How to Keep Guests Safe and Sound

Due to recent privacy violation lawsuits that have made headlines, the hotel industry has been forced to take an in-depth look at current security practices in order to address lacking industry standards and move forward constructively to ensure that guest privacy is not compromised.

Providing an accommodating atmosphere that doesn’t compromise safety is one of the biggest challenges that hotels face when pursuing a successful bottom line. Even when hotels have a strong execution of security policies and procedures, they are still vulnerable to break-ins, theft, fraud, cyber-attacks and other crimes. Achieving robust security requires a multifaceted plan that emphasizes staff training and guest education about safe
ty and security issues.

A single act of crime on your property has the potential to greatly diminish your brand. Considering today’s social media frenzy, this damage can spread like wildfire. It is vital to stay at the forefront of this issue and continually
assess and improve security programs so that guest safety doesn’t become compromised.

To ensure your property is as secure as possible and able to face expected (and unforeseen) threats, here is what you need to consider:

Policies & Liability

Hotel “rules” provide the backbone for your guests’ privacy and safety. They protect everyone from a major host of potential issues and should be carefully constructed in order to maximize everyone’s security (your guests and your own).

These types of regulations include:

  • Quiet Hours. These are designed to maintain a comfortable atmosphere for guests, particularly at night. Quiet hours also serve to reassure guests that they are being respected and that they have a right to a restful stay. 
  • Policies. This is where you get as specific as you see fit depending on your location, customer demographic, etc. Specific policies can address partying, eviction, pets, smoking, stealing, damages, etc. The more specific that you get here, the better suited that you are to handle a variety of unpleasant situations. Policies also act as a deterrent to many activities that have the potential to threaten guest safety. For example, a specific “No Partying” policy provides reassurance to guests that there will not be an influx of guests or non-guests entering/exiting any rooms near or adjacent to them. 
  • Liability. In addition to policies, limiting liability is also crucial. Depending on the situation, the hotel can be held liable for lost or damaged goods. This general rule has been modified by each state to limit the hotel’s liability if the hotel complies with the specific statutory requirements of their state. For example, the recommended usage of an in-room safe means that the hotel then is generally not liable for stolen items if the guest chooses not to use the provided safe. Check your local regulations to see how you may be able to limit your liability. 
  • complaint form

    You can gain valuable insight from what your guests have to say but you must be ready to listen and make immediate changes as necessary.

  • Consumer Complaints Form. Make sure guests have a convenient and private place to disclose any issues they have with their stay. This could include giving guests business cards at check-in with various contact methods or by sending a follow-up email requesting feedback from their recent stay. You can gain valuable insight from what your guests have to say but you must be ready to listen and make immediate changes as necessary.

    Whether it’s checking a box digitally or initialing in person at check-in, it is important to have guests understand and sign off on these policies and release of liability at the beginning of their stay. This way, the rules have been addressed and everyone is on the same page. Eliminating any gray area makes for a much safer and smoother guest experience! 

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Guest Security
Updated locks & Peeophole Covers. Electronic locks that track who goes in and out are essential to deterring theft and other illegitimate activities. Other upgrades include automatic deadbolts (which can better minimize external threats from thieves) and key systems that eliminate the need for master keys. Peephole covers can also prevent bad actors from using the peephole to see inside the room.

  •  Employee awareness. Use any opportunity that you can to keep your employees talking about how to maximize guest safety and privacy. This could include short training videos, guest speakers, handouts and anything that can educate employees on how to spot suspicious behavior. Hotel security is only as good as the level of training given to staff, who serve as the eyes and ears on the front lines. 
  •  Super software.  Technology has come a long way in helping hotels to upgrade basic security measures. Closed-circuit television on your property is awesome, but it doesn’t have much of an impact if no one is looking at the monitors. You either need to have properly trained staff that can do this and do it with a keen eye or use software that can recognize activity in an area and provide an alert. A combination of both would also serve a sound purpose. 
  • Surveillance. Video surveillance in hotel security camcommon areas/ parking lots etc. 
  • A warm + inviting security presence. Sound like an oxymoron? Almost, but you can totally do it! It can definitely be tricky to foster an inviting atmosphere with security officers in place. There’s a fine line between security guards that are able to deter intruders but that also aren’t so intimidating that they make guests feel uncomfortable. Presenting security personnel in more of a customer service role with officers dressed in upscale business clothing rather than a traditional badge-flashing uniform makes for a much more accessible presence. When your guests feel that they are gracefully watched-over, they will feel welcome and comfortable.
  • Maintain security-minded customer service. Customer service is crucial and when paired with vigilant security protocols, it’s a match made in hospitality heaven. What if a respectable looking man in a nice suit requests his car from the valet, bags from the bell desk, or replacement room key? Staff needs to look past superficial impressions and maintain strict protocols for everyone, no matter what. Unfortunately, blind (or educated) trust is not an option and proper identification needs to always be politely requested. Again, training is key here to keep things warm, pleasant and professional. 
  • Engage! Customer service can also be used from an engagement standpoint to boost hotel security. When employees interact with guests, they get a sense when something seems wrong, or the guest feels uncomfortable. They are also able to more easily identify non-guests who might intend to commit crimes. 
  • Educate guests.  Hotel staff also has a responsibility to educate guests about safety and security. The challenge is getting the message across without negatively affecting the customer’s experience (i.e. not lecturing or worrying them). For example, a bellman can stress the importance of locking hotel room doors and using the safe to prevent strangers from entering and stealing. Front desk clerks can also discourage guests from actions that might leave them vulnerable to thieves, such as flashing valuables or openly sharing their room numbers.
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Most safety and security practices tend to evolve over time and more often than not, they are motivated by an unfortunate incident rather than proactive anticipation. Due to the recent guest security lawsuits, the following improvement suggestions have been made: improved employee training; cameras in every hallway; guest consent before assigning adjacent rooms; and improved hotel peepholes. This is where others must learn and adapt in light of these events in order to strengthen the industry as a whole and aim for a proactive approach moving forward. Essentially, it’s a very important teaching moment from which we all have something to learn.

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