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ADVICE: Maintaining quality control within your laundry operation

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By Simon Hart, national account manager, The Professional Division of Miele

Online reviews and complaints touch on many different laundry shortcomings. These range from noise and the siting of the laundry, through to cleanliness and hygiene and even the damage caused to guests’ own clothing.

But an on-site laundry has many advantages and as Miele’s recent research showed it is something that more hotels are investing in. However, if the laundry is not planned effectively, or the wrong equipment is used, there are pitfalls.

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Miele’s research among 100 UK hotels pinpointed some of the key issues and showed how guest experience can be damaged at every level within the hotel, from the wellbeing of the laundry staff through to the highest paying guests in the best rooms.

So, what are the various quality issues associated with hotel laundries and why do they impact what the guest thinks so much? Let’s examine this by taking a tour around a typical hotel:

Ground floor – reception

As many as a quarter of hotels surveyed said they struggle to meet room turnaround deadlines – and one of the common causes is laundry processes not keeping pace with timescales. In these situations, guests can be left waiting beyond the room check-in window, immediately denting their impression of the hotel and eating into their valuable leisure or business time. One remedy is ensuring laundry equipment has suitably fast and efficient cycles.

First floor – restaurant

Crisp, white table linen is a must have in many hotel fine dining environments, but with busy breakfast, lunch and dinner cycles, ensuring linens are cleaned of stains and pressed quickly is crucial. Again, slow cycles make this difficult and can reduce quality. In Miele’s research, 59% said fast wash cycles are one of the most important hotel laundry considerations.

Second floor – guest bedrooms

94% of hotels surveyed said that maintaining the quality of bedlinen is an important aspect of hotel quality. If guests are paying for a quality stay, standards must be kept consistently high. High quality bedlinen, such as Egyptian cotton with a high thread count, is increasingly expected. However, consistent washing, staff using the wrong laundry cycles, or poor equipment or chemicals, could reduce the quality of these fabrics, making the bedding uncomfortable or overly worn. Not only does this cost the hotel’s pocket, it could lead to negative reviews.

Another issue is the washing of duvets. In a busy hotel, these need to be cleaned regularly to ensure high levels of hygiene and cleanliness. Washing can also help to extend a duvet’s lifespan. However, it is often overlooked or outsourced, both of which can lead to damage or reduce guest satisfaction.

Penthouse floor – luxury suites

When hotels are catering for high-end guests, quality needs to be extra special. These guests are also more likely to pay for additional services, including getting their clothing laundered or cleaned during their stay. However, less than half of hotels surveyed by Miele were able to offer laundry services for guests clothing. And when they did, as the online reviews mentioned earlier show, the quality is sometimes questionable. On-site laundry equipment, with wide-ranging wash settings suitable for handing all specialist fabrics, can add value to the hotel.

Guest laundry can be further enhanced using Wet Care systems. These are environmentally friendly alternatives to outsourcing dry-cleaning and use a process which is extremely gentle on garments. Wet Care was originally co-developed by Miele back in the early 1990s. Not only do guest laundry services improve satisfaction, they offer hotels an additional revenue stream.

Basement – laundry

Over 50% of hotels surveyed said that their laundry turnaround times were too slow. And when laundry is being carried out on site, there’s no way of pointing a finger at an outsourced provider or the time delays involved in transit. Efficient processes and equipment are essential, if hard working laundry staff are going to be able to keep on top of capacity. A build up and backlog could leave housekeeping teams feeling pressured and overworked, affecting their wellbeing and contribution to a positive guest experience.

A high-end example

The impact of laundry quality is a topic that even some of the most prestigious hotels in the world have had to address. In 2017, Ana Brant, director of global guest experience and innovation at the Dorchester Collection, told Harvard Business Review how laundry service complaints led to a new approach. “In early 2016 some numbers surfaced at a few of the Dorchester Collection’s luxury hotels that caught leadership’s attention: Complaints about our laundry service were on the rise, as was the cost of compensating guests for damage to their clothes.”

The article explains how The Dorchester Collection then discovered exactly what its guests expected from their laundry services, in order to make wholesale improvements. It also touches on how internal employee attitudes to laundry within the hotel were out of line with guests’ demands. Ana Brant continues: “…within the hotel, the team found that our employees saw the laundry service as removed from our guests, physically and psychologically, and as a less-than-desirable career path. This mindset was generating a high risk of us not meeting the high expectations of our guests.”

Based on its research, The Dorchester Collection made subtle changes to its laundry process to align it with a premium guest experience. As Ana Brant writes, “Now, when a Chanel jacket or Dior gown is returned to a guest, it has tissue paper stuffed into the sleeves and shoulders to preserve the proper drape…and to add a little glamour and ceremony. Laundry staff also include a note with the garment, describing how it was cared for and conveying that we value the guests’ clothing as much as they do.”

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Zoe Monk

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