How can you prevent human error and ensure task completion across your hotel departments, even on a limited budget? You don’t need to hire more supervisors or invest in intensive training programs; instead, creating and implementing standard operating procedures (SOPs) can deliver the results you’re looking for. In addition to making operations more efficient, SOPs can help you boost guest review scores and even RevPAR when done right. And in an industry like hospitality, where turnover is high, SOPs can help new employees get up and running quickly. In this article, we’ll explain how to create SOPs that will help your staff excel in their roles and deliver exceptional service.
What is an SOP?
Before diving into how you can write SOPs at your own hotel, you might be wondering what an SOP is in the first place. An SOP, or a standard operating procedure, is a set of written instructions that describe the steps necessary to complete a routine task. SOPs are intended to be followed exactly as they are written – every time. Using SOPs this way ensures that the task is completed consistently and accurately, no matter who completes the task or when the task is completed. Some SOPs are simple checklists that can be completed in minutes, while others describe complex tasks that might include several pages of detailed instructions. Ideally, an SOP will enable a first-timer to complete the task correctly. So how do you create one?
1. Select task or processes that need SOPs
If you’re just starting to implement SOPs at your hotel, you probably have a list of tasks and processes that could use an SOP. If not, you can think through each functional area of your hotel, like front office, maintenance, and housekeeping, and write out the main tasks that each department performs. The best candidates for SOPs are those tasks that are repetitive and don’t require much subjective judgment or case-by-case handling. SOPs can include some dependencies and logic, though. For example, the process to book a reservation over the phone is a good candidate for an SOP, and the SOP might include one subset of instructions for a reservation agent who is booking a stay for a first-time guest and another subset for repeat guests.
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2. Outline the top-priority processes for each department
Next, you’ll want to prioritize the SOPs that are most critical to your operations. One way to determine priority is to ask staff members from each department about any tasks in which mistakes often happen or where the process is ambiguous. You can also think through tasks that have the highest impact on guests and are the most visible to guests. These tasks are likely high priority since they have a direct connection to the guest experience. It’s also worthwhile to consider processes that rarely occur but are extremely important to document, like disaster preparedness and safety procedures.
3. Define the audience(s) for your SOPs
Now that you know what to write about, who are you writing the SOP for? One task might involve cooperation from multiple team members or departments, or one task might always be completed by one person. Thinking about who will use your SOP, and how they will use it, can uncover some additional considerations. For instance, if the SOP is intended for a multilingual audience, it can be beneficial to include translations so your team members can access the information most easily. Or if the SOP is to be used in a particular area, it might make sense to post the SOP on signage in that area, like posting instructions for operating the laundry machines on a large sign in the laundry room. Considering the mindset of the SOP users is also worthwhile; a crisis procedure should use images and easy-to-read text so the user can complete the process quickly, while a less urgent process like booking a group room block can include more detailed long-form text.
4. Produce the written versions of your SOPs
Once you’ve selected tasks and processes, you can sketch out the steps necessary to complete each task. If you’re not intimately familiar with a task, it’s a good idea to shadow someone doing the task or ask an expert for their guidance on mapping out the step-by-step process. This way, you’ll document each piece of the process accurately. Graphics and photos are especially helpful in SOPs, so it’s a good practice to try to take pictures or use flowcharts whenever possible. Be mindful of the audience who will use the SOP, which you identified in step 3, since that will determine the format of the SOP. If your SOP includes a checklist, think through how the checklist will be used: will users print it out and go through the checkboxes with a pen? Will they complete it on a smartphone or a computer? Whether your SOPs live in a Google Drive folder or a three-ring binder, the key is that they are accessible to the staff members who use them often.
5. Review and update SOPs regularly
Although it might seem like the hard work is done after you’ve written an SOP, the work never really ends because SOPs should be revised on a regular basis in order to stay up-to-date. Anytime a process changes (like if new software is implemented or employees responsibilities shift), be sure to document the changes in the SOP. To catch these changes, it’s prudent to set a quarterly or half-yearly reminder to review and update SOPs. SOPs for less frequent processes can be reviewed annually. Try to look over every SOPs at your hotel at least once per year.
Which processes will you document in SOPs first? With the help of standard operating procedures, your hotel’s staff can be more effective at their responsibilities and deliver fantastic guest service.
How to Leverage Technology to Standardize SOPs at Your Hotel
Hotels can leverage technology and software to standardize their SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) by creating a set of instructions for specific tasks and daily operations within hotel departments. This process involves creating step-by-step workflows and flowcharts to ensure that all staff members follow the same procedures consistently, leading to increased profitability and guest experience.
The importance of SOPs in the hotel industry cannot be overstated, as they provide a framework for hotel management and staff to ensure that each guest receives the same level of service regardless of who is serving them. For instance, a Front Office SOP can include check-in procedures (contactless check-in), job descriptions for front desk staff (HR software), and desired outcomes for the guest experience (guest experience platforms).
To standardize SOPs, hoteliers can use templates to develop standardized procedures for all hotel departments, including housekeeping SOPs, concierge, and food & beverage service. SOPs should also include safety standards and preventive maintenance procedures to ensure the safety and well-being of guests during a natural disaster.
Hoteliers can also use technology to ensure that new employees are trained on SOPs and that team members have access to them at all times. For instance, staff members can access SOPs through a mobile app or online platform.
Moreover, hotels can leverage technology to monitor pricing and social media activity to make adjustments to SOPs as needed to improve guest satisfaction and profitability.
Back-of-house SOPs can include guidelines for hotel operations, such as inventory management, accounting, and maintenance. With standardized SOPs in place, hotels can achieve greater efficiency, consistency, and profitability, which are essential for success in the highly competitive hospitality industry.