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Managing client relations – Yes versus No

Service: Property & Asset Management | Contact: Chandra Hughes

Anyone that works in facilities management will be familiar with pressure. Clients and occupiers understandably want issues solved instantly, and to know what is being done to address them. As the person on the end of the phone when an issue arrives – often the first time the two people have had an actual conversation – it is the FM that has to bear the brunt of any displeasure.

The tendency of course is to try and calm the situation by saying “yes” and agreeing to whatever is being demanded. This can be the quickest way to mollify the individual, but not necessarily the best way to solve the problem. So, with that in mind, how can an FM keep their clients happy AND address any issues, without driving themselves mad in the process?

Give ‘Yes’ a chance . . .

Like the Scouts, “Be Prepared” is an FM’s motto. Doing the homework, having the right protocols and anticipating issues before they arise – and knowing the plan of action when they do – are the keys to success. This holds not just for emergency situations, but day-to-day management too. When a problem arises, a good FM will not only have an issue-specific plan to resolve it, but also the structure in place to make sure the everyday activity looks after itself while the focus is elsewhere. FMs with the right processes greatly increase the options available to them, and with that comes the opportunity to say “yes”.

But say “No” if necessary

Not everything can be solved instantly, and an FM needs to be honest with the client. This might involve a difficult conversation, but tension can be relieved by presenting alternative options. If a problem is going to take longer to address, try and find a short-term fix; if possible, give the reasons why there will be a delay. Which brings us to . . .

. . . Communication

Relaying bad news will at times be unavoidable. That, unfortunately, is the FMs lot in life. But people are more forgiving if they feel like they are being kept in the loop on progress. Explain what is happening and give an honest appraisal of progress. Clients will be disappointed but understanding if they are given a realistic time frame for the problem to be solved. Expectation management is a vital skill, and communication is part and parcel of being a good FM. Over-promise at your peril.

The right team

When an issue arises, it is essential to have absolute trust in the people who will be helping to resolve it. Like the plans and protocols, this is something best done in advance, and applies to both the immediate team and the on-the-ground contractors. Choose contractors that suit the assets being managed and where they are situated; location-specific knowledge is vital in an emergency situation. Find a contractor that suits the size of the business – SMEs can get lost amid the large providers, while smaller companies might not have the capacity to reach as needed. But trust in the contractors’ abilities is key.


Clients and occupiers will have their own priorities; where possible solve these first and the more minor irritations become less of an issue. A broken service lift can wait as long as the main elevators are working. A single flickering light in a meeting room, while ostensibly less of a problem, is likely to cause more antagonism than a single out-of-action toilet. Find the critical path to solving the problem – what needs to be done, and in what order – and enact it as quickly as possible. If the situation changes, be flexible enough to adapt the approach.

Be broad-shouldered

As the point-of-contact, complaints and worse will often be directed towards the FM. This isn’t fair, but it’s also a reality of the job. Do not take it personally – clients and occupiers are venting their frustrating on the only person who can resolve it for them – remain calm, and try to answer their questions where possible. Equally, you don’t have to take unwarranted abuse. Addressing the problem is the priority, but once an issue has been resolved, and you are unhappy with how you have been treated, raise the issue with the relevant management.

Key Contact

Chandra Hughes


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