Travellers around the world check into hotels every day, hoping for a pleasant experience that meets or exceeds their expectations and makes them feel at home. Cleanliness goes a long way in making guests feel welcome and encouraging them to revisit a property or recommend it to others. Specifically, it’s key to maintain cleanliness in hotel restrooms, both those within guest rooms and in common areas such as the lobby or in-house restaurant. Identifying common washroom-related complaints, understanding their potential consequences, and implementing effective remedies can help hotels impress guests and reduce the frequency of negative reviews.
Common hotel washroom complaints
Criticisms of hotel washrooms often fall into two categories: appearance and quality. Appearance doesn’t just apply to current guests – it can impact prospective guests when they are deciding where to stay. A 2017 Statista survey found that 84 per cent of respondents view cleanliness as “very important” when selecting a hotel for a leisure trip. Once patrons check-in, they will immediately notice when washrooms are not thoroughly cleaned. From dirty floors to lingering odours, there are visual and even olfactory cues that can signal a lack of attention around maintenance.
When housekeeping staff prioritize and achieve sparkling cleanliness in washrooms, guest rooms, and beyond, this demonstrates that the hotel cares about the guest experience.
The quality of washroom products stocked in a hotel’s restrooms can make a real impact on guests’ perception of the business as a whole. When it comes to toilet paper, Americans are generally in agreement on what attributes they find most desirable. According to a Harris Poll, 90 per cent of Americans say strength and absorbency are important in public washroom toilet paper and more than 80 per cent reported softness is important. Hotels should seek out products that have each of these qualities – there are even products on the market uniquely designed to limit the separation of plies and tissue tears for a more pleasant experience. It is also crucial, especially in upscale hotels, for toilet tissue to achieve a softer, even luxurious, “at-home” look and feel. When hotels ignore guests’ preferences, especially those as unanimous as the importance of strong, absorbent, soft toilet paper, they set themselves up for customer complaints.
Hotels understand the importance of online reviews and the power they have on their business, for better or for worse. Take the example of Adele Gutman, whose work with the Library Hotel Collection has helped the properties consistently rank at the top of TripAdvisor lists, with nearly 90 per cent five-star reviews. As reported by Business Insider, Gutman’s strategy revolves around being ultra-attentive to activity on online platforms and directly responding to all complaints in a timely manner. Her approach also focuses on “making a good first impression,” a task that arguably only a clean hotel with clean washrooms can accomplish.
Just as glowing reviews can lead to positive outcomes for a hotel, negative reviews can impact future profitability. Consider that more than half (56 per cent) of respondents in a Sofidel-Harris Poll survey said they would have a negative perception of a hotel with a clogged toilet. Toilet clogs, empty paper towel dispensers in public washrooms, and dirty surfaces may not always be avoidable. However, managers and their housekeeping teams can take steps to both reduce their frequency and address them swiftly.
There is a possibility that negative reviews can accumulate to the point of receiving publicity. Hotels that prioritize cleanliness, especially in guest rooms and public washrooms, have a better chance of preventing this worst-case scenario than those that don’t.
Hotels should consider the following strategies for reducing the number of customer complaints:
- Impress guests with cleanliness. If hotels can provide complete and consistent restroom cleanliness, there is no telling how many complaints they may avoid as a result. However, even with a well-trained and competent housekeeping staff, sometimes issues arise quickly and unexpectedly, such as toilet clogs. This is where product selection is key – there are paper products designed to actually prevent clogs from occurring. Once the paper makes contact with the toilet water, it produces safe microorganisms that eat away at the dirt and grime that builds up in pipes. Regular use of this toilet paper helps to reduce the risk of toilet clogs.
- Limiting the occurrence of toilet clogs also helps hotels avoid the unsightly messes, repair and labour costs, and foul odours that come along with these incidents. According to another Harris Poll, foul odours in a hotel would negatively influence three in four Americans’ opinions of that business. In addition, 56 per cent of Americans say after experiencing a foul odour in an organization’s facility, they would assume the facility is not clean.
- Select quality products that align with your brand. If you aim to offer high-quality service and a memorable experience for guests, select products that align with these goals. High-quality towels in guest rooms, along with strong, absorbent toilet paper and luxurious toiletries, will help create a welcoming environment. To further preempt complaints about dirty restrooms, consider paper products that provide maximum absorption for maximum cleanliness. Increased absorbency in both paper towels and toilet paper can lead to an overall reduction of waste. For public washrooms in lobbies or common areas, consider paper towel dispensers that automatically trim each towel to a reasonable length for drying hands. This feature limits the potential mess in the washroom by constraining the ability of restroom users to take excessive paper towels, which nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of Americans admit to doing, according to another recent Sofidel survey.
Washrooms to remember
First and foremost, hotels must keep in mind the most common washroom complaints and the negative effects these can have on brand image. Managers should implement a housekeeping program that prioritizes proper washroom product selection and thorough and regular cleaning. High-quality products that support hygiene and cleanliness can both impress guests and minimize the occurrence of negative online reviews about washrooms. When hotels provide high-quality paper products that deliver strength, absorbency, softness and cleanliness – and employ a committed staff to carry out an effective and thorough cleaning program – it makes guests feel like they have arrived at their home away from home. That feeling, above all, is what guests truly want.
Fabio Vitali is vice-president of marketing for the away from home business at Sofidel, a world leader in the manufacture of paper for hygienic and domestic use, including its Papernet brand.