Jonathan Smith, general manager from Holiday Inn Express, Oxford Road, Manchester, shares his top tips and advice on how to work with external contractors to get the best results.
Hoteliers often choose to work with external suppliers so that operations run smoothly without having to directly manage the responsibility and staff the positions, and at the same time reducing administration. Roles frequently outsourced include catering, housekeeping and sourcing equipment, as each requires large teams of people to complete the task, but suffer from high turnover of staff and other related problems.
When working with a new supplier, it is really important to have a face-to-face meeting and agree three key elements: expectations, levels of service and costs. Once these are agreed, it is also worth discussing any possible additional costs that might be incurred. Without having this initial meeting, problems can easily arise, including under-achieving or dissatisfaction with the service.
At the initial stage, every element needs to be agreed within a contract and the expectations need to be clearly defined and set out. Never assume anything or expect a particular job will be done without explicitly stating requirements and timings. Similarly, at this point, agree terms, including aspects such as whose responsibility it is to provide a uniform and required equipment. Although it may seem a long and time intensive chore, it is well worth doing as it can save valuable time and money in the long run.
Not only is it important to agree these expectations, but it is essential to expalin the consequences if they are not met. For example, if a customer complains about the cleanliness of a room – who pays the compensation?
The housekeeping role is a great example of how easy it is for problems to arise if a process isn’t followed. Generally, housekeepers have a standard list of jobs that need to be completed on a daily basis, however, there are a number of additional tasks that need to be done less frequently, such as mattress turning, net curtain cleaning and de-scaling kettles. All these details need to be included as part of the pre-agreement so that they are costed for and time allocated.
Once all the initial set-up details have been agreed, it is important to meet and establish a relationship with the designated key contact. Building a strong working relationship with this supplier will ensure a more efficient service. Take the time to explain more about the hotel, what standards are required and how the team works. Equally, there also has to be an understanding and respect of their requirements to enable them to function within the hotel.
Having agreed all these terms, do regular checks to ensure standards are being met and roles are being completed. There is little point investing time in setting up all these terms if they are not being monitored. This needs to be a positive process, remember to always recognise the good work – don’t just pick at faults. By constantly giving positive feedback it helps to create a strong sense of morale and team spirit.
Finally, flexibility is key. Parameters need to be agreed for what is acceptable so that if problems arise, they can be resolved quickly and amicably. By demonstrating understanding and flexibility, it will help strengthen working relationships and create a willingness to deliver on the contract.
By Jonathan Smith