5@5: The Avari approach to total quality assurance

My dear old Scottish mother, who recently checked in to “Hotel Heaven,” always kept our house and home well polished and dust-free for the 84 years she and her parents lived in it, while constantly reminding her own brood — and my father — that “Cleanliness is next to godliness,” which I never really understood. But now, thankfully, I finally do get it, and so do my staff and guests.

There was no epiphany; I simply made a decision after several years of answering guest complaints about cleanliness and minor maintenance snags in previous large properties (with the highest percentage related to minor but annoying room snags and faults resulting from high occupancy levels, all of which should have been rectified by well-trained and diligent room attendants, supervisors and housekeeping managers) to come up with my own total quality assurance (TQA) plan that would close the “quality gap” and at the same time improve the overall efficiency of the housekeeping team and thereby improve our guests’ satisfaction levels.

At 5 p.m. each evening, I head towards the front desk to meet with the other four members of the Rooms Division Quality Assurance team, comprising the director of guest services, the director of housekeeping services, the director of engineering services and the director of sales and marketing. Others may join occasionally for their own training and development.

I then randomly select five rooms for inspection by the five-member team, ideally on the same floor. (For the inspection results to be valid, the rooms’ selection must be made only at 5 p.m. in order to ensure that no advance warning has been given to the housekeeping team.) The 5@5 team then proceeds to the first room and is joined by the room attendant and supervisor for that floor, who witness the inspections.

Each member of the team takes a maximum of five minutes to complete their own quality audit, with the director of guest services inspecting all electronics, including testing the cordless telephones, cell phone reception, internet band width, lighting, television functionality and channel sequence, interactive TV system, DND system, hairdryer and minibar refrigerator temperature.

The director of engineering services inspects the self-closing door, door safety locks, electronic door lock, bathroom lighting, water temperature, water pressure, all fittings, marble floors, bedroom windows, room lighting, air conditioning system, smoke detector and several other items, including the in-room safe.

The director of housekeeping services inspects the curtains, rugs, flooring, bed frame, mattress, bedding linen, pillows, toweling, bathrobes, bathroom and room cleanliness, bathroom amenities, wardrobes, number of hangers, slippers, weighing scale, all furniture, cleanliness of the windows and several other items.

The director of sales and marketing checks the minibar, coffee maker, all in-room collateral — including menus, writing materials, promotional materials, laundry lists, laundry bags and fire escape plan on the back of the door — and several other items.

I then look at the room from the perspective of a guest, checking “freshness,” which we guarantee as it’s a non-smoking hotel, overall room and bathroom temperature, water pressure and temperatures, cleanliness, equipment functionality, furniture maintenance, tidiness and the first impression given upon entry to the room versus that advertised and promised on our website.

Each room inspected this way takes the team no longer than five minutes, allowing the entire five-room inspection process to take no longer than 25-30 minutes, if the rooms are on the same floor.

Once the inspections are completed, all the snag data is entered into a master spreadsheet by the executive housekeeper and then sent by email to the rooms maintenance team and to my office for follow-up by my personal assistant, as we require all reported snags to be rectified within 24 hours if the rooms remain vacant and most are, if the snags discovered are minor.

(However, if any snag is likely to result in a guest being disappointed, then the room is placed “triple O,” or out of order, until the snags are brought back to property and brand standard.)

After completing the five-room inspection, we then check the floor corridor cleanliness and maintenance, the pantry area including the laundry chute, the fire escape door and alarm, the fire hose and extinguisher inspection label dates.

This simple daily process, which takes no more than 45 minutes to complete each day, achieves several very important objectives:

  • It allows me to meet with my senior “quality assurance managers” at the end of the day to discuss informally what they have all achieved that day, as we actually walk the property instead of being gathered around a conference table in the mornings for the ubiquitous GM’s morning briefing, which does not happen here, having been recently replaced by daily e-breaks.
  • It ensures that the management team takes ownership of our products, and that collectively we all ensure that we give our guests what they expect — a sparkling clean, hygienic, well-maintained and fully functional room in which everything is up the brand standard, and that it appears as it has been described in our marketing and contract material.
  • It allows our staff members to see “the management” walking and talking together as a functioning quality assurance team, which in itself is a very good thing. 
  • By randomly selecting the rooms myself at 5 p.m., there is no way the housekeeping team can possibly know which rooms and which floors are to be inspected that evening, thereby raising the overall housekeeping standards, as no one wants to be accused or penalized for sloppy work, or to have snags and faults identified that they had not reported.
  • It ensures that the “management” has their finger on the pulse of the overall condition of our property, as over the course of a week we will inspect 25 rooms and 100 per calendar month. So for a 500-room hotel we can inspect every room in the hotel at least twice a year, and for smaller properties, three to four times a year if the 5@5 formula is followed. For smaller properties it could be 2@2 and 10 rooms per week and 40 per month.
  • It allows a certain level of competiveness amongst the housekeeping teams, as the floor room attendants and supervisors with the best scores for the month receive recognition, appreciation and rewards.   
  • It allows me as the general manager to confirm to our owners and to our guests that I have personally visited each and every room at least twice a year, along with my quality assurance team, which is an assertion and claim not many management teams can make in a business where at times the quest for profit perfection may take precedence over the quest for quality perfection. 

I am pleased to say the overall scores from our self audits, and from our guest satisfaction feedback program, are the highest I have ever achieved in my entire managerial career, which spans three decades and several continents, and that these results are primarily a result of the implementation of the 5@5 quality assurance process.

So go ahead and give it a try at your property if you don’t already have a similar TQA program, and enjoy the positive difference it will surely make to your management team, your housekeeping team and to your guests and owner’s satisfaction — and, finally, to your bottom-line results.