The Service Companies Blog

Service. Above All

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Team Member Spotlight: Mildred Botley

Mildred Botley

Mildred Botley

At The Service Companies, we embody a culture of internal advancement. If an associate works hard, embodies our service code, and shows pride in their work and a desire to learn more, he or she has fantastic opportunities for growth within our company. We have a number of long-standing associates who joined our team at the lead level and are now Supervisors, Executive Housekeepers and Regional Vice Presidents. One of these people is Mildred Botley, who has been with the company since 2011 and has been promoted three times during this time. See her story below.

“I joined The Service Companies’ team in September 2011 as a driver. Determined to be the best driver, I drove associates locally as well as long distances, which I enjoyed. I had the opportunity to meet a large variety of people, each of whom told me about their culture and roots. Learning more about where each of the associates came from was so much fun.

In March 2012, I began helping out in the local Human Resources office when the Office Coordinator was off. Shortly thereafter, I was asked to join the Human Resources team full-time as an Office Coordinator. In this new role, I had to learn about the administrative duties and HR procedures. My favorite experience in this role was organizing the annual family and friends day for the property associates. Along with the corporate team, we had arranged fun events with food, dancing, games and prizes. Watching the team eating, dancing and interacting with each other gave me pride in what we accomplished.

In July 2014, I was promoted to Human Resources Associate, where I was given more responsibility as I grew within the company. I had the opportunity to coordinate employment with our J1 and H2B team members. I loved taking them on cultural trips while they were visiting the US. This was an adventure and I enjoyed helping them understand our culture.

In 2016, I was again promoted to Talent Acquisition Specialist, which involves in-office and field work. Being out in the field gives me an opportunity to meet future employees and explain what working for The Service Companies can do for their career, like it has done for mine.”

The Service Companies gives its 10,000 associates the opportunity to become an expert in their craft, learn new skills and advance through various departments in the company, as Mildred has. To learn more about careers, culture and employment benefits at The Service Companies, click here.

Tips for safely maintaining your public areas during winter conditions

Shoveling Snow

Our Public Area and Housekeeping teams have been digging out from the recent snowfall in many parts of the country though we still have a long way to go.

As we operate properties in all types of climates nationwide, each season brings different cleaning challenges. When asking about top cleaning challenges during the winter season, many will say snow and salt removal. The more it snows the more salt gets put down to melt the snow and eventually gets tracked into our facilities, potentially damaging our buildings and the surrounding environment.

We understand that shoveling and plowing alone cannot always keep the areas safe and that is when salt de-icers come into play. We want to share some cleaning and maintenance tips for these conditions in order to help keep your areas safe and clean, while managing salt being tracked in and around your property.

Many times the person who purchases or applies de-icers at our properties is not the same person responsible for cleaning it up inside or out. The key is to use de-icers moderately and to apply what product works best for your situation. There are many types of de-icing salts such as: sodium chloride “rock salt”, calcium chloride, potassium chloride and magnesium chloride, which is far less damaging to concrete, plants and the environment. There is also an opportunity to add sand to provide grit for added traction. Whichever product is being used, there is the challenge to stay ahead of potential damage.

Many times salt is applied very close to the entrance. For maximum melting results, it is best to apply the product more sparingly in the highest foot traffic areas. A salt pattern should begin with product applied more heavily away from the entrance and less as you get closer to the entrance. The natural foot traffic spreads it as people come in.

Proper application can provide substantial cost savings especially for repairs to interior spaces and corrosion of metal door entrances. It also prevents harm to landscaping with over application of salt too close to vegetation.

Proper entrance matting is the next line of defense to keep the “wet” and salt outside.

Take a look at the quality and placement of matting at the property entry points. Entrances may have a scraper mat as you enter so guests can release some of the snow followed by a longer wiper mat made of absorbent material that can wick the water and salt off the shoes as they walk.

If heavy snow fall is occurring, these absorbent mats need to be changed when they become saturated, so be sure you have enough on hand to make frequent changes to all your outside entrances.

