Stayover cleans are a hot topic these days. A recent poll run by Ken Patel who is a board member of the International Hospitality Institute on LinkedIn tells us that around 64% of guests want hotels to provide stayover cleans either daily or every other day. A freshly turned around room, squeaky clean bathroom and a perfectly made bed with clean laundered sheets are a well established part of the hotel experience. After 18 months of staying at home for many people, as they start to venture out again, the importance of these elements of the hotel experience should not be underestimated.
It is no secret that there is a major labor shortage, not only in the US but worldwide in hospitality. And we hear more and more from management companies that stayover cleans are one area that they are looking to economize, making this element of service opt-in only. So, a service many guests enjoyed that was eliminated for safety reasons at the start and height of the pandemic, is now a sacrificial lamb.
Three issues we see as central for consideration around this topic:
#1 - to remove stayover cleans entirely can clearly signal a desire to focus by the hotel on recovering profit by reducing expenses over guest experience and satisfaction. While this may be a reality for many, it is damaging for the guest to be aware of this.
#2 - to offer an opt-in approach absolutely commits you to delivering on that service, particularly if it is a compromise on the traditional daily clean. If for any reason operational challenges like staff sickness or just being short staffed that day means that you are then not able to deliver on your guest’s request or cleaning is rushed, this imparts yet another negative experience. In fact, that was what happened on a recent family holiday I took. We opted into a daily express clean during a four night visit only for housekeeping to pop in once and make the bed, overlooking the croissant crumbs lining the floor from my son’s daily in-room breakfast.
#3 - a carefully thought out balance has to be struck so that already lean teams do not feel undermined by the service and commitments offered by the hotel. In these times of scarce resources, the repercussions of such an ask could be hard to fix.
If labor shortages are the motivation to alter this service, we think it is important to explore all the options to make sure the chosen pathway suggested delivers results whilst not compromising the experience for guests or damaging staff morale.
So what are the options?
It depends on who you ask, but to us at least, the answer seems obvious: technology. Much like we leverage sales and marketing automation tools (think Hubspot, Salesforce, Marketo) to enable and empower our lean team to do more with less, so could a housekeeping team. Without these very powerful and impactful tools, teams are at a definite disadvantage. Of course technology takes some time to learn and some adjustment in processes, often for the better, but regardless the benefits far outweigh the alternatives. Technology can be used to:
Leverage guest and reservation data to get better insight into their profile and use this to predict variations in clean times and update room attendant routes in real-time.
Automate tasks and create 360-degree workflows to enable the rapid completion of tasks. For example, technology can be used to make sure an inspector is notified instantly when a room is ready for inspection, reducing turnaround times.
Gain insight into team, inspector, and room attendant performance. Easily identifying areas of strength and opportunities for improvement and where more training or monitoring is needed
Prioritize tasks on the cleaning routine when teams are lean. Making these decisions centrally through technology means that there is consistency and accountability still so that high standards are always maintained.
Where hotels are adopting an on-demand approach, they could also consider using technology to enable guests to select the type of housekeeping services they would like before they arrive at the hotel. So when they check in on a mobile app, message or website, the prospective guest should be able to choose the type of housekeeping they would like to request whether that is daily, every other day, weekly or no housekeeping. This means that hotels can plan better and maximize staff utilization whilst also delivering happy guests and reducing costs.
The unique challenges of COVID will continue to present themselves and evolve. We can’t snap our fingers and eliminate the labor shortage. However, hotels can prioritize the needs and wants of their guests and hopefully significantly improve their operations with the right technology investments at this time. We know from being hotel guests ourselves that stayover cleans have more significance than just a perfectly made bed. It is part of the brand experience which ultimately will keep guests coming back for more and therefore plays a central role in helping our sector to embrace the thriving recovery it deserves.
Article also covered by Hospitality Technology.