Sol Kerzner, the South African hotel and resort magnate, once said: “Perfection in our business is almost impossible, but you have to keep trying.”. Curve balls seem to have been invented for the hotel industry!
One function that can make a difference for any hotel is maintenance. Sound maintenance ensures that things work and look as they should in a hotel. Yet it isn’t without its complexities. As such, this article will explore six maintenance challenges hotels face today – and how they can be dealt with.
The maintenance skills shortage
Challenge: Globally, there is a significant shortage of maintenance workers.
A shrinking pool of maintenance workers means bigger workloads and greater stress on maintenance teams. In its 2022 survey of manufacturers, of which maintenance is a part, Deloitte found that 83% of manufacturers believe that attracting and retaining quality workers is a top focus, in large part due to the skills crisis.
Solution: invest wisely in your hotel maintenance workers
One thing is clear: maintenance workers are not expendable in the current skills market. That means genuine investments, financial or otherwise, need to be made in hotel maintenance staff, including investments in:
- Continuous training and up-skilling, both in-house and external, including “soft skills” and personal development training;
- Mentoring with more experienced maintenance staff;
- Flexible work schedules that take a worker’s home life and personal aspirations into consideration, where possible; and
- A flatter ‘hierarchy’ whereby the opinions and inputs of all maintenance workers are respected and make a difference
Increasingly demanding customers
Challenge: Hotel numbers may be going up again, but customer satisfaction reviews are more negative than ever.
Media reports are showing that, while hotel occupancy rates are going up quite dramatically in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, guests are more disgruntled than ever. For example, a Pulse Report for May 2022 found that global hospitality guest satisfaction rates were 3.5% worse than 2019 guest satisfaction levels.
Solution: switch to an intelligence maintenance regime
Few things annoy guests more than door locks that won’t swipe or aircon units that malfunction. Proactive (and not reactive) hotel maintenance is therefore essential. You may ultimately opt for an advanced prescriptive maintenance strategy (RxM), which relies on machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) to build prescriptive algorithms derived from a predictive analysis of assets. What you don’t want is a reactive maintenance regime, as this graphic shows:
Housekeeping is being reduced
Challenge: Housekeeping is being slashed by many hotels to cut costs
The pandemic, which devastated the hotel industry worldwide, caused many hotels to slash their housekeeping in order to keep costs down. This trend has continued post-pandemic, often to the chagrin of guests. Unfortunately, less housekeeping staff means that valuable allies for maintenance teams are lost. That means a greater burden of ‘discovering faults’ rests on maintenance staff now.
Solution: introduce systems to make up for the loss of housekeeping
Maintenance teams need to get more savvy about housekeeping. They need help with that and an excellent solution is to implement a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS). This AI-enhanced software streamlines the maintenance function with predictive functionalities for an effortless scheduling of needed maintenance. This will allow your maintenance team to get on with needed work, both pre-emptively and as it suddenly arises, without being bogged down by second-guessing where maintenance issues may be.
Higher hygiene expectations
Challenge: Guests expect more stringent hygiene standards in the wake of COVID-19.
Hotels are still implementing stringent hygiene standards post-pandemic. The Hotel Excelsior Ernst in Cologne, Germany, is a typical example, with strict hygiene protocols for every area of the hotel. Yet, as discussed in the previous section, housekeeping is being reduced. That has made attaining optimal hygiene levels even more challenging. Once again, it is the maintenance function that must take on a significant part of this work detail.
Solution: maintenance must treat hygiene as a critical maintenance imperative
Maintenance teams need to accept that hygiene is more integral to their work than ever. Major hotel groups such as Accor Group, Hilton, Four Seasons, and Holiday Inn have all formulated pandemic-era hygiene measures that are helpful even after the pandemic, including:
- Implement contactless check-in and check-out options
- Implement Agile systems of work for housekeeping and maintenance teams
- Abstain from frequently-touched items in guest rooms
- Visible sanitization of public areas and guest rooms
Greater emphasis on sustainability
Challenge: Guests are increasingly demanding ‘greener’ hotels
The ‘green hotel’ concept is not a passing trend. Increasingly, guests are seeking out hotels that make express commitments to sustainable practices. However, these sustainable solutions don’t occur in a vacuum – someone in the hotel needs to be able to implement greener initiatives, and that will very often be the maintenance team.
Solution: the maintenance department must become proactive in sourcing green solutions
As the saying goes, “if you want something done properly, do it yourself”. That may be the ideal mantra for the maintenance team: instead of passively taking on sustainable initiatives ordered by top management or engineers, the maintenance department needs to source its own sustainable solutions. An excellent way to achieve a sustainable hotel is to focus on this: energy, energy, energy. It is a view shared by many hotel experts. Energy solutions can range from retrofitting insulation or solar panels and heat pumps, to simply having motion sensor lighting in lesser-used areas. And keep this in mind: The greenest building is the one that is already built.
Hotel maintenance is very difficult to get right, particularly on a continuous basis. Sudden issues will invariably arise, even in the best-maintained hotels. The best a hotel can do is understand the challenges facing maintenance today and implement solutions that are intelligent and sustainable.
It will surely be worth it because many times that issue a guest has with your hotel is a maintenance issue needing resolution.