To quote Dr. Michael Ong, “Good Risk Management fosters vigilance in times of calm and instills discipline in times of crisis.” If the Community Association Managers (CAMs) heeds this advice, managing risks associated with casualty loss can be a matter of procedure: Triage → Mitigate → File Claim → Restore. For the homeowner, however, in times of crisis, the path is not so linear and can be riddled with emotion.
As an example, a homeowner experiences a leak in her condominium unit from her neighbor’s bathtub, and she reaches out to the CAM for help. The CAM instinctively triages the loss, asking the pertinent questions to determine maintenance responsibility, severity of the damage, etc. It’s decided that the condominium needs to intervene, and service providers are dispatched to mitigate and assess the damage, ensure the cause of the leak is repaired, and to provide a restoration estimate. Meanwhile, the homeowner is in full crisis-mode with water damage to most her most valuable asset and she doesn’t feel that she’s receiving the anticipated ongoing support from the CAM to calm her angst. While the CAM’s experience tells her there is a lot of waiting between Triage and Restore, the homeowner feels kept out of the loop and emotions start to run high. Below are a few common emotional responses the CAM may encounter throughout the process:
- “I haven’t heard from you since the service provider cut out the drywall from my home. What have you been doing to get my unit restored? Can you please provide an update?”
- “The last time we spoke you said you received the proposal and were waiting on the Board to sign it. What is taking so long?”
- “If you were doing your job, this would be done by now. I want to bring this to the attention of the board!”
Though the CAM is well-prepared to handle this loss and has everything well in-hand, the homeowner feels their crisis isn’t being taken seriously. Rather than becoming defensive because you know you’ve done your job (after all you followed your linear path to managing a casualty loss), understand that you’ve neglected to address the homeowner’s emotional needs along the way. Since the first approach to risk management may not have hit the mark, here is how to manage an emotional response in the aftermath:
- Listen: When receiving an emotional response from someone, I recommend doing more listening than talking. Take notes while they are speaking so that you can address all concerns when the time comes.
- Stay Calm & Empathize: Take nothing personally. This experience is obviously very affecting to the homeowner and, perhaps, her family. Instead, explain how you have experienced similar frustrations as a show of solidarity. Remember: We are all entitled to feel our emotions. Rather than judging them for their emotional response, put yourself in their position and help them as you’d like to be helped.
- Acknowledge & Apologize: Let them know they’ve been heard and apologize for the role you played leading up to this emotional response. I know, I know. You Triaged → Mitigated → Filed Claim → Restored. But think back. Was there one phone call you could have made to the owner to avoid any of this? Signs point to yes.
- Manage Expectations: Make a mutually agreed upon plan with the homeowner and set expectations for the future management of this issue, including when and how the homeowner can expect to hear from you again.
To draw from Dr. Ong’s reference to good risk management, the CAM’s risk management strategy must involve vigilance before a loss and discipline during the loss. In addition to meeting the homeowner where they are with regard to their emotional response, consider revising your risk management strategy to include frequent communication with the homeowner. In doing so, you will have let them know they haven’t been relegated to your back burner and determined if there are any new developments that may require your attention, further strengthening your risk management strategy.
By Kimberlee Young, CMCA
Kimberlee is a portfolio manager with Vanguard Management Associates, Inc. in Germantown, MD. She prides herself on process improvement, technological enhancements, a providing customized homeowner experience. She is currently working towards her Professional Community Association Manager (PCAM) designation. Outside of the community association industry, Kimberlee volunteers as a puppy raiser and board member for Hero Dogs Inc. to support their mission of providing service dogs for local veterans and first responders.