Housekeepers are an integral part of the hotel industry, and employee appreciation is a professional form of endearment that not only boosts the morale of the workplace but also the quality of work being produced, with 91 percent of workers saying they feel motivated to do their best when they have leadership support. Madeline Chang, director of housekeeping at Aston Waikiki Sunset in Honolulu and director at large of the International Executive Housekeepers Association (IEHA), explains why hoteliers should take a second look at how they appreciate their housekeeping staff.
How can hoteliers be better attuned to their housekeepers’ needs?
Housekeepers are the eyes and ears of any operation. They have a direct impact on your guests’ experience, so it’s important to listen to them and hear the challenges or frustrations they might be experiencing. While you can create an open-door policy that establishes a channel for them to communicate with you, not all housekeepers will do that, so you should take the time to regularly walk the floors and speak with them directly. Hold daily morning briefings (which is a must not only for them but for me to set the tone for the day), carry out observations, get them to communicate their thoughts and suggestions, and make them an integral part of the operation. This buy-in from the management team and teammates is extremely helpful. Always keep them in the loop.
What are some ways in which hoteliers are already getting it right with housekeeper appreciation?
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Feedback is important for any industry, as it shows quite clearly what works, and what could be improved upon. In the service industry, there are different types of feedback. Customer feedback is most commonly discussed and used, while employee feedback tends to remain focused within the HR circle. Increasing the scope of what is asked within the feedback can improve the hotel service by astonishing amounts. This is because employees know the business in and out. They have regular experience with anything that they recommend or believe is not good practice.
A customer will give a hotelier comprehensive feedback. But a hotelier benefits from employee feedback as well, as a problem can be brought to light before a brand new customer is aware of it. Hoteliers strive to give customers an unforgettable experience so that they come back and/or spread good word of mouth about the hotel services. Anything that prevents the customer from having to face something that leads to a negative point in the feedback should be adopted.
Consider a hotel that is known throughout the city for its dinner buffet. Feedback from multiple customers shows that customers prefer multiple options for dessert (as the rival hotel buffet has started providing) instead of just a fixed dish. Had employee feedback been the norm, this problem at this hotel would have been recognized long before, because employees would have noticed it themselves during regular customer interactions.
Making Employees Feel Valued
When a customer tries a restaurant, even when the food and wine is excellent, if the service isn’t up to par, the overall impression of the establishment is diminished. Of course, correct training of employees is important. However, it is not enough to just hire the right people. Hoteliers need to boost morale and make employees feel that they matter to encourage better performance.
According to Hubspot, 39 percent of employees don’t feel valued at their workplace. When management invites employee feedback, it suggests that employee opinions are considered to be essential. This helps form a connection between employee and employer.
Customers notice when they walk into a place and the energy of the employees is so infectious, that it starts rubbing off on them. The instant impression of any place where employees are enjoying their work, and even having fun while doing it, is overwhelmingly positive. To create such an atmosphere, the employees have to feel valued at their workplace. Inviting employee feedback is one such tool that makes them feel like a part of the business. Hoteliers can achieve wonders with employees who are driven by motivation that is more than just a weekly or monthly monetary return.
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â€œIf itâ€™s one call from a regular guest who has to cancel at the last minute because of extenuating circumstances, thatâ€™s not a problem,â€ Rauch said. â€œOur goal is to protect and grow our revenue. But at the same time, we have no desire to have guests hate us. The last thing we want is for someone to badmouth us on social media because of how we handled their cancellation.â€
With last-minute cancellations having the potential to wreak havoc in the revenue management arena, hoteliers from Los Angeles to London are opting for a range of solutions that include tightening the rules on refundable bookings and turning to more sophisticated algorithms to forecast.
Last-minute cancellations have been on the rise in recent years amid an emergence of online tools and platforms that make it easier for consumers to shop and compare hotels, explained Bjorn Hanson, a hospital industry expert and professor with the New York University Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism.
â€œItâ€™s an increasing problem that needs to be addressed,â€ he said.
â€œPeople are always looking for a better deal, and most cancellations happen when they see another hotel lowering their rate,â€ said Jamie Pena, VP of global distribution and revenue strategy for Omni Hotels & Resorts.
She and many of her fellow industry colleagues are taking action.
