How technology can help staff prioritize guest safety during pandemic

(iStock / Getty Images Plus / Михаил Руденко) Not only is are kiosks the safest option in terms of practicing social distancing, they also free up staff members to work on other tasks. 

The safety of both guests and employees has always been the top priority for hotel owners and operators; however, achieving this has become an even bigger challenge in the midst of the pandemic. The hospitality industry has taken a big hit, with reports showing a large percentage of hotel rooms are currently empty and more than half of direct hotel employees laid off or furloughed.  

But with the spread of COVID-19 increasing, new safety and sanitation guidelines are being rolled out across the hospitality industry, but with less staff to manage the normal day-to-day duties in addition to new protocol, hotel and lodging staff members are spread thin. That’s why it’s important for hotel management to invest in solutions such as environmental monitoring and communication systems, that relieve the burden on already strained employees, help to provide guests with the safest experience possible, and help hotels to save money and avoid property damage.

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Environmental Monitoring

A variety of wireless sensors exist for environmental monitoring, including those for checking the operational status and proper function of HVAC systems, power generators and boilers; logging temperatures within refrigeration systems; and detecting water or humidity. If a sudden change or a system failure occurs, it is important to alert the proper individuals so they can address the issue before it becomes a major concern or escalates into an emergency. These monitoring capabilities can prevent the loss of convenience/comfort, as well as valuable equipment and inventories necessary for normal business operations.

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An automated alerting platform can be used to further enhance environmental monitoring, helping hotels to improve safety, save money, and protect their property. Whether looking to monitor door access, fridge/freezer temperatures or the HVAC system, an automated alerting platform can tie all of those siloed systems together, making it easy. When on an alerting platform, if a sensor is triggered, a staff member can be alerted immediately. For example, if a door to a closed section of the hotel is opened or left ajar, an employee can receive an alert specifying which door has been opened so they can ensure the situation is properly dealt with. Or if an employee receives an alert that the freezer temperature is rising, the appliance can be checked for any malfunctions before there is any serious and unnecessary product loss. By monitoring these systems with technology, hotels can ease the burden on their staff and gain peace of mind knowing that malfunctions will be addressed without disrupting guests’ experiences or staff’s workflow.

Contactless Communication

From check-in to check-out, guests should have access to more streamlined ways in which they can navigate their hotel stay. Before COVID-19, a more personable approach was key to a great experience. However, now that it’s important to limit face-to-face interactions as much as possible, quick and contactless operations are much more appropriate. This means rather than the face-to-face check-in, a self-service approach should be taken. One way to achieve this is to set-up a self-service kiosk at the hotel’s entrance or lobby. With this kiosk, guests can check themselves in, answer any necessary questionnaires and screening prompts and make any special requests without ever needing to see an employee. Not only is this the safest option in terms of practicing social distancing, but it also frees up much needed staff members to work on other tasks. 

Once guests have checked themselves in and gone through any needed screening, it’s important that there is still continued monitoring to ensure everyone’s safety. Many businesses are decreasing the chance of spreading COVID-19 with a mandatory temperature check of anyone who arrives on the premises, however, hotels are unique in that guests stay on the premises for an extended period of time. Because of this, a guest could arrive at the hotel with a normal temperature but begin to run a fever later in their stay and possibly be infected. One way to monitor this—without needing to perform disruptive and manual temperature re-checks—is with thermal imaging. Thermal imaging is a noninvasive way that hotels can help detect when an individual, whether a guest or employee, has an elevated temperature. This means that even if a guest or staff member enters the hotel with a completely normal temperature, they can still be identified as needing further screening later on. 

To enhance the effectiveness of thermal imaging, an automated alerting platform should be implemented as well. With the combination of thermal imaging and an automated alerting platform, staff members can receive detailed alerts regarding the situation at hand. For instance, when an individual is detected as having an elevated temperature, rather than that information simply being logged into a database which needs to be viewed manually, a staff member can automatically receive an alert to their phone, or other device, reading “Elevated temperature detected; Floor 4; Hallway.” With this information, the staff member can take immediate and swift action to manage the situation. A report full of thermal imaging data isn't going to make a difference, but receiving real-time information when an irregular temperature is detected allows the proper action to be taken. 

Another way to decrease the chances of spreading COVID-19 is to further minimize the need for face-to-face interaction by equipping each hotel room with a communication portal. A communication portal, most often available via a tablet, allows guests to access important information and services. This means that guests can be provided with any required or additional safety information, as well as a way to easily request a variety of services without needing to directly interact with a staff member. For example, rather than calling or walking down to the front desk, guests could request extra towels, toothpaste, or even complete a meal order all from their in-room communication portal. Not only is this the safest option for guests, but it helps improve staff work-flow by automating many processes. This is incredibly valuable because staff crews are already limited and are taking on extra and new responsibilities due to COVID-19. 

Despite the challenges COVID-19 presents, hotels' mission to provide a safe experience for guests has alway been and remains the top priority. By investing in and implementing new technology, hotels can adapt to operating with limited staff and new guidelines, while continuing to offer a safe and enjoyable experience for both guests and employees. 

Amy Jeffs is VP of Status Solutions.

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