‘Workspitality’: Inspired but complex
By Katherine Grass, CEO at Optii
As hotels across the world continue to grapple with the pandemic, they are becoming increasingly creative in their approaches. Over the last few weeks we have seen a broad range of hotels announce that they are reimagining their spaces and services to offer rooms on a more flexible basis to business workers and leisure travelers looking for a change of scene. Brilliantly named 'workspitality', the campaign is inspired as it is addressing the very real pandemic challenges of cabin fever and noisy home environments as well as obviously bringing in much-needed revenue to hotels.
The initiative comes with complexities though. Most PMS systems are set up to trigger cleaning requirements on the basis of an overnight stay. When a guest is registered to a room, that room will automatically be listed on the cleaning rota which is distributed at the start of every day to a housekeeping team member for a stayover or check-out clean depending on the booking. There is potentially an operationally complex issue here as the PMS systems are not set up to handle cleaning rotas for just a day or hourly stays so that means to roll out these new services, hotels will have to manage even more cross-departmental manual communication than already asked of them. Obviously, this is not ideal any time but especially now when hotels are running lean operations.
The lack of visibility in most PMS systems due to room status not being updated in real-time means it will be very difficult for housekeepers to deliver efficient service. It could very likely lead to guests being interrupted as housekeepers knock on doors to run their checks which is very annoying for business people who have booked hotel rooms to do work calls or hold meetings. Additionally, housekeepers face the added challenge that guests are notorious for not checking out on time and not going to the front desk to let them know that they are leaving. At least with an accurate and up to the minute view of what the occupancy status of rooms should be, housekeepers would have a fighting chance of greater efficiency.
Why does this matter?
Hotels that use static assignments to manage their cleaning rotas will find this new flexible room booking very difficult to manage effectively or efficiently. They will have no choice but to have a fleet of housekeepers and service staff on hand at the official checkout times and hope that they will have enough people on hand at the right times to manage check-out. They may find that they have too many staff because of the lack of accuracy in the way things are managed but given the essential nature of cleaning particularly at this time, this is a hit they will have to take to ensure the job is done properly. Delivering the 'buttoned up' and reliable professional service that businesspeople require if you are taking on the established flexible office space providers will also be a challenge.
What can be done?
Technology can be brought in to enable the housekeeping rota schedule to be updated and communicated in real-time. So, as a room is due to check out according to what has been booked, the room attendant would be notified immediately of the status change. If a guest asks for late check-out or a day user and extends their stay, this would automatically update in the PMS and be fed through immediately to the housekeeping staff so they know not to try and go into the room until it is the correct time to do so.
Technology can also be used to predict precisely how long a room will take to clean depending on the profile of the people booking the room as, in actuality, cleaning times vary significantly between single or group occupancy and business or leisure travelers. With technology, hotels can also leverage data to better understand the guest. For example, if they have the room until 6pm but always depart at 7pm, this may suggest there is an opportunity to book them for dinner at the restaurant or include an afternoon snack and increase the average revenue per guest.
Hotels need to be clear on the operational and reputational risk of offering a service that is not properly managed, particularly at this time when all eyes are on cost efficiency and cleanliness. Knowing the technology support options that are out there and checking that the right systems are in place now may make the difference between the success and failure of this new venture for some hotels. As the end of the pandemic is still nowhere in sight, it may well be that this enterprising initiative is here to stay for the foreseeable future - who knows, it could become part of the main staple of hospitality revenue if it can be properly embedded and bring in a new type of customer.
Katherine GrassMore from Katherine Grass
About Optii Solutions
Optii, headquartered in Austin, TX and with offices in London and Brisbane, is a hotel operations solution that leverages smarter technologies such as artificial intelligence, analytics, messaging and mobility to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of housekeeping and service delivery departments. Optii operates in real-time and allows hotels to streamline operations, reduce costs and enhance the guest experience in proven and tangible ways, without requiring capital expenditure and complex integrations. Optii is backed by Thayer Ventures and used by hotels across the world including La Cantera Resort & Spa and The Don Cesar in the United States, Okada Manilla Resort & Casino, Le Meridien, IHG and more. For further information about Optii Solutions, see: www.optiisolutions.com