“The hospitality industry will benefit from more flexible housekeeping solutions whether financially and operationally.” – Eric Bouf, General Manager, Luxury Cleaning Services.
When a company with expertise in hotel housekeeping enters an industry that is parched for quality services, it is apparent that the solution to the manpower training and skill management issue is professional, skilled, expertise. Eric Bouf, General Manager, Luxury Cleaning Services, talks to Clean Middle East about his company and how it is changing the face of outsourcing manpower in the hospitality industry.
Tell us about Luxury Cleaning Services (LCS). How did the company come into being?
LCS is an offspring of OMS Synergie Group - a French cleaning and service company based in Paris for the past 25 years. OMS operates in numerous markets but primarily in the energy, retail and restaurant operations and hospitality industries. We have a team of 1,000 associates and clean around 3,000,000 hotel rooms per year for clients in Paris such as Marriott Hotels, Peninsula, Mandarin Oriental, Accor brands, Moevenpick, Golden Tulip, etc. In 2013, OMS decided to expand the hospitality division internationally with the Middle East and Asia being identified as potential markets that could sustain our growth with regard to the strength of the existing hospitality and tourism markets.
What is your background? Why did you decide to set up this business in the UAE?
I come from a 25-year background in hotel management up to General Manager with brands like Holiday Inn, Hilton, Millennium and Marriott, and in 2013 I set up a hospitality coaching and consulting company in Paris. I was contracted by OMS to source and conduct a market research for their international expansion, and once Dubai was identified, I naturally offered to become a partner to set up and launch the company in Dubai. It was important for OMS that someone with a solid hotel industry background took the lead in a hospitality housekeeping service provider.
Dubai was identified as the initial destination due to its strong hospitality market with over 700 three-star to five-star properties. The maturity of the existing market and forecasted growth of hotels with the upcoming Expo 2020 makes us believe that Dubai and the UAE is the right market for our housekeeping services. With time, hotel occupancies will be
affected by the additional supply of properties, therefore hotel managers and owners will want to focus more on the average rate and average cost of rooms sold. This is where we come in by offering the hospitality industry housekeeping services priced per room cleaned regardless of occupancy fluctuations, hence shifting housekeeping expenses from a fixed to a variable cost.
Give us your opinion on the current housekeeping industry here.
The housekeeping industry is amazing in Dubai and it is aligned and reflects not only the diversity of brands and properties, but also the service expectations and levels from guests and owners. I have met great housekeeping professionals that are focused on performance through details and can be inspiring to their associates and teams. Nevertheless, the housekeeping industry is very much similar to the rest of the world as it is a people-related business where performance lies in the correlation of proper training, procedures and goodwill. This does not happen overnight and it takes dedicated professionals to achieve desired satisfaction levels.
One of the unique traits of Dubai is the diversity of nationalities and cultures working in the hospitality industry as well as the great numbers of different guest profiles and expectations whether they be GCC clients, Asians, Indians, Europeans, Africans, Americans, etc. Dubai is such a melting pot paired up with its growth that talent retention in housekeeping has become a predominant concern for housekeepers along with trainings; hence their interest in finding new alternative solutions to the traditional full in-house housekeeping department team.
What are the services that you offer to the hospitality industry?
How do you think LCS’ expertise will benefit them in the long run? We not only provide room or public area cleaning but we are also able to run a full housekeeping department of a hospitality property. Our services are tailored to the needs of our clients whether they be hotels, resorts, restaurants, leisure parks or others. Our services are delivered by trained housekeeping associates and are priced per unit cleaned rather than per staff deployed, inclusive of chemicals, amenities and supplies, if needed. This way, our clients are guaranteed housekeeping costs that are aligned with the fluctuating market occupancies.
In short, we are able to guarantee our clients housekeeping costs that will drop when occupancy drops and the ability to align their costs to the occupancy when it will rise. LCS, being a company managed by former hoteliers at the service of hospitality and leisure managers and owners, is not only a cleaning staff provider but moreover a business partner able to fully understand the needs and requirements for each and every property we work with. Our background is reassuring and to some extent an asset for our clients.
