A bird’s eye view of a busy hotel

Seeing through your blind spots

Keith Saft

When you walk into a hotel, you want a sense of calm and order. You want to be met with a smile at a manned reception desk, transition swiftly to your room, and kick-back in a clean and comfortable environment.

And while this level of professionalism is essentially a given for hotel guests, it’s much harder to get right than it looks. Behind the scenes, most hotels are run by a team of hundreds of staff — all crossing paths, throughout the day, collaborating and working in tandem to deliver the best customer experience possible.

With so many moving parts, it’s not uncommon for standards to slip.

A dirty towel forgotten on a bathroom floor. Guests left waiting 10-15 minutes to check in. While these may seem like minor indiscretions, they can quickly undo a lot of other good work. 

However busy your hotel gets, it still needs to operate like a well oiled machine — every day of the year. If not, your guests will notice. And they won’t hold back in letting you, and future guests, know too.

The customer service standard for hotels is higher than ever before

Guests have always wanted a comfy, quiet, clean room. But the latter is all the more important today, as we adjust to living and traveling with COVID-19. 

In fact, a survey commissioned by the AHLA (American Hotel & Lodging Association) found that frequent travelers prioritize cleanliness as the most critical factor when determining their next stay at a hotel. More than 80% claimed they feel more comfortable in hotels implementing enhanced protocols and specifications. 

This places hotel owners, managers, and housekeeping teams under more pressure than ever before. As we see from the AHLA, cleanliness is now a serious competitive advantage. While price, location, amenities and star rating used to be primary levers for winning business, this responsibility now lies with the housekeeping teams, behind the scenes.

Housekeeping staff: a hotel’s hidden heroes

Of all hotel staff, housekeeping workers may have it toughest — especially during a global pandemic. As the New York Times reports, cleaners find the updated protocols more rigorous and, of course, more risky than ever before.

Even during more “normal” times, each staff member may be responsible for cleaning and organizing 10-15 rooms per shift. In some hotels, that number might be as high as 30. In a 200-250 room property, with a significant public area space,  a housekeeping attendant will walk between 5 and 7 miles a day on average, taking their equipment with them from room to room, working to tight schedules (and around the guests, too). 

And effective room cleaning demands close attention to detail in every area, from the bedsheets and carpet to the shower. No one wants to return to a room that’s been shoddily cleaned, but for today’s guests, any noticeable signs of poor hygiene will give serious cause for concern indeed. 

What happens then?

A dissatisfied guest may take one of several actions. At the very least, they could complain to a manager and request a room change. The problem is, it may not be so easy to appease a guest who feels a hotel’s cleanliness is not just subpar, but hazardous to their health, as well.

In these cases, guests tend to head online — sharing their frustration with the world. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the word “bathroom” appears more often in negative reviews than other key terms. This can apply to a number of problems: a lack of towels, missing soap, or a distinct lack of good hygiene. After all, few things can taint the excitement of exploring a hotel room than a filthy toilet, hairs in the sink, or other unwelcome traces of a previous guest. 

So how easy are hotels making it for housekeeping teams to meet, or exceed, expectations in every room?

Housekeeping teams should have their jobs made easier — not more difficult

Cleaning teams have a lot of tasks to juggle during the average shift. Things may slow down a little during quieter periods, but busy times can make their work incredibly difficult. 

We all make mistakes, sure. But with the reputation of the hotel on their shoulders, housekeeping teams need to have the tools, training and motivation to get everything right as often as possible. 

Executive Housekeepers need an instant overview of team activity

For department leaders, management is even more difficult when they have large teams working under them. 

It’s no mean feat to know where each member of staff is at any one time, which rooms have been cleaned, which rooms still need to be cleaned, if that special guest request got delivered to the room, if the PMS is up-to-date so the front desk can check them in….the list goes on.  

With so much on their plate, Executive Housekeepers need to prioritize efficiency and certainty in their workflow. But how efficient and certain are the current methods used? If a housekeeping team of 50, 100, or 150 staff is being managed using nothing more than a pen and paper log, this is problematic for two key reasons.

One: it’s quite simply too inefficient. Writing takes time. And with so much data to capture throughout the day, it’s almost impossible to keep up. When rushing, that’s when mistakes happen — and as we’ve seen, there’s little room for error in hotel’s today.

Two: the methods and models all need replacing as soon as the day is done. There’s nothing efficient about chucking out yesterday’s paper roster and starting all over again, each time.

Housekeeping teams need to be able to communicate clearly

In London, 68% of cleaning staff were born overseas. In other international cities, you can imagine that figure is somewhat the same. And that’s great, apart from one thing: inter-team language barriers.

If your housekeeping team has, say, 30 staff speaking 5 different languages between them — how do you make sure that nothing’s getting lost in translation? 

When you’re asking team members to check and complete an analog task list, you’re asking them to work in a language they don’t feel comfortable in. Not only is this damaging for employee satisfaction and engagement, it carries significant risk of oversight, too.

Time to digitalize hotel housekeeping processes? 

In 2020, the average 200-room hotel spends more than $44,000 a year for managers and supervisors to survey rooms ready for check-in. It’s a time-consuming, inefficient, imprecise method of assessing housekeeping teams’ performance. 

It’s an outdated one, too.

Just as other sectors have undergone radical digital transformations, hotels should be next in line. Switching to a digital solution reduces unnecessary expense and wasted time — helping housekeeping teams work smarter, not longer, and as a more cohesive unit, as well.

Capturing real-time data and following staff journeys helps Executive Housekeepers gain a clear view of task statuses. They can recognize when one cleaner has finished all of their designated rooms and another is falling a little behind. 

Potential issues can be spotted before they arise. Managers have the information to make proactive decisions and provide the training or encouragement staff need to achieve their best.

Better still, by taking documentation online, staff can free themselves of any language barriers. The lines of communication are open and fully up-to-date, all around the clock.

Introducing Lua: the digital tool for housekeeping excellence

Lua is an innovative platform designed to help Executive Housekeepers, and their teams work better than ever. Using Lua, housekeeping staff get:

Real-time dashboard accessible anywhere, on computers or tablets

Lua’s dashboard provides a wealth of critical data in one place. Gain a comprehensive insight, and clear overall picture, into worker activities and progress with a user-friendly dashboard. 

Full room history and notifications delivered to managers and supervisors

The full room history shows which tasks housekeepers have completed in each room, in a simple list format. Staff mark goals they have accomplished in the living area, bathroom, bed, etc. as they go. Managers and supervisors receive instant notifications to keep them updated. 

Fast and easy issue resolution across your teams

If any issues arise, housekeepers, managers, and supervisors may create tickets with a click. These can be resolved quickly and easily to keep work flowing smoothly. 

A user-friendly interface, with multiple languages for housekeepers

Lua is designed to be user-friendly for everyone — regardless of tech-proficiency — and multiple languages are available for maximum convenience. No more crossed wires. Just a simple, streamlined solution.

Together, this can have an incredible impact on any housekeeping team’s work. Mandarin Oriental, one of the world’s foremost hotel groups with 31 properties globally, has used Lua to complete more than 375,000 housekeeping tasks in the last 4 months alone. With Mandarin Oriental being such an iconic and industry-leading brand, we’re really excited to see the Lua platform put to use there.

Lua is trusted by other leading hospitality brands worldwide, too, including Hilton, Marriott, and more. 

As people begin traveling for business and leisure again, it’s never been more important to maintain efficient housekeeping and deliver a satisfying, safe experience for guests — protecting the commercial future of your business, too.

Trust Lua to take your hotel through the digital transformation it needs. Get in touch now.