Hospitality, at its core, is an industry of people taking care of people, and has a long-standing commitment to cleanliness and service standards. While the housekeeping team is central in the delivery of those standards, it operates in the background, out of view. Room attendants and supervisors moved around discreetly to be as invisible as possible. However, COVID-19 has thrust housekeeping into the limelight.
As COVID has led to a surge in public health awareness, hotels are now put in a position of making their commitment to cleanliness part of their guest experience. As travel resumes, hoteliers are facing several operational challenges as they balance this new requirement with unprecedented losses, continued uncertainty around the return of business and most recently, staffing challenges. In the United States, the increase in minimum wage and tens of thousands of hoteliers who have found work in other industries are just two of the major challenges that the industry is faced with.
Rethinking operations, and re-designing housekeeping operations using technology is the only way to achieve the productivity and quality that is required.
At Knowcross, we focus on three central housekeeping areas: staff productivity, cleaning quality, and guest experience. We have moved swiftly to enhance our products to adapt to the negative impact COVID-19 has had on each of these areas.
The Safety of Front-Line Staff
There are no hotel operations without a healthy and available housekeeping staff.
The unpredictability of the virus means that your hotel must be vigilant in its adherence to new health and safety protocols. Your housekeeping technology has a critical role here. All staff should be prompted to submit a daily health check, ideally on their mobile device. While it may seem overly simple at first glance, it serves several purposes. First, it underlines that health and safety should always be top of mind every day and that your hotel fosters a culture of accountability. Secondly, health checks and associated reporting help support contact tracing in the event there is a positive test amongst the team. Quicker containment means that the hotel itself can be protected from shutdown and, most importantly, your staff stays safe. Lastly, health checks communicate to your staff that you are looking out for one another.
New Cleaning Protocols
As we learned in the report, the hospitality industry was quick to roll out an extensive list of cleaning and safety protocols after COVID-19 erupted. Housekeeping operations must support changes such as the elimination of high-touch items in guest rooms, enhanced cleaning standards, dedicated ‘cleanliness’ teams and the intensive sanitisation of common areas and guest rooms. All of these changes impact staffing assignments and cleaning times, which have a direct impact on guest experience.
The truth is that most hotels, unfortunately, have had to let staff go, resulting in more work for the remaining people. Your housekeeping software must include the configurability to support these variations without adding manual management time. For example, when creating housekeeping tasks, you may now need to a “sanitation > full cleaning > inspection > sanitize & seal” cycle to prepare a departure room for a new arrival. Your system should support this new task structure while also accounting for the time and labor requirements.
At Knowcross, we’ve done this with a fully automated system called Dynamic Task Sheets that eliminate the need for a central coordinator in housekeeping to constantly create task sheets and juggle staff and rooms among them. In some geographic areas, we have witnessed rules pertaining to a limited percentage of rooms in active rotation, with accompanying cleaning cycles. Once again, your housekeeping operations software should make the rotation and sanitation of room blocks simple, with few manual adjustments.
As we read in this report, 80% of travelers have said they will actively look at health and safety protocols before choosing a hotel. Clearly, guests are on high alert. Vaccines may send the signal it is safe to travel again, but the fear and anxiety surrounding COVID has conditioned many people among us to have acute awareness of interactions outside of the home. So, hotels are set up for the challenge of enhanced cleaning requirements while reducing guest/staff interactions.
At Knowcross, we make it easy for guests to opt-out of cleaning and we make sure it is instantly communicated upon request. Likewise, our customers can create custom alerts to inform the guest of cleaning progress and completion.
In both cases, the priority is to communicate to the guest that the hotel is taking measures to reduce interactions based on the guest’s preference. The accommodation of guest preferences has always been the definition of Hotel Service. In this case, service levels are, in fact, raised by reducing facetime with guests.
New housekeeping technology enhancements have kept up with changing COVID-19 requirements, but it must be remembered that those hotels with housekeeping management automation solutions were already enjoying the labor efficiencies that are now so sought after across the industry. Whether it’s using PMS data to map cleaning schedules, instantly communicating room status, or providing mobile at-a-glance guest histories, technology can improve productivity and accuracy of housekeeping departments – a must-have in the post COVID world.
I have no doubt that intelligent, data-driven housekeeping operations will soon become the norm and hotels will find new, innovative ways to deliver superior guest experiences that today’s travelers yearn for more than ever.