Ignoring "Frivolous" Complaints Won't Make Problems Go Away For Facility Managers

  November 5, 2014

Although facility managers sometimes ignore complaints, that strategy 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.

Iain Schlenkermann, director, Manassas facilities, with American Public University System, says conversations with complainers often yield potential avenues for a resolution that will work for all the parties. "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 Susan Mazur-Stommen, behavior and human dimensions program director, ACEEE. "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 Larry Virts, local president of BOMA Corpus Christi and property manager with REOC San Antonio. "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."

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