Fear not! There is no need to fret if you follow some handy tips for our fellow industry professionals from the Vacation Rental Housekeeping Professionals.
In a recent survey, VRHP members from across the U.S. responded to a series of questions on best practices for managing turn days. With 69.44 percent of those responding indicating early arrivals and late departures were an issue for their company, insight from the front lines of housekeeping may just help heavy turn days run smoothly for your business.
Technology is the glue that holds operations together and keeps things running smoothly. With a myriad of software applications available, it can be difficult to choose one. What works for front desk and accounting may not meet the needs of the field. Property management software aside, many agencies use either a third-party plugin or have created a separate proprietary tracking system to assist in managing data.
Fifty-nine percent of survey respondents indicated the most important IT tool is primary software followed by 30 percent indicating an ancillary interface as being the most important. Radios, cell phones, tablets and iPads are being used more and more by the field. A majority of companies supply some type of device to managers and supervisors. Maximizing accessibility of and use of hand-held devices such as itemizing guest damage through pictures, receiving alert emails, text notifications and photo galleries of home interiors are keys to enhanced efficiency.
Tip #1: Look for integration that will produce real-time information via desktops and mobile devices.
If you have a complicated property, it may be worth paying someone to custom code a solution. Real-time wall boards throughout offices also help keep work schedules on track.
Refusing early arrivals and late departures may be the answer for the field, however it doesn’t sound very customer-friendly, especially to a front office employee speaking to a customer. Switching out staff for a few hours may give the field and front office a new found respect for their respective areas.
Communication is essential. Front office pre-arrival auto emails, notifications and calls to the guests help pin-point potential challenges. Helpful things such acknowledging check-in and check-out times on the lease agreement, sending push notifications through a mobile app, and creating an incentive to arrive late and depart early are helpful ways to manage guest flow.
Tip #2: Involve housekeeping and front office staff in preparing all documentation that a guest receives.
Ask for input from both the front office and housekeeping department for policy changes and communications to guests, as well as the development of guest incentives to arrive late or check-out early.
While software may be the glue, staffing is the back-bone of the organization. Many companies engage part-time seasonal assistance through a staffing agency. Little things like pairing seasonal employees with a full-time seasoned employee, and proper training prior to a busy day is helpful--but not always possible. Some companies have established an on-call list and have oriented each person on the list, therefore making it easier to plug them in on a given day. It is essential to be prepared for the volume of turn-over in advance of season. Managers and supervisors can pitch in by being accessible to handle guest issues, strip beds, prepare cleaning supplies in advance of staff arrival, check the arrivals/departures list to gain awareness of any changes and keep communications going throughout the day. Instant notifications of homes that are ready and guest departures will make for a more pleasant day. Create text and email groups to assist in real-time communication between the field and front office.
Tip #3: Estimate and prepare for your guest flow well in advance.
Use forecasting tools as well as historical data to determine your guest flow ahead of time—and staff accordingly. Real-time systems to facilitate communication will help everyone succeed.
A key component to preparation for heavy turn days is figuring out what gate-keeper can be used to assist the front office and field with guests who will not follow policy. If you are lucky enough to have a ferry or other access point that requires advance reservations you may be able to control arrivals and departures to some degree. Most properties don’t have the advantage of a gate-keeper so it takes a bit of creativity to establish one. One survey respondent allowed guests to place items in the garage or first floor of the home prior to check-in time, while others have electric locks timed according to the assigned check-in/out schedule, or rely on the front office to control. Staggering check-in days and times is helpful along with requiring a physical check-in process. Another idea is to create door hangers indicating that housekeeping is in progress along with a phone number to the front office for access inquiries.
Tip #4: Determine a gate-keeper to restrict access while providing a guest-friendly solution, such as offering to accommodate special request (even if it is for a fee).
Hospitality employees are no strangers to working under pressure. A heavy turn day can be a positive experience and it is essential to acknowledge time performance and accuracy standards. Preparation by the front office starts at the time of booking and ends with the guest’s departure. From reservation details (including special requests and day-of arrival phone numbers), the front office performance will impact the success of the day. Housekeeping performance is measured by guest comments and timely completion of the home. It is essential to remember housekeeping staff when scheduling customer service training. It would be helpful to the organization if customer service training for the front office and field included role playing on what do to in certain situations. Training on set responses to early and late departure questions will help the staff react with confidence. No matter the reason, the customer feels their request is legitimate and to treat the answer with anything less than a sympathetic ear and professional response would be good material for a negative online review. When the entire team is motivated to succeed, everyone wins.
Tip #5: Acknowledge performance throughout the day and find meaningful ways to motivate the team.
Consider bringing food and/or drinks to the location of the housekeepers, providing a snack for the front office, and developing incentives such as a small cash bonuses if a certain percent of days in the height of season are turned on time. Create a fun, get-it-done atmosphere by starting off the day with a “quote of the day” that the team can rally behind.
While guests realize someone was in the property before them, they prefer their experience stay unique with no evidence of the past renter. Proper staffing, technology, communication and preparation will all work together to help managing turn days a walk in the park -- or at least help alleviate the stress factor.