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3 Keys to excellent hotel housekeeping

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A little while ago, I checked into a hotel and immediately told my two young children, “Hop on the bed, and try not to touch the carpet”. It was filthy. Other than the cleanliness, there was nothing wrong with it. The bed was comfortable, all the facilities worked, and the front desk staff were lovely. But they could have offered me a complimentary champagne breakfast prepared by Gordon Ramsay himself, and I would still remember it as the place with someone else’s dirty tissue in the corner. 

Housekeeping may not be the most glamorous aspect of hospitality, but it is one of the most important, and demanding. Any indication of previous inhabitance will not go unnoticed by your guest. Here are the three keys to making sure each guest gets that brand-new showroom car feeling from their room.

  1. Design easy-to-clean rooms

Properly clean places are designed to be that way. In hospitality, your rooms should be designed, furnished and decorated with cleanliness in mind. Surfaces and fabrics should be quick and easy to clean, and furniture should be easy for housekeeping staff to move and clean around. Rooms should also be designed to feel cleaner by keeping colour palettes light and neutral and enhancing natural light.

Designing for quick and easy cleaning will not only save your housekeeping staff time, but could also increase your RevPAR. Carpets are a good example (not only because of my own grubby experience). Deep cleaning a carpet is time-consuming and costly, often including shampooing, airing and drying, during which the room needs to stay empty and therefore revenue-less.

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Whether you’re planning a complete renovation or just keeping your rooms maintained, keep the following points in mind when designing and furnishing rooms:

  • Consider alternatives to carpets like tiles, hardwood or laminate that are quicker and cheaper to clean, and will leave guests with the impression that your room is cleaner.
  • Choose furniture that is easy to move to allow for more thorough cleaning. Removable headboards, for example, will make it easier for housekeeping to dust them properly, and investing in lightweight furniture will make it easy to clean behind and under beds and couches.
  • Use white linen as it looks and feels cleaner than patterned linen, and can be bleached if necessary.

    Maximise natural light and pair this with bright blinds or curtains to add to guests’ feelings of being in clean spaces with improved air quality.

  • Look for simple and sleek furniture and fittings that won’t get as stained or rusted, and choose durable surfaces that visibly trap less dirt making them easier to clean and giving guests a sense of cleanliness.
  • Use as little grout as you can, since even when cleaned regularly, it is easily stained.

  1. Pay consistent attention to detail

In a 2016 survey, Direct365 found that 80% of Britons would leave a hotel if they felt the room wasn’t clean enough. In 2021, 65% of survey respondents told JLA that just a reputation of sub-par hygiene would deter them from booking.

Clearly, cleanliness is not an area in which your hotel can afford to cut corners. For the duration of their stay, guests like to think that this is their room and that it exists only for them. A hair in the sink, a stain on the bedside table, and even fingerprints on the mirror are all evidence that this room has been used. You only get one opportunity per guest to get it right, and there is no room for error, so use these best practices to make sure you don’t miss any dirty details:

  • Make a detailed checklist of what should be completed in each room, like this one from the Alberta Hotel & Lodging Association.
  • Satisfy the multiple senses guests use to detect cleanliness. Rooms should look, smell and feel clean as well as actually be clean. Remember that these assumptions might not always be rational or even true – an obnoxiously loud air conditioner might imply the presence of dirty filters – but they are still part of the guest experience.
  • Measure turnaround time to find out how long it takes on average for a room to be cleaned from top to bottom. This way you and your team can schedule time accurately and won’t need to cut corners. Remember to also allow for extra time — you never know when disaster (or guests) will strike.
  • Collaborate with your housekeeping team to understand what kind of problems arise during their cleaning, and what tools, supplies or training they need to be more efficient and detail-oriented.
  • Do regular spot-checks, and occasional in-depth inspections to ensure that rooms meet the standard of cleanliness required and that no serious issues have been overlooked, like bed bugs or mould.
  • Keep an eye on guest feedback, and proactively ask your guests about their stays using guest satisfaction surveys so you can pinpoint where details are being missed, and where improvements can be made.
  • Log any issues and keep track of their resolution with a case management tool. GuestRevu users, for example, can turn complaints from guests or calls for certain upkeep services that come in directly through guest feedback into Service Tickets and assign them to the appropriate team member. ​​

  1. Keep housekeeping staff motivated

Although their jobs are undeniably both vital and taxing, housekeeping staff can often feel unseen and underappreciated, which can lead to decreased motivation, especially if they don’t get the kind of feedback they would like from guests very often.

Motivated housekeeping staff take pride in their work and go the extra mile to ensure guest satisfaction. Here are some key ways to cultivate a positive and motivating work environment:

  • Ask your housekeeping staff for their opinions on everything from room design to cleaning procedures, and keep them updated on any changes you’re making around the property (and be receptive to their feedback on these too). This shows them you value their expertise and care about their job satisfaction. It could also lead to improved efficiency.
  • Show your staff the difference they’ve made to your guests. It can be easy, particularly when doing what feels like a menial task, to feel like no one notices what you do or that it doesn’t make a difference. By sharing positive guest feedback with your staff and recognising those responsible for it, daily tasks will feel less like a meaningless grind, and more like a small contribution towards a larger goal.
  • Provide staff with the tools they need. Housekeeping is hard enough without being made even more taxing by sup-par equipment. A vacuum that cleans couches, carpets and curtains efficiently may be more expensive than the starter model, but your rooms will be turned around much faster and to a higher standard.
  • Use technology to track progress and foster a culture of excellence. GuestRevu’s Milestones let you note and track any changes in your team, procedures or infrastructure, and help you visualise and gauge which changes work best over time. This often gives teams a boost in motivation, because they can see the results of their efforts directly, while managers gain valuable insights into the effectiveness of new approaches.
  • Let your housekeeping team be seen doing an excellent job. Housekeeping has traditionally been a back-of-house function, neither seen nor heard by guests, but consider letting housekeeping be seen cleaning from time to time. Not in a guest’s private bedroom, or doing noisy jobs that disrupt guests’ stays, but wiping down surfaces in common areas or pushing trollies of fresh fragrant linen can remind guests of all the work going on in the background that keeps their stays spotless.

Housekeeping may often be taken for granted by your guests, but that doesn’t mean that it should be a thankless task. As a foundational aspect of managing any property, housekeeping should not be undervalued, underestimated or underappreciated. After all, it could be the difference between a guest booking with you, or your cleanlier competitor.

Tags: excellent, hotel housekeeping, Keys

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