In a hotel business that’s been revolutionized by computers and the cloud, one operation has remained stubbornly resistant to change: cleaning rooms.
In fact, the housekeeping process in many hotels has changed little since the introduction of the walkie-talkie. Housekeepers are dispatched with paper manifests, and the many changes that typify the daily routine are handled through calls, written notes and trips back to the office. Heads of housekeeping trail their staff around the building to check on room status and deal with exceptions like unexpected stay-overs and checkouts. Items inadvertently left by guests in rooms are carried manually to a drop-off point, with owners typically notified hours after they’ve checked out. Language barriers are a constant problem.
But now there’s an automated solution that brings the power of AutoClerk-like automation to the housekeeping and maintenance teams. It’s called CleanMeNext, and it’s available now to all of our customers.
CleanMeNext takes advantage of the fantastic flexibility of handheld devices to keep housekeeping staff in constant contact with dispatchers. It uses mobile features like geolocation, cameras and multimedia messaging to streamline communication, cut down on errors and give managers full visibility into the status of their properties. It provides automated translation across eight languages using a professional version of Google’s cloud translation engine. It even notifies guests immediately of found items. And because CleanMeNext runs completely in the cloud, the data it collects is available for years for trend spotting and reporting.
Here are a few highlights.
Housekeeping managers begin each day with a comprehensive color-coded map showing the status of all rooms including check-outs, stay-overs, early check-ins and special requests. Unlike paper lists, the manifest is dynamic and changes all day long, with updates every 10 seconds.
When housekeepers arrive for work, their mobile app displays a list of rooms assigned to them. To claim a room, the housekeeper simply clicks a button and begins cleaning. Any special instructions are included in the room description and can be instantly updated by the head housekeeper or front desk.
Whenever the housekeeper logs a room as completed, its status is automatically updated on the master console and all other devices on the network. Any changes ripple through the system so that everyone’s manifest is adjusted automatically. For example, if a guest requests no service that day, the front desk clerk can click a button and automatically remove that room from the manifest. If a guest checks out early, the priorities adjust so that the room moves up on the housekeeper’s manifest. There are no calls, no unwanted knocks on guests’ doors and no errors.
Unexpected checkouts can be flagged by the housekeeper, instantly logged at the front desk and reflected in the updated housekeeping manifest. The same process works if a guest marked for checkout decides to stay over.
The 5-star dividend
CleanMeNext’s efficiency benefits are obvious, but there are also big payoffs in customer satisfaction. For example, guests who arrive early can register for text notifications when their rooms are ready. Problems requiring maintenance or engineering can be handled quickly as well as special requests for items such as pillows or blankets. Instead of an error-prone manual process, everything is routed automatically and the status updated instantly.
One area where CleanMeNext changes the rules of customer satisfaction is in handling forgotten items. Traditionally, housekeepers who find items in vacated rooms have had to hand-carry them to the office, where supervisors attempt to reach the departed guest by phone. The process may require hours, by which time the guest may be hundreds of miles away.
With CleanMeNext, the housekeeper can take a picture of the lost item and send it to the front desk along with a text message to the guest. This dramatically improves chances that the item and its owner can be reunited. That translates into happier guests, more five-star reviews for your hotel and fewer costs associated with packing up and shipping lost items.
Integrated engineering systems is also a game changer. Instead of filing a written work order, housekeepers using CleanMeNext can snap a photo of a broken heat vent or stopped-up toilet and send it to engineering immediately, along with a description of the problem. Repair and maintenance personnel can be dispatched in minutes to get rooms quickly back in service and generating revenue.
Hotel managers will love CleanMeNext’s reporting features. That’s because all information about housekeeping activities is archived and kept indefinitely for analysis and reporting. A manager can see, for example, that housekeeper Anna cleaned 59 rooms in eight days at an average time of 32 minutes per room. Anna’s performance can be easily compared to other housekeepers’, and the data can be rolled up in aggregate to help managers identify bottlenecks and scheduling glitches. There’s no paper and no calculators because standard reports are generated automatically.
Having access to historical data also cuts maintenance costs by helping engineering manager see, for example, that the same heating unit has been fixed in room 107 four times in the past month and probably should be replaced.
The costs of rolling out CleanMeNext are probably lower than you think. The cloud-based solution works with most Android, iPhone and Amazon Fire devices. You can bypass expensive cellular data plans by using your hotel’s Wi-Fi. And at about $3 per room per month, the service should be cash-flow positive from day one.