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“Front Office, Housekeeping and Maintenance – The perfect harmony of this trio is every hotel manager’s dream. Dreams however, are a far cry from reality. It seems to me that working out a winning strategy is much like a game of snakes and ladders – avoiding egos that rear their ugly heads from time to time; using the ladders of training and cross-training and the continual rolling of the dice of inter dependency to achieve this objective” says Avril Sule, Hospitality Expert.

The hospitality industry has many triangles, but the three departments which constitute the accommodation operations and services are perhaps the most important of all:

1. Front Office
2. Engineering
3. Housekeeping

The aim of this trio is to provide the guest with a clean, comfortable and an attractive room that is safe to live in with a friendly and chivalrous service. In a world where sales and marketing can conjure up a perfect image to prospective clientele, the ability to ‘deliver the goods’ has become increasingly difficult. If the product falls short of the image created, is doubtful that the request will be a repeat customer.

Front Office and Housekeeping

Rooms are the foremost concern of front office and housekeeping. It is important for the departments to continually exchange information on room status. Front office must provide expected, arrival and departure lists for the day in advance and notify actual arrival and departures as and when they occur. Group rooming lists must also be provided to the housekeeping department prior to their arrival. Such lists enable the department to organize their work and have the rooms ready on time. This is particularly crucial when the turnover is high, and the occupancy is back-to-back.

A flow of information in the reverse direction is also necessary, especially with regards to the room occupancy report that indicates the physical count as seen by the housekeeping department to be tallied with the reception. Housekeeping must inform the front office about rooms that are ‘OOO’ as well as notify them about ready rooms. Sharing information on occupancy levels forecasted for the year, makes it easier to budget, establish par stock levels and estimate staff strength. Cross-training in these two areas is important to achieve cooperation and co-ordination between the two departments. The crosstraining must include room schedules which provide a detailed description of the room and its location, often with a visual thereby acting as an ‘aide memoire’

Housekeeping and Engineering

The Maintenance department is responsible for providing the Engineering facilities that contribute to the comfort of the guest. The housekeeping depends on the maintenance to keep so many things in order. Clean equipment and fixtures which do not function may serve as a museum piece but are useless in a hotel where their prime purpose is to meet guest requirements and provide guest satisfaction. A good strategy would be to plan a preventive maintenance programme that will correct deterioration prior to breakdown. Inspection by the housekeeping can assist in noticing minor defects before they turn into major problems.

In any case it is importance that the engineering department expedite the completion of repairs and maintenance work orders for the smooth functioning of the facilities provided for the guests. Good foresight will ensure that cleaning equipment are purchased in consultation with the maintenance engineer so that it is possible to analyze specific requirements like power consumption, operational requirements, maintenance, repair and availability of spare parts. Whether it is renovation, spring cleaning or servicing of facilities in rooms, it is important that such tasks be scheduled for low occupancy periods. Housekeeping awareness is essential for maintenance staff and they must be trained to be tidy when carrying out repairs, clean up their mess and refrain from using or disturbing items in guestrooms.

In the modern age of IT, many companies install a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) to catapult them from a strategy called bust ‘n’ fix (ignore it till it breaks) to one called pro-active maintenance (the maintenance action takes place before the breakdown). They may make an installation with inadequate logistical support and then wonder why they still have so many unplanned events. Changing the window dressing or the name or the way you report does not change the pattern. Moreover, planning a preventive maintenance programme without trained people who have the time and tools (to find and correct deterioration before breakdown), is like fighting a battle with guns but without bullets!

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