By: Lizz Chambers, CHE, CHA
I have recently written an article entitled ‘The Key to Hotel Security/Creating a Culture’. This article emphasized the importance of properly recruiting, selecting, and training our associates to create a security culture in our hotels. However, once this monumental task has been accomplished how do we continue to ensure that our associates deliver the secure environment that our guests expect?
Always remember these three key phrases: ‘Behavior ignored is behavior accepted.’ ‘Behavior rewarded is behavior repeated.’ And ‘Inspect what you expect’. These phrases apply to security service issues as well as guest service issues. After all, isn’t security a key component of ‘Exceptional Guest Service’?
The delivery of exceptional guest service while providing a safe and secure environment can be tricky, as we must enforce policies and procedures which may appear to fly in the face of what our guest’s expectations of service may be. Some guests may not understand when we must decline to accommodate their needs by politely refusing to issue an additional key to a visitor (without express written consent). Others may even be offended that our associates insist on proper identification prior to issuing an additional key to a registered guest. The fact that we are simply protecting our guests from possible harm at the hands of a hotel thief or worse may be overshadowed by the inconvenience our attention to security may cause them personally.
The following list (although, we are only scratching the surface of security procedures) may appear to be ‘Basic Security 101’. However, you would be surprised at how many times I have convinced associates of other hotel companies to violate these basics. If they violate your policies for me, they may eventually violate them for someone other than a trainer trying to prove a point and the results could be devastating not only for your guests but for your company.
The Delivery of Security as a Key Component of Exceptional Guest Service:
• Front Office Reception must be thoroughly trained and observed to ensure that they know and practice the following basic procedures:
* To only issue a key with proper photo identification.
* To accompany any guest (following safety and security procedures) who may have left their identification in the room, to the room, to view the document prior to the issue of a new key.
* To write the room number down and show directions to the room by using a hotel map. Never say a room number or give explicit directions to the room out loud.
* To connect to a guest room by name only. If a room number is given, ask for the name of the party occupying that particular room. We would never allow direct dialing. However, if we allow our associates to connect with room number only, aren’t we doing just that?
* To take confidential information from a drivers license or a registration card. Never ask a guest to give this information out loud for everyone in the lobby to overhear.
* To only view the drivers license and scan the credit card. Never copy or imprint these items which may lead to identity theft.
* To keep all guest information (folio’s, credit card information, key cards, etc) out of site at the front desk. I have seen surveillance footage of a thief reaching over the front desk, while the front office associate was distracted, and taking a hand full of guest folios (more than likely complete with a credit card imprint). Another piece of footage featured a thief taking a handful of hotel key cards (I am sure an experienced thief could find a way to make this effort profitable).
* Housekeeping associates must keep their section keys and room assignment sheets on their person at all times.
* Tip: When you send mystery shoppers into your hotels, ask that the shopper report not only on guest service but on safety and security service as well. Concerning security…give specific instructions on how to obtain a key, to obtain access to a room physically or by phone using the room number only, and how to obtain guest information from an associate, etc. When our company first started shopping our hotels, I was outraged at the results. However, after follow-up training and associate awareness that we actually do ‘Inspect What We Expect’, the results have been positive.
• Understand that we send mixed messages to associates when we train them to offer exceptional guest service and then we say ‘Do Not Open Guest Room Doors’. This is especially difficult when it is obvious that the guest’s key card has ceased to function.
* You should understand how this may cause confusion for some of your staff members. Therefore, it may be necessary to boost their confidence when they must refuse a guest’s request for security reasons.
* Tip: We have assisted our associates with a business sized card. This card is carried by all staff members and offered to guests requesting for their door to be opened. The card states ‘Our Associates are not authorized to open guestroom doors. If you have misplaced your key you may present photo identification at the front desk and we will be happy to issue you an additional key’, it is signed by the General Manager. Our associates love it and guests have responded well. This card is extremely helpful to those staff members who may not speak English well. And for those guests, who are so inclined, they can take their pent up travel weary hostilities out on our General Manager, not our well-meaning associates.
• Associates never open guest room doors for ANYONE:
* Including the General Manager.
* The reason is obvious…we must preserve the integrity of our lock system or what purpose does this elaborate security innovation serve?
Tip: Reward compliance…when training on-site at our Hampton Inn in Savannah, I locked my key in my room and asked an associate to open my door. She politely explained that she was not authorized to open my door for safety and security reasons and handed me the ‘Security Card’ signed by the General Manager. She did this, although she knew me and knew I belonged in the room. She added ‘Lizz, I can’t even open a room for my General Manager. He has to open it with his own key.’ (I was hoping this would be her response.) I responded by handing the young lady $20.00 and thanked her. $20.00 is nothing compared to what she will save our company in the long run.
• All housekeeping associates are required to clean with the door closed, for the protection of the staff and so that we may be relatively sure that the guest entering the room may actually belong there.
* This procedure is for the protection of our guests and our housekeepers. This is also essential in case of a guest room incident. When the lock is read, it will show that the last key entering the room was the guest’s key not our associate’s key.
I recently spoke with a guest concerning an item missing from his room. He stated that although he felt certain that one of our associates did not take the item, he also stated that we left our doors open while cleaning and that anyone could have walked in claiming to be him and taken it. As I know we clean with the doors closed, I stated this to him. His response was… ‘Well, other hotels clean with the doors open so I thought you did too.’ Case Closed.
* Our associates are not authorized to clean if a guest insists on staying. They are instructed to ask when the guest will be out for the day so they can return and complete cleaning. Or they may call a supervisor and finish the cleaning process with a buddy.
Tip: If housekeepers are reluctant to clean with the doors closed, obtain news reels from programs like 60 Minutes or 20/20. Or obtain copies of the local news reports from Northern Virginia and Central Florida concerning the recent ‘Maid Rapist’. I have copies of reports on every incident and present them as examples during training classes. Once our associates finish a class they would never dream of cleaning with the door open. Facts speak louder than simple scare tactics.
The ‘Devil is in the Delivery’. You must hire right, conduct proper orientation and training and you must always ‘Inspect What You Expect’. When we are convinced that our associates are practicing what we are preaching then and only then can we …Relax? As I have said before…absolutely not. We continue to work at perfecting the process, new and better ways of recruitment, selection, orientation, training, follow up and evaluating the results. We have chosen the noble profession of service to others and a key factor of this service is the protection of our guests. The traveling public expects a safe and secure environment in which to lay down their cares and weary bodies and it is up to us to have the systems and the follow through in place to ensure their protection and comfort.
Nevistas Publishing (http://s.tt/1uA7k)