Housekeeping software program created by hotel owner is now brand standard. Hotelier Pradip Mulji built his first La Quinta Inn & Suites in Austin, Texas, a few years ago, he thought management would be a snap. Boy was he surprised. Mulji quickly learned that keeping track of the tentacles of hotel operations was anything but easy. One of the biggest bugaboos was managing the flow of housekeeping as it pertains to room inventory – what rooms have been cleaned and are ready for the guest, what rooms are not ready because of maintenance issues, what needs to be assigned to specific housekeepers for a quick turnaround and how to manage customer service from check in to check out. “There was a lack of communication between the different departments with people basically dropping the ball quite a few times in customer service.”
A problem solver at heart, Mulji, who had worked in the automation industry, set about to create a solution. “I wanted to improve our customer service and provide our customers with the ultimate guest experience,” he said. “And to make sure employees have fun doing what they do.” Thus was born MOP, which stands for mobile operation platform, and Mulji’s business, Lodging Controls.
MOP is a web-based software program made for smartphones and other handheld devices. In the palm of his hand, Mulji can access the flow of information and control his inventory, making sure that no room sits idle –and unoccupied – for longer than necessary.
Mulji is not the only one with the smartphone. Every one of his employees is given a device with the MOP program, enabling them to communicate among themselves in real time, addressing issues quickly and reducing the time a guestroom is off the grid. His staff loves it, he said. At first he was concerned that housekeepers would resent the program, feeling like they were being micro-managed to death. The opposite occurred as staff quickly realized how much easier this made their workday – a tool in their own hands that allows them to do their jobs efficiently. They know when someone is checking out early or staying an extra night, when an Elite customer is coming or a family that needs a crib or extra towels. They like not having to work from a paper chart. After a couple of years of tweaking his prototype, the hotelier needed to take it to the next level of development.
Mulji got in front of La Quinta CEO Wayne Goldberg at the 2012 AAHOA convention. “La Quinta owns and operates its own hotels, so who better to talk to about the product and help refine it and make it better?” said Mulji. Goldberg brought Mulji together with Angelo Lombardi, executive VP and chief operations officer, at La Quinta. Lombardi, who is the son of a hotel housekeeper and who worked as a room attendant, recognized the value of the idea. “Twenty-five cents of every dollar made goes into cleaning a room,” Lombardi said. “Twenty-six years ago, the housekeeping process was controlled with a paper chart, and when I sat down with Pradip, it was still being done the same way.”
He visited the Austin La Quinta to see MOP at work. “It offers labor savings that is tangible,” Lombardi said. “If a guest checks in and finds a problem, you have to switch them to a room; now you have to clean two rooms, and give the guest something for their trouble.”
Mulji said MOP is central to a hotel’s preventive maintenance. Previous to MOP, maintenance orders would come in at the end of the day; the fixes had to wait until morning. “Now our housekeepers visually inspect the room during cleaning and can notify maintenance of a problem.” They can also transmit a picture of the problem so maintenance can bring the right tools the first time.
Over the next two years, La Quinta Inns & Suites refined and tested the platform at more than 60 of its corporate-owned hotels. Lombardi then took it before the owners’ advisory council, which agreed to make it a brand standard. “We don’t work with startups very often,” Lombardi said. “If we are going to put this in our lifecycle it has to work.” By the end of the year, all La Quinta Inns & Suites will have MOP.