Listen to the people

Experience is the best teacher or so it is said. As far as stakeholders go, end-users – the collective term for those who receive services – are amongst the most powerful. Even so, their opinions are not always sought; worse, they are sometimes ignored. Doing so, breaks a vital link in the chain from defining the facilities management strategy to delivering services that satisfy requirements and achieve best value for money. 

The experience of end-users can be valuable information for those managing or re-designing a facility. Since facilities management is a support for the organisation's core business then any failing here could impact the business negatively. When the cost of people's time is taken into account, any loss of efficiency or effectiveness could have serious consequences. Canvassing the opinions of end-users can be one of the best investments made by an organisation. Alas, it can be regarded by some managers as opening the flood-gates to all kinds of request; in fact, the opposite is likely to be so. Silence on the part of end-users should never be taken as a sign that all is well. If anything, it is likely to be an indication of trouble building up under the surface and, as we all know, it has to come out at some point. Engaging end-users will ensure that the organisation is fully aware of how everything is going.

A distinction needs to be drawn between end-user opinions on a new or refurbished facility that are concerned mostly with the physical assets, on the one hand, and the performance of services delivered to them on the other hand. Feedback on the performance of the in-house team and/or service providers should be gathered from end-users periodically. Whilst a structured approach to feedback is preferable, it should not preclude less formal means; in fact, informal feedback is likely to complement formal feedback to the extent that a more developed feel for end-user experience can be developed. Even so, a balance needs to be struck between regular surveys and informal or occasional inquiries. In the case of formal means of feedback, end-users should be provided with a summary of their responses otherwise they will fail to take future surveys seriously. Validated responses should be made available to service providers and used in performance review meetings.

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