Customer service is a non-negotiable in the restaurant business. If customers are not taken care of at their local McDonald’s, they will go across the street and eat at Burger King, A & W, Quiznos, or a host of other fast food restaurants.

Customer service is a non-negotiable in the restaurant business. If customers are not taken care of at their local McDonald’s, they will go across the street and eat at Burger King, A & W, Quiznos, or a host of other fast food restaurants. It is imperative for these organizations to take care of their customers, or they will leave and go somewhere else. The same does not go for the strata condominium. If a resident or owner is not happy with the service they receive from staff in their strata condominium, there are no viable, or easy options. Unless the resident is a strata council member, their concerns may not only never be heard, but the cause of the poor customer service would probably remain unchanged.

How would a normal property manager deal with a customer service complaint? It is impossible, and unfair to generalize but we can discuss the environment and circumstances a property manager must deal with. First, the property manager has no obligation to speak with a resident. He can inform them to speak with their owner. This is a smart tactic for him, as he can reduce his workload, stall the complaint, and possibly even dissuade the resident from having to go through ‘another hoop’.

Second, the property manager is only required to be in the building for the monthly strata meeting. All other communications can be dealt with by email. This is an impersonal and easy way for the property manager to deal with the complaint. A typical strata property manager with a large portfolio may field 100 emails per day. Not a great deal of time and concentration can be spent on any one issue otherwise the property manager would quickly fall behind. From a time management perspective, it just makes sense to reply with a “we’ll look into it” but the issue can easily get forgotten. Sitting in a office far away from the building, the property manager cannot know the implications on the culture of a strata condominium complex when a complaint does not get dealt with.

An easy way for the property manager to deal with a customer service complaint is to fire the staff. Many concierge staff are hired through a third party. This eliminates the liability of the strata corporation, and the necessary administration that hiring employees requires. It requires little investment on behalf of the property manager, and it may seem a negligible loss to him.

But what causes a staff member to have poor customer service abilities in the first place? The reasons are varied, although a look into what it’s like to work in a strata condominium building can help shed some light on the problem. The specific challenges of working in a strata corporation can be incredibly stressful, frustrating, and disappointing for a staff member who wants to make a difference for their residents.

For instance, the concierge staff member must do the bidding of their immediate supervisor. Unless this supervisor has an in-depth understanding of strata, building maintenance, and a personal relationship with the property manager, the staff member’s knowledge will be limited as well. This classic bottleneck of information, power and responsibility is the crux of the reason they are often ineffective in helping residents with their problems. These staff members are on a ‘need to know’ basis, so they are often unsure of what to do. It is also under the guise that from a legal standpoint, only the property manager can deal with any issues.

So, most complaints are forwarded to the property manager, and the circle of ineffectiveness begins. The resident then gets angry because their problems aren’t getting solved and it is easiest for them to take it out on the staff member who is paid to sit there at the desk. The irony is that he is unable to do anything about it for fear that his supervisor, or property manager will fire him, or reprimand him for going above his duties. He is also not given the information and authority to confidently make decisions that can benefit residents.

The residents and owners soon become the enemy, and the concierge staff is left in a difficult situation.

It is necessary to create a culture of communication and trust between the on-site staff, the property manager, and the residents/owners. Often the concierge is the only staff member from 5 pm to 8 am and therefore can hold the key to exceptional customer service – but only if he is given the power, authority, and responsibility to do it.


The one thing you can count on in a children’s animated movie is that it was made by adults. And when something is made from adults who want to send a message, there can be many little pearls of wisdom for the taking.

The one thing you can count on in a children’s animated movie is that it was made by adults. Mr. Peabody & Sherman is a take from the Bullwinkle series, and features a super intelligent dog and his adopted son Sherman. The main story-line of Mr. Peabody is that he had invented a time machine, which had the ability to take its navigators through any time in the past. Commence suspending disbelief! Without giving anything crucial away from the story, I can tell you a main part of the plot and still give you lots of room to use your imagination for the rest.

Unlike a movie critic, I want to specifically speak about a crucial moment in the movie that inspired my post tonight. Young Sherman finds himself at the hands of a (egads!) female bully. As most intelligent dogs do, Mr. Peabody invited the girl, and her parents over to their house to get to know each other. The movie then takes a harried turn, and the rest of the movie is a rollercoaster ride of time travel and intentional meetings with famous people throughout modern history. By that time though, Mr. Peabody had charmed, impressed, and thoroughly entertained the girl’s parents to the point of a lifetime friendship. Sherman, in the meantime, was showing the young girl who he really was, and through some challenges the two eventually learned to appreciate one another.

It was a rather subtle inference to the power of taking personal responsibility for our disagreements and doing our best to set them straight, however that may look. It reminded me of a miraculous 24 hours that I was fortunate enough to witness. Last night I got a call from Steve (not his real name) which was quite odd because it had been so long since I talked to Steve I couldn’t remember who he was. Turned out I had never spoke to him on the phone before but had arranged, through text, a washing machine repair. Somehow he felt I was the person to call about his problems.