How do you manage manpower when it comes to recruitment, training and deploying manpower to different facilities?
Our teams are hired and deployed according to the contracts we sign. We today have three major source markets for our associates, being the Indian sub-continent, Eastern Africa and Philippines. With the emergence of the Asian tourism market we are looking at expanding our sourcing to Chinese and Asian nationalities. Our associates are either sourced locally in the UAE or directly in their home countries, nevertheless they all need to have a certain number of criteria to be eligible for selection such as hotel school training or significant hotel experience in housekeeping, proper English proficiency and finally but not least, a positive and encouraging attitude towards guest service and others.
Once our associates are selected and hired they undergo a training programme prior to be deployed to their respective properties. This training programme is delivered by our housekeeping quality manager and is partly classroom and hands-on based. Finally, once our associates are deployed to the properties they will then remain affected on a permanent basis tied to the length of the contract signed with our clients.
Tell us in detail about your training programme.
Our initial induction training programme is designed with three main objectives. − The first is for our associates to understand the UAE work environment, the hotel industry in Dubai, the various guest profiles and nationalities they will encounter in the UAE. − The second is to clarify the basics of guest interaction, guest service and hospitality standards with regards to housekeeping positions.
This will include trainings as meet and greet, problem solving, lost and found procedures, DND and refuse of service procedures. − The third objective is to clearly define the knowledge and procedures our associates are expected to be knowledgeable of with regards to cleaning, chemical handling, bed making, dusting, tidying, etc., this is very much a hands on training. Once our associates are deployed on our client’s properties they undergo regular weekly trainings from their supervisors to refresh and reinforce the already acquired knowledge. If needed our housekeeping quality manager can also design tailormade trainings for properties and associates accordingly to the needs that may arise.
It’s been a short time since you set up shop in the UAE. How has the response been to your business propositions? How do you think the industry will benefit from this?
I have started to set up the company last year in September and since then the response has been very positive although it takes some times for housekeeping professionals to understand and take the step to move towards a housekeeping service partner. Once they see the financial gain and quality assurance we provide they quickly then look to find with us the proper deployment to meet their budget and manning targets. From a general manager and owner perspective the response has been very encouraging and many of them are looking at our propositions with an interest of deployment within the coming year.
Overall the industry will benefit from more flexible housekeeping solutions whether financially and operationally. Our company background being exclusively hospitality, our clients also benefit of our experience in the industry and the fact we can become business partners rather than just manpower supplier. This will allow our clients to better face the growing supply in Dubai and the UAE as well as rationalize their operational costs which are mainly impacted by the Housekeeping department. With our solutions and services hotel managers and owners are able to have a guaranteed cost per room sold regardless of the occupancy fluctuations.
What is LCS’ USP – what makes it stand out from other manpower outsourcing companies?
Clearly our USP is our staff. As a service provider we rely on one main asset – our team. We are proud of our associates and try to provide them with the most adequate living and work conditions so they will be focused and dedicated to providing the best housekeeping services to our clients.
All of us at LCS know and understand the utmost importance of people interaction. Housekeeping cleaning is not something that can be improvised, it takes training, procedures and determination to do it right. It is a difficult and repetitive job and the key to success lies also in our attitudes, personal involvement and appreciation of the positive actions. One of our managing guidelines is ‘take care and appreciate your team, they will then take care and appreciate the clients in return’.
What are your plans for the next few years?
To get well established in Dubai and the UAE, we are presently finalising the process of opening a branch in Abu Dhabi. Once we will be self-sustainable, we will then look to expand our services towards neighbouring countries as KSA, Qatar and most probably Iran. Nevertheless, we have just arrived in Dubai and there is still so much to do in the UAE that the next few years will be fully Emirati for sure.