Those of us working for strata communities have probably heard the following at least once:
“Doesn’t the strata manager do that?” (or, even better, “doesn’t ‘the strata’ do that?”).
A regular complaint of strata managers I work with is that the communities they manage – I’ll call them ‘clients’ – don’t understand the role of their strata manager. Sometimes the client expects ‘more’, or at least ‘different’, and is disappointed or even angry when more or different is not delivered.
Strata managers are not unique in hearing this complaint. Lawyers hear it too, as I’m sure do many others in professional services.
The question arises from the unrealistic expectation of the client. But the blame cannot rest there alone.
The failing on the part of the professional is the lack of effective (or any) communication about the service that has been agreed upon.
Do you explain to your clients what falls within and without the scope of your engagement? Taking a step back, do you know what falls within and without the scope of your engagement? Most professionals providing a service will have some kind of engagement contract or agreement which sets out this scope in writing (if you don’t, then you absolutely should). For strata managers, that’s your agency agreement. You might know very well what’s in that document, but here’s the kicker: does your client? They might have signed it, but have they read it? Do they even know it exists? When you’re dealing with a community which may comprise over 100 owners, I can probably guarantee there are a few out there who have no idea what this document says or does.
Communicating the scope of your professional service to your client is key to setting – and then meeting – your client’s realistic expectations. If you can’t communicate that scope, then you probably don’t understand it yourself and it’s time to revisit your engagement document.
Strata managers might like to think about producing a short, readable, dot point list that can be circulated around the community, or placed on the community’s website.
Assuming that knowledge and understanding exists where it doesn’t can lead to the breakdown of an otherwise good professional relationship. You don’t know what your clients don’t know, so remember to communicate the basics:
(1) this is what you have engaged me to do
(2) this is what I’m doing, and
(3) this is what I can do, if you ask.