Thursday, February 17, 2011

Cleanliness – Is There Anything More Important?

Cleanliness, directly, or indirectly, comes up every day in our business, and it’s not surprising.  Is there anything more fundamentally important to our guests than cleanliness?

In my recent post; “Hotel Fundamentals . . . Since the Beginning of Time,” it didn’t make the list, as I chose to speak about the key components that I believe that everyone is looking for in a hotel experience, but in hindsight, it would be fair to say that I missed an underpinning value, or assumption on the part of the client, that you could argue is on the top of the list of requirements or expectations of our guests – all of our guests.

Look at how much coverage the recent top 10 dirtiest hotels in America list, as identified by Trip Advisor, has seen in the last few weeks, since it was first publicized, and of course the topic of bed bugs seems to come up again and again, just when it seems to be fading to the background.

It is somewhat unfortunate, and unfair, that some hotels that have found themselves at the source of bed bug stories have been labelled as “unclean” as a result, especially when you consider that the issue of bed bugs is completely out of the hands of the hotelier, and NOT necessarily a factor of their commitment to cleanliness.  You can have the cleanest hotel in the world one moment, and be seen as “unclean” moments later, based on some unsuspecting guest having brought bed bugs into your hotel, riding in their luggage.

That said, hotels can and must at this point, have a detailed and extensive inspection program in place to compliment their commitment to cleanliness.

And it’s not enough to have clean guest rooms and public spaces if the back, or heart of the house, is not of equal importance to you, when it comes to the topic of cleanliness.

I can still remember, many years ago when I was working as a department manager within a hotel, when my General Manager had a conversation with me about cleanliness that has stuck with me for the rest of my career.

I found myself at a property where there had been a consider lack of funds injected into the property for some time, and when money was made available to address any shortcomings, the emphasis was always on the front of the house, areas where the guests would access and could easily see if things were unclean and/or in a state of disrepair.  As a result, the team at the hotel had become somewhat resigned to the fact that the heart of the house did not reflect the same level of the commitment to cleanliness as did the front of the house. 

It was shortly after the new General Manager arrived and I was touring him around the property that he shared his simple but profound philosophy with me on the subject of cleanliness and the importance of an equal emphasis on cleanliness or the front AND heart of the house.

How, he asked me, can we expect the employees to feel proud of what they do if we are not equally proud of our surroundings?  How, can we expect the employees to believe in our commitment to cleanliness, (on behalf of our guests), when our commitment is not evident within our own areas and in how they are treated?  We cannot expect our employees to flip a switch whenever they cross from the heart of the house to the front of the house and suddenly start to care about cleanliness, simply as a result of having crossed that threshold.

We met regularly after that as we crafted a plan to address every area of the heart of the house and raise the standard of cleanliness with the intent of achieving a level of cleanliness that rivalled a hospital corridor, and once achieved, to maintain that level of cleanliness, all on a cost-effective basis.

It was one of the projects that I am most proud of in my career, as we worked to raise the standards for our employees, and, as I saw the definitive difference in the attitude of our employees as they saw that we clearly valued them, and in so doing, were committed to providing them with a work environment that reflected that value and commitment. 

You could feel the level of pride and engagement rising up, and our guest service scores reflected that pride and steadily rose as well, as did our revenue stream.  It was one the earliest and most memorable demonstrations that I witnessed of the positive impact of treating your employees with a level of respect and value that you would readily provide to your guests, and seeing the positive results that follow when that becomes a commitment within your organization.

The other thing that I would have to credit this General Manager for teaching me along the way was the ability to get a lot done with a little money, depending on how you get things done, and that a shortage of funds does not necessarily need to dictate your surroundings.  He was very creative about ways to make an impact that our employees could see and value that didn’t necessarily costs a lot, but they produced results far in excess of what little they did cost. 

Not surprisingly, he went on to greater leadership roles within that company and helped to raise the level of standards throughout the company as a result.

Is your hotel as clean as it should be, in both the front AND heart of the house?

Need an experienced hospitality professional to help your property reach its full potential?  Contact me.

New to this Blog?  Click here to subscribe by email and never miss another post.            

No comments:

Post a Comment