Housekeeping is a very big deal for hotels. It is by far the largest and most expensive department. With rising labor costs, complex operations and high employee turnover, it remains a top challenge in the hotel industry. Housekeeping operations includes several pain points for users involved.
In the beginning of the day, managers spend up to 3 hours planning the team’s work in order to get rooms cleaned as fast as possible, following the department rules. Room attendants rely on paper task sheets and cannot easily communicate with their managers when something doesn’t go as expected, especially if they need to involve other departments, like maintenance or front desk. Supervisors are also a key part of the process. Besides checking quality of rooms cleanings, they spend their days walking around hallways trying to find room attendants to communicate updates in their assignment and VIP requests and in messy radio calls with front desk agents. For these reasons, the whole operation is frustrating, expensive, and inefficient.
Our product ALICE Housekeeping, a platform consisting of a web application for managers and a mobile app for the hotel staff, was designed to solve these communication problems. In the design process, we found out several opportunities to innovate in streamlining a hotel’s rooms assignment task and inter-departmental coordination for faster resolution of guest requests and room turnover. Through extensive interviews (+100) and shadowing Housekeeping staff, we learned how cultural and demographic differences should be considered when creating a digital product that works for low wage workers on a global scale.
Since room attendants are often immigrants, their primary language is often not the one spoken in the hotel. Hotels sometimes would have +30 different languages spoken in a single Housekeeping department. Spanish, Mandarin, Russian, Polish and Thai are just a few of the languages of users we spoke to. Also, high staff turnover rates required a simple and easy-to-learn application. Our designs rely on intuitive and icon-based interactions. During feedback sessions, we also realized how adding photos made users feel empowered as they often don’t know how to describe details of encountered problems to their managers.
Another finding in our ethnographic research was how much paper waste the product eliminates. On top of paper sheets for each of the cleaners, supervisors print a rooms status list to know which ones they can inspect every couple hours. They also don’t need to keep papers in cabinets, since data points live on the cloud. This makes operations not only more sustainable, but also more reliable since managers can rest assured that they can quickly find any piece of information at any time.
ALICE Housekeeping creates a direct line of communication among managers, supervisors and room attendants and other departments, improves the transparency of the department’s operations and ultimately get guests into rooms faster. Released in June 2019, ALICE Housekeeping speeds up the room assignment process in 80% and is currently being used by beta customers. 250 properties across the world have signed up for it.