I remember a time not too long ago when I would angrily remind the person that they, as a resident, must go through their owner for any problems and that those owners in turn must speak with the Property Manager to get their concerns addressed. Instead, I chose to listen to him. He was telling me that he had a neighbour who was playing his music so loud at all hours that it was starting to affect his mental health.

Steve shared with me that once he complained to the concierge about it, who then promptly came up to the neighbour’s suite, and requested he turn down the music. I assume he told the gentleman it was his neighbour in turn that complained; the neighbour then proceeded to come out on his balcony and yell the most awful obscenities at his neighbour to the point that Steve was actually afraid.

I got all the story straight with him by asking him all the questions that one would ask to understand the full back-and-forth. I then began to explain to him what he could consider doing, and that it might not be easy, but it will be simple. He needed to go to his neighbour, knock on his door, apologize for going through the concierge last time, and share with him how the music affects his ability to get up at 5am for work.

Steve promptly told me he couldn’t do that because his neighbour is 6’2 and seems dangerous. Here’s where most Property Managers, in fear of liability, shut their mouth, and send a $250 bylaw fine to the owner of the neighbour. This has also serious implications for the relationships involved but I will save that for yet another conversation!

After Steve told me that he would do it if he had a recorder, and some sort of weapon on him, including a phone to call the police. Standard procedure for most of us I would imagine. I then proceeded to explain to Steve who he must be for this to work. Despite my fears of getting too philosophical and losing him, I trudged on with painting him a picture. I said that he cannot go there with a negative intention in his mind and body because his neighbour will sense that and react. Instead, go there with a smile on your face, and make sure your body language is inviting and not confrontational. Knock on that door, tell him that you have to get up at 5 am, and that the music really affects your ability to enjoy your suite.

Steve said he would do it. I said goodbye and let it go, without knowing what would happen but knowing in my heart of hearts that it couldn’t get worse. I went about my day at work today and was pleased with the connections I made with workmates and residents alike. Towards the end of the work day, I was in the concierge office and heard an argument going on and decided to come out to investigate. A gentleman was complaining about the attitude the concierge was giving him, and there was an argument between them. Another gentleman was leaning on the desk and sheepishly looking like “please make it stop”. He instead said “Jason, it worked”.

I said “you must be Steve”. He said “Yeah!” I asked him what happened. He said “the music started again, I felt so nervous I thought I was going to get sick but I went out to the door and knocked. He came out and said “the music is too loud isn’t it?” Steve said he didn’t say a word, and just nodded his head. The neighbour said “sorry man, I’ll turn it down.”

I got the power of personal responsibility for Steve, his neighbour, and even me. And I got the power of a dog named Mr. Peabody to change the world one human at a time.


Although the number of strata high-rises in Surrey might pale in comparison to our slightly bigger neighbour Vancouver, the opportunities to do business within these complexes are no less substantial.

Although the number of strata high-rises in Surrey might pale in comparison to our slightly bigger neighbour Vancouver, the opportunities to do business within these complexes are no less substantial. By the time Surrey becomes the largest city in British Columbia, the skyline of the city will be markedly different with over 30 high rises instead of 7 or 8. This makes for a huge opportunity to do business within a very unique, high concentration, and high-yield consumer market: the residential strata high-rise condominium.

The needs in this market are significant, and immediate. The people who live in these buildings have several problems in their suites every month, yet often have no knowledge of a contact person to help them. If they must resort to the yellow pages, or the internet, they not only could be paying a $150 minimum charge, they could also be inviting a complete stranger into their home to help them. The company may be located in Vancouver and as such, would undoubtedly need to charge for the travel time.

What if they have two problems in their suite? They then have to ask two different trades people to come, and each may charge their own minimum charges, even though the jobs may take no more than 5 minutes each. So the resident just puts up with their leaky sink,or often waits until they can’t stand it anymore, or tries to fix it themselves unsuccessfully.

Is there any solution to this conundrum? Absolutely. One must only understand the unique inner workings of the strata high-rise condominium to best advertise one’s services. Although an on-site building maintenance staff may be employed to take care of common areas such as hallways, and parkade, the owners of the individual suites, and their residents, are meant to fend for themselves for anything inside their suite door. So that means that anything from garburators, shower heads, sinks and tubs, toilets, lights, and painting, just as examples, are 95% of the time the owner’s responsibility to repair. Who are these people going to call when their toilet is plugged?

A broad majority of these buildings house a concierge staff person, or an employee of the strata whose job it is to help residents with any questions, or problems in their suite. These concierge staff often have carte-blanche authority to pass on to owners the name and phone number of a company or individual that can solve their issues. Would you like that person or company to be you?

It can often be surprisingly easy to have your name be a part of the preferred trades list within a strata high-rise condominium. A handyman in particular could thrive in this setting with just some basic knowledge of electrical, plumbing, painting and carpentry. Imagine having a client base where you drive to one location, bring a box of tools, and service 10 customers in one day. Now that’s a smart business model!

-Written for submission into the Surrey Board of Trade newsletter