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Guest Blog: Liz Smith-Mills

Focusing on Hotel Staff To Increase Guest Loyalty Amid COVID-19

We interview veteran hospitality consultant Liz Smith-Mills, FIH FBICSc, to get her insight on hotel housekeeping best practices on how to focus on hotel staff to increase guest loyalty.

As hotels in the UK and Ireland welcome back guests, many are coming to terms with the impact COVID-19 has placed on hotel operations and housekeeping. Hoteliers know that strict hygiene protocols are top priority, with 49% of Brits citing concerns about catching the illness as a top reason deterring them from travel between July and September (VisitBritain). To help better understand what steps hoteliers can take to prepare their hotel, and consequently ease traveller concerns, we spoke with housekeeping expert, Liz Smith-Mills. Keep reading to find out what advice she has for our industry, and what long-term changes we can expect to see within operations.

Before we dive in, be sure to visit our ultimate guide to elevating guest satisfaction full of tips, insights and data points on how to improve your hotel service and ensure optimal guest satisfaction.

For hotels in the UK who are reopening, what are your top housekeeping best practices to succeed in a COVID-19 world?

The number one piece of advice that I can give to hotels is to work closely with your staff to reassure and support them. This will be essential for success. Great leadership from housekeeping managers will go a long way. When I talk about leadership, it’s more than putting in place new checklists and procedures. It’s the emotional support that will make a difference. Many hospitality staff members have been at home for the past few months, stressed and uncertain about their future. An effective housekeeping manager needs to consider their concerns, listen to their needs, take the time to train them, and help them return to work. If your staff feel comfortable, reassured, and prepared for the new working environment, they will convey this to hotel guests, who, in turn, will immediately feel more confident, relaxed, and likely to enjoy their stay.

Aside from this, we all know that the correct cleaning procedures and guidance are more important than ever. Hotels need to check that the products they’re using are effective in killing the virus and comply with new regulations. There are lots of checklists and training opportunities available, such as those recommended by the UK Housekeeping Association (UKHA). These are particularly helpful for those housekeepers in hotels who may have less in-house resources to help guide them.

And finally, sharing knowledge such as the standards, controls, and suggested training tools will provide an industry-wide approach to breaking the chain of infection in line with government guidelines. In doing so, we can work together to win back the trust and confidence of both guests and team members.

The role of housekeeping seems to be growing in importance following COVID-19. What impact do you think this will have on the industry?

One of the positive outcomes of this pandemic is the recognition of key workers. It’s been amazing to see the support for them. I think the same will happen to housekeeping. It’s often said that housekeeping is the heart of the hotel, and this is now truer than ever. The housekeeping staff will play a critical role. No matter how much is invested in the best products and equipment, it will be an effective housekeeping team that delivers the cleaning excellence vital for safety. My hope is that moving forward, more opportunities, rather than redundancies, will be created for housekeepers across the industry, allowing more of them to excel in leadership roles.

There’s a lot of talk about how contactless technology may play a more significant role in operations moving forward. How do you think this will impact customer service and the overall guest experience?

We need to differentiate between physical distancing and social distancing. Although hotel staff can no longer provide that guest experience through touch, there are other benefits and ways to connect – aside from controlling the chain of infection. There is an opportunity here to drive the industry forward and provide technology that enhances a person’s stay.

Consider your typical business traveller. They arrive at the hotel after a long day of meetings and are not in the mood for interaction. Instead, they check-in automatically online. Now they can go directly to their room and easily order food through an app, giving them more time to do what they want – relax. At the end of the day, if a person receives the service or experience they want, you will create a satisfied, loyal guest.

For a technology provider like Amadeus, what role can we play to support housekeeping moving forward?

Due diligence is going to be essential. A hotel needs to prove that its measures for the safety and wellbeing of the guests and team have been implemented, so if there is an outbreak, it’s easy to trace back and provide reassurance of processes in place. Technology providers can help with this and ease the burden of manual recording.

Going back to my previous point, we’ll also see technology adoption accelerate out of COVID-19. As humans, we’re naturally averse to change, but look how many people are now comfortably using online video conferencing tools such as Zoom every day. Hoteliers also need to take this approach and explore the benefits that technology can bring, especially now with increased cleaning times and potentially a reduced workforce.

The return to travel is not a clear path for anyone, no matter their size, experience, or location. Together the hospitality industry can Rethink Travel. To find more resources to support your business during this time, visit the Amadeus dedicated Recovery hub. Or if you’re looking for more UK/Ireland dedicated content, head to the landing page.

   About Liz Smith-Mills

Throughout her 35-year career, Liz who was named in the Top 100 most influential women in Hospitality, Travel and Tourism at the Inaugural awards, has supported hotels such as the opening of the Grand Hotel in Dubai and provided housekeeping training and advice for many hotels closer to home. Her list of achievements continued to grow during lockdown. During this period, Liz completed the Global Biorisk Advisory Council Training course to advise numerous hotels as they adapted housekeeping operations to care for key workers, and also to welcome future guests.

As deputy chair for the Yorkshire and North East region of the UK Housekeeping Association (UKHA) Liz plays a key role in the promotion of the UKHA’s COVID-19 toolkit, sharing best practices in line with Government guidelines.

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