How to be a good Housekeeping specialist at five star hotels

Housekeeping Specialists Course - Home Cleaning - Mumbai, India

It’s campus placement season at your prestigious Blue Whale Academy and you’ve landed your share of offers too. After very carefully scrutinising each and every offer and aligning it with your personal interests and career goals, you have decided to take up the offer that’s closest to your heart – housekeeping specialist at the city’s most famous five star. Apart from being the closest to your dream job, this offer comes with a host of advantages like – proximity (in other words, the hotel is close to your home) and the freedom to opt for a shift of your choice and most importantly good work incentives.

However, when you actually commence work there, things might not exactly be the cakewalk you imagined they would. But worry not, we’ll get you sorted.

First things first – you’d do well to remember that all that your textbooks told you were meant to be used in conjunct with on-ground realities. So to say, on the job, your absolute and lone focus should be in doing things in the quickest and easiest possible manner rather than try to align it to some theory you’ve learnt as a student. In other words, your textual learning must provide only a broad framework that you must refer to only if you absolutely must, and definitely in the spirit, not in the letter or verbatim!

Since managing the semi-literate housekeeping staff can be quite a challenging staff as one often has to negotiate language barriers too, please remember that it’s never a good idea to shout at people or boss around. Be a firm, not a nasty boss by treating every person who’s not in as fortunate a position as you as you’d like your higher-ups to treat you.

Also, housekeeping is often an extremely challenging and thankless job which you can turn around by being meticulous and stringent to details like very quick turnaround times to clear, for instance, stinky rooms after a wild party given that there’s usually only around two hours between check out and check in times. Or reacting to weather-infused or natural situations like damp smells in monsoons or termite/bedbug attacks in summers especially if the room hasn’t really been in circulation for a long-ish time.

As housekeeping is both an internal and guest-facing role, you’ll have to juggle a lot of hats and pacify a lot of frayed nerves. In other words, please remember that you will be responsible for ensuring the routine upkeep and maintenance of the hotel’s property including lobbies, conference halls, restaurants, kitchens, washrooms, internal offices and most importantly, guest rooms.

And just in case you assumed that managing housekeeping is a back-end job, please wake up! You just cannot expect to be done after your staff has done their daily wiping and cleaning job. For, there’ll be boisterous kids out on a mission to ruin all food in sight, their mom’s who’ll spill wine and daintily trip over the mop to accuse the hotel staff of hiring untrained staff and the kids’ dads will most surely join in their football, smashing a few vases on the way to the goalpost, which FYI happens to be the layered glass giant teak side table, a favourite with the promoters of the hotel. So, despite the fact that the hotel management will surely have some rules in place, guests usually don’t think twice before flouting them. So, if the kids are running around, politely but firmly ask the parents to take charge of them.

The worst guests are mostly those who come on one offs like office conferences, weddings, parties and the like. Since they do not have any intention to strike up a long-term relationship with this particular hotel, they’ll most-often not care before spilling, smashing and indulging in unacceptable behaviour in public.

Also, please remember that the bar area is the most-susceptible to damages as it’s a universal human tendency to drink far beyond one’s capacity and then get garrulous, boisterous, quarrelsome and destructive – in that order. Also, people tend to drink till tipping point and then usually throw up.

Yes, don’t cringe, though not you, but your staff will have to clear that up too. But rest assured, it’s nothing too grossly close for comfort – after all, starred hotels are so priced because they employ the latest in cleaning technology and manual scavenging is just not an option!

Again, please note that you can never get away with the excuse that your uniform is stained thanks to the nature of your job. At a seven star, right from the usher to the valet, everyone is expected to be prim and proper, no matter what time of the twenty-four hour day it is. You’ll usually have a lot of spare uniforms – use them rather than turn up in smelly wrinkled clothes that are so very revolting to the human senses. So, please be a little OCD about hygiene as no-one like to be referred to as ‘the stinky unkempt guy’!