Although matting selection and placement is ultimately decided by the facility manager, it is up to all of us to maintain and inspect these often to ensure they remain in good condition.

Even with having extra matting in place, salt will still make it inside!

Your Public Area team must be ready to remove it in the most effective manner. Entrances should be swept and cleaned often during these times.

Vacuuming can work well for salt removal though for safety reasons make sure your team knows not to vacuum damp or wet carpets because it is an electrocution hazard. Also vacuuming up damp salt and soil can damage your equipment.

In addition, it is important to train your staff to thoroughly vacuum the carpeted areas surrounding the matting. Even if sufficient matting is placed, there is always more salt and soil deposited as guests are walking off.

Vacuuming often is a great start, though you must also have a regular interim carpet cleaning program in place in order to tackle problem areas near entry points. This will help eliminate the salt stains that tend to build up and seem to return even after you extracted the area.

We prefer our interim clean be done every couple days during heavy snows and the salting that follows. At times, an extraction method just using hot water with an added neutralizer can provide great results pulling the salt and soil out of the carpets. Although your carpet cleaning generally occurs during off-peak periods, be sure you have a floor blower available to speed the drying time. Once dried, always thoroughly vacuum the area.

Because salt and de-icers can wear on marble, one thing to keep in mind during the heavy winter days is to not grind marble. Reserve this process for days where salt will not be tracked into the property.

Be sure not to neglect your equipment during this period, as they are working extra hard. You will need to provide extra cleaning care and maintenance.

Before you know it, spring will be back again though your work is not complete yet. During any long thaws or once spring approaches, be sure to thoroughly wash down walkways, the base of your building and areas near vegetation to disperse product residue and prevent further damage.

Having a good prevention plan in place and keeping the salt outside your facility should provide a safe and clean facility and you will be off to a fresh start for spring.

How to make your marble floors shine

The appearance of a property’s marble floors can affect a guest’s first and lasting impressions of a property. While these floors may have gleamed a few months ago, constant and consistent traffic on the floors can leave them dull and lackluster. What should you do when this occurs? At The Service Companies, we have spent years honing our floor care techniques and have developed a step-by-step guide for you to use. Following this guide will give you the results shown below in our before and after photos, which we’ve taken at a luxury hotel property we recently began servicing.

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Partnering with the best

With the popularity of social media forums and review sites like TripAdvisor, now more than ever, our hotel, casino and vacation ownership resort customers are increasingly focused on providing their guests an exceptional experience. Cleanliness, interactions with the property’s staff, and amenities all factor into these reviews and our customers look to us to utilize our expertise to enhance their guests’ experiences. We achieve this by providing high quality service and by partnering with the most trusted providers in the industry. Our belief is to be the premier provider of managed services in the hospitality industry, you need to also partner with the best.

Ecolab

Ecolab demonstration at Leadership Summit

Ecolab demonstration at Leadership Summit

After several years of exclusively using Ecolab products, we signed a national partnership agreement with the company to better create property-specific cleanliness solutions for our customers. As part of each property’s opening, we work with Ecolab to determine the optimum chemicals and tools to ensure we maintain the property in first-class condition. What if a property has travertine floors or countertops in the rooms that require a particular solvent? We work with Ecolab to ensure that all materials on property, as well as the safety of your guests and our associates, are taken into account. We also bring Ecolab’s Corporate Training Team to each of our new accounts to train our associates on these specifically chosen tools and chemicals to ensure they are used correctly and safely.

Kärcher

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Kärcher equipment demonstration

Kärcher is a market leader in cleaning technology and equipment. That’s why we partner with them to furnish the equipment for the turn-key housekeeping, EVS and public area, stewarding and kitchen cleaning services we provide our customers. Like Ecolab, our management team works with Kärcher to select the best equipment based on the needs of each property and sets up regular training sessions and demos to teach our team how to effectively use the equipment and to keep our team on the cutting edge with the latest equipment. As part of our critical path to opening each new account, we dedicate a minimum of one full day of training to Kärcher’s equipment and how to utilize it best.

