Is Housekeeping Moving From The Back To The Front Of The House?
— 10 experts shared their view
As the world starts to reopen, consumers will slowly return to traveling in a world that may be waiting for a vaccine for some time yet. Managing the threat of local outbreaks is ever-present. It is now becoming each hotels' worst nightmare that a guest may be able to prove that an infection was contracted in the hotel and worse still - that a hotel will become associated and identified with an outbreak or a hotspot.
While clean rooms have emerged as a competitive advantage, managing the perception that rooms are clean and sterilized has emerged as even more important than the actual quality of cleaning itself.
While room attendants and supervisors have traditionally moved around discreetly to be as invisible as possible, is it time that they now become frontline public relations ambassadors to proudly show off the cleaning effort and visibly engage with guests (at a 6-foot distance) on the floors?
Industry Advisor and Mentor, Ex SVP Non-Gaming Operations Marina Bay Sands
Cleaning is an intangible service. For years we have put points on toilet paper and done special touches to make cleaning visible, while in fast food restaurants, companies have posted an “inspected by” list. These are examples of what Dr. Theodore Levitt of Harvard called “Tangibalising the Intangible”. In the time of COVID, we need to look for more ways to make cleaning evident to the guest.
Hotels have tried to do this by rolling out programs, often with partners such as cleaning companies or hospitals, to assure the consumer that spaces will be clean. The fact that every brand has done this means that there is no competitive advantage in these programs - they are merely what is required to get into a consumer's consideration set.
Cleaning has now become theatre. We need it to be visible and constant, and nothing may detract from that perception. Never before has grooming been more important for our staff and maintenance been more important for our facilities. Tools like robotic vacuums and floor scrubbers can provide constant reminders to guests of cleaning underway.
Evidence of inspection and measurement is also important. This is often done by visible and frequent supervision, but with margins under attack, that becomes expensive. I would strongly suggest that the industry start to set standards and measurements for what “clean” actually is. Standards today speak to the lack of dirt or visible marks. However, we know that just because a surface looks clean, it may still be very contaminated. I would strongly recommend that hotels use A3 technologies to measure the actual cleanliness of key areas. This should form part of the evaluation of cleaning performance for Housekeeping teams and could be published to customers. If companies start to do this, it will push others to adopt these rigorous standards thus resulting in higher standards for our industry. Remember, as a destination or an industry, we are only as strong as our weakest link…