And please remember, you’re never fully dressed unless you’ve worn a smile!

Managing the Concierge desk at a Seven-Star hotel

Indian Institute of Hospitality and Management

Have you always been fascinated by the bespectacled young lady sitting pretty right at the hotel’s lobby and forever smiling and making small talk to guests? Have you ever wondered if she never gets tired taking those incessant calls? Or how come she never loses her cool even when guests demand the sun, moon and earth for all their hard-earned money’s worth?

Well, in common parlance, we call hers a receptionist’s job. In the hospitality industry, however, she’s technically managing the concierge desk. So to say, the concierge desk performs the entire paraphernalia of tasks that are beyond the ambit of the services offered by the hotel. In other words, the lady behind the concierge desk is responsible for providing comfort that lies beyond the scope of the hotel staff’s work like arranging for sightseeing tours, organising surprise parties at another hotel etc.

However, you’ll need to keep in mind that appearances are deceptive. For behind all those firm handshakes, effervescent smiles, immaculate make-up and immaculate dressing sense lies a girl just like you! So, to cut a long story short, you really can be managing the concierge desk at any reputed Seven-Star hotel.

But, please remember that it’s indeed a challenging role and demands truckloads of multitasking skills. For, your duties at the concierge desk will include, but not be limited to, seemingly doable stuff like making reservations (at restaurants, other hotels, spas etc.), arranging transportation, currency exchange, procuring tickets (for activities such as sightseeing, pub crawling etc.) arranging porter and courier services as also any other assistance that the guest might require from time to time. And, this time knows no sacrosanct limits or curfews especially when it comes to guests on vacation. So, please don’t get hassled if you get a call at 4am requesting a cab at 430am just so that they can experience the cityscape awash in the supple glow of the rising sun.

For, corporate or business travellers who are presumably in the company of their colleagues will usually stick to company guidelines on appropriate hotel behaviour. Also, considering that these business travellers might have an early morning flight to catch or a late-night conference call to make, it’s a good idea for you, as a concierge desk manager, to enquire after their needs.

So, if you’re wondering what skill sets go into the making of a good concierge desk manager, a quick check list would be – oodles of patience (required to keep your cool with eccentric guests), excellent leadership & coordination skills to get things done from an entire entourage including both internal and external parties, multi-tasking skills to ensure you can handle several requests at a time, the ability to say ‘no’ to absurd requests (like exotic or banned meats) and most importantly, great communication skills to ensure that you don’t mess up the tasks at hand. Also, taking notes or using the voice recorder is a good idea to avoid unnecessary complications.

In other words, you need to be extremely well-networked so as to be able to procure anything that the guest might require. And this will, in all likelihood, include a pregnant guest’s weird late night cravings or a drunk guest’s antics too!

Don’t baulk! Things aren’t that ugly too and the above two examples, though just invoked in jest, are possibilities many people who manage concierge desks have reported! The most common requests however are provision of room service, extension of check-out times and keeping luggage in cloak rooms after check out. This might be because the honeymooning couple wants to indulge in some last minute retail therapy or selfie sessions, before taking the cab to the airport.

And while it’s all well that they’ve checked out, your role doesn’t end until after they’ve plonked themselves on their leather sofas back home! Yes, you guessed it right – you’ll have to arrange the transportation to take them to the market, selfie spots and to the airport too. And just before you say ‘phew’, let’s tell you that your duty is far from over. In fact, as a good concierge desk person, you’ll have to call the couple intermittently to check their progress on the journey to ask whether – they’re missing any item of their luggage, they’re done with their check-in, are comfortably seated, have de-planed, and, finally, have reached home – which is when you must thank them and invite them back too!

So, if you’ve decided to pick the job of a trainee concierge desk manager, over the various options you had during the campus placements at your prestigious Blue Whale Academy, go right ahead and take it up! It’ll surely keep you on your nimble feet and be a great learning curve too!