smiling Corinne Zudonyi

“It’s hot. What is that smell? It’s too cold in here. You’re too loud.”

Is it me, or do people whine a lot? Maybe we complain because it’s human nature to look for sympathy. Or maybe it’s because our expectations are too high. I don’t know what the reason is, but I’m sure managers can agree that complaints are all part of the job in facility services.

In this month’s cover story, we surveyed facility cleaning managers about areas of the building that garner the most complaints, some of the most common complaints they receive and even a few outlandish comments that cross their desks.

Although comments are sometimes unwarranted or frivolous, complaints can paralyze productivity. According to the study, 81 percent of departmental staffs spend up to 25 percent of their time responding to unplanned occupant comments every month. Managers will also get bogged down — 80 percent say complaints occupy a quarter of their time every month, many of which aren’t even cleaning related.

Unfortunately, there is no definitive way to eliminate complaints, but there are techniques to minimize them. First and foremost, listen. If similar complaints start to pile up, it might be the result of poor cleaning processes. Take a moment to consider what  benefits might come from a change in how cleaning is done.

There is the potential that the process isn’t to blame, it’s the execution. Ninety-six percent of managers surveyed agree that improving training for custodial staff was somewhat or very successful in reducing negative feedback from occupants.

Other times, cleaning might not have anything to do with it — the problem lies with the education of the building occupant. In this case, communication is key. Share cleaning frequencies, responsibilities and establish levels of expectations. Openly communicating and educating building occupants has been very successful at minimizing complaints for 83 percent of managers.

Even the cleaning products themselves can help minimize complaints — Internet of Things-equipped dispensers will send text alerts to custodians when stock is low. Workers can correct the problem before a complaint ever arises.

Despite the best intentions and extreme effort from managers, complaints are likely to come in. Take them in stride and use them to improve the department.