In Florida we are at a greater risk for natural disasters with more storms hitting here at home than in any other state. There is typically at least one named storm in Florida every year and 3 months of our calendar year have been given the apt title “hurricane season”. With such a looming threat it is important to have a network in place should a disaster strike. Volunteering to organize or serve on an Emergency Preparedness Network is a solid way to add predictability and routine in a situation. Establishing a common meeting space for your neighbors, appointing community members to take on various roles and having supplies ready can help strengthen your neighborhood and make things less chaotic should that unfortunate day ever come. For more information on how to create an emergency preparedness network please visit http://www.floridadisaster.org/index.asp.
In past posts we have discussed different ways you can support your Community Association (HOA or Condominium) by volunteering in the community. Would you like to become a more active member of your community association but do not have the time to serve on the Board of Directors? In our next three posts we will provide you with some interesting ways to help out.
Volunteer for your Association by Organizing or Offering Holiday Help
The majority of Condominium and Home Owners Associations have restrictions on the length of time holiday décor is permitted to be displayed. No one likes the neighbor who still has Frosty and his crew in the front yard in March and the Board of Directors does not like having to enforce covenant violations.
One way to volunteer for your association, that benefits the community as a whole, is to engage in “holiday help”. Holiday help can be interpreted in many different ways and should be embraced in the form most applicable to your community. This may be a literal interpretation where you organize a weekend in which residents help each other put up or take down holiday decorations; or a loose interpretation where a few residents may have extra decorations and choose to donate those items to a family in the neighborhood who may not otherwise have them.
However your association chooses to implement holiday help, this voluntary act of service strengthens neighborhood bonds and adds value to your community.
Leland Management has been nominated in the category of Best Management Company by the Florida Community Association Journal for their Readers’ Choice Awards. Please click the link below or visit our “Vote for Leland” tab to help us win!
Providing good customer service can prove a challenge in almost any business. In Association Management, where we deal with such issues as covenant enforcement and collections, it can be especially tricky. No matter how challenging the situation the bottom line is: good Association Management companies should provide great customer service. Unfortunately, this is not always an easy task. Association management companies are faced with the challenge of having multiple customers to support including: board members, homeowners, vendors and employees. To add to the challenge, homeowner’s complaints/concerns are often emotionally driven as they are concerning their largest and most sentimental investment, their home. To maintain excellence, it is important that all of their concerns are validated and handled in a professional manner.
How can this be done? Leland Management manages over 380 communities with approximately 100,000 homeowners. We take hundreds of calls, emails, and fax a day from people who need assistance or have concerns. Over time, we have come up with some important customer service guidelines that have proven to be successful in dealing even with the most challenging situations.
One of the most important aspects of customer service in general is to listen to the customer. It is important to understand then restate the homeowner’s concern within the first few minutes of the conversation. Often, homeowners are emotional and may not be stating their concerns clearly. If you don’t understand the problem you are certainly not going to be able to provide a solution.
Once you establish the issue, learn what the homeowner wants and try to make it happen. This is best accomplished by simply asking the homeowner how you can make it better. Often what the homeowner wants may not be that difficult. It is important to know where you stand before you start working towards a solution. If you are able to fix the problem, fix it quickly (don’t wait until tomorrow or next week). If you are unable to meet the request, be clear about why you are not able to accommodate them, and offer some alternative solutions.
Knowing how to apologize is another factor in ensuring great customer service. We are all human and sometimes mistakes happen. Most people understand this. If you are wrong, admit it, apologize, and move on to resolving the problem. Knowing how and when to apologize is a great technique that if used appropriately will immediately change the tone of the conversation, and ultimately make a happy customer.
Remain calm. It is important to remain calm and keep a consistent tone throughout the conversation. The role of customer service is to help find a solution. Nothing constructive will come from a shouting match with the customer.
Provide an escalation outlet. If you sense that you are not getting anywhere with a challenging person and nothing more can be done, allow for escalation. Provide another avenue where the customer can state their case. The best option for this is via email or letter where the person can put down their concerns in writing. Often, the process of writing down the problem will take much of the emotion out of the complaint and may ultimately help facilitate a resolution.
