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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, and 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."