Honda

Honda is known for being one of the superior choices for pressure washing machines. Because of this, we, through our subsidiary JRS International, utilize Honda pressure washers for all of our large pressure washing jobs nationwide. Honda’s track record of durability and longevity translates into a higher quality of cleanliness that our pressure washing experts provide to our customers.

Ceridian

Ceridian, the leading and award-winning provider of human capital management system Dayforce HCM, helps companies design their workforce for maximum effectiveness and efficiency. With our commitment to our employees and being at the forefront of recruiting strategy, we partnered with the company in 2016 to provide us with innovated technology to manage all aspects of our day to day business functions including payroll, time and attendance, Human Resources, benefits, recruitment, onboarding and performance management. Dayforce HCM’s intuitiveness makes day-to-day activities productive while reducing redundancies and increasing productivity. This gives our team more time to dedicate to our customers and their needs.

At The Service Companies, we are committed to setting the quality standard in the marketplace and keeping our customers’ properties spotless. Our partnerships with Ecolab, Kärcher, Honda, and Ceridian enable us to provide tailored solutions to our customers that we know will benefit them.

How to develop great customer relationships

As we begin 2017, it’s important to remember the value of developing good customer relationships and providing exceptional customer service. At The Service Companies, one part of our Service Code is “Service is not what we do – it is who we are” and we are always focused on providing the best service possible to our hotel, casino and vacation ownership customers and their guests.

As we provide primarily “back-of-house” services, our customers are not only the guests of the property, but also of the various operational departments we work closely with throughout the day and night. I’ve found that good customer relationships stem from delivering good customer service. If your client is happy and satisfied with your work and response, then it is a sure way to not only grow your business, but also to maintain a lasting customer relationship. Here are some tips to accomplish this:

  1. Develop relationships with front office staff. Invite them to a pre-shift meeting so they see and understand your services and operations. Consider sending the front office staff treats during particularly busy times. Being in the hospitality industry, we are all working long and hard hours. It’s nice to show your customers your appreciation for their partnership.
  2. Remember special occasions that are important to your client. Keep track of your clients’ birthdays, anniversaries, children’s birthdays, etc. Send a note on these dates. It will let your customers know you care and that they are important to you.
  3. Communicate with your clients on a regular basis. Even just a short note or, better yet, a call to see if they have any feedback and discuss upcoming busy dates and important group and guest arrivals; this communication is critical to providing the service they need and expect from us.
  4. Make great first and lasting impressions. First impressions are important because a lack of familiarity can raise anxiety and heighten emotions. In the beginning of a relationship, your customer may feel sensitive or tentative. Give them a warm greeting every time you see them. This often translates into a lasting positive memory. Over the course of your relationship, the pleasant, short contacts you have with your customer and the service you provide will increase the perception of friendliness. In addition to this, always be thinking how you can provide a lasting impression, which comes from creating a memorable ‘moment of difference.’ Associates who are always ‘looking to help’ and proactively take action to assist or give information will create the moments customers remember. The lasting impression is the goodbye and, unsurprisingly, a person seems to recall these interactions later in the experience more readily than those earlier.
  5. Create Moments of Difference. For The Service Companies, our customer’s guests and their experiences are incredibly important. To make sure their stays are memorable, create at least one special memory that they will remember after they leave. For repeat guests, aim to build on their memories. Allow staff to be inspirational, help, give information and make recommendations to guests. Give or do something unexpected (for instance, Housekeepers leaving extra tissues or delivering hot soup for sick guests). Give staff enough freedom to be able to provide exceptional service. Finally, have fantastic, friendly and easy receptions with great goodbyes.

How to wow your guests – housekeeping service tips

turn-key housekeeping

How confident are you that your associates are regularly looking for ways to fulfill requests or resolve problems before guests have time to think about them?

