Housekeeping refers to ‘keeping of the house and includes all those factors which lead to comfort, cleanliness, and service of the people occupying the particular place, be it a hotel, resort, or a clubhouse. It begins with the cleaning of all furniture and furnishings, to their upkeep and maintenance, their selection and purchase, and eventually their replacement. It takes more manpower and technique to accomplish housekeeping’s almost countless functions than those of any other single department of the lodging industry.
The hospitality industry caters to two basic necessities – food and shelter. The standard of housekeeping plays an important role in the reputation of any establishment. Clientele repetition depends mainly on the level of cleanliness and upkeep of all areas. Guests go to any hotel for food or lodging, and both these services are emphasized by cleanliness, décor, and new ideas. Studies indicate that guests give their main reason for returning or not returning to a hotel, to the cleanliness of the hotel. If the place is clean, not only will the guests come back but will also talk about it and recommend it to others.
The objective of the housekeeping department is guest satisfaction. For this, the ‘sales appeal’ of the guest rooms and public areas has to be maintained and the surroundings should be:
Clean: The primary function of housekeeping is cleaning rooms and public areas. One cannot feel comfortable in an environment that is not clean and well ordered. One should also use clean and correct methods for cleaning. Even though undesirable architectural features and traffic problems may complicate the task, a combination of efficient procedures, appropriate tools, and trained staff can provide sparkling interiors. For e.g. even a costly cut-glass ashtray loses its appeal if filled with used cigarette butts.
Comfort: Similarly neatness is of no use if there is no comfort. The housekeeping department contributes to the comfortable furnishings and every minute tasks related to the convenience of the guests. For e.g. a sofa might be clean, but if not stuffed well or if the springs have become slack, no one would like to sit on it. Since the definition of comfort is a personal matter, it includes soft pillows as well as hard ones, soft mattresses as well as hard-boards. The linen provided is also very important as guests can feel the linen(bed sheets, towels, etc.) and inferior quality would make the guest feel unhappy.
Attractive: The décor of every room is important. Every guest room should have its own mood and color and design are mood makers. Thus a well decorated, clean, and well-maintained surrounding is largely responsible for high occupancy rates. Some housekeepers take full responsibility, some take assistance from a professional designer and achieve a balance between beauty and practicality.
Safe: Another aspect of housekeeping is ensuring the safety of the guests. The housekeeping staff tries their utmost to ensure that the guest is not in danger, or susceptible to any accidents. They should be alert to accident-causing conditions- loose tile, wobbly chair, burnt out exit light and get them rectified immediately. They also come very close to the personal items and documents of the guests during the cleaning of the rooms. Hence it is their responsibility to keep all the personal information a secret.
Along with clean, comfortable, attractive, and safe surroundings, the staff of the housekeeping department must also offer the guests a prompt, friendly and courteous service, and be of assistance whenever required. Not only must the equipment and methods be as clean as possible, but also the person who is doing the cleaning. Great care must be paid to the personal hygiene of all the staff
To achieve all the above requirements, housekeeping has to plan their inputs of cleaning agents, types of equipment, manpower, etc.
In the hotel, industry pressure has built up because of the tremendous increase in costs, not only in building but also recurring costs of repair and maintenance. Housekeeping like all other indirect cost departments is involved in the struggle to keep the operating cost low, so as to maintain profitability. More important than costs is to meet the demands of today’s guests. Maintenance and cleanliness of the hotel is one factor that precedes all others if profit is to continue. No amount of advertising, entertainment, and glamour will compensate for poor housekeeping. Good housekeeping is a great asset to marketing as a well-kept house becomes word mouth publicity.
Another important aspect of housekeeping that tends to be overlooked is that this is the only department with legitimate access to almost every area of the hotel, and thus obtains a singular view of the entire operation, including an almost unique insight into the ways that a guest might react to a facility, it’s personnel or services. The housekeeping can be the eyes and ears of the management. Therefore the housekeeper’s opinion and suggestion must be seriously considered.
Like in any other industry, the hotel also has a line of products to sell, and the quality, value, and price of these products will decide if the business will be successful or not. In hotels, this product line includes a lobby, meeting rooms, restaurant, banquet rooms, etc., but the principal product is the guest room. Impressions are enhanced or completely destroyed as the guest moves from the reception counter, along the corridors towards the room.
Guest rooms are the heart of the hotel and a good professional housekeeper attaches a great deal of importance to their upkeep, quality of service, and the appearance and courtesy of all housekeeping personnel. Comfort and design may impress the guest, but the attitude and approach of the staff will decide the success in getting a potential customer.
A guest spends more time alone in his room than he spends in any other part of the hotel, and hence he can check up the cleanliness if he wants to. If he finds that it is only surface cleaning, he loses confidence in the hotel and its methods. If a guest opens a drawer or cupboard and finds it not clean he would not feel like putting anything in the drawer. Also if there is anything forgotten by the last guest it proves careless checking and can really annoy a guest. A stained dirty or unfresh-looking carpet upsets a guest if he wishes to walk barefoot. Within the room special importance is given to the cleanliness of the bathroom as it is a breeding space for germs.
Also if the guest lets the room attendant clean his room while he is there and sees dirty methods like cleaning glasses with dirty dusters he would be feeling disappointed. So staff training and supervision can achieve and uphold high standards.
The International Traveller is a very fussy traveler so housekeeping plays a vital role in creating an impression of the hotel. Modern room supplies and services like express laundry and dry cleaning services show a guest that the hotel is considering the comfort and wishes to please him.
Not only does the resident guests get a large share of their impression of a hotel from the housekeeping through the rooms but also the guests who come to the restaurants and bars, guests invited to a function in the banquet halls, guests visiting the spas can feel the cleanliness level in the hotel from the lobby, public areas, restaurants, toilets, facilities, uniforms of staff and judge a lot about the hotel. Therefore we can conclude that this department contributes greatly to guest impressions of a hotel and is open to general inspection and cannot hide poor service.
If we look at any hotel from outside we can see that much visually seen is rooms and as rooms and public areas are completely under the maintenance of the Housekeeping Department to neglect this department is to neglect the building and property. Though maintenance is also involved in the maintenance and upkeep of the hotel it’s the duty of the housekeeping department to inspect the rooms and public areas and inform the maintenance department of the faults.
The importance of housekeeping’s responsibility in the area of operating costs cannot be overlooked. The housekeeping department is the single largest employer in the hotel (labor and material). The housekeeper must be involved in day-to-day management planning.
Housekeeping consultants must be involved from the very initial planning stage of construction. Housekeeper’s view must be obtained in the methods and cost of maintaining new or renovated structures, etc. She/he should be involved in meetings with the architects, design interiors, and interior decorators.
Management must give serious consideration to the allocation of building space to housekeeping functions. Since every sq.-ft. is revenue producing, often building planning teams do not understand the functioning of the housekeeping department well enough to allocate adequate space. Before any new facility planning, it is necessary for the management to decide how extensive its housekeeping functions are going to be; what guest room conveniences will be provided, so that there is enough storage space, etc.