Front-line employees know well that when new guests arrive, they’re eager to check in, plop down their bags, and get settled in a clean room. And when that doesn’t happen quickly and efficiently, it can test a guest’s patience.
To expedite the process, hotels are looking to wireless technology solutions. One product on the market that helps get guests in rooms faster is the Room Expeditor (REX) by MTech, a Miami-based company that provides guest experience management and workflow automation software for hotels. REX is in use at about a dozen hotels, including theWit in Chicago and Grand Geneva Resort & Spa in Lake Geneva, Wis.
REX streamlines housekeeping procedures by prioritizing the order in which rooms are assigned to attendants. MTech President Luis Segredo says the software solution uses a point-based system, and takes into account a number of attributes, ranging from estimated time of arrival or departure of guests and VIP status, to room size. Instead of relying on clipboards, paper lists, radios, and guesswork, attendants use a wireless device like the iPod Touch to see which room is the next most important to clean. The software can also communicate guest information, such as name, stay details, and room setup preferences, to the room attendant.
Wireless devices have become more cost-effective, Segredo adds. He recommends that properties with WiFi use REX via an iPod Touch because it has a lower price point, it’s wearable, and has a good user interface. Employees who already own smartphones may even request to upload the software solution onto their personal devices.
Hotels without WiFi can invest in mobile devices with affordable data-only plans. He suggests Android phones, since wireless carriers offer certain models for free, and no tax is involved. After looking at devices with Windows 7 operating systems, Segredo wouldn’t rule those out either.
The mad rush for all-things Apple is silly, he adds, when there are more Android devices on the streets. If hotels wanted to equip their staff with iPhones, they would have to pay an approximately $70 minimum for the data-only plan per device, Segredo says.
More than 1,800 hotels use MTech’s software solutions, and the company enables approximately 80,000 people wirelessly in hotels. REX works in tandem with MTech’s Hotel Service Optimization System, or HotSOS. HotSOS manages guest profiling, guest response, incident tracking, service recovery tracking, workflow automation, preventive maintenance, room inspections, and MOD logs.
When a room attendant needs more linens, or a guest requests more towels, attendants can create a service order through HotSOS using their wireless device. And if a guestroom has a fault, whether a light bulb needs to be changed, the television isn’t working, or a wall needs to be touched up, Segredo says it only takes four keystrokes and about 10 seconds to report.
Built on a “software as a service” (SaaS) platform, REX can be integrated with other hotel systems, including property management (PMS), electronic-lock, customer relationship management (CRM), and loyalty systems. One of MTech’s clients, the Bardessono Hotel in Yountville, Calif., recently integrated REX with energy management system developer INNCOM’s Integrated Room Automation System (IRAS). INNCOM detects if a physical body is in a room, or if the room is empty. When integrated with REX, it can notify staff in real time when a stay-over room is unoccupied and able to be cleaned.
The Grand Geneva Resort & Spa went live with three software changes last October implemented by MTech—REX and HotSOS, which is integrated to the CRM solution Libra OnDemand.
“It facilitates the process and order in which we clean rooms,” says Grand Geneva Managing Director Brett Sundstrom of REX. Before, the room attendants would start at one end of the hallway and work their way down. Now, they work based on the priorities given by REX via their iPod Touches. “It’s truly a tool that makes their life easier, they enjoy it,” Sundstrom adds. “From a communication standpoint, our entire department is now wired in.”
Sundstrom says REX saves hotel manpower by breaking up room assignments automatically each morning. “REX has been a valuable tool for us,” he says. “It’s amazing in our industry, even up to now, that [hotels have] still been doing things with paper when it comes to room assignments for attendants.”
The technology is intuitive and easy to use, Segredo says, as well as language aware. If attendants are provided with a solution that communicates in their preferred language, they will likely be more productive. “We have a hotel in Seattle where 90 percent of its attendants speak only Chinese, and 10 percent only speak Spanish,” he says. “So they’re running apps in Chinese or Spanish.”
Grand Geneva has been able to reduce its supervisory staff with the transition to a wireless system. Previously, the supervisors had to walk around to help keep room attendants on pace, get their room assignments, and update the computer. If a guest checked in early, the front desk would call the supervisor, and he or she would have to track down the attendant to relay the assignment. Now, supervisors have a more proactive role of quality control, Sundstrom says, and don’t have to act as an expeditor.
Grand Geneva is a wide campus of 1,300 acres, so Sundstrom says it’s valuable to have a snapshot view of where all the room attendants are located in real time, and to monitor the status of the team via wireless device. If one attendant falls behind, and another finishes early because a number of rooms didn’t want service, the rooms can be reassigned. The resort takes care of a 350-room property, plus a 200-room timeshare, so some days there will be up to 35 attendants on shift. The system automates productivity, and Sundstrom says it provides recaps at the end of each day that show how much time attendants spent in each room, break time, idle time, and more. What was once a separate tracking system is now tied in automatically through REX.
Sundstrom also uses REX to establish best practices. If he receives feedback from guests that their room wasn’t cleaned to their standards, he can find out which attendant cleaned the room. REX might reveal that the attendant only spent 15 minutes instead of the full 28 minutes to complete the task. “It really helps get down to the root cause,” he says, instead of surmising why someone struggled or how long the attendant spent in one room versus another.
When the housekeeping process moves more efficiently, Segredo says supervisors can get closer to the full yield of rooms each attendant cleans. “If you apply the technology right, it’s a win for just about everybody,” he says. “That’s what we’re trying to do.”