Xavier Icardo on Why Housekeeping Matters

Hotel Housekeeping Award Winner Leeah Hartley.
Hotel Housekeeping Award Winner Leeah Hartley.

On the heels of International National Housekeeping Week, which took place Sept. 8-14, 2019, hospitality executive Xavier Icardo looks at why housekeeping is so important.

By Xavier Icardo

As a guest entering a hotel room, there are a couple of basic rules and expectations you have: availability, cleanliness, safety, comfort, amenities, and most importantly, a properly working bathroom.

Like every guest, you only rarely interact with any employees, save for the front desk staff when you are checking in or leaving, ordering room service, etc. However, most of your basic ground rules are handled by the housekeeping team, and whether you are in the hotel business (looking at retaining your staff ) or a user (using and sometimes abusing the room), you should know how difficult, tiring and under-appreciated this job is.

If you are an owner/operator, you have seen it all: Trashed rooms, broken TVs, beds not made properly, unidentifiable substances stuck to the wall, internal quality issues and a few other unsavoury situations that we won’t print here. 

So, let’s review these basic rules and expectations:

Availability: your room should be ready for the advertised or promised checking in time.

Comfort: Your staff should not only clean the room but also check for maintenance issues and fix them on the spot if possible or report them if not. That room should be flagged and not made available for sale until the issue is corrected.

Cleanliness: This is the obvious one: and yet, some basic hygiene rules must be observed, e.g., different cloths for cleaning different areas especially in the bathroom. The right tools must not only be available and operating, but the right chemicals must also be used (greasy areas vs. dirt stains) for optimum results.

Safety: This includes any items or obstacles which might hurt the guest and the staff alike, (damaged bed, sticking out pieces of furniture, carpet looking like a roller coaster, etc…) and must be reported to maintenance. But it also includes the control of basic safety and security equipment (latches, locks, door integrity, smoke detectors, phones) and the safety of the staff. From the gloves that should be worn when dealing with stains, to a policy on whether rooms should be cleaned with the door closed or without guests in it, to staff members wearing a communication device.

Bathroom plumbing: Problems include leaky faucets, toilets not flushing, poor to no water temperature control, showers not operating as intended, plug not available for the bathtub. These points must be noticed and reported by the housekeepers.

Expected amenities: Whether your guests expect to see a towel peacock on your bed or a simple bar of soap, the basic or promised amenities must not only be available, but also in a good condition. Defaced room service menus, inkless pens, blankets with holes and stained pillows are simply not acceptable.

Why the perfect hotel experience is so elusive

Funny enough, while these points seem like no brainers, I don’t recall a recent hotel stay, from a low budget property to a full service one where everything was perfect. But let’s get real, it’s easy to understand why the perfect hotel experience is difficult to obtain.

Lack of appeal: With a tight market like Canada’s, when it comes to recruitment, the job, which is not the most appealing in the hospitality sector, has little traction. Companies, operators and governments lack creativity to attract the manpower much needed to ultimately offer quality, while retaining the workers, who are always lured by other better paying industries.

Lack of resources, operational or human: Some organizations work on tight budgets and cut corners, focusing on their financials rather than the long-term concept of ensuring that a satisfied guest will offer return business. On the other hand, quality of work and productivity will decline after a certain number of rooms are being cleaned by the same employee; therefore, one must ensure adequate staffing, based on occupancy and properly set up for optimum productivity. This includes the right tools, satellite storage facilities, obtainable MPR (minutes per room) goals, etc. And of course, let’s not forget to mention the risk of rooms been rolled over to the next day, preventing many sales and reducing the overall performance of the property.

Lack of training: Due to the sometimes high turnover rate of staff, training is minimal, to say the least; the ideal is to set up a buddy system, on the top of a full training session as well as a proper orientation and introduction to the product (inviting your staff to stay over is a good start). This will improve the quality of work, and the consistency of the final product offered.

Lack of quality control: Here too, problems include a lack of resources, a misguided sense of priority or “lack of time.” The fact is that all the work done in these rooms needs to be controlled, whether you have an executive housekeeper or the work has to be done by yourself, as an owner. It is essential to have all rooms checked, occupied the night before or not: this minimizes unpleasant surprises, addresses productivity issues and maintenance problems brewing behind closed doors as well as guaranteeing the excellent product you promised to your guests.

As an owner/operator, recognition of the work done by the housekeeping staff is essential, not only during International Housekeeping Week, but every day of the year. They are the backbone of the operation and despite the “behind the scenes” aspect of their discipline, it is clear that they deserve all the respect and attention due.

As a guest, it goes without saying, a tip or a note left in the room will show great appreciation and will go a long way.

Contact Xavier Icardo at (647)617-2465. Email: xavicardo@gmail.com

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