Housekeeping has never been more scrutinized than it has been these past six months with the onset of COVID-19. Housekeeping also has never been more difficult to execute with the continual evolution of cleaning protocols.
"Hotels are now required to follow brand mandated as well as city/state mandated cleanliness requirements," says Parminder Batra, CEO, TraknProtect. "In addition to their day-to-day duties, staff must also document and verify they have followed these requirements."
Add to this the high turnover rates found among housekeeping, and hoteliers can be facing quite a problem during a pandemic. In fact, the hospitality industry as a whole has the highest turnover rate in any industry at 74.9% − based on numbers from October 2019, says Einar Rosenberg, CIO, Creating Revolutions. This means that every year, three-quarters of a hotel’s staff has been on the job for a year or less.
So how can hoteliers help their housekeepers stay safe, informed and on top of the latest requirements? Technology seems to be the obvious answer, but not all tech solutions are great solutions.
Many back office software systems are inflexible and difficult to configure. For example, many hotels have found out the hard way that some technologies work well when the hotel is running at full capacity, but they become a hindrance to productivity and actually make life more difficult for users when the hotel is quiet or running at limited occupancy, says Katherine Grass, CEO, Optii Solutions.
Additionally, many hotels have selected “various department solutions from different tech providers, creating a disjointed system that left little room for cohesion, data collection, and developing best practices,” says Juan Carlos Abello, CEO of Nuvola.
And just because a hotel has technology in place doesn’t mean staff is well trained on using it.
“Hotels struggle with giving team members time to really learn how to make the most of their tools. The budget and team constraints brought on by COVID haven’t made this any easier,” says Adria Levtchenko, Co-Founder & CEO, PurpleCloud.
ALICE agrees, noting that hotel technology shouldn’t be “rocket science. If it’s hard to train on and use, employees won’t use it, and owners and managers aren’t going to get the results they’re looking for.”
The pandemic has brought all of these problems to the forefront, and now managers, owners and corporate staff are all looking for ways to improve the housekeeping experience: both for staff and for guests. For all the reasons listed above and more, plug-and-play solutions are particularly in high demand and housekeeping solution providers are doing their best to fill that need with product upgrades and new product rollouts. Here, Hospitality Technology takes a look at a few companies and their plug-and-play solutions.
With ALICE Housekeeping hoteliers can adjust permissions to accommodate employees filling multiple roles. With flexible user permissions, ALICE allows different employees to complete room inspections, reassign rooms and to view the room cleaning pipeline. It also offers digital checklists, dispatches requests on the go to departments with the ability to track progress, has an autopilot feature allowing the software to prioritize rooms when the supervisor is away, shows related tickets in the same view for each room, and in November 2020 will offer an opt-in stayover service which allows hotels to adapt their cleaning schedules to stop a cleaning service unless a guest specifically requests it. ALICE’s open API enables hotels to integrate with their preferred apps, tools, PMS, and more, which allows team members access to additional tools.
This year, Creating Revolutions launched CLEANtracker, a technology that monitors employees in real-time, to make certain that all management defined protocols and processes are followed precisely every single time. CLEANtracker accomplishes this with the AI system ELROY, which uses advanced mathematics, NFC and human kinematics to identify if a job is being done correctly. It also uses that data to continually learn and optimize employee efficiency as well. It also allows hotels to provide guests with proof that their rooms have been cleaned and sanitized.
Nuvola developed and launched the StayClean Initiative, providing two free products until the end of 2020 titled Checklists and Checkpoints. Checklists facilitates any SOP that requires a list of things to do from simple tasks like security walkthroughs and daily lineups, to more complex processes like deep cleanings, room inspections, and common area inspections (i.e. gym, spa, lobby, bathrooms, etc.).
Checkpoints, which leverage QR-code technology, allows staff to automate the scheduling of which high touch-point surface areas need to be cleaned and how often they should be sanitized. Supervisors simply place the QR-codes near those surfaces like elevator buttons, handrails, doorknobs, countertops, etc., and set up the schedule inside of Nuvola. From there, staff are automatically assigned tasks via the built-in notification & escalation system. Once the staff member completes the surface cleaning, they scan the QR-code with their Nuvola app and move onto their next task.
This year, Optii Solutions released new features within its Housekeeping module to assist users in managing their “new normal” in operations. These features include a task scheduler to allow hotels to manage their stayover clean intervals and delay departure cleans to reduce staff/guest contact in guest rooms; an enhanced “extra jobs” feature to allow for hotels to schedule deep cleans and disinfectant practices while also tracking these jobs in a report to provide an audit trail to Hotel Management teams; and an enhanced “View all Jobs” feature with the housekeeping app to allow users to view a step by step guide to cleaning processes including photos and links to training videos.
Recently, PurpleCloud launched PurpleCloud CR (Covid Response), a streamlined, free version of its hotel task optimization platform, says Levtchenko. PurpleCloud CR provides hotels access to all AHLA Safe Stay guidelines as well relevant training materials, sanitation checklists that stick to guidelines set by Ecolab and the CDC, mobile messaging, and the ability to conduct contact tracing in the event a guest or staff member falls ill.
“Our COVID Response platform is entirely web-based, so it can be used on any smart device, including laptops, tablets, and smartphones,” she adds. “We also included a complete digital tour to help educate new users, so it isn’t necessary for hotels to undergo major training sessions in order to use the technology.The last thing we want to do is add complexity to operators’ daily lives, and we took that into consideration with the selection of offerings we made available.”
As health and safety documentation requirements became more essential, Quore responded with new log sheets. The Temperature Log tracks staff and/or guest temperature readings in real time according to the property’s protocols. The Restricted Area Log supports social distancing compliance by monitoring areas with capacity restrictions. Additionally, Quore’s inspection app was a vital feature to document operational compliance as new COVID cleaning requirements and brand standards evolved. It worked directly with IHG to create and distribute COVID-specific cleaning checklists and inspection templates to their properties using Quore. The templates were automatically available to IHG properties to utilize immediately. Meanwhile, Quore customers have the flexibility to create their own customized COVID templates as well. They also have access to Inspections Reports to consolidate and share their overall performance of the inspection processes.
This year TraknProtect launched TraknKleen a new IoT technology solution designed to help hotels enhance housekeeping operations, while providing guests with security and peace of mind while traveling. TraknKleen trilaterates data from multiple sources, such as housekeeping carts, I.D. cards, cleaning supplies, and other assets, to automatically track the date, time, and duration of the cleaning process for guestrooms and public areas in a hotel. The tool creates an audit trail for housekeeping activities, and tracks the use of designated cleaning assets, such as electrostatic sprayers in all guest areas. This allows properties using TraknKleen to share real-time access to relevant and reliable information regarding the organized and systemic delivery of property-based cleaning activities with corporate buyers, travelers and hotel brands.
“Research shows that as much as guests want enhanced cleanliness protocols they want communication around these protocols and that they are being followed,” says Parminder Batra, CEO, TraknProtect. “As a result, TraknKleen was designed to allow hotels to demonstrate that protocols are being followed and also create reminders for public areas for when an area requires to be cleaned again.”