Tag Archives: Facility Managers

How Facility Managers Handle Occupant Complaints

Successfully confronting and resolving the complaints the facility management department is faced with on a daily basis falls in line with a quality management system (QMS) or “the whole plan, do, check, act cycle,” says Kit Tuveson, facility management consultant, Tuveson & Associates.

A key step in a QMS is gathering feedback. Facility managers can start by seeing what other departments within the larger organization might also be gathering employee feedback, so that the facility management department isn’t reinventing the wheel. “HR has employee surveys. IT has surveys,” Tuveson says. “There may be things going on that you can leverage and get support for.” He suggests starting small with some simple surveys vetted with occupants friendly to the facility management department.

Other resources to explore in creating a QMS are other facility managers and property managers, and educational modules from organizations such as BOMI and IFMA.

And, naturally, involve your in-house people and your vendors as well, he says. It is not likely that all the service providers touching the facility are going to align around a common QMS, so facility managers should establish some metrics that providers can report back on. And for any vendors who are not already doing QMS, make it a part of the specs and requirements going forward. “It’s not difficult but it might be complicated,” Tuveson says.

Contrary to a once popular perception, invisibility is not the hallmark of good facility management and will certainly not improve any situation around a complaint.

“The best facilities teams are out there engaging their customers, setting expectations, managing perceptions, and being really clear about what limits are, what affordability, processes and procedures are,” Tuveson says. “They don’t leave it up to the panoply of occupants to figure out for themselves because they will ask for the moon.”

FMs Minimize Time Spent on Complaints

68% of survey respondents said temperature was the single biggest complaint they receive from occupants, followed by restrooms (10%) and parking/grounds (5%).

How much of your department’s time is typically spent responding to occupant complaints or request every month? R = 317
Less than 25% 25% to less than 50% 50% or more
51% 33% 16%


What percentage of complaints or requests would you describe as purely subjective or frivolous? R=318
Less than 10% 10% to less than 25% 25% to less than 50% 50% or more
41% 38% 15% 6%


Filter Out Complaints With Work Order Systems

Have you had success with any of the following steps to minimize the time spent handling subjective or frivolous requests?

Complaints/Requests Very Successful Somewhat Successful Not Successful Not Tried
Automated work order systems R=135 48% 38% 4% 10%
Education of/ Communication with Occupants R=136 34% 62% 3% 1%
Training of Facility Staff R=134 43% 54% 2% 1%


Source for all: Building Operating Management Survey

America’s Funniest Building Occupant?

Readers shared their best complaint horror stories — and some that just made them chuckle. Every week we’ll post a new batch of stories at myfacilitiesnet.com/complaints so you can select a favorite. There’ll be space to share your story too. Here’s the first round.

User Error
“A professor complained about having no water in the building and complained all the way to the president of the college. Come to find out he had changed a faucet the evening before and never turned the water back on.”
“Director complained that locks and keys were not supplied/changed as requested. Mid level manager filed complaint, said lower level admin person had entered requests, and why was it not done. System showed that no requests were ever enteredExposed the weak link which was the person who said it was requested, who in fact didn’t ask for the work at all.”
“I’ve received multiple calls from different tenants regarding having no lights and when maintenance arrives all they needed to do was flip the light switch.”

Which one was your favorite? Vote at myfacilitiesnet.com/complaints

Temperature Complaints Are Most Common, Restroom Complaints A Distant Second

The single biggest complaint or request made to respondents of the Building Operating Management survey was temperature, with 68 percent of respondents saying this was their No. 1 issue, with restrooms coming in at a distant second at 10 percent. Temperature is also the largest daily source of complaints — 16 percent of respondents say they field a hot/cold call every day.

Facility managers are often more than a bit jaded in the temperature department. Iain Schlenkermann, director, Manassas facilities, with American Public University System, says he remembers one cold call that started out normally enough, with a technician going down to the space armed with an IR gun, ready to educate the local occupants. But the temp calls started rolling in every half hour and cranking the thermostat was having no effect. By the time the HVAC tech could diagnose the problem, it was 52 degrees in the space.

“A lot of times we thought they were crying wolf,” Schlenkermann says of hot/cold calls in the past, “but we’ve gotten better at investigating temperature reports. And we refer to them as employees ‘reporting information’ rather than ‘complaints.’”

Creature Comforts

Even though the primary response to a complaint should be to try to be responsive and find a suitable solution, sometimes you have to draw a line. For Kristina Descoteaux, vice president with Colliers International, the line was drawn at the Charmin. She recalls a time when the president’s assistant at an owner-occupied building where she was the property manager called with a particular request. Could Descoteaux please go to a drugstore and purchase Charmin for the president’s bathroom because the standard-issue toilet paper was too harsh? It was early in her career, and for a second she hesitated. Is that what petty cash is for, she remembers wondering.

