Clean Sweep

Cleanliness is a main driver of guest satisfaction in hotels, and one of the most important factors that travelers look for when choosing where to stay. Efficiency in housekeeping keeps guests happy and improves a hotel’s bottom line. By investing in the proper training, using consistent procedures, outsourcing services, and embracing technology, hotels can streamline housekeeping operations.

Training is a key component to optimizing efficiency. Gil Sanchez, director of the hospitality division for janitorial services company Jani-King International Inc., says Jani-King’s orientation program covers the basics, including the most efficient way to stock carts, what par level to use for carts, the order in which rooms should be cleaned, and handling checkout versus stay-over rooms.

Another important part of the training process is safety. The containers, rags, cleaning supplies, and gloves the housekeepers use for the bedroom are separate from those used in the bathroom. “That way you don’t have cross-contamination,” Sanchez says.

In order to proficiently clean guestrooms, housekeepers should follow consistent procedures. When handling checkouts, Sanchez says Jani-King housekeepers prepare the room for the next guest by taking out all linens and towels, emptying trashcans, and removing anything else that needs to be replaced. Then, they spray down the bathroom with the property’s approved chemicals and disinfectants. To give the chemicals time to work in, they focus next on cleaning the bedroom and move toward the closet. The final process is to clean the bathroom.

After the room is cleaned, all attendants are required to inspect their own rooms to catch anything they might have missed before the room inspector comes in behind them. For stay-over rooms, the attendants follow brand standards that are dictated by Jani-King’s hotel partners.

The length of time it takes to productively clean a guestroom depends on the type of property, market segment, room type, checkout versus stay-over room, and other factors.

By investing in employees through training and motivation, providing them with the right tools needed to perform their duties, and creating a positive work environment, it can reduce the amount of turnover. Lower turnover yields better quality work.

The most frequent mistake Sanchez has noticed hotels make in housekeeping departments is complacency—“this is the way we’ve done things for so many years.” For example, something as simple as how a room attendant cleans a particular room hasn’t been re-evaluated, or maybe the storeroom hasn’t been reorganized in a long time.

Even though efficiency is key, Sanchez stresses that housekeepers should put quality first. “If you focus too much on efficiency, the quality or cleanliness will suffer for the guest in the room,” Sanchez says. Once quality is achieved, he adds, productivity follows behind it.

Whether a property needs supplemental housekeeping staff, a partner to service the entire housekeeping operation, or overnight cleaning and janitorial services, one of the benefits of outsourcing is that it frees up general managers and supervisors to focus on other aspects of the hotel.

Larger full-service or luxury hotels might consider implementing a supplemental housekeeping program based on their occupancy levels or peak and low seasons. “That way the hotel doesn’t have to invest in hiring and training seasonal staff or hiring for peaks and valleys of occupancy,” Sanchez says, adding that the hotel also doesn’t have to worry about laying off individuals at the end of the season.

Janitorial companies can provide overnight front-of-house and heart-of-house cleaning for hotels, targeting floor care, elevators and tracks, fitness centers and spas, and food and beverage outlets.

Outsourcing also can be more cost effective, especially if the company charges on a per-room-basis. This model is especially beneficial to hotels during slower months when occcupancy is low. When cleaning companies provide a turnkey operation, in which they invest in the training, hiring, and HR-related tasks, this alleviates additional burdens for the hotel.

Sanchez says a common concern of hotels is that they will lose control if they outsource housekeeping. “They’re not losing control—what they’re doing is partnering with a company that specializes in housekeeping,” he says.

More hotels are seeking technology solutions to streamline workflow processes. Housekeeping is an important area that Intelity, a hospitality software solution company founded by hotel operators, focuses on. The company has a platform called ICE that integrates all management systems, streamlining ticket/request management, monitoring response times, allowing instant content updates and changes, managing data securely, and measuring ROI. The application is designed for many types of Web-enabled platforms, such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops.

At typical properties without a software solution, a guest makes a housekeeping request by calling the hotel operator, who then logs the request and dispatches a housekeeper. The housekeeper delivers the item and reports back to the operator, who then must log the request as complete. “That’s a pretty big process for one request,” says David Adelson, CEO of Intelity.

“A lot of hotels are still doing things in a very manual process,” Adelson adds. “When a guest makes a telephone call, there’s somebody to pick it up, maybe they’re writing it down on a piece of paper or putting it into an Excel spreadsheet, and then they’re actually calling with a radio off to a housekeeper to deliver an item. More and more hotels have migrated to guest request management systems because it does make their operation much more effective and much more efficient.”

When a guest makes a request using one of Intelity’s guest-facing technologies, the ticket management solution pushes the message directly to the housekeeper in charge of fulfilling the request, and timestamps it. Once the request is fulfilled, it gets time-stamped again and tracks the efficiency of how long it took the housekeeper to deliver the item. This streamlines each guest request by 80 percent, Adelson says. “That becomes pretty dramatic when you end up looking at multiple requests, on multiple days, in multiple weeks, in multiple years,” Adelson says.

Housekeepers can receive the request via email, text, or a mobile application called Request Manager that is available through iTunes, and the notifications can be sent in multiple languages.

ICE logs all items requested through housekeeping, whether it’s a toothbrush, comb or razor. “We track how many people are requesting things and what items they are requesting, so our housekeeping teams can actually keep an inventory based upon guest preferences and demand,” Adelson says.

Other requests include turndown service and room cleaning. Room cleaning requests increase efficiency because the housekeeper knows when the room is available, rather than knocking on the door and waiting for the guest to reply.

Using a software solution can save hotel manpower.When enough guests use a single technology, he says, it begins to change the workflow process of how a hotel operates. “Our average user per guest request for our in-room Touch solution is 87 percent,” Adelson says. “When you think about that 87 percent of guests using a technology, that’s more than guests use shampoo.”

Four years ago, Adelson would have said he thought guest were more inclined to use a technology solution instead of picking up the phone to make a request. Today, he can confidently say guests are more inclined.

“When you look around at automation right now,” Adelson says, “and you look at what’s happening in our world, whether it be airport kiosks to check-in, mobile online banking, or mobile ordering, these things are a common process in our daily lives.”

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