In the hospitality industry, this is the norm if you want to stand out and exceed guests’ expectations.  At The Service Companies, we partner with many properties and brands. While service cultures and standards differ across them, all of our clients have a similar desire to wow, delight, and add value and a personalized touch to the customer experience.

As I was inspecting a guest room a while ago, I noticed the guest’s toothpaste was squeezed to the last drop.  I immediately thought about that guest coming back after a long day without toothpaste and having to call and wait for more to be delivered. The natural thing for me to do was place another tube of toothpaste for the guest. This made me think – what seems to be an ordinary task for me, doesn’t come naturally to everyone.

During our corporate mandated daily pre-shift meetings, our housekeeping leaders make this service training a regular practice. It is important to share ideas and best practices with associates so they are confident and empowered to create more memorable moments.

The first step is learning to read cues.

How well do you know your guests? Is your guest a coffee or tea drinker? Do they prefer regular or decaf? Does your VIP guest enjoy red or white wine, diet or regular soda, ales or lagers?

Once your housekeeping associates are aware of what the guest has been using, empower them to place extra items during service. Your guests will definitely take notice and appreciate your attentiveness.

A few simple practices our team employs:

  • Having a favorite beverage in a fresh bucket of ice waiting for the guest.
  • Leaving an extra bottle or two of water if the guest is a runner or utilizes the fitness center. Additionally, leaving a note and wishing them a great workout is a nice gesture.
  • Leaving extra tissues and/or tea service if you notice your guest is feeling under the weather or has the sniffles.  A “Get Well” note with the associate’s name offering additional assistance is a thoughtful touch.
  • Leaving them reading material such as a magazine or newspaper many properties stock. Provide this the afternoon or evening before checkout so they can take it along. Wish them a safe trip and hopefully a return visit soon. This is one of my favorites and it is very effective.

One drawback of travel is not having all the conveniences of home during a hectic business trip or jam-packed vacation schedule.  Implementing just one of these extra steps takes some of the planning and thinking off of a guest’s plate and creates more of those memorable experiences that your guest will look forward to coming back to.

Investing in technology: improved productivity, engagement and service

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The Service Companies’ proprietary TAMS system

Technology has completely transformed each and every one of our daily lives. It has made us more productive, given us greater access to information, and simplified procedures that used to take days, weeks or months to complete. At The Service Companies, we believe that technology is integral to increasing the productivity of our associates, creating best-in-class employee engagement and training programs, and providing the highest quality service to our customers and their guests. As the premier provider of cleaning, staffing and managed services to hotels, casinos and vacation ownership resorts nationwide, The Service Companies has made a significant investment in proprietary technology to increase the efficiency of our Managed and Staffing Services.

Talent Acquisition

Recruitment, training and employee engagement typically involve the most investment of money, time and energy from Housekeeping operational leaders. We recognized that our 30 years of success had provided us invaluable operational and recruiting knowledge that we translated into our own system – Talent Acquisition Metric System (TAMS). In 2016, we launched TAMS, which allows our Talent Acquisition team to create daily task lists focused on ground level recruiting, to analyze historical data on staffing levels for each of our customer’s properties (enabling us to anticipate ebbs and flows), and to review real time dashboards reflecting staffing levels at our properties and regions throughout the country.

Productivity Analysis

The Service Companies has successfully quantified the productivity of their team members. With our proprietary Flash Program portal, our operations leaders and executive team can view and track the productivity of a Housekeeping Department as well as analyze the daily productivity of each Guest Room Attendant. For any Guest Room Attendant that falls below a certain range, we pin point the issue and work on a resolution to increase those scores. Our portal is transferable across the multiple brands we operate within, and comes complete with a mobile site accessible via tablet. Our Executive Housekeepers get real-time, actionable intelligence to help them manage their teams and properties.

