Yes versus no

Chandra Hughes [square]FMs under pressure often say ‘yes’ to mollify the client or occupier’s demands, but it’s not always the best answer, says Chandra Hughes.

Clients and occupiers understandably want issues solved instantly and, at the end of the phone, it’s often the FM that has to bear the brunt of any displeasure.

The tendency is to calm the situation by saying “yes” and agreeing to whatever is being demanded. This can be the quickest way to mollify the person, but not necessarily the best way to solve the problem. 

So, how can FMs keep their clients happy and address any issues, without driving themselves mad in the process?

Give ‘Yes’ a chance 

Like the Boy Scouts, ‘Be prepared’ is an FM’s motto. Doing the homework, having the right protocols and predicting issues before they arise – and knowing the plan of action when they do – are keys to success. This is true for emergency situations and day-to-day management. 

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 increase the options available to them and also the opportunities 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 presenting alternative options can relieve tension. If a problem is going to take longer to address, 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 sometimes be unavoidable. But people are more forgiving if they’re kept in the loop. Present 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 of being a good FM. Over-promise at your peril.

The right team

Have absolute trust in the people who will be helping to resolve an issue. Like plans and protocols, this is best done in advance, and applies to the immediate team and 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. Find a contractor that suits the size of the business and have trust in their abilities.

Prioritise

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 lifts 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. 

Be broad-shouldered

As the point of contact, complaints will often be directed at the FM. This isn’t fair, but it’s also a reality of the job; clients and occupiers will vent their frustration on the only person who can resolve it. 

Do not take it personally, and remember you don’t have to suffer unwarranted abuse, but retain your composure and try to answer their questions where possible. People will respond better if you remain calm, and giving honest answers and realistic timescales will go a long way to defusing many situations.

There are no hard-and-fast rules in FM – every day will present new, unforeseeable challenges – but making the right preparations and putting effective protocols in place will give you the confidence you need to address effectively whatever issues may arise.  

Chandra Hughes is director of FM at property consultancy Gerald Eve and secretary of the IWFM People Management SIG

Image credit |  iStock 

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