Managing Your Lost and Found Department with Photos
Did you know that in the U.S., more than 960 items per every 100 guestrooms are lost each year? A recent article reports that nearly 25 million travelers will lose a personal item while on the road this year, but less than 5 percent of those items will be recovered and returned to their owners. Did you know that two in three travelers would consider switching hotel brands to one that offers a lost-and-found service? Did you also know that the underlying problem associated with non-returned items is a lack of internal communication and not internal theft?
As a hotel owner, I make considerable financial investments to make sure my guests are happy. This is a sure-fire way to stimulate repeat stays. The last thing I can afford is negative comments on review sites because items that may be left behind in my guestrooms are not being returned. The message this sends to travelers is that my hotel and staff don’t care about them or their personal belongings once they check out. This could not be further from the truth — but as they say, actions speak louder than words, and online reviews speak even louder. Today 88 percent of the online population will take time to read reviews, and 86 to 90 percent of these customers say they will make their choice on your product or service based upon online reviews. If your hotel is the subject of a negative review slugged: “Lost Item Not Returned,” chances are the guest posting that review won’t return either.
So why aren’t lost items that may be found not being returned? It’s simple. Proper procedures aren’t in place to track a lost item from the moment it is found. As I said before, it all comes down to communication.
Tapping into the Cloud
After operating hotels for 20 years, I have become an expert on the need for accurate and instant communication in helping my employees meet customer expectations. As an early adopter of technology, I am aware of the fast-paced changes in workplace communications. That’s why a year ago I developed a tool that leverages mobile technology and the cloud to run my hotel more efficiently. Called HotelTap, this cloud-based tool is dramatically changing the way we — and other hoteliers — communicate at the property — especially when it comes to the Lost and Found department.
HotelTap is an at-a-glance digital log book that provides a steady stream of daily activities and information in chronological order by department and by staff start time. If you use a social media network like Facebook or Twitter, you’ll love HotelTap. It closely resembles enterprise social software such as Yammer and Chatter and project-management tools like Basecamp or Asana.
HotelTap enables staff to record any activity, problem, task, or conversation into the system and attach a photo, document or video if necessary. For example, if a guest leaves an item behind in the room, housekeeping can take a picture of the item for identification purposes and attach the photo within a note to the #Found tag in HotelTap. Then, when the guest calls, whoever is working the front desk that day can easily search in HotelTap to see if an item was found on a specified day. If an item was recovered, a record of where in the room the item was found, where it is being stored, and a photo of the item will be displayed. In addition, a task can be set up to mail the item and the tracking # can be stored in the original note by adding a comment in HotelTap.
Hotels can save themselves a lot of time and guests a lot of stress by simply photographing found items and keeping a digital record. Not only does this provide guests with peace of mind, but there is visual authentication to ensure that the item recovered in fact belongs to them. When dealing with expensive jewelry or personal equipment, this can be invaluable to the guest. Returned belongings = happy guests. Happy guests = returning guests. Get the picture?