Do Not Sacrifice the Guest Experience Through Water Savings

By Gary Cardono Director of Hospitality Sales, Globe Union Group, Inc. | March 04, 2012

Some fifteen years ago when the hospitality industry was first adopting sustainability practices, water consumption was one of the first – and major – issues to be addressed. Laundry, dishwashing, pools and spas, and heating and cooling systems all contributed to usage numbers… but the largest water consumption culprit in most buildings was in the guestroom bathrooms. Hotels were quick to adopt water-efficient procedures and install water-saving products designed to decrease usage in guestrooms. Unfortunately, the transition to low-flow toilets, faucets and showerheads was not a particularly smooth one. Guests complained that early version low consumption toilets would not flush (a particularly bad experience for a guest) or showers would not generate enough water pressure. As such, hotels were giving away free night stays at an alarming rate, negating any savings realized from making the switch to water-efficient products.

We have come a long way since then. Particularly in the past eight years, there have been significant advancements in fixture technology and design. For example, toilet tanks are now taller and narrower resulting in increased water speed and force of flush. Additionally, low flow toilets utilize a three inch flush valve versus the standard two inch flush valve. This results in water entering the bowl quicker and a stronger flush. In fact, the technology used in commercial plumbing fixtures has advanced to such a level that today's guests have no idea they are actually saving water when brushing their teeth or flushing the toilet. What an ultimate win win for a hotel!

Today it is simply smart business for hotels to install water-efficient fixtures such as low-flow showerheads and low-flow toilets that are up-to-date with high performance technology. Installation of water-conserving products in guest rooms alone can save a property upwards of thirty percent on water bills. In fact, there are eleven different categories of hotels. According to Water Management Inc., (a company offering water efficiency programs) some budget hotels to use as little as twenty gallons of water per occupied room per night whereas resort hotels can use as much as two hundred fifty gallons of water per occupied room. For the higher end hotels, utility costs are often a small portion of the overall operating costs; therefore, it is necessary that any water saving measures must perform the same or better than the measure they are replacing. And please know that choosing the right system for a guest bathroom is oftentimes a shell game – all plumbing products are NOT created equal.

So how can you find the right products that conserve water while preserving the guest experience? First of all, consider studying up on the latest advancements in technology. Learn which manufacturers are leaders in this space and do not forget to ask about manufacturer guarantees/warranties. For instance, a Danze showerhead uses advanced technology similar to a turbine engine (as used in commercial jets) so users have more pressure and power with a reduction in water usage. As well, many manufacturers deploy a specialized ball joint that takes ambient air and places it in the showerhead to increase pressure.

Second, accumulate a basic understanding of the product terminology to make certain that you are in fact, saving water and money. A high efficiency showerhead will not provide a "savings" in the long run if at the same time you are sacrificing performance. Choose a showerhead that is WaterSense® certified…, which means it will deliver water at no more than 2.0 gallons per minute (gpm), at 80 pressure per square inch (psi). All WaterSense products are certified as 20 percent more efficient than traditional non-certified plumbing products. The list of WaterSense products is not limited to just showerheads. A great resource for additional information is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website: http://www.epa.gov/watersense/product_search.html

Third, do a bit of research to become knowledgeable about products that have been proven to provide water savings without sacrificing performance. For example, "pressure assist" toilets are considered among the best performing models for the hospitality industry. These types of toilets offer the most powerful flush and are rated among the best performing for high-traffic areas. The toilets work by compressing air in the storage tank. Once the storage tank is charged, it blows out the toilet water under pressure…, cleaning the bowl better and removing waste more effectively and faster than a gravity fed system. A high-performance toilet featuring pressure assist technology also improves drain line carry, reducing the potential for clogs. In fact, pressure assist toilets, like the Gerber Ultra Flush -- which uses only 1.1 gallons of water per flush (gpf) compared to the industry standard 1.6 gpf toilet can save about 20 percent more water annually with every flush

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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.