Industry Update
Opinion Article27 July 2020

Relieving the Overwhelmed with COVID Response Hotel Software

By Larry Mogelonsky, Managing Director Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited

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Getting back into operational shape following the pandemic shutdowns will require many new procedures for most every one of your departments. A chief worry is that it will be too much too fast for your managers and that this will either compromise service delivery or even demoralize team members leading to other problems down the road.

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Thankfully, hospitality tech vendors have stepped up to the plate and pivoted to rapidly deploy new features to help handle this increased workload. In fact, it's not a stretch to say that in this new normal a hotel simply cannot manage operations without the right software solutions.

What should you look for in a platform, though? Let's run through some of the features developed specifically in response to the COVID-19 crisis as well as the problems they solve so that you are fully prepared to assess what you need for your property.

  1. Online training. Rome wasn't built in a day and neither was your property. The issue now is that we must make our operations as contactless as possible, thus necessitating the shift to web-based training for all these new protocols so that your team can get up to speed quickly, without having to cluster into a classroom setting. Critical here will be some form of accountability metrics - such as document completion tracking or quizzing - so that management knows whether or not a staffer has actually absorbed the knowledge or merely glanced through it.
  2. Enabling BYOD. In the not-too-distant past, bringing your own device to work came with a few big issues concerning data security and cellular payment coverage. Now, however, we must focus on minimizing contact, making BYOD imperative via an intuitive employee app, while still including features to prevent data breaches. Plus, everyone already knows how their own mobile phone works so this will help to limit onboarding.
  3. Viral safety checklists. Housekeeping will have a lot on its plate over and above what was typically inscribed in a pre-pandemic guestroom cleaning procedure. Not only will each room attendant need a reminder to ensure they get it right, but a sanitization checklist like this can, if required, be forwarded to the incoming guest so as to give them peace of mind that their room has been properly disinfected.
  4. Time analytics. Knowing how long it takes each room attendant to complete a checklist may be just as important as the list itself. This will give you insights into how long the new guestroom SOPs should take to finish so that you can plan housekeeping boards appropriately and keep costs down. You may also want to set up an alert for when a room is marked done prematurely, which may indicate that corners were cut.
  5. Inventory management. The short-term demands of COVID-19 have resulted into worldwide shortages of PPE, sanitizers and a host of other products necessary for a safe hotel experience. You need to know as far in advance as possible when your inventory is running low so that you can place another order or find a new supplier.
  6. Contact and temperature tracing. With many employees reaching you via public transportation, managers need to have a pulse on where all their team members have been throughout their shifts as well as a quick reference of their bodily states upon arrival, so contact can be minimized and so records can be produced in case an employee tests positive. All this should, of course, be automated to relieve managers' time and to avoid generating a mound of paper archives.
  7. Bulletin boards. Being able to electronically notify team members of important information is nothing new as we've all had email for decades now. The difference now is that managers should be able to automatically segment these written or video notifications so that they only reach those employees for whom it is relevant. Not only will this alleviate 'inbox paralysis' but it will also temporarily eliminate the need for the morning lineup or daily standup to thereby reduce contact.
  8. Breakroom and lunchtime social distancing. For now, the mandate is to limit the number of employees in any given space at any given time, meaning staggered start times and breaktimes. Dictating who is authorized to get underway or kick their feet up for a few minutes at any point during the workday is simply too hard to govern manually.
  9. Image posting. A picture is worth a thousand words. Giving employees the ability to post an image in the appropriate messaging board will be a lifesaver for efficiently tracking tasks like maintenance repairs, lost and found, room service, minibar or virus-free guestroom security seal stickers, all while limiting person-to-person contact.
  10. Interdepartmental communications. The ramp up to high occupancy levels won't be immediate, meaning that certain staffers will be 'pinch hitting' for other departments until such time as they are fully engrossed in their designated duties. The only way to make guest service fluid with employees migrating from one role to another is to utilize a platform where managers have an overview of what's currently happening in other operations. As a bonus, such cross-department exposure will help raise team morale by giving staffer a holistic view into how to a run a hotel so that they can find where their true passions lie.

For some extra insight, I spoke with Adria Levtchenko, CEO and Co-Founder of PurpleCloud Technologies which recently launched a free-of-charge COVID Response platform. "Outside from preventing viral spread, the only way we can restore customer confidence and earn the trust of future guests is to consistently execute a brand's safety promises," added Adria. "With so much knowledge required, this is only possible with a smart management system so all team members understand their new roles."

We all know that getting up to speed post-COVID-19 will be a ton of work and perhaps a few headaches. With the right software, however, it can be the nudge you need to propel your operations into the new decade so that your hotel can thrive on a leaner team. Now is the time and hopefully these ten features have helped lead you in the right direction.

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