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The Caterer

How to… make customer service inclusive

13 April 2012
How to… make customer service inclusive

People with disabilities are looking for an enjoyable stay, a good night's sleep, the chance to relax and enjoy a meal with a drink. That is no different to most guests, so many policies and standards will fit everyone. Most of the extra requirements that people with disabilities have will occur in the bedroom and, therefore, have an impact on the housekeeping department.

This might be the need for elephant feet under the bed, a hoist, a raised toilet seat, a working alarm system that brings assistance quickly, a vibrating alarm clock to sound the fire alarm, or improved lighting for a vision-impaired person.

It is vital that all these issues are discussed politely through questions at the time of booking. It will make a huge difference to the guest's stay if on arrival, everything they need has already been placed in or removed from the bedroom.

I say removed because you might want to take out a desk or chair if someone is alone and in a wheelchair, as they need more space to move around. Getting it right first time will also save your housekeeping staff a lot of work as they won't have to run around making changes after the guest has checked in.

But it's not just the rooms, the corridor can be as much of an issue as anything. Imagine you have a vision impairment and are walking down a corridor. Around you are trays of dirty dishes from the night before that have not been cleared away by the night porter. Not only are they unsightly but they are a dangerous tripping hazard.

Another example is reception not telling the housekeeping staff that there is a wheelchair user in a particular bedroom. If this information is not relayed then an impediment is parked by the accessible room in the form of a housekeeping trolley.

These may seem little issues, but for people with disabilities, they can soon add up to leave disappointed customers.

Arnold Fewell is a permanent wheelchair user and managing director of AVF Marketing. He is also a member of the FCSI, a fellow of the IoH and CIM, as well as being a Chartered Marketer

Ways to engage housekeeping with accessibility

1 Have accessible rooms ready for early arrivals whenever possible. If this is difficult, then make sure the receptionists are trained to get arrival times for guests with a disability so that their room is ready on time.

2 Make sure housekeeping staff know when and where people with disabilities are staying. In this way staff can ensure the room is right for their requirements. It all goes back to the importance of reception staff getting the right information at the time of booking.

3 Never, ever, tie up an alarm cord. It could be fatal. Imagine if someone had a fall and were not able to lift themselves to call for help. This could be a serious problem. A solution to this is using a long plastic sleeve that goes over the cord and makes it impossible to tie up.

4 Always look at having the right amount of furniture in the room for the particular needs of the person with a disability. This is important when the room may be used for a disabled guest on one day but a non-disabled person the next day.

5 Check with the guest and see which side of the bed they like to use for getting into. This is particularly helpful for a wheelchair user as the bed can be placed in a way that makes it easy for them to get to a particular side of the bed.

6 Have a dirty dressing container in the bathroom or bedroom. This needs to be clearly marked and staff must be properly trained in how to dispose of the contents. Remember these dressings could be infected and thus harmful to staff if not disposed correctly.

7 If the room is about to be refurbished then suggest that the room has a wooden floor and no carpet as this is much easier for a wheelchair user. There is less friction on the wheels.

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