forth follow-ups with employees on what was done. Through Pilera’s communication software, an unlimited number of managers can have their own accounts and log in. They can access a history of all communication sent and real-time analytics on which residents opened a text, clicked on an email, or picked up a phone call.
3) Consolidate your communications and customer service operations under one platform
With the rise of software platforms, there is no shortage of apps for employees to get their work done. The modern worker uses 9.39 apps every day, according to Businesswire. Switching between apps can cause employees to feel overwhelmed and can dampen productivity. Studies show that app overload results in 52 days of lost efficiency and $14,000 in wages every year. The more functions that you can consolidate in as less platforms as possible, the easier it will be for your staff to perform their jobs. With HOA software, your business can reduce labor costs by combining communications, maintenance, customer service, resident engagement, board collaboration, and more in a single platform.
Summary: Hidden expenses in your HOA Communication Strategy
As you create your HOA communications strategy, be sure to consider hidden expenses you may incur along the way and how to reduce them. As a recap, these are the expenses you will want to keep an eye on:
- Postal Mailing – Postal mailing is an expensive form of communication. However, transitioning to automated, digital communications solutions can save on postage and labor costs. If local/state government regulations require you to send out postal mail, you can still reduce costs. Integrated communication and mailing systems can generate the letters in bulk and mail them out for you.
- Manual Resident Data Management – Managing resident contact information through a manual process can result in lost efficiency. When integrating your accounting software with an HOA communciation solution, contact information syncs seamlessly and error-free.
- Lawsuits/Fines – Lack of communications or the proper channels to communicate can increase a community’s liability. Make sure that you can consolidate all of your communication efforts in one place, so your staff can look it up when needed.
- Inbound Phone Calls – Spending hours on the phone with a resident on payment-related issues can take time away from interacting with residents in more positive ways or providing additional services to your community. Providing a self-service portal where residents can update their contact information and access community information can reduce inbound calls to the office.
- Cost of inefficient processes or outdated technology – Manual processes in your communications strategy from creating a message to tracking opens and clicks can reduce staff efficiency and increase labor costs. Leveraging technology to automate time-consuming tasks and consolidate your operations in one platform can make your staff’s jobs easier.
How Pilera can help reduce hidden expenses of your HOA Communication Strategy
An automated HOA solution can save money in your budget and improve your communication strategy by offloading manual tasks and reducing costs. When we surveyed our clients, we found that managers save 7 hours per week with Pilera’s communication software. This equates to $14,000 of staff wages in regained efficiency each year. With Pilera’s HOA communications software, you can reduce:
- Labor Costs – Automate phone, email, text, and PDF letter generation; sync data through your accounting platform; and create templates to save time.
- Liability – Frequently communicate through a variety of channels and track all outgoing communications in one place.
- Operational Costs – Provide your residents with a self-service portal to access all community information and update their contact information and preferences. Also, the ability for unlimited managers to log into Pilera keeps everyone on the same page and improves efficiency.
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