Employee On-boarding and Retention Tracking

In 2016, The Service Companies partnered with an external consulting company to collect data and analyze why associates join or don’t join our team or stay for a certain amount of time. The intelligence we gather through this exhaustive analysis of our on-boarding and retention strategies will help us get a clear picture of what we can improve on so that we continue to be the premier employer of hourly associates in the managed service space.

Training

Coming in 2017, The Service Companies will be launching a customized and proprietary training and engagement mobile app, Star Service Training. While we have been utilizing digital training checklists, inspection forms and tools for years, Star Service Training enables us to keep all of the files in one place that our associates can access on their phones to complete. Training will be able to be completed on the app, with our most anticipated augmented reality feature that enables the phone to complete the inspection itself using the camera. Associates will be recognized and rewarded with points, which they will then be able to use to purchase gift cards and items from The Service Companies’ online store. This training app and our other proprietary technology will also be integral to the operations of a new simple, reliable and compliant housekeeping staffing service for hotels and resorts that The Service Companies will be launching in January 2017.

As a large, well-capitalized strategic hospitality partner, we continue to invest in, and help develop, the latest technology to streamline our processes and increase efficiency across all departments of our organization, which also enables our customers to command premium pricing and potentially produces savings.

Flu Prevention in Hotels, Casinos and Resorts

Cleaning common guest touch points in a bathroom

As we approach each season it is important to train associates on flu prevention steps and continue refreshing the team on these topics throughout the season. While the number of flu cases is highest in the fall and winter, the flu can infect people at any time during the year.

Housekeeping, Public Area, and Stewarding team members especially play a critical role in hotels, casinos and resorts in disease control and prevention, which spreads often by customer and employee contact. These associates can take everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs through various cleaning methods, frequency and procedures for high touch points.

Here are a few of the key areas for prevention.

  1. Ensure you have the safest and effective chemicals to disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated. The Center for Disease Control states:

“Influenza viruses can be destroyed by heat (167-212°F). In addition, several chemical germicides, including chlorine, hydrogen peroxide, detergents (soap), iodine-based antiseptics and alcohols are effective against influenza viruses if used in proper concentrations for a sufficient length of time.”

Although many of your chemicals are effective to disinfect surfaces, they may not be as safe to apply on all areas. It is important discuss with your chemical provider to better understand application methods for these delicate surfaces.

  1. Be sure your associates are aware of high touch points, the areas touched often, which are included in their assigned areas. Examples include: handles and door locks, light switches, countertops, paper towel dispensers, telephone handset and buttons, elevator control buttons and handrails, casino/ATM machines, drape wand, in-room electronics and more.
  1. Discuss frequency, which varies for each surface. For example, a guest room sink knob may be cleaned once during daily service whereas a public area restroom sink knob will be cleaned multiple times during each shift.
  1. Keep front and back of the house areas well-stocked with an adequate supply of tissues, soap, paper towels and alcohol-based hand rubs.
  1. Keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. As associates get busy during their day, they may forget the basics, so make sure they are reminded how to maintain proper hygiene, even in places where soap and clean water may not be available.

Although we are well into the season, it is never too late to remind associates the importance of specific cleaning methods and frequency of each task in an effort to keep ourselves and one another healthy.

Stay well.

How to create a successful inspection program

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You may have heard the adage “Expect What You Inspect” at some point during your hospitality career.

An inspection program will provide more detailed feedback to all parties involved with a common goal to continuously improve the service provided to the customer. Whether it is inspecting a casino floor, guest rooms, hotel public areas or corridors, kitchens, vacation ownership grounds, or employee back of house areas, the following practices will assist in implementing a more successful program.

Quality, Not Quantity

During regular discussions with our team, I always share my #1 rule for achieving your expectations: Quality, not quantity! The quality of our inspection process, along with follow through, is more important than tracking large quantities. It is critical that the inspector provides immediate feedback so associates may avoid further deficiencies. As we go, hopefully the feedback becomes more praise and rewards versus critique.

