Today is National Community Manager Appreciation and a fitting time to look at how the term has come to include the role of the modern-day strata manager and to ensure today’s strata managers are given the appreciation they deserve. After all, the pandemic has proven just how essential they are to the continuity of our daily lives.
The day is a way to recognize and celebrate the efforts of those community managers committed to helping build, grow and manage a company’s brand or online community using social media and other tools to improve customer experiences. These people often hold titles such as digital specialist or social media coordinator. So far, it has not included your strata manager. I think this needs to change.
So how does the person who waits for quorum at your building’s annual general meeting fit this definition? It boils down to the word community. While your strata manager is there to work on behalf of a group of owners to protect their collective investment (i.e. an entire housing corporation or strata building), which is made up of a bunch of individually owned units, they are essentially looking after a specialized living environment involving a lot of different people with diverse needs, lifestyles and situations – a community.
Which is why the strata manager’s phone and email blew up March 2020 and has not stopped since. It was an immediate overnight shift that no one saw coming and therefore, could not be prepared for. As employees universally moved to home-based work, and parents grappled with school or childcare closures, the around-the-clock presence in residential buildings resulted in a strain on relationships, infrastructure, and services. Now every noise was heard, every flaw noticeable. Wear-and-tear applied at every layer.
Pre-COVID, the strata manager dealt with everything from community notices and bylaw infringements to budgets and special projects. Add COVID, and the strata manager became the ‘Dear Sally’ for complaints of babies crying, children bouncing balls, people playing piano fortissimo, gym closures, line-ups at elevators, slow Wi-Fi, neighbours not wearing masks, neighbours having visitors, and much more. Tack on an inundation of never-ending package deliveries requiring triaging, over-flowing garbage and recycling, inability to get elevator parts from manufacturers that were shut down for months on end, I don’t think anyone would contest the essential role of this group of people, which was deemed essential by provincial governments.
That covers the customer experience angle. But a property manager as an online social media whiz? Let’s circle back to that.
The new era of strata managers can navigate online conversations, provide customer support, process tickets, implement community guidelines, create and post notices – what they are doing is manage community on AND offline.
The property management industry as a whole, has really taken its time in terms of modernization, but there is an absolute greenfield of opportunity to integrate technology to connect people, bring them together and help build communities, improve accessibility to important information about their home or asset, and really optimize how they interact with their homes in a way that fits their daily life.
For the managers of these communities, the digitization of property management supports more meaningful communication, efficient processes, and the ability to work smarter. It is a demanding service that requires unusual hours, a multitude of meetings – many of which have moved virtually with the pandemic – and a juggling act of supporting the strata council and the common property while providing a level of customer experience to the entire community.
As the industry moves towards digitization, the role of the strata manager will continue to evolve into this idea of community management – providing customer experience online and off – and with that, comes the increasing demand to not just be comfortable with technology, but champion it.
At my company, where we aim to simplify residential community living through a combination of service and technology, we have strata managers working side-by-side with product and engineering teams to further the development of tools to support principles of connection, information, education, and protection of-and-for the community.
This is a new type of Community Manager and an essential one, at that. We want to thank the hundreds of managers out there supporting residential communities across BC and beyond. We recognize the essential work you do, often very much behind the scenes, and you deserve all the recognition in the world for your tireless efforts.
Joseph Nakhla is the CEO of Tribe Property Technologies, a BC-based national company digitizing the traditional property management industry with the integration of service and technology. Tribe employs over 200 people across Canada with its main office in downtown Vancouver, where they refer to their strata managers as Community Managers.