Outsourcing companies are tipped to be benefitting from the current arduous environment characterised by occupancy fluctuations and labour shortages. Yet the problems are no different for external parties and some of the economies of scale inherent in the hotel are delegated down the line. While the hotel is expecting to minimise costs substantially, the outsourcer is expected to achieve the same excellent result on a lower cost base.
Are outsourcing agencies truly better at managing the operation or are hoteliers just passing the buck because managing housekeeping is perceived as 'getting too hard'?
The outsourcing debate is not new, but the current global situation is causing it to heat up again.
The argument typically revolves around whether an outsourcing agency is capable of delivering the same quality and service levels as a hotel can with a team of their own, that they employ and thus control. In my view, this argument is moot as quality and service correspond to the level of cooperation and control between the hotel and the agency. Outsourcing agreements are no different than employment relationships - expectations and KPIs need to be clearly established, monitored and regular performance reviews should be standard practice.
We know from experience that many hoteliers prefer not to deal with housekeeping as it is complicated and difficult to manage. Outsourcing offers the desirable predictability of costs that aligns well with occupancy, handballs the recruitment challenges, negates insurance premiums and removes some level of stress from the operator.
Is outsourcing a panacea though? Absolutely not. An outsourced agency is working in the same environment as the hotel, experiencing the same occupancy fluctuations and challenges that are inherent when dealing with people.
So why hand the core of your operation to another company? Because agencies are often better placed at managing occupancy fluctuations, have better access to the talent pool and make more efficient use of available technologies to manage the workforce effectively - all while managing service standards and quality requirements. A competent agency excels because of their razor sharp attention - housekeeping is not one of their areas of focus, it is THE area of focus. And economies of scale are very powerful.
The management of hotels is changing just like other industries around it. Car companies maintain their quality, look and feel even though a large part of their components are produced by external parties. There is no reason to believe that the hotel industry is different and housekeeping may only just be the beginning.
Outsourcing success is based on selecting the right, competent partner who is engaged, competent and shares the same vision. It is not a panacea, but it could present an opportunity for many properties that may not realise it yet.