A national hotel chain with four inns across Elkhart, LaPorte and LaGrange Counties is quite literally "shining the spotlight" on a sanitary problem.
Last year, Phoenix-based Best Western Hotels discovered overwhelming public dissatisfaction with the cleanliness of "mid-scale" hotels.
“Through our consumer research, we found that no one hotel chain in the mid-scale category was recognized by consumers as being cleaner than others,” said Ron Pohl, Best Western senior vice president of brand management and member services. “This intrigued us, as we saw a real opportunity to lead the industry with advanced cleaning practices and recognized products.”
And so, management hired research firm, Booz & Company to conduct a more in-depth study on what was most important to hotel guests. That report found the top-five priorities to be:
1. Cleanliness and Maintenance
2. Customer Service
3. Aesthetic – style and design
4. Features and Amenities
5. Loyalty Programs
Using that data, Best Western executives launched the “I Care Clean” program, which has placed ultra violet sterilization wands and black lights in most of its 2100 North American properties.
Best Western’s Elkhart Ind. location made the upgrade in Jan. 2012. Each morning, hotel staff members use the UV wands to disinfect "high-touch-points" like telephones, remote controls, clocks, light switches, door handles and bathroom fixtures. After turning on the device, which requires its operator to wear protective sunglasses, workers slowly scan over items until a “beep” indicates cleansing is complete.
Beyond the 58 guest rooms, housekeepers also use the high-tech wand in the hotel’s continental breakfast dining area, business center, indoor pool and fitness room.
"The guest is always looking for cleanliness. I think our guests now feel like they're in a comfortable place right, a clean place, like their second home,” Best Western Elkhart general manager Priya Patel said.
In addition to the wand, Best Western also utilizes an ultra violet inspection black light, which helps pinpoint biological matter and food particles otherwise invisible to the human eye.
"Sometimes the coffee maker and toilet have stains that you cannot see, but with the black light, they’re visible,” Patel said while shining the specialized flashlight around a vacant guestroom.
In the 17 months since the “I Care Clean” program was first rolled out, Best Western says its Guest Satisfaction Surveys (GSS) scores have increased by 13.3% in overall experience, 12.0% in cleanliness of guest rooms and 12.4% in intent to recommend.
"Everything is running smoothly and everybody knows their job. Guests say this is a good place and we're not getting any complaints about cleaning anymore, that's why I am so happy about it,” Patel concluded.
By the end of this year, all 2100 Best Western locations across North America will be equipped with the UV wand, UV black light and specialized television remotes designed to ease cleaning and disinfection between guest visits.
“This program is our way of re-engineering housekeeping efforts to provide superior customer care to each and every one of our guests night in and night out,” Pohl concluded.
According to a Best Western media release, its UV wand, manufactured by “Purelight”, has been tested by accredited laboratories in Korea, Japan, Italy and the United States. Test results confirmed 99.9% of germs like E. coli, H1N1, Norovirus, Salmonella and Pneumonia were sterilized.
Although NewsCenter 16 is unaware of any local stores with similar devices available, there are numerous websites online that market UV cleaning products. Most wands market between $99 and $199, while UV black lights sell for around $30, not including shipping and handling.