Queenstown hotel finds hi-tech housekeeping system a competitive advantage

Guests at The Rees Queenstown are benefitting from room turnaround times that are up to 90 minutes faster than any other operator in New Zealand’s busiest tourism destination.

The luxury property on the shores of Lake Wakatipu recently rolled out Optii Keeper across its housekeeping department that services 60 hotel rooms, 90 apartments and five lakeside private residences.

The Rees is the first hotel in New Zealand to implement the OPTii housekeeping system, which is already being used by huge resorts offshore.

“Operationally we can now dial in to the system to see if a room is ready to give a guest an instant answer,” says Roman Lee-Lo, director of operations at The Rees Hotel.

The new system means wait times are reduced dramatically which is critical particularly in the high season, he says.

It replaced the manual system of paper and clipboard with digital cloud-connected devices that cleverly estimate cleaning times by examining guest type and use-pattern.

“It’s a sustainable system – no longer is there a need to print reports, contributing to reducing our carbon footprint," says Lee-Lo. "Think about the thousands and thousands of paper saved."

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It’s a sustainable system – no longer is there a need to print reports, reducing our carbon footprint Roman Lee-Lo, The Rees Hotel

He says what worked in their case was getting group buy-in for the new system.

“They do not want to go back to paper based solution. The lightning fast turnaround boosted productivity exponentially.”

He says a large portion of the workforce are millennials. “They are very tech-savvy so the uptake operationally was instant,” says Lee-Lo.

The system gives the real-time status of room availability for guests. They know when the room will be ready so they don’t have to wait, says Lee-Lo. “This is particularly important especially in Queenstown where room turnaround needs to be very very fast.”

OPTii provides crucial management information on overall quality, daily efficiency, as well as individual performance. Each room attendant is measured on quality output with objective data.

Supervisors are also rated for the quality of their team's work, and their own performance in inspections. Senior management can set efficiency goals that reflect more time available for cleaning.

“It’s a superb tool for measuring performance and training needs analysis in addition to being a third party audited quality control system,” says Lee-Lo.

The networked system can differentiate between a lightly used room occupied by a guest to one that’s been lived in by a family for days. The hotel accurately knows the room status in real-time and can plan the housekeeping schedule accordingly.

This live system of up to date room status makes for a better workflow and the information it generates assists The Rees in its day to day operational management, says Lee-Lo.

Sharon Preston, executive housekeeper, has replaced her paper and clipboard with a mobile device that provides real-time operational data

The focus of housekeeping shifts from a supervisory role to a management role, able to concentrate on efficiency and quality to a much greater degree Roman Lee-Lo, The Rees Hotel

Basically, OPTii sits next to the property management system (PMS) and "listens" to all reservation messages, including guest, duration of stay and estimated time of arrival and departure.

From this information, OPTii creates a master cleaning schedule in the morning, and keeps it updated to reflect available rooms to be cleaned and changes in the schedule.

It has a complete overview of where attendants are located and provides a methodology for the team to engage and ask questions. The room attendants can capture photos and submit straight to the maintenance team using tablet devices.

The data OPTii offers shows management training opportunities such as how long it took to clean a room, how long it takes room attendants to move room to room, how long it takes to turn around a room and whether a room that had a ‘do not disturb’ status was actually cleaned.

OPTii allows management and supervisors to see precisely where all staff are working, how they are progressing against assigned tasks, and to see which urgent rooms are required, says Lee-Lo.

He says supervisors do not need to convey messages about urgent situations. “They know instantly which rooms are available for inspection. The front desk can see the status of the entire property by Alt-Tabbing to the OPTii dashboard.”

All checkout rooms being cleaned and the time they will be available is now visible, and those rooms can be assigned, he adds.

This means 80 per cent or more of phone calls to housekeeping are eliminated. Guests queued for rooms are automatically promoted to "rush" status within the system.

“The focus of housekeeping shifts from a supervisory role to a management role, able to concentrate on efficiency and quality to a much greater degree,” he says.

Lee-Lo says the ICT team was involved in the project from day one, to oversee installation of the PMS adapter and to supervise the acquisition and set up of mobile devices.

“Their main duty beyond that is to ensure any changes to the PMS did not cause interruption to communications between, the CMS GuestCentrix system and OPTii,” says Lee-Lo.

It was a “very straightforward installation,” he adds.

Soenke Weiss, founder and chief strategy office of Optii solutions, trained the hotel team on-site.

“I applaud the hotel for its foresight moving housekeeping to the next century,” says Weiss.

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