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Continuing pre-eminence of good housekeeping

Paperless management

While property management systems have been around for 30 years, the migration from paperwork to paperless management has been slow and steady. Inefficiency is weeded out by this switch, and different departments can communicate seamlessly.

A study found that more than 10% of a housekeeper’s day is wasted because the latest room status is not known. Old-fashioned work orders are a hassle, and cumbersome to follow up. These issues disappear when a mobile app is used for management, which should be user-friendly, easy to train staff members on, and customisable according to the specific requirements of the hotel. Most importantly, this allows housekeeping heads to monitor productivity.

Intelligent procurement

This is a step-by-step process; some of the best housekeepers are the ones who can understand the forecasting process for inventory. Budgets are made for an entire year; once the year starts, there is often a gap between projected reality and actual reality. Housekeepers need to work in close coordination with procurement managers to work better within the budget. The latter can suggest alternative, comparable brands which are more affordable and easily available.

A digital dashboard can be used to generate trend analysis of purchase and consumption, which, when structured together and presented to the procurement manager, can help him make informed decisions. This will also help housekeepers use data to convince management about their recommendations. In the future, procurement will eventually have to deliver tech-based solutions using Artificial Intelligence.

Digital dashboards can also track suppliers, what and where they are producing their products. Inventories can be maintained regularly, and re-order levels defined well in advance. Online procurement of all products is cheaper, and delivers the product right to your doorstep.

Staff recruitment

It is critical that housekeepers hire correctly; sometimes, they make desperate hires that turn out to be disasters. Because of the dearth of in-house talent, housekeepers have to outsource certain tasks to outsiders/ contract employees. While this is necessitated by high staff turnover, it must also be kept in mind that an outsourced worker, once properly trained and provided the same tools and respect, is a potential employee.

However, since quality control is a non-negotiable requisite, anyone who enters a hotel room should be on the hotel’s payroll, and shoulder both responsibility and liability.

Training in housekeeping

Impeccable housekeeping standards improve customer loyalty, but training and retraining employees to perform at this level is often neglected. A major proportion of guests are Englishspeaking, yet many staff members can’t comprehend or communicate with guests in English properly. Good spoken English is paramount.

Team members need to be trained to have an eye for detail, as well as to be able to make aesthetic additions to the guest’s experience, such as stocking the minibar with the guest’s favourite products. They must also know how to use equipment in a way that increases its lifespan, which increases its return on investment.

Since staff members do interact with guests, they need to take the greatest care of their personal hygiene and grooming. Skill certification at various levels of the hierarchy needs to be available and encouraged, and cross-training with other allied departments is necessary to understand their complexities and work in a cohesive manner. Regularly weekly discussions should be had with each member, and their business goals and personal development goals should be broken down and discussed.

Staff knowledgeability

If the staff is knowledgeable and image-conscious, it can earn rightful credit for its work. Sophistication and guest relations are an often-neglected aspect of housekeeping training.

Most importantly, instead of working blindly, room attendants need to know everything about the product or chemical they are using, as well as the specifications and type of the mattress they are changing or the carpet they are cleaning, for example.

Standard Operating Procedure

The SOP needs to have components of both enthusiasm and education. More detailed the instructions, more is the likelihood of the quality standards being consistently achieved. By dividing tasks into sub-tasks, an important job can be broken down into its components and made more accessible to people who are actually going to do the job. It goes without saying that the SOP should be readily accessible to every person in the housekeeping team.

An SOP document that is incorrectly written amplifies human error. Periodic revisions of the SOP need to be done with the approval of management. Guests know which hotels provide consistently great experiences; those are the ones which have the most watertight, stringently followed SOPs.

Attitude of team members

Housekeeping makes the first, and lasting impressions on guests; service professionals need to have the right personality to make the right impression. This attitude can be developed; the correct thought process can make a staff member respond to a complaint positively, patiently listen to the guest, help him calm down and then solve the problem satisfactorily. Accepting the situation, respecting another person’s viewpoints, and responding with positive feelings all positively influence the actual on-ground response of the team member.

Housekeeping and architecture

The requirements and recommendations of the housekeeping team are rarely included in the ‘shopping list’ of the proposed hotel which is shared with the architect. Housekeeping inputs are usually taken only later on, when it is too late to make major changes. This must change.

At the beginning of each project, a comprehensive architect’s brief should be compiled by management, taking into account housekeeping requirements like the number and positions of storage space on each floor. Housekeeping should specify minimum requirements.

While management decided what is needed in each guest room, a housekeeper’s input must be taken before the choice is made, to ascertain durability and ease of maintenance. Housekeepers need to complement and coordinate with interior designers and architects, and must get to sign off on a project before construction begins.

Anything that can potentially reduce revenue should be avoided; for example, cane furniture attracts pests, is difficult to clean, and is less durable. Interior designers need to discuss alternatives with the housekeeper. However, since handmade amenities which reflect the local culture are often attractive to guests and part of the hotel’s brand identity, the housekeeper may have to devise another way to clean them.

The pros and cons of all options need to be discussed and debated before mutually finalising the interiors.

Choice of fabric

To satisfy the customer, the best product needs to be found, but it should be affordable too. Besides, local and national regulations need to be adhered to, as does the hotel’s brand identity.

Fabric structure and thread count are the two most important parameters. While cotton has the right feel and absorbency, polyester is more durable and easier to maintain. The latter also requires lesser water, chemicals and time for washing, as well as for drying. Satin, on the other hand, is less durable, but more important for guest satisfaction.

A blend of cotton and polyester, without any apparent change to the guest’s experience, blends the best qualities of both materials. Such new products in the market can save time and money without compromising on guest satisfaction.

Laundry

Laundries are a major source of a hotel’s revenue. By using machines that have programming flexibility which can change water and detergent consumption according to size and material of the load detected by sensors and microprocessors, water and detergent usage can be curtailed, and the extraction period can be modified to extract maximum water.

All this is without human intervention, and while saving on both resources and cost.

– Mrigank Warrier

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