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2020 saw a fundamental shift in the way buildings are how service providers interact with facility occupants and school or business managers, resulting in not only a high rate of approval of cleaning outcomes, but a laundry list of complaints from both sides.

Complaints Highlight Top Cleaning Challenges of 2020

Occupant complaints regarding cleaning outcomes are nothing new to the janitorial world, and 2020 saw a significant reduction in the most common types of complaints regarding:

  • Restrooms, both cleanliness and smell.
  • Floors.
  • Entryways, and;
  • General cleanliness.

That gap was quickly filled with an enormous spike in requests for services to combat COVID-19, including:

  • Disinfection services.
  • Access to personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Indoor air quality, and;
  • Enhanced cleaning services.

While those requests should be given priority during the pandemic, a recent survey suggests that they have contributed to a rise in other issues that facility managers and janitorial supervisors must address.

Assessing Occupant Complaints

A recent survey conducted by Facility Cleaning Decisions asked readers about the most commonly reported customer complaints.

Unsurprisingly, restrooms topped the list, with the top complaints reported as:

  • Dirty or malfunctioning toilets and urinals – 33%.
  • Insufficient toilet paper or paper towels, or a malfunctioning dispenser – 32%.
  • Insufficient soap or a malfunctioning dispenser – 30%.
  • Excess water on the sinks, floor, or walls – 29%.
  • Odors – 26%.
  • Dirty floors – 24%.
  • Dirty or malfunctioning sinks – 22%, and;
  • Overflowing trashcans – 20%.

Distressingly, nearly one in five respondents reported that one of the most common complaints they receive are poor responses to cleaning requests and poor overall cleanliness.

Those statistics align with occupant complaints about other areas of the facility outside of the restroom, which included:

  • A generally dirty facility appearance – 36%.
  • Disinfecting or sanitizing frequency being too low – 31%, and;
  • Cleaning frequencies being too low – 26%. 

Assessing Service Provider Complaints

In an attempt to gain maximum clarity into the challenges facing schools, businesses, and the cleaning industry, the Facility Cleaning Decisions survey also asked service providers about their issues regarding facility occupants and their department’s ability to focus on critical cleaning tasks.

The results should be eye-opening for many people.

When asked what percentage of complaints service providers received that they felt were purely subjective or frivolous:

  • 33% stated less than 10%.
  • 38% said between 10 to 25%.
  • Nearly 1 in 5 (19%) stated that 26 to 50% were, and;
  • 10% of respondents stated that over half (51%) of the complaints they received were completely subjective or frivolous.

Those numbers also aligned with how janitorial service providers viewed their department’s focus.

When asked what percentage of their departments time was dedicated to responding to legitimate cleaning complaints and requests each month:

  • Only 5% stated 51% or more.
  • Just 15% said 25 to 50%, and;
  • 80% claimed that less than 25% of the complaints and requests they responded to each month were legitimate. 

Addressing Modern Cleaning Challenges With Modern Solutions

The Facility Cleaning Decisions survey reported that some of the most commonly voiced complaints from cleaning staff to management included:

  • Not having enough janitorial staff.
  • Being told what to do by too many people.
  • Not enough time to complete the assigned tasks, and;
  • A list of poor occupant behaviors, including eating in the classroom, trashing bathrooms and then complaining about the cleanliness, and generally being treated poorly by other facility occupants.

To their credit, management has been able to resolve many occupants and custodial worker complaints through a combination of:

  • Increased training.
  • Updating cleaning procedures.
  • Implementing some form of day porter cleaning services.
  • Educating and increasing communication with facility occupants, and;
  • Implementing team cleaning to improved times and reduce workload. 

References & Resources


It would appear that the adage, ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same,’ still carries a substantial amount of truth.

Despite the monumental shift in cleaning, education, and business, occupant complaints have still centered around challenges with restroom cleanliness and cleaning frequencies, cleaning staff feels like they are not being treated well and required to focus on frivolous tasks. Facility managers have had to step up to the plate with improved training, communication practices, and procedures for both sides.

A proven method for streamlining this process in your school or business is outsourcing to an experienced provider dedicated to ongoing service provider education, customer communication, and the latest in cleaning methods and technologies.

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