Five Key Attributes of the Perfect Response to Complaints

January 29th, 2021

You’re gathering feedback from the people that use your facilities, but are you responding adequately to it?

A study conducted by the University of New South Wales in Australia identified five key factors that constitute the ideal response to a negative facilities complaint.


Timeliness describes the speed at which you, as a service provider, respond to a complaint. According to the study, how fast you respond can be more important than the actual resolution. With quick responses, people feel heard. They are also more willing to accept your mistakes and have more patience while waiting for you to fix the issue.

Think about it. What would you prefer? If you got a response to your complaint in 2 seconds, how would you feel? What about in 2 days, or 2 weeks?

There are tools out there that help you respond to negative feedback at lightning speeds. Conversational feedback tools like our Insights platform can send you a real-time notification when someone complains, allowing you to talk to that person immediately.

Check out OMBEA Insights for real-time feedback


These are the channels you have in place to capture feedback. According to the study, the more ways you have of capturing feedback, the more tolerant and understanding people will be. Having different ways of leaving feedback gives the impression that you take complaints seriously, increasing positive perceptions.

You may have a suggestion box at the reception area for specific feedback, but maybe a smiley terminal at the exit for general “how was your experience” feedback. Alternatively, you can use QR code surveys so employees can easily report facility problems, and then ask them to rate their experience with the repair with a smiley face question.

The more open channels you facilitate, the better.


These are the concrete actions you take to address negative feedback. The study emphasizes that a one-size-fits-all redress policy can leave the person feeling “handled” and not heard. Thus, the redress should be as tailored as possible to the complainant.

The study highlights the example of renovations made at a higher education institution. After receiving frequent negative feedback from students and staff, management decided to renovate the building completely. After the investment in time and money, people still complained about the new facility. Because management failed to listen to the facility’s users, the new facility received even more negative feedback than before.

As a facilities manager, you can show redress by taking swift action on a specific problem. When the issue is more vague, engage your facilities users in a conversation and try to understand the underlying cause of the complaint. Is it a faulty AC unit that is provoking someone’s allergies? Perhaps a problem with the pipes in a washroom?

Related: Four Ways To Be The Post-COVID Office Hero Using Real-Time Feedback.


The researchers define an apology as “an acknowledgment from the service provider regarding the validity of the customer complaints.” Crafting the right apology and delivering it at the right time can boost the power of a positive experience. The wrong apology at the wrong time makes a negative experience even worse.

Let’s consider a scenario. At an online store, you leave negative feedback about your purchase. Immediately, you get an email response starting with “We’re sorry you feel that way.” Not so nice, huh?

Now reimagine this interaction. Imagine you got the same email, but instead of apologizing, they went straight to the problem and addressed it. After indicating you’re satisfied with the resolution, a follow-up email apologizes for the inconvenience and bidding you a good day.

Which apology do you think is more powerful?


This is how much time and energy you put into resolving a complaint. This is perhaps the most important aspect, as it is a visual confirmation to the complainant that something is being done about their issue.

Suppose you’re at the local supermarket, and they’ve run out of lactose-free milk. After approaching a worker, they acknowledge the problem and walk away. After 5 minutes they come back with the milk, and you’re on your merry way.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this response, but consider this alternative:

After approaching the same worker, they acknowledge the problem and call on another worker. They introduce their colleague and ask the colleague to check the back storage while they themselves check if it’s available in another section. After 5 minutes, you have your milk and you’re on your merry way.

Which made you feel more confident that your issue was being dealt with?

Putting it all together

Here’s a simple way you can implement these five attributes when responding to complaints:

After someone submits a negative response to an online survey: “Hi there. Thanks for raising this issue. The on-site crew is on their way and will help you shortly. In the meantime, is there anything else you think it would be helpful for us to know?”

And after the issue has been dealt with:

“We’d first like to thank you for bringing the issue to our attention. Glad we could help! We sincerely apologize for the unpleasant experience, and we wish you a pleasant rest of your day.”

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