With advancements in the areas of communications, GPS, smart home systems and database integration, housekeeping departments are beginning to see relevant technological improvements hit the market.
By Amy Hinote
For housekeeping professionals in the vacation rental industry, innovation in technology designed to increase operational efficiency for housekeeping and maintenance departments has been relatively slow compared to advancements in other areas of technology, including revenue management, channel management and marketing tools.
However, over the last year, new functionality in vacation rental housekeeping technology is hitting the market and will help lower costs, save time, enable housekeeping and maintenance staff to be more productive, and in some cases, provide additional revenue streams.
Five Areas of Development in Housekeeping Technology
- Communications and Apps
The vacation rental industry has seen the development of technology systems and apps designed to provide real-time communications between staff, management, housekeepers, maintenance personnel, guests and property owners. LSI, Status Tracker and several of the property management software systems have launched tools that free housekeepers from relying on legacy technology so they can work smarter and faster. These new systems help housekeeping teams coordinate their tasks with real-time property assignment information to work more efficiently, and mobile housekeeping apps aim to put clipboards and in-unit telephone reporting in the rearview mirror. They are easy to install and rely on the property’s wireless network without an internet connection.
- Scheduling and Route Optimization
With advancements in reliable GPS mapping and tracking, Route Optimization is an area of technology that has rapidly developed in the last two years. Florists, housekeeping companies, fleet managers, moving companies and delivery drivers in a multitude of businesses have transformed their operations using route optimization software. In the vacation rental industry, we can expect to see several technology providers white label these solutions into their products. But you don’t have to wait. Ask your housekeeping technology provider about route optimization systems, and volunteer to work with them to beta test and integrate the functionality into your software.
- Keyless Locks and Smart Home Control
The introduction of smart home control has made a huge impact on the vacation rental industry by reducing the time and expense associated with key management, providing guests with safer stays, lowering property owner utility bills and providing real-time notification of maintenance issues in the home. For housekeeping departments, the benefits of using smart home control also help to lower costs and increase guest and owner satisfaction. Using smart home codes, managers can track when housekeeping and maintenance staff members enter and leave a property without having to manage keys among cleaners and contractors.
- Noise, Trash and Parking
For vacation rental opponents, the complaints most often raised at city council meetings are noise, trash and parking, which when left unaddressed can result in tightening regulations and restrictions. As a result, professional vacation rental managers are always looking for ways to be better neighbors and to encourage guests to be better neighbors. Here are a few ideas of how technology may be able to help.
- Noise monitoring apps and devices are available which provide notifications for sustained high levels of noise.
- Apps can be used to alert and remind guests about trash days and parking restrictions.
- Smart home cameras can be used in exterior locations to monitor trash and parking areas.
- Lost and Found
VRMs work around the clock to improve guest satisfaction, so when they get a call from a guest who left his iPhone, grandmother’s ring, GoPro or child’s special pillow, team members jump to respond. However, keeping up with the many items left behind and matching these items with their owner can be overwhelming… especially during peak seasons. Technology has been created to help streamline and automate the lost and found process. One system being used by a handful of savvy property managers is called ChargerBack. This free tool has the following functionality:
- Sends emails to both staff and the guest.
- Generates pre-paid shipping labels to return the item to the guest.
- Provides a way for guests to self-report lost items from your website.
- Makes it easy for staff to match those reports with items that have been turned in.
At the Vacation Rental Housekeeping Professionals (VRHP) Annual Conference in November, as managers investigated improvements in technology and explored the gaps in their current systems, we asked them to write on notecards what functionality they wish existed in their software system and what they want their software to do.
Below is a wish list of housekeeping technology functionality from attendees at the 2015 VRHP Annual Conference.
20 Features Vacation Rental Managers Would Like to See Developed for :
- “We need a stand-alone linen management tool and customized automated communications.”
- “Scheduling, Inspection Reporting, Ordering and Tracking Linens”
- “Housekeeping and scheduling tools that show the number of guests checking in and out, along with the next arrival. Right now, we have to run arrival and departure reports, and it is very time consuming.”
- “Integrating software. For example, Escapia and IST should be interactive…or…alternatively, each needs to provide a full suite of services so we only need one.”
- “Owner CRM tools, process mapping, and metrics/data > harvest > process > distribute”
- “Tools to guide housekeepers to do their own inspections”
- “A better setup for keyless locks”
- “Control all from smart phones, including temperature settings, and televisions.”
- “Virtual clock-in/clock-out for housekeepers”
- “GPS, scheduling”
- “Mobile tools integrated with pictures of what the unit should look like, including furniture placement”
- “Lost and Found Management and Linen Management”
- “Inventory Management, i.e. kitchen inventory in the home, etc.”
- “Noise monitoring systems and a hot tub and pool scheduler”
- “System that texts inspectors when a home has been cleaned, instead of having to first update the dashboard.”
- “Customizable surveys”
- “Analytics and response tools for guest surveys”
- “More operational metrics and business intelligence tools”
- “Technology training!”
- “We would like a tool that would time track and GPS track our housekeepers and inspectors.”