Monday, July 4, 2011

Housekeeping Staff – Unsung Heroes

It’s no surprise to me that another survey has just recently come out that confirms that a guests’ number one priority in a hotel is cleanliness.

Sure, free internet and complimentary coffee is nice, and everyone appreciates a great bed with lush linens, but none of it matters if your room is not clean, if you look over at your beautiful bed and it does not immediately say “clean” to you, and I admit, I like it when my room smells fresh and clean as well.

And who is responsible for delivering on this imperative unspoken promise of cleanliness?  A dedicated group, made up mostly of women, who are responsible for cleaning an industry average of 15 rooms a day, each expected to exemplify, without exception, your company’s commitment to cleanliness.

And yet, I find all too frequently that the housekeeping staff are largely taken for granted.  Maybe it’s because they are largely not seen in the operation, in the same way that front office, bell and concierge staff are.

I’ve always had a soft spot for the housekeeping staff, especially the room attendants.  Maybe it’s because I worked during a strike, many many years ago, when I was first starting out in the industry, and when the staff first walked off the job, we were expecting a full house and as a result, the managers on duty had hundreds of rooms to clean.   I remember distinctly because I myself cleaned about 40 rooms during the next 16 hours after the strike broke out, and I have never worked so hard.

I don’t know if that’s what it was, I never thought about it specifically, I just know that one of the habits that I seem to have adopted early in my career that has stayed with me to this day is regularly walking the floors, from top to bottom, stopping at every room where the room attendant is working to chat for a few moments, see how their day is going, if there was anything that they needed, and so on.

Periodically, I would walk the floors with the director of human resources, on particularly hot days, and the director of human resources and I would hand out ice cream bars, or bottles of cold water.  The team was always so appreciative whenever we would do this.

But really, think about it, could you clean 15 rooms a day, in an 8 hour shift, every day, and clean them impeccably and to the standards that are required?  Not me.  I have cleaned rooms on several other occasions since that strike in the early days of my career and I am always struck with the same thought – how do they do it, every day, consistently and impeccably, and, with a smile on their face and a warm and welcoming demeanor?

Everyone works hard in a hotel, there is no denying it, but if for whatever reason you don’t find yourself in the heart of the house with any frequency, recognizing your unsung heroes, make a point of doing so today.

After all, these are the people consistently delivering on your brand promise, even when no one is looking, and a little encouragement goes a long way.

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