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Even with the best processes and protocols in place, can any building service contractor (BSC) honestly say they have never received a customer complaint? The truth is, sometimes duties are overlooked — trash isn’t emptied, a dispenser isn’t filled, a floor isn’t mopped. Maybe the cleaning technician had a valid reason for not completing the task. Perhaps it was completed, but a schedule deviation made it appear otherwise. Or maybe the customer didn’t realize a project was outside the scope of contracted work.  

Whatever the reason, complaints happen. What’s important is that they are handled quickly and efficiently to prevent the same complaint from reoccurring.  

Proper handling of complaints requires having an established process for doing so and communicating that process to customers. This system is often called “closing the circle” — following specific established steps from when a complaint is received through final communication of the solution to the client.  

However, communication should start before any complaint is made; the complete circle should be outlined to the client as part of the proposal. Letting potential clients know there is a process in place that is strictly adhered to tells them that if an issue arises, it will be dealt with promptly and professionally. 

Steps to Closing the Circle 

There are six steps BSCs should take whenever a complaint is received:  

Initial complaint. When a complaint is received, record information accurately, requesting additional details when necessary. Ask the client if someone can be dispatched to handle the problem. Usually, sending someone is unnecessary. However, offering to immediately solve the issue can go a long way toward improving customer satisfaction. Finally, reiterate the process used to handle the complaint. The person who signed the contract may already know the process, but it is likely to be a different person making the complaint.  

Dispatch to operations. The complaint should immediately be sent to the person in the operations department whose role it is to communicate with the cleaning technician. 

Investigation. This step starts with the operations department informing the cleaning worker of the complaint and asking what happened. It should never be automatically assumed to be the cleaner’s fault, as this is not always true. The point is not to accuse, which only breeds defensiveness and is counterproductive to getting the basic facts that led to the complaint. 

Cause. Once the facts are known, consider why the issue occurred, which might not simply be the task that was overlooked. Suppose, for example, a client calls mid-morning to complain that towel dispensers were not filled, and the trash wasn’t emptied in one restroom the previous night. When asked, the cleaning technician explained she had filled the dispenser and emptied the trash, but several employees were still in a meeting after her shift. Perhaps the employees used the facilities before leaving for home. 

Solution. This is where BSCs can suggest program adjustments to avoid future problems. Using the example above, if the client is aware of late meetings, an adjustment in the cleaning schedule may be needed. Or if cleaners notice several employees still working, they can leave extra supplies and send the customer contact a message informing them of the situation. BSCs should always ask for input from clients to find the solution that best fits their needs.  

Report to client. At the end of the investigative process, an email and a follow-up phone call should be sent to the client, outlining the solution(s) found to close the circle. 

Our customers know that we are not perfect. We are going to drop the ball on occasion. What cannot be tolerated are repetitive problems. By closing the circle, BSCs can have repeat customers instead of repeat complaints. 

Ron Segura, founder and president of Segura & Associates, brings over 55 years of experience in the cleaning industry. Ten of those years were spent overseeing the cleaning of over 4.5 million square feet of outsourced services for The Walt Disney Company. With 20 years of consulting, Ron has been assisting organizations to perform at maximum efficiencies, while raising the quality of service.