Of course, making TP runs was not going to happen, but Descoteaux worked with the assistant to find a suitable alternative that could be stocked via normal channels just for the executive floor, with the overage directly billed back to the president’s office.

“If a tenant comes in with a special request, it really comes down to what you can run through the building as an operating expense and what really needs to be billed back,” she says.

Another time, she had someone saying that the space was making her sick. In response to the complaints, Descoteaux had the space and the ductwork cleaned, and two different environmental agencies came in and said the space was fine. But the individual kept complaining. Finally they had to sit down with one of the lease administrators for the account to say they’d done everything that the lease required and there was nothing to indicate anything was wrong with the space, which was accepted by the tenant. “It’s all about how well you can communicate that you’ve done all you can,” she says.

Having policies in place to dictate both the escalation and de-escalation steps when responding to a complaint is important, says Kit Tuveson, a facility management consultant, Tuveson & Associates. “Without proper policies, the FM team has no power to say no and everyone else has the power to say yes,” he says. “There has to be some prioritization, some gating, and some feedback. And anybody who wants to buck that system has to get their management’s authorization.”

Let’s Connect. Collaborate. And Partner Together! Learn how to not only manage occupant complaints, but minimize or eliminate them! Info@setpointsystems.com

Wildlife Can Be Popular Or Pests, But Either Can Cause Occupant Complaints

Pesky wildlife can cause occupant complaints that the facilities management team must handle. But sometimes, wildlife complaints aren’t based on pests, but popularity.

Managing relationships is not limited to humans, when you’re the FM. Canada geese can be pests, so you’d think a story involving them would be about complaints around their noise or waste. But Joan Woodard, president and CEO of Simons & Woodard Inc., has the opposite problem. Her tenants love their geese and ducks, almost too much. A series of five man-made lakes at one of her properties in northern California has become a very popular stopover for migrating birds, with a pair of geese and some ducks routinely using it as a nesting ground.

In their concern and exuberance for their wilderness mascots, Woodard’s tenants have had rather unusual requests. The lakes have a bulkhead that’s about six inches above the water, and the tenants get distressed that the babies will not be able to clear the barrier. One tenant even went as far as standing in one of the lakes with his pant legs rolled up, attempting to scoop the ducklings onto dry land, which of course would not do — for the ducklings, himself, or the property management firm.

One strategy Woodard uses to try to stem the seasonal requests is to issue a newsletter to the tenants educating them on the importance of leaving the wildlife undisturbed. Using the newsletter, they distributed information about little ramps and small stone steps that had been constructed for the ducks after the wading incident, so they might navigate the lakes with ease. Of course, the birds don’t actually use them. “The tenants were happy we took that extra step, but then they wanted management to instruct the ducks on how to use the ramp,” she says.

Though they declined that request, Woodard says they were happy to try to accommodate the requests around the geese and ducks. “From the moment they become tenants, we’re trying to make them feel this is their daytime home and that they’re part of a community,” she says.

Let’s Connect. Collaborate. And Partner Together! Learn how to not only manage occupant complaints, but minimize or eliminate them! Info@setpointsystems.com

How Facility Managers Can Handle Occupant Complaints

Did you hear the one about the employee who noticed an ant on a raisin on the floor and instead of picking it up and throwing it away, left a note for the facility manager, who happened to be out of the office for three days? Guess how many ants he found when he got back? Or how about the one where it took an IAQ study to mollify the lawyer who insisted he could smell cigarette smoke? And then there’s that old chestnut: the toilet paper is too rough, or there’s not enough of it, or there’s too much of it. Knowing how to handle occupant complaints is a key skill for facility managers.

Of course you’ve heard these, and you probably have a stack of stories just like them. Maybe funnier. Maybe worse. But facility managers know that complaints are no joke. Attended to willy-nilly, they can multiply endlessly and suck up all your time. Ignored, they can breed resentment, even bigger complaints, and the perception that you’re not doing a very good job. Dealing with complaints, especially the frivolous kind, takes strategy, even cunning. They take a serious attention to customer service, some dabbling in psychology, and rock solid policies.

Recently Building Operating Management surveyed readers on complaints, asking you to share some of your stories and your best tricks. And boy did you respond — from baby geese wrangling to elevator scheduling to a whole bunch of stories we can’t quite print, here are some tales from the trenches. And, more importantly, strategies for handling complaints as productively as possible. (Click here to read some comical, frustrating, or otherwise memorable occupant complaints, as well as practical responses from facility managers.)