Keep Score

Don’t forget to keep score! Having a point value or goal for each assigned task allows you to track progress. The manager will have a better understanding of what training is needed for an individual or the entire team.

Consistent Analysis of Inspection Form

Another important factor for a successful inspection program is keeping your inspection form aligned with current trends. If you find a substandard area or common deficiencies, a manager should react by placing more emphasis in that area. An inspection form is customized for each property reflecting the layout and furnishings of the various rooms, suites, public space, kitchens, etc., though we have an opportunity to increase point values and focus on the “hot” spots. Review your format often. Your inspection form today should not be the exact form used a year ago.

Create Brand Standards and Benchmarks

In order for associates to fully understand the expectations and be compliant of all cleaning standards, they need to have a clear understanding of the brand standards and departmental benchmarks.

Start by providing every associate with a copy of the current inspection checklist during training and review this before they work independently. Associates need to have a clear understanding of their tasks and desired goals. If at any time revisions are made to an inspection form, be sure to provide a revised copy. A good practice is to post current copies of the inspection form along with room placement photos in a highly visible area within your department for easy reference.

We Are All Inspectors

We are all inspectors and accountable for providing the very best service to our client and customers. It is important that every associate identifies areas that need attention whether it is a cleaning or service issue. We all have a unique eye for detail, so as a team we will see a whole lot more.

Informing Associates for Processes to Address Issues They Cannot Address

All associates should understand the proper channels and resources if they cannot address something on the spot, such as maintenance issues. If something they had reported cannot be handled quickly, keep everyone informed of the projected completion time.

Inspect Everyone

What you don’t inspect someone else will. No matter how seasoned the associate is, everyone needs to be inspected to ensure they are exceeding expectations and reaching desired goals.

Associates are encouraged to frequently inspect their assigned areas with a manager or supervisor so they may share helpful tips with one another.

Listen To Feedback

I’ve inspected thousands of guest rooms during my career and always find opportunities to learn through associate’s and customer’s eyes. Listening to customer feedback and sharing best practices is the best way to move your team ahead and achieve quality and service targets.

In addition to associates being accountable for achieving goals, we as managers are equally accountable for setting associates up for success providing support and coaching along the way.

Once you prepare yourself and team, expect to see positive results!

A Great Service Example

stewleonardsrockA few weeks ago I had the chance to visit a special place that was a prominent part of my childhood. It was a dairy store. That’s right, a dairy store, but it was not just any dairy store. It was the world’s largest dairy store; however, it didn’t start out that way.

The name of the store is Stew Leonard’s and it opened in 1969 selling bottled milk with 7 employees. Today, Stew Leonard’s has annual sales of over $400 million and more than 2,000 employees. The genius of Stew Leonard’s wasn’t selling bottled milk; it was the unrelenting commitment to customer service and the customer experience.

As a kid, we couldn’t wait to go to Stew’s to watch, through the big glass window, the milk actually getting bottled while jamboree music was being played by Disney-like animated farm animals (the real farm animals were right outside). Today, Stew Leonard’s is more like Whole Foods meets Costco and Disney World.

Why has this dairy store idea been such a success? It is because of their customer service culture that was established one day 47 years ago and has never wavered. As you enter Stew Leonard’s, there is a huge granite rock engraved with:

Rule 1 – The customer is always right!

Rule 2 – If the customer is ever wrong, reread Rule 1.

As I think about The Service Companies, I believe more than ever that our commitment to our brand, service code and Service. Above All is the engine that drives our success. Just like Stew Leonard’s customer service-oriented culture, our brand and service code put our customers first:

Service is not what we do – it is who we are.

We come to work to make our customers shine.

We are guests in our customer’s ‘house’.

We trust our co-workers, in all ways.

We leverage our expertise to solve problems.

Companies become successful and grow by providing either great services or goods to their customers. That is why we, The Service Companies and its 10,000 employees, strive everyday to live our service code and provide our customers and their guests exceptional service.

To learn more about our service code and who we are, visit our website here.

 

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