By Del Ross
Hotel occupancy has hit rock-bottom. At the same time, the hotel workforce has also dropped to all-time lows. The average property has reduced staff from more than 25 people to fewer than eight, but with Payroll Protection Program (PPP) incentives, staff availability may soon grow faster than occupancy, creating opportunities for lasting improvements in productivity, revenue generation and asset condition.
COVID-19 has been a hard reset of the hotel economic cycle, creating the need for new thinking. As we move from crisis to “pre-covery” to recovery, there are opportunities for game-changing improvements to our business model that should not be ignored. During this unique time period, there are 10 things every hotelier can and should be doing now that will position each hotel for success post-pandemic. Those actions are broken down into three buckets of attention: taking care of the team, taking care of the hotel, and taking care of the customers.
Here is your 10-step playbook for hotel success during these unprecedented times:
Taking Care of the Team
1. Create PPP reports to track progress toward forgiveness criteria and other loan requirements. Also consider creating a partial unemployment report, and historical and current payroll reports with position and employee-level details.
2. If PPP requires you to bring team members on board earlier than occupancy requires, cross-training will enhance the appeal of each position and give you more flexibility with staffing and scheduling. Cross-training also makes individual roles more attractive to employees and may boost both recruitment and retention over time.
3. Review or establish productivity standards. COVID-19 has changed the safety and cleanliness criteria for hotels. During the downturn, managers are working all positions, creating the opportunity to redefine processes and expectations, in the process improving the overall ROI of the labor investment. Labor standards should be used to create daily and weekly labor plans for most positions in every hotel. As managers clean rooms, perform maintenance tasks, etc., they should be timing each process and documenting all required steps. Examples of positions that are directly tied to productivity metrics include housekeeping (minutes per room, or MPR); laundry (MPR); guest service (check-in time, departure); maintenance (average time to resolve ticket); and F&B (covers per server/banquet attendee).
4. Zero-based budgeting will be invaluable. Establishing breakeven occupancy, minimum staffing requirements and basic operational procedures is no longer a theoretical luxury, especially as most hotels have now gone for more than a month with skeleton crews and negative income.
5. The employee onboarding process is critical to productivity ramp-up and long-term retention. Most hotels have not reviewed or updated position-level onboarding processes for many years (or ever). Components of a good employee onboarding process:
- Paperwork: Tax forms, benefits, direct deposit info and ID verification should all be in a consistent, consolidated “packet”
- Workplace rules and policies: Explain rules about scheduling, attendance, time off requests and break times. Define expectations about guest interaction, attitude and attire/appearance. Go over the phone/mobile device policy
- Hotel Tour: Show new team members the entire hotel, and introduce them to other team members to create connections. Assign a “peer mentor” to help with the initial onboarding period (4-6 weeks)
- Job-specific training and expectation setting
Taking Care of the Hotel
6. With most guestrooms unoccupied, assess maintenance conditions. Nearly every room has some non-standard, minor maintenance item that can either annoy guests or disrupt a stay. Make a “punch list” for each room. Guestroom inspection checklists should include the following:
- Doors and locks
- Lighting (fixtures and bulbs)
- Bedding, seating, casegoods (hard furnishings)
- Amenities (test and replenish)
- Bathroom fixtures and plumbing (include functional tests and don’t forget the drains)
- Closet contents
- HVAC (test for function and noise, review maintenance schedules)
7. It is time for a 100% deep cleaning. Impossible during high-occupancy periods, you can now take rooms (and public spaces) offline for days or weeks if needed to clean and repair thoroughly.
8. Take care of deferred and preventative maintenance, including the hotel exterior, entryways, parking and landscaping. Investing in elective maintenance efforts will prolong the life of the hotel, extend renovation cycles and deliver higher guest satisfaction.
Take Care of the Customer
9. Analyze your sales clients and their performance—include both local negotiated rates (LNR) and key negotiated rates (KNR) accounts. Look for the misalignment of rates and room-night production, and prepare a contact list and account assignments for recovery outreach. When reviewing accounts, consider the following:
- Did 2019 room-night production meet sales target? If not, reassess historical account potential and adjust account plan for sales team.
- Look for seasonal stay patterns for each account and plan outreach (emails and direct mail) campaigns aligned to seasonality.
- Contact the KNR (brand global sales) account representative for underperforming global accounts.
- Contact the brand area sales director to identify new KNR and group prospects from global accounts.
10. Provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to all guests upon arrival and brief them on cleaning/services expectations. Guests will be nervous when they resume traveling for business or pleasure. Demonstrate empathy by addressing concerns before they are raised. Things to communicate:
- New cleaning/sterilization processes in guestrooms, public spaces and elevator
- Changes (temporary or permanent) to guest services, including daily housekeeping
- Changes to availability of in-hotel amenities (F&B outlets, swimming pool, fitness center)
- Social distancing rules, if required: Elevator occupancy, front desk queue distancing, arrival/stayover parking processes
The key takeaways? Use this time wisely. Every crisis is both a disruption and an opportunity to improve. Take extra steps to invest in your team, your hotel and your customers. Doing it now will pay off during the recovery process.
Del Ross is the chief revenue officer for Hotel Effectiveness.
This is a contributed piece to Hotel Business, authored by an industry professional. The thoughts expressed are the perspective of the bylined individual.