The FM Professional

Dealing with Facilities Management Complaints

David Spence
September 1st, 2014

5 Tricks for Handling Complaints

1.) Don’t Ignore Them

According to article author Naomi Millán, FMs may not respond to a complaint for a variety of reasons: poor customer service skills, embarrassment that the problem occurred in the first place, budgetary concerns, etc. But if you don’t address the problem, your coworkers might take things into their own hands and provide a fix that isn’t safe or effective in the long run. To ensure not only office happiness but also safety and comfort, acknowledge each complaint, instead of ignoring some and responding to others.

2.) Lend a Sympathetic Ear

Being sympathetic to the person complaining can go a long way in helping them feel better, even when there’s little that you can do. On the MyFacilitiesNet forum, one FM tells the story of a woman who moved into an apartment right next to a soccer stadium. The woman was unhappy about the stadium lights being on during events. Naturally, there was nothing that could be done about the situation. But according to the FM, having someone simply show up and listen to the woman air her grievances helped her feel better.

3.) Know Where to Draw the Line

Facilities managers field a variety of complaints. Some minor, some major. Some practical, others not so much. Have policies and procedures in place to help guide the response process. This will assist your team in prioritizing and deciding what is and isn’t your responsibility. Noise from the copier next door to the conference room being too loud during meetings? That’s a valid complaint. The hum from the air conditioner distracting a worker? Annoying for them, yes, but it’s not as pressing an issue–at least, it probably isn’t. This brings up another important thing to consider:

4.) Dig Deep for the Issues

At times, what appears to be a straightforward complaint may be masking something much deeper. It’s key to try and understand the true depth of the problem. Otherwise, your solution may not be an adequate fix. Millán’s story recounts how one group of workers at a renewable energy lab were placed near windows in a day-lit office. They complained about glare from the sun, but looking into the problem, management found that they were actually suffering from feelings of status loss. Previously, they’d been in enclosed offices before moving into the new space. (The problem was solved by providing the workers with cubicles away from the windows.)

5.) Seek Feedback

This tip can be found across many of my previous blogs—but it’s so important, it bears repeating once more: Seek feedback. Talk to your coworkers/customers. Send out surveys. You won’t know how well you’re doing unless you do. This will help you patch up small issues before they have the chance to grow into something requiring formal complaints. With a survey, you can also measure your colleagues’ satisfaction with how you respond to complaints, too. (If you need some ideas on how to create a survey, see some of these guides we’ve posted in the past.)

What’s your team’s protocol for responding to complaints? And what are some of the most memorable complaints you’ve received?

photo credit: bark via photopin cc