The Optimum
Housekeeping Solution


Oct 10, 2014

How Technology Has Transformed Housekeeping – Three Hotel Executives Tell Their Stories

Paul Mansi

COO Edwardian Group, London

A former graduate of Ecole Hoteliere, Lausanne, Mr Mansi is currently Chief Operating Officer for the Edwardian group, with overall responsibility for the group's performance & strategic direction. Edwardian Group are known for their dedication to exceptional customer service and as part of this Mr Mansi oversaw the implementation of Optii Keeper in the group’s 14 hotels.  

What made you investigate and take action on adopting housekeeping technology?

Edwardian Group have embraced new technologies in many areas of the business in order to introduce helpful automation and reduce manual drudgery for our employees.  We know this also improves efficiency and business intelligence. The housekeeping division is the backbone of any hotel operation, however in our organisation it was still one of the only areas that was traditionally run with manual reports using the PMS system.  We therefore saw it as a huge opportunity to radically improve many of the administrative functions for housekeepers. 

What kind of issues did you have that might have driven you to seek a housekeeping technology solution?

In the past, if a guest arrived early wanting a certain type of room, reception would look at the rooms available and if one was not yet ready they would often randomly allocate one of the other rooms that was going to be cleaned. Without having any visibility of the cleaning schedule - and who was currently cleaning where - they would allocate the room and then call the housekeeper asking for that room to be prioritized.

Therefore, at our larger hotels, you could theoretically have six receptionists all calling housekeeping giving six different priority instructions to the housekeeping coordinator. This resulted in a room attendant having two rooms that were on priority at the same time. Our solution has completely transformed this issue.

Now, the front desk team can actually see the status of all rooms - in real time - in each category, and when each room is due back. Rather than reception referring the guest to the official arrival time of 2pm, they can say with certainty “Your room will be ready in x minutes. Please have a seat and I’ll come and take you to your room personally.”

Not only is the guest experience enhanced, but also that of our staff. In the past, housekeeping would complain that reception was putting them under undue pressure by allocating the wrong rooms, and reception was wondering why they were waiting for the rooms they needed. These frustrations have totally dissipated.

As another example, if a room attendant had to clean a couple of particularly challenging rooms where perhaps, a large family has been staying for a week, in the past, they would struggle to remain on schedule.  Now, Optii Keeper immediately flags up when someone is behind schedule (because we have scientific timings of how long a certain room should take to clean) and the housekeeper in the office can quickly send a colleague to help out and get them back on target.

Neither the guest nor schedule suffers and the room attendant doesn’t get overwhelmed by rooms in a challenging state.

How did the implementation take place?

The support team from the technology company came over and firstly trained our senior housekeeping team.  Then together, they rolled out an extensive and thorough training program for all of the individuals within the department that would use the system. The support team also remained with us for the first couple of weeks after initial roll out to offer additional coaching as required. They ensured everything was working properly and that the system was fully utilized and understood by all concerned. 

Implementation of the system went relatively smoothly, except for a few glitches with our Wi-Fi network and a few problems interfacing with our PMS – but these were rectified with our other relevant supplier partners.

Taking all the learning from the initial hotel installation, the rollout to our other 13 hotels was relatively straightforward.

How did the housekeeping staff and room attendants take to the new system?

In an area that’s not used to technology, people are naturally a little sceptical at first and there was some wariness about the change.  The technology itself is however very simple and easy to use so it was actually quite painless to transition to an iPod system. Older room attendants certainly found it a bit strange at first, but once they were guided through it with staff working alongside them, within a relatively short time, it became par for the course.

What effects did you first notice after implementation?

We saw immediate improved communication and coordination between front office and housekeeping and less confusion on the floors about changes because the system automatically keeps everyone up to date.

Over a few weeks, using the reports generated from the system, we could better assess the performance of each of the team members and pinpoint specific areas of improvement required. The system offers valuable training opportunities and acts as a powerful catalyst to improve overall quality of service for the department.

What recommendations would you offer to GMs regarding implementing housekeeping technology?

It’s very easy to recommend this technology. Optii Keeper improves efficiency within the housekeeping department: rooms are cleaned more quickly, quality goes up, and communication and coordination improves. Automatically!

Optii Keeper also gives you a strong training tool to improve the quality and standards of your team. You can sit down and show where people are doing well, and where the same problem has had to be corrected again and again. It helps with the development of the individual and with their efficiency and quality.

Optii Keeper definitely offers a great return on investment with the resulting ongoing economies of scale coupled with marked improvements in quality and training.

It’s not a cheap technology but because of the returns you get it, it pays for itself.

It’s a win-win all around!

About Edwardian Group

With the vision of being the most admired, dynamic hospitality group in London, Guildford and in Manchester, UK, the Edwardian Group is on a mission to achieve 100% guest satisfaction, 100% employment engagement and positive cashflow.

 

 

Anonymous GM, Hong Kong

What made you investigate and take action on implementing a housekeeping technology solution?

We had problems such as queues at reception, rooms being extended but made up as departing rooms and room types not being available on time for arriving guests. We could have the front office and housekeeping communicating every 20 to 30 minutes to explain what needed to be done, which was a big waste in productivity. Then in addition to that, those instructions would have to be conveyed to the room attendants on various floors, taking even more time.

The real issue, however, was understanding WHY we had those problems. A housekeeping technology like Optii Keeper improves efficiency because it enables you to establish the root cause of problems much faster through the data and reports it provides.

How did you evaluate the field of housekeeping solutions in the marketplace?