If it is something that is beyond your control, help them locate, or furnish them with the contact information of who can help. For example, if it is a problem with a city ordinance (such as parking on the street), help them find the appropriate contacts in the city.
Finally, get feedback and check back with your customers. You may think you have the best customer service in the world, but your opinion does not really count. It is the opinion of the people you serve that matters. Send out surveys frequently, follow up with people who have had problems in the past and find out if things are better. Knowledge is power, and knowing how people perceive your customer service will help you make adjustments for the future.
Ultimately, to achieve success excellent customer service should be woven into the fabric of the company. It should be part of the company philosophy (as it is at Leland) and be reinforced from the top down. When this is done, customer service will become second nature to all members of the team and will positively influence how they communicate with everyone they come in contact with.
Written by: Mary Chartier
This article first appeared on October 28, 2013 in the Villages Daily Sun
Spruce Creek Golf and Country Club
With the beginning of fall, I look forward to cooler weather, warm homemade soups and one of my favorite events, the German-American Friends annual Oktoberfest celebration.
I love the club’s Oktoberfest celebration because it is always a fun event filled with good German food, beer and great music.
Dressed in a beautiful red drindl, lent to me by Emilie Schmidt, and Randy in his lederhosen T-shirt, we entered a ballroom transformed into a beautiful beer hall with white and blue balloons floating above the tables containing pretzels and sweet Bavarian mustard.
Many of the ladies came dressed in beautiful traditional German dresses and colorful flowered headbands, men in lederhosen, as well as T-shirts with lederhosen designs.
I spotted Frank Albrizio with a great T-shirt with two filled beer mugs he bought when visiting Helen, Ga. It read: “Instant German-Just add beer”.
The evening started with club president Mary Shukle and incoming president Heinz Backhus welcoming.
Heinz was wearing a very interesting grey hat that looked similar to a scarecrow’s hat, and asked the audience, “How do you like my hat?” The audience broke into laughter and applause.
Mary then asked all new members to stand and be recognized and thanked them for joining us.
“We are also happy to have with us members of the Villages German-American Club, and we also have guests from Stonecrest. Welcome and have a good time,” Mary continued.
The audience was then treated to a wonderful flag ceremony, with members of the club parading in and around the room with the many flags that represent the 16 states of Germany. It was a beautiful and colorful sight.
Our German dinner of bratwurst, mettwurst, sauerkraut, and potato salad was prepared by Hollerbach’s German Willowtree Restaurant.
The Alpine Express band was back for another year and wonderful as always. The band entertained with authentic German music and other favorites keeping the dance full all evening.
After dinner, I walked around the room and stopped for a few moments to talk with Trudy Jenkins from the Villages German-American Club.
“What do you think of our Oktoberfest?” I asked.
“I am amazed at the number of people and genuine lovely feeling of being welcomed and having fun,” Trudy replied.
We talked for a bit and I learned that Trudy had come to American from Germany settling in Long Island, NY.
“I came over when I was ten years old and met my husband Arthur in the subway. He was with someone he called his cousin and the rest is history,” Trudy said smiling.
I also took a few moments to speak to Stonecrest resident, Juergen Kaufmann, who had been coming to our Oktoberfest for about four years.
Juergen moved to the U.S. from Erfurt, Thuringia, Germany and settled in Chicago until he and his wife, Eugenia, moved to Stonecrest.
As the evening rolled along, club member Bill Gilbert called all volunteers who wanted to participate in the Jagermeister event to come up to the stage.
Three participants at a time would hold a wooden pole that had three shot glasses attached filled with Jagermeister. After a musical lead-in, would hoist the glasses up and drink it down in one gulp.
I do believe that this year was the largest participation in the Jagermeister event.
After each group of three would finish their drinks, Bill would shout out to the crowd, “Spruce Creek’s Oktoberfest is wunderbar!” — much to the delight of the entire room.
A special treat for the evening was the Schatzies, a dance troupe from the Villages German-American Club that performed several folk dances in various formations.
“I think it is wonderful that there is so much cooperation between the clubs,” I remarked to club member Hugh O’Brien.
Hugh agreed, and said that the club also cooperates with the Ocala German Club and the one over in Beverly Hills with some members carrying dual members to the clubs.
The entire evening was, as Bill said, wunderbar!