I hear it all the time:  “my community manager is unresponsive or a poor communicator” or No one at the management company picks up the phone or calls us back!”  The first bad omen of poor service is that when you call your manager the phone goes to a voicemail box.  When I owned a full service management company the number one reason I met with boards to discuss our service was because their manager was not getting back to the board or to unit owners.  Want to find out why management companies are unresponsive?  There are several reasons why this industry is plagued by unresponsive service.  I’ve outlined what I think are the main reasons below.

Manager Overload

Sometimes a property manager may leave a larger company and start their own management business.  As an individual manager they can provide personalized services just the way they want.  Initially they can give a lot of time to clients when the number of properties they manage is small.  But soon the solo operation begins to get overstretched and service response suffers.

The work piles up when a manager works on more properties than they can handle.  From my point of view this happens when the portfolio gets above 10 properties.  I have hired managers from other management companies and they were managing an insane amount of properties.  One was managing 19 properties and the other 23 communities.  One passed away at a relatively young age and I feel the stress was a major reason why, the workload actually killed him.  It is not humanly possible to do all the work required for all the boards and unit owners.  Think about it for a minute 20 boards made up of roughly 5 members a piece is 100 board members.  You have 20 night meetings in a month (which most boards want in the last 2 weeks of the month).  And then the manager has 20 to do lists.  Throw in an emergency or a capital improvement project on top of the weekly site inspections and you can see where the time goes.  Add to this a percentage of the unit owners that have questions and service can really start to deteriorate quickly.

The first things to suffer are the simple things like administrative and accounting requests which start to fall through the cracks.  Then the manager can’t get through the boards to do list.  This leads to the complaint that the manager is not “pro-active”.

Business Not Staffed Properly

More phone calls from more properties requires more people.  In the Army I got to see how the proper organizational chart made a difference in a unit’s performance.  If personnel were missing from roles in the organizational chart the effectiveness of the unit declined.  Similarly a business needs to have the right organization and staffing to fulfill its promises to clients as it grows.  If a manager does not have a separate accounting person to pick up payment inquiry calls there will be a communication breakdown.  If the management company does not have an assistant manager to help with administrative items and phone calls when managers are out at properties there will be a service breakdown.

If a management company does have these positions filled, it may not have enough staff for the volume of work.  In my management company I had 2 people handling accounts receivable and 2 assistant managers to handle routine tasks and phone calls.  These two areas received the most customer calls.  By having two people handle the work it allowed for proper coverage when one employee had lunch or took a vacation.


A manager or a management company makes the decision to make more money at the expense of providing good service. Personnel costs are the largest part of a service company’s expenses in some estimates 60-70% of its total costs.  The fewer people on staff the more money the business makes.  If the manager is a solo operation they are choosing not to hire another person because they either don’t want to manage people in addition to communities or they don’t want to take a pay cut.  The community’s board and unit owners are the ones who pay the price with frustration due to unresponsive service.

Systems that help handle the work load

A manager may be “old school” in their business practices.  Using a notebook, paper files and spreadsheets can only get you so far.  As a business grows the systems that were successful with 5 properties will start to break as you get to 20 properties.  When a manager or business has a lot on their plate upgrading systems takes up a lot of time that they already don’t have.  Also, better systems cost more money and it just may not be in the budget for the person or business to make the investment.

Another main systems bottleneck is the phone system.  If the manager has a bad phone system the calls from your community may only ring at one person’s desk.  Many times this one person is the property manager themselves.  If the manager or another staff member is on the line or away from their desk the calls go unanswered.  What ought to happen is the management company should have a good phone system that rings multiple employees’ phones to ensure your call gets answered.

Unresponsive Bookkeeping Service

Other businesses also provide poor customer service for the same reasons outlined above.  CPAs and bookkeepers can also be unresponsive.  Some that may not specialize in doing just the community association bookkeeping and may also get bogged down for an additional reason: tax season.  When there is a rush for individual and business tax returns the community bookkeeping clients may suffer.


There are a lot of reasons why businesses provide poor service.  Most of the time it is unintentional. It is easy for a business to say “we provide great customer service” on its website but it is another thing to deliver on it.  There are plenty of ways for a service company to overcome these obstacles but few seem to. When shopping for a service keep the reasons outlined above in mind to start a conversation, make a better choice and save the board and your unit owners any unnecessary aggravation.