Imagine that you’re the general manager of a hotel. You do consistent business, and you’re staffed to manage the day-to-day operations of your property. But, you found out that in three months, someone booked the venue across the street for a huge event, and now you’re looking at 100 percent occupancy for about a week around the event. Your on-staff housekeepers will not be able to accommodate the spike in occupancy for those days, but you don’t want to hire more people for only a short time. What do you do? In a word, outsource.
Outsourcing allows hoteliers to spend less time focused on ancillary services, turning their concentration to improving their business and doing what they do best—creating a welcoming environment and providing exemplary guest experiences. For many hoteliers, outsourcing is simply considered a part of their delegation strategy, and they use it to reap a variety of benefits.
But how can a hotelier know which situations warrant outsourcing? Chris Green, COO of Chesapeake Hospitality, says there are a number of factors to consider when deciding whether to outsource, but there are two in particular that have more weight—whether outsourcing will be cost effective and whether it will improve the guest experience.
Under the right circumstances, outsourcing gives hoteliers the best of both worlds, not only because it frees up management to improve customer service without losing sleep over subordinate tasks, but also because it shifts the burden of risk away from the hotel and onto the third party, which can be a huge cost-saver. “For example, using a third-party parking service makes the hired company bear the burden of all their garage-keeper liability on parking,” Green says. “And they’re incentivized because they’re running a business, and they have to make a profit. So parking lot managers pay the insurance and do an exemplary job. It’s a win-win situation.”
The hotel’s financial incentive continues when hoteliers factor in that they don’t have to train their employees to do minor jobs, as well as avoid extraneous supply cost. “This allows you to maximize your profit without compromising your services,” Green says.
While some hoteliers may be wary of bringing in help that hasn’t been trained, Green assures that getting an outside service to buy into a hotel’s company philosophy can be handled with relative ease. “From a minimum time and cost investment in staff orientation protocols, hoteliers can gain workers with a specific skill set who also understand the hotel’s way of doing things and its customer service point-of-view,” he explains.
Once a hotelier decides that outsourcing is the proper step and needs to find a provider, she should take special care to choose one that hits certain benchmarks, including cost, reliability of service, timeliness of service, whether that service is part of a union, and even whether the company is eco-friendly.
The Georgian Terrace Hotel is an Atlanta property that has to outsource certain services out of necessity—namely, laundry. This is because the hotel was built in 1911 and is not configured in a way that would allow in-house laundry facilities. When deciding where he would send the property’s laundry, General Manager Mark Williams took a few different particulars into consideration. “First, I looked at the quality of the service. I took special care to note what sort of results they were producing, such as what the linen looked like, how often it was being turned over, and whether or not they were using super harsh chemicals,” Williams says.
Like Green, Williams cites service as one of the most important aspects when choosing a third-party company to represent their own. “In the case of our laundry, I’m primarily concerned with whether the company gets our linens back on time and if their day-to-day processes are able to accommodate our needs,” Williams describes. “I will often do surprise visits to make sure our laundry is being processed the way we want it to be.”
While cost may seem like the most important facet in outsourcing, Green and Williams both strongly assert that it predominantly comes down to guest satisfaction and impeccable service. In fact, they both agree that while expenses may lower with outsourcing, sometimes the cost of outsourcing versus bringing someone in-house isn’t drastically different. Simply providing the best experience offers the highest value. “We want to let the professionals, whether they be parking, laundry, or landscaping, do what they do best. Hopefully, it will offer a cost benefit in the long run, but if not, and we’re still providing exceptional service, it’s still a good move for our property,” Williams concludes.