“Cleanliness is next to Godliness” is not just an old adage to be taken lightly. You get only one chance to make a good first impression. Cleanliness is one of the most important aspects of the property management business, and it can make or break your reputation. Housekeepers are the backbone of our companies, and their efficiency, knowledge, and loyalty to their profession is extremely vital.
Hiring Housekeeping Staff
When Taylor-Made Deep Creek Vacations hires housekeepers, we look for people who take pride in their work, show attention to detail, and are dedicated to doing their very best on each assignment. We deal with and oversee many tasks, and knowing we have the best cleaning staff on the lake makes one less worry for us.
Our housekeeping coordinators spend over 80 percent of their time making sure each home is completely clean and of proper quality. The rest of their time is devoted to preparing schedules, proofing payroll sheets, checking service orders, and updating the laundry department on what is needed for the following day.
Communications and Technology
To keep in touch with our housekeepers and vice versa, we have instant status trackers, communication cards, iPads/tablets, and cell phones. Advanced technology has proven to be a real plus.
Communication cards are valuable tools for us because we use them to deal with any issues encountered with inspections or cleanings. We find the cards to be extremely effective when communicating between inspectors and cleaners in the field. Inspectors can inform the cleaners that there are items that need special attention, and housekeepers can inform the inspectors if something is broken, the carpet is stained, or there are similar problems. Staff on the job can call or text if there are any questions or special concerns.
Software that enables communication between the field and the office is a huge benefit. It can indicate how long a housekeeper was at a property, how long a housekeeper took between properties, and when a property is ready for occupancy.
Inspectors use iPads or tablets to check arrivals and departures, and they can enter service orders while at the property, attaching pictures as documentation, which saves a great deal of time and money and allows management to devote more time to other tasks. The upside of easily communicating with team members in the field is the ability to receive a quick response and ability to reach out to anyone to discuss certain situations.
The only downside is that field staff may occasionally rely too much on management to resolve issues instead of trusting their own instincts. Oftentimes, they can come up with good solutions on their own. We empower them to use their own judgment to solve problems in appropriate situations.
Overall, we have a great deal of faith in our housekeeping team and their ability to resolve issues independently. Our seasoned staff members assist new employees by training them to our specifications. Our standard home-appearance training video is required viewing for new hires and also acts as a refresher throughout the year for all staff.
Should guests arrive early and before the home is ready, the housekeeper politely informs the guests how much longer it will take and allows them to place cold items in the refrigerator and put luggage by the entrance, and so on. The housekeeper explains that they cannot occupy the home until the cleaning is complete. Most guests happily comply with this rule.
Deliveries and Gifts
Should additional deliveries be needed, such as wine for a VIP guest, birthday balloons, or romance packages, the inspector is responsible for these details. The inspectors also set out the start-up kits we leave for our guests, which include dishwasher tabs, laundry detergent, Palmolive, a sponge, and a roll of paper towels. We do have a separate kit for our elite homes.
On occasion, unexpected problems arise that are not the fault of the housekeepers but infringe on their allotted time in the homes. For instance, we have experienced incorrectly bagged linens being sent to a home for a scheduled cleaning. The housekeeper has either had to come to the office to correct the mistake or the director has had to deliver the proper linens. This situation is both inconvenient and time consuming. When something goes awry and time is of the essence, we will pull available staff from other departments to pitch in.
If a worker calls in sick or is a no-show, we must reschedule the home to another housekeeping team. During peak season, that can create another all-hands-on-deck situation in which anyone from a manager to a company owner will go to the home to make beds and attend to other duties. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen very often; our team members realize how important it is to fulfill their responsibilities.
Our job is all about having realistic expectations for the housekeepers, homeowners, front office staff, and, of course, our guests. We strive to provide the best experience for everyone involved. Our team members are always encouraged to do their best, and we reinforce them with ongoing education. Regular, focused meetings between managers and team members provide opportunities to acknowledge their strengths and identify where they may be able to make improvements.
Callbacks are the biggest challenges for the housekeeping team. In an effort to be fast and efficient, housekeepers may sometimes overlook attention to detail. When a cleaning does not meet our company standards, housekeepers receive a callback and must go to the home to correct anything that is not up to par.
Callbacks also can cause tension between the inspectors and cleaners, especially if a callback was not a “true” callback. We are working on having the inspectors make sure a deficiency is not something they personally can do within fifteen minutes and lessening the tension by conducting team-building and dual-department meetings. A friend mentioned doing “housekeeping Olympics games,” such as running with a mop bucket, throwing an old vacuum, and stuffing a large pillow in a small pillow case, before and during the season, which all sounded like fun.
The backbone of any business must be strong and reliable. Too often, housekeepers are put on the back burner in a company because they are not in the office eight hours a day and sometimes become the forgotten players in the game. At Taylor-Made, we respect our housekeepers and reward them in many ways for excellent work. The title of “Housekeeper of the Week” is awarded to those with outstanding cleans. Nominations come from inspectors who feel particular cleaners went above and beyond with their efforts. This award fosters better relationships between departments.
Housekeeping team meetings always include an element of fun. We play games with prizes such as new vacuums and gift cards, which are extensions of our overall company culture that promotes a “work hard, play hard” philosophy. Throughout the year, we host events such as our soup cook-off, summer kickoff party, and photos with Santa. These get-togethers offer chances for all departments to interact with one another and remind housekeepers that they are appreciated and integral to our team.
We consider ourselves very fortunate to have such a great team overall, and we are especially appreciative of our seasoned housekeeping crew.
About Joe Refosco
With over 25 years in the hospitality industry, Joe Refosco has been involved with vacation rental management for more than 11 years. His experience is varied with focuses that include hot tub and pool service, laundry layout and daily functions, housekeeping, maintenance, general management, and property service programs with renting and non-renting homes.
Joe has been instrumental in developing two different laundry facilities from the ground up both of which produced a return on investment within two years. A leader in efficiency, he has streamlined processes and services to better meet the needs of guests and owners. His efforts have made profit centers out of departments that normally see a flat or subpar performance.
He started Taylor-Made Deep Creek Vacations & Sales with his wife, Jodi Refosco, and brother-in-law, Chad Taylor in 2008. Together, they have grown the company to become the largest vacation rental management firm in the Deep Creek Lake area with over 350 homes and 125 non-vacation rental homes. Joe is the President of the Vacation Rental Housekeeping Professionals and strives keep our industry on the cutting edge for housekeeping, maintenance, and laundry.
Great article and lots of relevant information to our vacation rental cleanings. Thanks!