“Housekeepers really are the frontline workers and the unsung heroes of the vacation rental industry. The company’s brand reputation and the guest’s experience rest on how they perform their jobs. In fact, housekeeper is one of the most critical roles within property management, and ensuring that they are fully equipped to do their jobs safely and well should be a priority.”
– Jeremy Gall, Founder & CEO of Breezeway
With increased focus on contactless check-in, field staff are often the only representatives from a vacation rental company to interact with guests one-on-one.
In a session of Breezeway’s Elevate Operations Conference, hosted virtually March 10-11, Cliff Johnson of Rented and Durk Johnson of Housekeeping Solutions discussed the impact that housekeepers have in delivering on a company’s brand promise and why it’s imperative that they are recognized and ensured they feel valued within an organization during.
For starters, “Make sure your team understands what you are asking of them,” Cliff Johnson said. “Cleaning best practices vary based on whether it’s a hotel, a vacation home, a domestic home or commercial real estate.
“And prepare them for unexpected encounters of customer engagement – such as the time when a team member came into a home and found a guest who had pit bulls still sleeping.”
Durk Johnson said it’s best to train housekeepers in the property “so that they can understand the standards that are set and see the impact that the cleaning makes and the implications of it toward the success of the operations. Teach them about the business so they can understand why cleaning is so important. Teach them about using the right amount of cleaning product and how to use their time efficiently.”
Speaking the Language
Durk Johnson says the communication gap can create challenges with some workers.
“Where appropriate, have your workers carry an ESL card so that if they struggle to communicate with the guests so they can provide a phone number where the guest can get their questions answered,” he said.
Cliff Johnson recognized the respect and stress that these workers command.
“With some housekeepers, they are the core of their families,” he said. “They are proud. They won’t ask for help. They won’t tell you when they are injured or are suffering mental anxieties. They won’t complain.”
Cliff Johnson said it’s important for managers to remind housekeepers that their jobs are not easy, and that they are professionals who are really good at what they do. Show others on the management team how difficult housekeeping can be, he recommends, to create greater appreciation.
Durk Johnson also acknowledged the high stress levels these workers face every day.
“They come to work and have to be worried about MERS, COVID-19, wearing masks and getting the job done right,” he said. “It’s important to emphasize teamwork and give morale support. They know that when anything goes wrong, it’s likely housekeeping that is blamed, so always bring up the good things that are happening. Share a lot more positives than negatives.”
Training: Do a Pie in the Face
Cliff Johnson says that training should be incremental and ongoing.
“Don’t hold any 8-hour training sessions because you’ll lose their attention,” he said. “Have your best housekeepers train the others and teach them tricks on how to do a better job. Relate the training to guest reviews and what needs to be worked on. And put your staff in positions where they are comfortable. If they are good at a certain task, have them do that.”
Durk Johnson said training should be what he called, “edu-tainment.”
“Have fun with it,” he said. “Make sure it’s interactive. It should be quirky and fun so it’s memorable. Each lesson should be 3 to 5 minutes. If you are showing them the difference between goggles and glasses, prove it by taking a pie in the face, for example.
“When retraining, focus on the basics. Look at comment cards from guests to see what types of things need correcting or more effort. If guests are commenting about water marks on silverware, learn how to clean utensils better.
Durk Johnson: Housekeepers are good candidates to move to the front of the house because they have great institutional knowledge about the property based on what they know from cleaning it.”
Cliff Johnson added, “Look to see if any are interested in more work opportunities.”
The pair also debated whether cleaning fees be a profit center. In an informal poll of session attendees, by 57 percent to 43 percent the group said they should.
“It should not be a tack-on fee, because that can cause inefficiencies in the job done, which can lead to burnout,” Cliff Johnson said. “And housekeeping staff should not see that the guest paid $300 for cleaning, but the housekeeper was only paid $100.”
Durk Johnson said operators must balance effectiveness with efficiency. Housekeeping is part of your brand, so they need to be compensated well for what they do.