There are many job dispatch and control systems out there, but the crucial difference with the solution we chose is that it learns and predicts room-cleaning times.  Our solution is like a brain, whereas the others are just tools because they are not learning!

What did you hope to achieve when you implemented the system?

We hoped to achieve the ROI.  This is tricky because often in Asia, many hotel owners are looking for ROI.  But younger-generation owners understand that in addition to ROI, you get so many other benefits from a system like this: tools for improving staff training, technology, maintaining brand standards, improved productivity and guest satisfaction...and ROI kicks in later.

How did the implementation take place?

It was quick, organised, very well planned and led by Optii.  At first, many of our room attendants saw the software as a threat, so we had to emphasize that the housekeeping solution was a friend.  We offered incentives to overcome resistance to the new system – such as rewarding the room attendant with the greatest improvement in time and quality.

What effects did you first notice after implementation?

Within three months we saw an improvement in housekeeping staff satisfaction and management’s appreciation of the housekeeping staff.  Since we now had reports, the GM could finally respond to housekeeping.  If housekeeping simply tells you about a problem they are having, it may take a while before action is taken.  But if you can continuously see the same issues recurring through the reports, you can look at the process and improve it.  The room attendants could see that management was on the floor working and supporting them to make life easier for them.  We really didn’t expect this improvement to be so drastic!

Overall what benefits did you receive?

- Improvement in productivity and less idle time.  RAs could clean more rooms, or if occupancy was low there was more time for training.

- Quality scores went up.  In social media and guest satisfaction tracking we could see that cleanliness scores improved.

- Better understanding and management of housekeeping. If we saw recurring problems, we could review how the rooms were cleaned and make changes, improve training, shift tasks to other departments, etc.

- Creation of “smarter” guest rooms. Previously, quality problems were noted on a spreadsheet that was filed away at the end of the day. But through the reports, we can clearly see repeated problem areas and we found that some cleaning issues were a result of impractical design.  For example, mirrors that are placed high on a wall are too high to be cleaned by petite RAs.  Or certain types of faucets/sinks were particularly difficult to clean.

- Departmental profit increased

- Manpower planning improved

- Reduced check-in times

- Better communication in Rooms division

- Brand standard improvement

- Improved owner appreciation

- You can outsource housekeeping yet still have control

 

Tony Cousens

GM, Ramada and Days Hotels Singapore

With over thirty years of luxury hospitality experience, Tony has had an illustrious career, having worked with some of the world's leading hotels groups including The Jumeirah Group, Le Meridien Hotels & Resorts, and Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts. In 2005, he also oversaw the S$45 million overhaul and repositioning of the Marina Mandarin Hotel.

What made you investigate and take action on adopting housekeeping technology?

Of course housekeeping is an integral part of operations and is at the top of my mind. To ensure we have above average customer satisfaction scores, we need a quick turnaround for the next customer after the room is cleaned and efficient interactions with the customer so we can work with rooms to have the optimal room inventory.

Operating within the same integrated resort, the two Wyndham properties share one housekeeping team, thereby optimizing resources and operations. Having a great team supported by the right technology and efficient housekeeping practices is critical to our success in what is acknowledged as a tight labour market place. The Ramada and Days’ high average occupancy rates mean a lot of rooms to manage, and demand room efficiency and productivity.

How did you evaluate the field of housekeeping solutions in the marketplace?

In researching the solutions available in the marketplace, we soon realised that the majority of those available were primarily dispatch systems. Optii Solutions’ Optii Keeper was deemed to be a best of breed system, a very stable product which would facilitate productivity improvements, provide real time information, empower room attendants and provide for more effective management processes.

Specifically, what housekeeping-related issues did you have before you implemented this housekeeping technology solution?

We recognized that a quick turnaround of rooms and efficient interaction with guests were central to satisfying our customers, as optimal room inventory usage to the group’s bottom line. We sought a tighter, leaner, more empowered housekeeping team and the ability to measure and integrate housekeeping and rooms efficiently. It required real time information about the status of the rooms and real time productivity both from a guest and operations perspective.

How did the room attendants take to the new system?  Were there any issues in implementing or was there resistance to the technology?

Any hesitance or concern on the part of room attendants about the introduction of online technology into their daily routines was allayed within the first two days of training. The installation process, carried out by Optii Solutions staff, included extensive training with executive management, housekeeping and front office staff alike, and they each learned and adapted to the new system quickly. (One lesson they learned quite swiftly was to ensure that room attendants’ pockets seal properly, so as the mobile devices don’t fall into the toilet!)

What differences did you notice once your staff started using the technology?

In addition to improvement in productivity, internal communication and room attendant performance and job satisfaction, Optii Keeper has reduced time and resource wastage and optimized operations across the two hotels. Because we share one housekeeping team, the executive housekeeper can decide to deploy her team to one hotel or the other, depending on check-in and check-out rates, high occupancy rates, and for example, if occupancy is low, we can take out a floor.

Did you achieve what you hoped to achieve? Are there any comments you would give to other hotels considering using this technology?

The investment was definitely worth it!!

Productivity is improved, the room attendants’ performance as individuals is clarified, and they are empowered.

It took a lot of teamwork to procure and put this new technology in place. It really was our team (not me) that did most of this work and they are the ones who utilize the system on a daily basis – so they really need to be recognized.

About Ramada and Days Hotels Singapore 

Managed by Wyndham Hotel Group, the world's largest and most diverse hotel company with over 7,380 hotels worldwide, the Ramada and Days Hotels Singapore offer nearly 800 rooms aimed at both value-conscious business and leisure travellers. Voted 'Best Mid-Range Hotel' at the 25th Annual TTG Travel Awards 2014


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