How to Communicate with Your Strata Manager
Effective and respectful communication between all stakeholders in a strata scheme is imperative to ensure its efficient operation. In this Communication Protocol, we outline how best to communicate with your Strata Manager to ensure that:
We can best assist you with your queries and to achieve your strata scheme’s goals;
Your involvement in your strata scheme, whether it be as a lot owner or council member, is as stress-free as possible and takes up less of your time;
Our dealings with you are enjoyable and constructive for you and for us, making the management of your strata scheme a positive experience for us all.
Council of Owners:
If you are a member of the Council of Owners, knowing how to best communicate with your Strata Manager is particularly important given we work in partnership with you to manage your strata scheme. Here are some tips on how best to communicate with your Strata Manager to ensure your queries are answered and your instructions are actioned promptly.
1. Appoint a Liaison: Appointing one council member to be the ‘Strata Manager liaison’ helps to ensure that we are receiving one clear instruction that can easily be actioned. Note that this liaison does not have the authority to instruct us based on their own opinions, but rather they are expected to communicate the council’s wishes to us after the council have discussed a matter and reached a consensus.
2. Ensure Your Instructions or Votes Are Clear: Whether you communicate with us via an appointed liaison, or all council members submit their ‘votes’ directly to us via email, ensure your instructions or votes are clear and concise. We cannot take action if all we receive from council members are a multitude of different opinions or personal views; we can only take action once we have a clear vote/instruction from at least the majority of council members. It is also not feasible for us to wade through various comments and opinions to try and understand what your instruction is, so be mindful of making your instruction or vote extremely clear. If you want to include additional commentary or opinion for the information of other council members, you may do so as a separate note and we do not need to be included in that.
Remember that as Strata Managers, we can only act on instructions from the council as a group, not from individual members. It therefore does not assist us to provide us with your personal opinions or comments; we only need to know what the group consensus is.
3. Meet when Discussion is Needed: You will find that many items that arise simply require a yes/no vote from the council and this is usually easily achieved by email. However, sometimes discussion may be required so opinions can be shared amongst members. When this is the case, the council should consider having a meeting as the fastest and most effective way to arrive at a decision. In this day and age, meetings can generally be held conveniently by utilising video and teleconference facilities. You can find more guidance on holding council meetings here (link to the new page you’re creating above for page 1!).
4. Be Mindful of Trying to Reach a Conclusion, Not Just Sharing Your Opinion: We find a lot of matters fail to progress because council members only think about and put forward their own opinion, rather than communicating in a way that aims to reach a conclusion for the group. If everyone on the council does this, you may arrive at a point where you’ve merely heard a lot of opinions but are no closer to reaching an outcome. Instead of simply putting your opinion forward, always try to propose an outcome that other members can simply agree with (or propose an alternative).
5. Don’t Wait for Everyone to Agree: You may find that decisions are needed on matters that not all council members agree with. This is normal and is why legislation only requires the council to make their decisions by a majority vote. Once you have discussed a matter and everyone has had an opportunity to make comment, put the matter to a vote and accept the decision of the majority. You will likely find that matters fail to progress if you are always seeking to have all members in agreement.
6. Keep Reference Notes on Past Decisions & Matters Previously Addressed: We completely understand that being a council member is a voluntary role and in most cases, council members want it to take up as little of their time as possible. We also understand that you have a whole life outside of your role on the council! However, to help us operate efficiently together over time, we encourage council members to keep quick reference notes, or at least an email folder that they can refer to, to remind themselves of past decisions or matters that have previously been addressed. We do find that a lot of time can be wasted by all involved when members forget what they’ve previously agreed to or what has happened in the past, causing those same matters to be questioned or raised for discussion multiple times.
If you are an owner in a strata scheme you may from time to time need to contact your Strata Manager for a range of reasons. Strata Managers receive a large volume of emails and phone calls every day and it therefore assists us in getting to your enquiry quickly and efficiently if you follow the tips below.
1. Email Rather than Call (except for emergencies): Wherever possible, we ask that you email your enquiry rather than call the office. Strata Managers are required to manage a large quantity of work, competing priorities and complicated tasks that require focus. This is only possible if we are able to manage our time effectively and address matters in order of priority. Phone calls can be extremely disruptive to this as it requires us to drop what we’re working on and attend to the call. Not only does this slow down on progress on the task at hand, there have also been many studies which show that most people take around 23 minutes to re-focus after an interruption (one source here). Receiving your enquiry in an email allows us to operate more efficiently and attend to your email at the appropriate time.
2. Call the Office for Emergencies: If you are reporting an urgent/emergency maintenance issue or something that requires immediate attention, please call the office. Do not send an email for matters such as these. We receive hundreds of emails every day and your email likely will not be seen immediately.
3. Keep Proper Records: We receive a large volume of enquiries from owners who have simply not kept track of their own records and therefore contact our team to provide them with the information. For example, querying if they have paid their levy invoice, or requesting copies of documents that have previously been issued. We are always happy to assist, however please be mindful that these types of queries take up time that we could otherwise be spending on more important matters that impact your strata scheme. We therefore ask that owners keep record of information they receive and payments they have made, so they are able to answer these queries themselves.
4. Attend Meetings &/or Read Information Sent to You: Another cause of enquiry for Strata Managers is the result of owners not attending their general meetings, and then failing to read important information that is sent to them (eg. agendas and minutes of meetings). We understand that it’s not always possible to attend your general meetings and this is ok, however you will receive a copy of the agenda and minutes, and it is extremely important that you take a few minutes to read them so that you’re aware of any key decisions that the owners have made that may impact your investment.
Bullying & Rude Communications – Our Zero-Tolerance Policy:
Bullying and rude, aggressive, attacking, derogatory or threatening communications from clients (both verbally and by email), and the resultant mental health impact, is unfortunately a significant problem for the Strata Management industry (and many customer service industries).
At Emerson Raine, we have a zero-tolerance policy on communications of this nature and do not expect our staff to subject themselves to this sort of treatment.
We understand that some matters that arise in your strata scheme can cause a high level of stress, whether it be an increased levy contribution, a significant maintenance issue or conflict with other residents. We will always assist you within the remit of our role, and there is never a reason or need to talk to our staff in any way that is not respectful, courteous, constructive, and polite. We understand that at times we may all feel the need to vent our frustrations, however please do not unload this onto our staff, who are dealing with hundreds of people every week and will be doing their best to assist you.
Our zero-tolerance policy means that if a staff member feels threatened or feels that a communication is rude, aggressive, attacking, disrespectful, derogatory, unnecessarily repetitive, or vexatious, we support them in advising that person that they will not be responding to any further communications until the person is able to communicate in the expected manner.
This article from the strata-titles industry body provides some important information on this topic.