Tag Archives: Occupant Complaints

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

Ignoring Occupant Complaints Can Be Tempting, But Often Leads To Further Problems

With all that goes into unpacking a complaint, facility managers might be tempted to just avoid addressing the issue altogether and hope it goes away. “Blatantly disregarded. Done,” said one survey respondent when asked for strategies in reducing frivolous complaints. Facility managers might be motivated by a variety of factors when choosing to ignore a complaint, says Tuveson. To be clear, ignoring complaints is not the norm in the industry, but it’s also not unheard of, especially if the complaint is deemed frivolous. Tuveson offers four reasons facility managers might “not respond in a way that’s in the best interest of their organization.”

First, the culture in the facility management organization might not be focused at all on customer service. Second, there might be no policy or procedure for addressing complaints. Instead of addressing the complaint, the FM might ignore it until someone significant enough in the parent organization starts complaining.

Third, acknowledging the complaint might be an embarrassment and the facility manager doesn’t want to personally look bad or make the team look bad. Lastly, the facility manager might worry there’s no budget or other resources to address complaints, and so avoids them.

“Most of those are perceptions,” Tuveson says. “It’s not uncommon to have a facility management or service organization saying no before they understand what (the issue is), because it looks like a Pandora’s box.”

But ignoring complaints is at best a short-term solution. “Ignoring the frivolous complaints does work in the short term, since the complaint comes off of today’s to-do list, but sometimes ignoring the problem won’t make it go away,” says Bob Cottrell, principal with Facilities Management Partners. “I found that often the best way to deal with it is not to deal with the frivolous complaint, instead deal with the frivolous complainer.” A nice chat, perhaps explaining why there is no solution, or that the solution is cost-prohibitive will go a long way, he says.

Schlenkermann says conversations with complainers often yield potential avenues for a resolution. “Any time that a user has a complaint, they usually come to the table with a suggestion on how to fix it,” he says, so these are modified and incorporated any time it makes sense. “Listening to their suggestions, incorporating their suggestions towards a resolution typically resolves a lot for us.”

Ignoring complaints can also inspire facility occupants to creative solutions. “If you ignore a complaint and it goes away, it’s probably because somebody fixed it and you won’t like their fix but you won’t know about it,” says Mazur-Stommen. “It’s like toddlers. If it’s too quiet, you should worry.

“Or they now hate you,” she says. “They just think about it every time they see you — there’s that guy that didn’t listen to me. Unaddressed complaints do not go away.”

And in the end, fielding complaints, frivolous or not, is just part of the job description. “We’re in a business where we’re providing service and our offices are the complaint department,” says Virts. “If you take it personally, if you’re not tuned up to handle people’s complaints and dissatisfactions, then you’re really in the wrong business.”

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

Via: http://www.facilitiesnet.com/

Successfully Managing Occupant Complaints Often Involves Determining Underlying Reasons For Complaints

It is much more palatable to think of complainers in a facility as simple cranks who are avoiding doing their real jobs, who get some sort of perverse joy out of filling out work orders. But there can be a lot of layers behind a complaint, especially one that looks frivolous on the surface. Successfully managing occupant complaints often requires digging deeper to find the underlying reasons.

Take this story, as told by Susan Mazur-Stommen, behavior and human dimensions program director, ACEEE, about a string of complaints that occurred at a new administrative building for a federal renewable energy laboratory. The facility was daylit and some of the people located near the windows started complaining about glare. But when they were offered cubicles away from the windows, the complaints disappeared.

“Their real issue was status,” Mazur-Stommen says, because in the new space they had lost their enclosed offices. But at some level they realized that HR was not going to be receptive to their perceived slight and instead tried to change their situation by complaining about glare, which is an ergonomics issue and must be treated seriously, she says.

When addressing complaints, it’s smart for facility managers to take a moment to try to peel back any additional layers, just so time and resources are being allocated properly, says Woodard. “In this business, sometimes we think we know the answer and can get the problem off our back quickly, but it turns out that wasn’t the problem,” she says. “There are times that you’re halfway done trying to solve it the way you would solve it, and you realize that’s not the problem at all. And now you’ve wasted all this energy and you have to start all over again.”

In understanding what is really going on, it’s also important to see who is involved and who is labeling the complaint as frivolous, says Mazur-Stommen. “Oftentimes, the building engineers are male and the complainants are female, and the situations get written into very gendered frames of reference,” she says.

Temperature wars are a place this comes to light. To paint it with a broad brush, men have set the standards for thermal comfort in commercial buildings, and cultural norms put men is a very standardized business uniform. “You have high summer and you have men wearing wool slacks, and undershirts, and socks, and closed-toed shoes,” Mazur-Stommen says. Meanwhile, women’s attire varies more to match the demands of the seasons. “To be specific, it’s cold in the building because we’re cooling men who are not dressed appropriately for the season. We’re spending a lot of money to let men wander around in wool slacks.”

When facility managers receive complaints they perceive to be frivolous, it would be ideal to take a step back and evaluate who is making the complaint and what else might be going on, as the individual might be trying to address feelings of lack of status, or low morale, or not being heard, by trying to control their environment. “It’s not the building engineer’s job to empower people,” Mazur-Stommen says, “But if you’re asking where these complaints are coming from, it’s a ‘kick the dog’ phenomenon.”

Frivolous is in the eyes of the beholder as well, she says. Ramps for ducklings might be the poster-child for a frivolous request, but only from a certain perspective. “Is it frivolous because it’s not about dollars and cents, and is instead about meaning and values and comfort?” Mazur-Stommen says. “Those are what makes us human. A building is more than just a building envelope and systems for heating and cooling. A building is a social structure, it is a community.”

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