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Current standard-issue American credit cards store personal information in a magnetic stripe on the back of the card. EMV cards, however, store information on a secure computer chip,which generates a one-time-use security code for every transaction, making counterfeiting virtually impossible, according to the EMV Migration Forum, a consortium of industry players that support EMV chip implementation across the United States.Â
Credit card security is a topic top of mind for any business that processes consumer payment data, and this October the stakes for U.S. businessesâ€”including hotelsâ€”to comply with the latest wave of payment security will get higher.
Itâ€™s all part of a continuing wave for the United States to widely adopt EMV chip credit cards, which reduce counterfeiting and card fraud, but which require hardware and software upgrades on the part of the party processing the payment.
Beginning in October, new compliance language will shift the burden of liability for some types of fraudulent credit card transactions away from banks and ultimately on to merchants. Hoteliers who know these new liability burdens and are actively implementing technology upgrades to read these new cards will come out ahead, legal and technology sources said.
Knowing the reasons behind the change and the implications of noncompliance will help hoteliers make a seamless transition, sources said.
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“Regardless of the content of the call, hoteliers should be ensuring that they are using automatic disclosuresâ€”in order to obtain consumer consentâ€”if using an automatic recording system. If an operator becomes the target of one of these consumer privacy class actions, taking an aggressive approach and attacking these claims as incongruent with the legislative purpose and intent behind the respective statute is a recommended.”
In the past few years, class action plaintiffs have recovered billions of dollars in punitive damages by exploiting strict liability laws that punish businesses for failing to properly notify customers when a phone call is being recorded.
Under the Federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act and similar state statutes, businesses including hotels are prohibited from using certain tactics when telemarketing or making calls to solicit potential guests or customers. Hotels and other businesses are precluded from making calls or using any kind of prerecorded message, unless the caller has obtained a recipientâ€™s prior express consent in writing or electronically.
Additionally, hoteliers are prohibited from making calls to residences before 8 a.m. and after 9 p.m., and a future hotel guest calling to confirm a reservation also must be notified if the call is recorded. Hence, under these laws, if a hotel receptionist in Montana receives a call from a California resident to confirm a reservation but never notifies the recipient that the call is being recorded, it could result in damages ranging from $500 to $5,000 per call under federal and state laws.
This seemingly innocuous business practice of recording customer service calls without providing some variation of the oft-heard disclosure, â€œThis call may be monitored or recorded for quality assurance purposesâ€ has the potential to financially cripple a business.
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While low cost and minimal fees are an appealing draw, rental websites are a classic example of a scenario in which one gets what one pays for, but in this case, possibly even less since the ownership of the site and what hoteliers are putting funds toward is not theirs at the end of the day. This doesnâ€™t even take into account the additional shortcomings seen from rented hotel websites such as no search engine optimization, little service or support following the initial set-up, a limited number of site pages, photos or content and so on.
The hospitality industry has seen a number of agencies offering hoteliers a low-cost, low-budget website that they can rent. It has been widely noted that these agencies, which promise all of the bells and whistles associated with investing thousands of dollars and development resources, often leave hoteliers in the lurch after the deal is done.
Why? A number of reasons, but perhaps the most important is that agencies that rent hotel websites do not provide hoteliers with true ownership of their content which becomes problematic as explained below.
It should come as no surprise that a hotelâ€™s digital assets should be owned by the property, however, the subject of digital ownership seems to be overlooked by hoteliers doing business with rental agencies. Hoteliersâ€™ ownership should reach past the physical ownership of their property to include their digital content and here is why:
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“Thatâ€™s particularly true when hoteliers begin marking their competitive differentiation on priceâ€”the average price of an Airbnb listing in NYC hovers slightly above $200/night and is well below the average cost of a hotel room in, say, Manhattan.”
â€œIs anyone worried about Airbnb?â€
Nary a hand was raised when Mark Woodworth asked that question from the main stage at the Hunter Hotel Conference. The head of PKF Hospitality Research had to peer into the sea of some 1,200 attendees, hand above his squinted eyes like a sailor gazing into a foggy horizon, to find any. There were maybe five in all.
â€œWell, Iâ€™m going to talk about it anyway,â€ Woodworth said.
He was right to do so. The peer-to-peer accommodations platform is a threat to both demand and rate. Weâ€™ve documented that fact time and time again. Hoteliers just donâ€™t want to hear it.
This dismissive attitude is based on the fact that it takes a lot of Airbnb supply to truly steal share. To reach that mass, Airbnb needs a strong concentration of willing hosts in high-demand markets such as New York City and San Francisco.
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