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Think long term! Think brand building! Think housekeeping!

Monday, August 28, 2017, 16:50 Hrs  [IST]

Like a scene from the Hollywood blockbuster ‘Dunston Checks In’, I could see the housekeeping team hard at work. Sweeping, mopping, wiping, polishing, settling and imagine, through that all, smiling and greeting me as I passed! A young energetic looking supervisor walked a few steps ahead of me wearing her spanking clean Dr coat and, like a mother hen, inspected in minute detail the handiwork of her team. I had a flashback to Catering College (25 saal pehle) - housekeeping teachers; Puri, Avril Sule and Aileen Sequeira. I smile at the memories of them inspecting my handiwork (tearing it up, more likely) running their hands over the top of a cupboard, which I obviously skipped thinking no one would look there. Or peering at a sheet I thought was exceptionally well ironed only to be told it was a mess. Or looking literally under the carpet to find the disaster I had hidden there.

Cut to today, I chose to walk up the old-world-charm-like wooden stairs of the Hotel Lotus 8, Kochi. I was using their conferencing facilities to train the cabin crew of Air India Express. It struck me how important the housekeeping team is in creating a positive impact on guests. You can’t build a brand without an eye for detail and housekeepers do have that built into their overcoats. From being referred to as back-of-the-house (BOH) to heart-of-the-house (HOH), housekeeping has come a long way.

As I walked the stairs, another irony struck me - people regularly and happily spend more time, effort and money on maintaining their hair, face, clothes and accessories than they spend on maintaining their heart. And all too often hotels too are guilty of investing more time, money and effort on their FOH team a lot more than the HOH team. They don’t appreciate, recognise or invest in the housekeeping. And then when your health finally collapses (body/ hotel) most often you’ll find your heart is all messed up.

Hotels, like many mismanaged businesses today, focus on the sales and marketing teams and their FOH personnel. Incentivise them for making sales, provide them better facilities, train and back them up totally for all their requirements, while the BOH team is ignored. Budgets for equipment and supplies are curtailed, maintenance is ignored and salaries held down. Yup, ignore your heart - eat wrong, don’t exercise, overexert at work and sleep at odd hours - no prizes for guessing what’s going to happen in the long run.

Wake up hoteliers and restaurateurs and smell the coffee.

Attitudinal shift
Simply put, value your gym instructor and dietician’s advice. ‘Yes’ it will be painful and boring and ‘no’ it won’t show immediate results but ignoring it will cause, most often, irreversible and long term damage.

Pay better
Throw peanuts, you’ll get monkeys. Over the years the HK core team has been as close as possible to minimum wages. So they can’t possibly attract and retain talent. It’s like fuelling your body with cheap and unhygienic food - don’t you realise it will get internally damaged?

Hire right
GMs personally interview the sales and front office teams but leave the recruitment of janitors and housekeeping boys to a junior HR executive. Choosing to sit on the panel and taking a keen interest in who gets on board, sends a motivational message to the HK team that they are valued.

Equip right
How can you provide cheap and damaged equipment in the gym? At best you can’t use it and at worst you can grievously injure yourself or others.

Invest in training
Despite your best efforts, housekeeping (in general) due to the nature of the field doesn’t attract highly educated or capable personnel. But I have seen, with consistent training, there is a huge jump in their motivational levels and efficiency. Training leads to better equipment handling and chemicals and other consumables are effectively utilised. Badly or untrained personnel damage expensive flooring, electrical equipment, and plumbing fixtures leading to untold direct monetary losses and unaccountable damage to reputation.

As I step into my room, I suddenly feel a relaxing wave pass through my body. The room is spotless. I decide to do an Avril Sule on them and run my hand on the top of my wardrobe. My hand comes out clean. Lotus 8 housekeeping has passed the test.

Think long term! Think brand building! Think housekeeping!

The views expressed within this column are the opinion of the author, and may not necessarily be endorsed by the publication.

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