Kids in the Hall

Sometimes Larry Virts, local president of BOMA Corpus Christi and property manager with REOC San Antonio, says he feels more like a high school principal. He inherited a tenant mix with glaring differences in work and life styles. In one corner, a call center making up about 25 percent of the building’s population, filled with very young employees who are loud, brash, and often not used to working in a professional setting — at least as evidenced by their behavior. In the other corner, everybody else.

And worse, the call center was clogging the elevators. The tight scheduling typical of a call center was causing this set of employees to enter and leave the facility in large groups. Where other tenants had been always been able to get on an elevator in 40 seconds, now they were waiting two, three, or more minutes — an eternity. The complaints rolled in. When Virts hired on, he resolved to improve the situation.

“The tenant had assumed that complaints made about them were because of their appearance and their loudness, their unrestrained youth,” Virts says. “I think they just assumed that it was a personality clash, never realizing they could make it better.”

After first cultivating a relationship with the call center’s management, Virts says he approached them in a calm manner to find a reasonable solution to the issue. They were very receptive and a compromise was found in staggering start times and break times to relieve long waits for the elevator. It has helped the situation, some, he says.

Up next in this 6 Day series:

Part 2: Wildlife Can Be Popular Or Pests, But Either Can Cause Occupant Complaints
Part 3: Survey: Temperature Complaints Are Most Common, Restroom Complaints A Distant Second
Part 4: Successfully Managing Occupant Complaints Often Involves Determining Underlying Reasons For Complaints
Part 5: Ignoring Occupant Complaints Can Be Tempting, But Often Leads To Further Problems
Part 6: Survey Results: How Facility Managers Handle Occupant Complaints

Let’s Connect. Collaborate. And Partner Together! Learn how to not only manage occupant complaints, but minimize them! Info@setpointsystems.com

How Facility Managers Can Integrate Systems In Existing Buildings

How Facility Managers Can Integrate Systems In Existing Buildings by: Jim Sinopoli

When it comes to the idea of integrating systems in existing buildings, facility managers may find themselves torn. On the one hand, there are solid, bottom-line reasons to integrate systems in existing buildings. On the other, there is a range of problems that don’t exist in new construction, from legacy systems to missing information. But those problems don’t mean that facility managers should forget about integration in existing buildings. Good planning can go a long way to getting around those challenges.

It’s important to keep in mind that systems integration can deliver tangible benefits in existing buildings. For example, by functionally linking two systems, facility managers can obtain system capabilities that neither system could do by itself. The best example of this process is the integration that takes place with the fire alarm system. The fire alarm triggers the HVAC system to control smoke and ventilation, the access control system to provide egress for occupant evacuation, the elevator system to either bring the cabs to the bottom floor or, depending on the height of the building, provide elevators for evacuation in a high-rise. Without the automated systems’ integration, each of these components would have to be separately and manually adjusted. The integration provides functionality that no one system can, does so automatically, and the facility and its occupants benefit. The theory is, essentially, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Another reason to integrate systems is to combine the system data. The facility manager isn’t limited to simply looking at data from one building system; rather, a database with multiple systems is created so holistic data can be analyzed and correlated, and useful building metrics can be developed that will lead to enhanced operations. This type of unified database is generally used in a truly integrated building management system. Bringing all the facility data into a unified database architecture and putting into practice standard methodologies and processes to manage the data has multiple benefits. Building data are more widely available, sharable, and accessible. There’s also improvements in archiving, preservation, and retention of data, as well as improved integrity of the data. From a cost basis, a single database considerably reduces the cost and support for synchronizing separate databases. It provides a common platform for data mining, data exchange, and enterprise data access.

Today’s systems integration includes all of the control systems in a building, but also encompasses facility management systems and business systems, and eventually will extend to utility grids.

Integration in Existing Buildings

For new construction systems, integration is addressed in MasterFormat Division 25, created in 2004, with the resulting product being construction documents for integrated automation similar to specifications and drawings from other design disciplines.

While new construction may have higher visibility, the fact is that there are many more existing buildings than new construction projects, and there is no reason why existing properties can’t benefit from systems integration. The financial impact of improving the performance of an existing building and adding appropriate technology amenities can be compelling. The investment in an existing building is returned in reduced operating and energy costs, lower cost for tenant improvements, higher rents, higher asset valuation, and a positive impact on capital planning.

Existing buildings come with baggage, however. They already have building systems installed. It’s likely that older buildings may have automation systems using proprietary or legacy network protocols which will need to be migrated to open protocols. Typically this means the use of gateways or some middleware to translate protocols.

There are other challenges. Sometimes the documentation on the building systems — such as the original as-built drawings — may be unavailable. Cable pathways, if needed, may be difficult to find. And there may be organizational issues involved with coordinating facility management and IT.