Amongst many other operational changes, the pandemic has forced every hotel to drastically ramp up its use of technology, both to keep a lean team in order to break even and to reassure groups so they can book confidently for Q4 2020 and Q1 2021. This is difficult, though, in the face of so many additional procedures that must be incorporated as part of the new viral safety and sanitization guidelines.
In this next normal – next over new as we may well encounter successive waves of reopening or sudden closures due to a virus resurgence – hotels are not profitable without incredible management software to automate many of the tasks which staff members previously completed manually. Additionally, you want your teams to be able to get up to speed as quickly as possible and without any fears for their own safety or fatigue from “too much too fast” training.
From the customer’s perspective, Covid-specific features built into management software help to facilitate proper service delivery so that the hotel experience never suffers while also ensuring that no corners are cut so that virus-fearful guests are never triggered.
With this in mind, what should you look for in a management platform so that you are able to digitalize as many of these new guidelines as possible? Here are ten features and the problems they solve.
- Viral safety checklists. Housekeeping will have a lot on its plate over and above what was typically inscribed in a pre-pandemic guestroom cleaning procedure. Not only will each room attendant need a reminder to ensure they get it right, but a sanitization checklist like this can, if required, be forwarded to the incoming guest so as to give them peace of mind that their room has been properly disinfected.
- Time analytics. Knowing how long it takes each room attendant to complete a checklist may be just as important as the list itself. This will give you insights into how long the new guestroom SOPs should take to finish so that you can plan housekeeping boards appropriately and keep costs down. You may also want to set up an alert for when a room is marked done prematurely, which may indicate that corners were cut.
- Breakroom and lunchtime social distancing. For now, the mandate is to limit the number of employees in any given space at any given time, meaning staggered start times and breaktimes. Dictating who is authorized to get underway or kick their feet up for a few minutes at any point during the workday is simply too hard to govern manually.
- Inventory management. The short-term demands of COVID-19 have resulted into worldwide shortages of PPE, sanitizers and a host of other products necessary for a safe hotel experience. You need to know as far in advance as possible when your inventory is running low so that you can place another order or find a new supplier.
- Contact and temperature tracing. With many employees reaching you via public transportation, managers need to have a pulse on where all their team members have been throughout their shifts as well as a quick reference of their bodily states upon arrival, so contact can be minimized and so records can be produced in case an employee tests positive. All this should, of course, be automated to relieve managers’ time and to avoid generating a mound of paper archives.
- Online training. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was your property. The issue now is that we must make our operations as contactless as possible, thus necessitating the shift to web-based training for all these new protocols so that your team can get up to speed quickly, without having to cluster into a classroom setting. Critical here will be some form of accountability metrics – such as document completion tracking or quizzing – so that management knows whether or not a staffer has actually absorbed the knowledge or merely glanced through it.
- Enabling BYOD. In the not-too-distant past, bringing your own device to work came with a few big issues concerning data security and cellular payment coverage. Now, however, we must focus on minimizing contact, making BYOD imperative via an intuitive employee app, while still including features to prevent data breaches. Plus, everyone already knows how their own mobile phone works so this will help to limit onboarding.
- Bulletin boards. Being able to electronically notify team members of important information is nothing new as we’ve all had email for decades now. The difference now is that managers should be able to automatically segment these written or video notifications so that they only reach those employees for whom it is relevant. Not only will this alleviate ‘inbox paralysis’ but it will also temporarily eliminate the need for the morning lineup or daily standup to thereby reduce contact.
- Image posting. A picture is worth a thousand words. Giving employees the ability to post an image in the appropriate messaging board will be a lifesaver for efficiently tracking tasks like maintenance repairs, lost and found, room service, minibar or virus-free guestroom security seal stickers, all while limiting person-to-person contact.
- Interdepartmental communications. The ramp up to high occupancy levels won’t be immediate, meaning that certain staffers will be ‘pinch hitting’ for other departments until such time as they are fully engrossed in their designated duties. The only way to make guest service fluid with employees migrating from one role to another is to utilize a platform where managers have an overview of what’s currently happening in other operations. As a bonus, such cross-department exposure will help raise team morale by giving staffer a holistic view into how to a run a hotel so that they can find where their true passions lie.
For some extra insight, I spoke with Adria Levtchenko, CEO and Co-Founder of PurpleCloud Technologies which recently launched a free-of-charge Covid Response platform. “Outside from preventing viral spread, the only way we can restore customer confidence and earn the trust of future guests is to consistently execute a brand’s safety promises,” Adria said. “With so much knowledge required, this is only possible with a smart management system so all team members understand their new roles.”
As we look to thrive in the next normal, the only way to succeed on a cost-efficient team is to deploy the proper software and hopefully these ten features have helped lead you in the right direction.
One of the world’s most published writers in hospitality, Larry Mogelonsky is the principal of Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited, a Toronto-based consulting practice. His experience encompasses hotel properties around the world, both branded and independent, and ranging from luxury and boutique to select-service. Larry is also on several boards for companies focused on hotel technology. His work includes five books, “Are You an Ostrich or a Llama?” (2012), “Llamas Rule” (2013), “Hotel Llama” (2015), “The Llama is Inn” (2017) and “The Hotel Mogel” (2018). You can reach Larry at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss hotel business challenges or to book speaking.
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