5 Hidden Costs of Off-The-Shelf Software

5 Hidden Costs of Off-The-Shelf Software

Quite often, community association management companies who are just getting started in their entrepreneurial journeys opt for off-the-shelf products for their accounting and property management needs. After all, it’s a “budget-friendly” option that’s relatively easy to learn and easy to self-manage from the beginning. But in a niche industry involving Homeowner Associations and many complex issues, software that isn’t industry-specific quickly does more harm than good.

Sure, that off-the-shelf product has strong brand recognition for small businesses, is relatively easy to use, and seems to have a lot of “nice to have” functions. But when you purchases solely for the price tag, are you supported by a team of industry veterans? Are you able to grow at scale quickly and efficiently, or are you stuck in the office performing manual, repetitive tasks? Is your software such a hindrance that adding another association to your portfolio seems like more like a detriment than a growth strategy?

If this sounds like you, continue reading. Here are some of the hidden costs associated with off-the-shelf products that you may not have previously considered:

1. Time-Consuming Processes

Often times, off-the-shelf software is built to manage only one association at a time. This means that making updates to your business has to be completed in multiple places – such as a vendor’s address or primary contact. When you’re only managing a couple associations, it may not seem like a big deal, but what will happen when you add two more associations, and then two more? Soon those account updates can go from taking a half hour to an entire day.

Through seamless SaaS-based property management software, one update can be completed across all associations at once instead of having to log out and log back into a different association. This means you’re spending less time in front of the computer and more time where you belong – out in the field with your boards and homeowners, or one-on-one with your team to coach them in their success.

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2. Lack of Property Management-Specific Features

Violations, architectural requests, property maintenance, work order management – can all of this be completed in one platform that wasn’t specifically designed for the association management industry? Usually off-the-shelf products only focus on one feature, such as accounting. When a company wishes to expand and therefore operate more efficiently, they have to purchase add-on solutions to effectively complete tasks in the field.

When you’re running your management company, it’s vital to have one system that handles it all – from integrated accounting to responsive community management, everything runs smoother when everything is in one place.

3. Unmanaged Onboarding Experience

On the surface, self-managed onboarding seems like a dream come true. One can download the software, watch a few tutorials on YouTube and be on their way. When you’re in a niche industry such as community association management, however, it’s important to have an onboarding team guiding you in best practices to effectively utilize your software solution. This is especially true when you are transferring homeowner data from one system to another – without guided training to assist you in the transfer of sensitive information, something can easily go wrong.

A best-in-class solution for community management goes beyond the software. It includes a team of accounting, property management, and data experts to guide you through the change management process. At CINC, our onboarding and implementations team includes a dedicated project manager that creates, tracks and regularly updates the transition plan. The project manager also coordinates scheduled trainings, data transfers, and one-on-one support calls. Our goal is that the switch to CAM-specific software is as seamless and as painless as possible.

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4. Lack of Ongoing Support

Even if there is an onboarding team in the initial purchase, what happens afterwards? For business owners with off-the-shelf or “budget-friendly” products, they often hear crickets. Yet when it comes to a software system, even the most tech-savvy business owners will eventually have a question about an upgrade or need help troubleshooting a problem.

Without access to a dedicated support team with expertise in the association management industry, important questions can go unanswered. This may lead to issues delivering reports to your boards on time, inability to assist homeowners with their payments, or worse – lost customers.

At CINC, we take client support seriously. That’s why we’ve invested in a customer support team that answers questions right away. Bill Ashby, owner of Gulf Coast Community Management, regularly praises the support he has received from CINC. “There were times when Kevin, my project manager for onboarding, would set up time to review my questions with me on weekends and nights, just to be sure I could service my homeowners as quickly as possible. He was there for me even after the onboarding process, which I really appreciated.”

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5. Poor Homeowner Experience

At the end of the day, an association management company cannot thrive if their homeowners aren’t satisfied. As younger generations enter the market, they are even more expectant of technology that doesn’t just assist them with their needs, but anticipates their future needs. And if the technology within their HOA/COA doesn’t do this, the board may choose to find a company who does.

So what are some of the key expectations? Here are a few things owners should expect from their software solution:

  • Multiple online payment options that can be completed through a website or app
  • Instant communication with their boards, property, and community managers through mass communication functionalities such as broadcast texting
  • Mobile-first design that gives homeowners the ability to complete everything on their phone – from sending a work order request to posting a picture of their corrected violation

Off-the-shelf and “budget-friendly” products simply don’t offer features that homeowners expect in today’s world of HOA/COA management. The cost to the association management company? A lost customer.

Are you interested in learning more about the impact switching to industry-specific software can have on an association? Check out our case study featuring Gulf Coast Community Management – this company grew 24% while reducing their time spent on manual tasks by over 70 hours a month when they made the switch to CINC. If their story inspires you to consider a switch for your budding business, ask us how you can #GetInCinc.

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