Hotel Lost & Found Management Best Practices
If there’s one customer service that hotels generally tend to overlook, it’s probably lost & found. There are so many areas of the hotel that need attention that it’s sometimes hard to give lost & found the attention it deserves.
But the fact is that lost & found truly does deserve every hotel’s consideration because it can hugely affect brand loyalty and customer satisfaction. Guests lose things, it’s something that happens frequently. However, just because it’s a regular occurrence doesn’t mean that the event of a lost guest item should be treated lightly.
According to research, a person can expect to lose or misplace as many as 3,000 times over the course of a lifetime. Does that mean that guests don’t care about lost property? Absolutely not.
Anyone who reads hospitality review sites when choosing where to stay has surely seen a number of both positive and negative comments regarding the property’s lost & found process. If you get a review or comment that says “Don’t expect to get your stuff back,” it’s time to rethink the way your property deals with lost & found items.
And guests citing confusing communication and staff members or departments shifting blame from one to another are common signs that confirm that the lost & found process is broken and needs to be repaired.
But where do you start? The best way to holistically analyze and improve your lost & found management process is by starting with the basics; establishing clear protocols and procedures that will detail that process so that all of your staff members will know what they need to do when this type of issue arises.
Establishing Clear Protocols
There’s nothing worse for hotel managers than a situation occurring and their staff members not clearly knowing what they need to do about it. That’s why it’s incredibly important to not only define and establish protocols but also educate and train your staff properly.
An action plan for dealing with these types of incidents won’t mean anything if your hotel staff is not aware of it and able to implement it effectively.
Address Guests Properly
When a guest tells you that they have lost something on your property, make sure that you greet and address them in a way that is sympathetic. Hotel staff and managers have no idea how important certain items are to individuals, which is why they should treat customers who have lost something as if they have lost something that’s very valuable and dear to them, no matter what the item ends up being.
Take every claim seriously and try to comfort the guest and assure them that your hotel will do everything in its power to retrieve the item. Remember, the clearer your protocols are and the better your plan for solving this problem is, the more believable you will sound when you are telling guests that you are going to get to the bottom of the situation.
Check Your Hotel Lost & Found
Even if you’re pretty certain that the item isn’t there or the guest has just lost it, always make sure to check the lost & found because you never know, it could have made it there. Hopefully, your lost & found is well organized. If it’s not, make sure that you try and bring some order to your operation.
A general rule of thumb is that items are kept in the lost & found for a period of 90 days before they are disposed of in the end. The best way to organize your lost & found is by month so that you can easily reference when the guest stayed at your hotel with when the item was found.
If you do find the item a guest was looking for, make sure to get their shipping and payment details immediately and send it out to them. Keeping items in storage and waiting for guests to come back and pick them up is a terrible strategy that will only lead to further confusion and clutter.
Send the item and keep track of it to make sure that it arrives to your guest successfully. Your hotel lost & found is not a storage unit.
File an Incident Report
If you can’t find the item, make sure to make a record of it by filing an incident report. This is where the process of establishing proper lost & found protocols truly begins; when you confirm that the item is not in your possession and you begin doing everything you can to try and locate it and retrieve it.
Include the following in your report:
- The guest’s name
- The guest’s reservation and contact information
- A description of the item
- The last time the item was seen
- When the item was reported missing
There is a big difference between a guest losing an item and something being stolen from them in terms of procedures and protocols. If the guest has misplaced something, all your hotel staff can do is try to do some detective work in order to attempt to find it.
However, if your guest believes that the item was stolen, there are additional steps that you will need to take. First, you need to ask your guest if they would like you to contact local law enforcement. Since it’s a personal property issue, you should know that the guest will have to speak to the police personally, your hotel staff cannot speak for them.
If the guest wants to get law enforcement involved, make sure that your hotel gets the police report number once it has been entered into their system, and then make sure you add that information to the incident report that you have previously created.
Perform Your Own Investigation
Even though you’ve informed law enforcement, you should still do what you can to help out in finding the lost item. Be sure to check your security footage and allow police access to the footage as well if they request it.
Talk to relevant staff members. That means people who were working on the day that the item disappeared, particularly housekeeping staff who had access to the guest’s room and interacted with the guest in any way.
Staff members might fear that management believes that they have stolen something when asked about an incident. Be sure to be open and honest with them and let them know that they are not being accused of anything.
Establishing strong communication with your hotel staff is very important when it comes to improving your lost & found procedures. Hotel staff should be encouraged to let management know any time they see something out of the ordinary or suspicious occurring in the hotel that could potentially be related to a lost & found case.
Putting Together a Lost & Found Housekeeping SOP
One of the best ways to educate and train hotel staff members is by putting together standard operating procedures (SOP) that staff members should learn and be able to follow for a variety of situations and procedures.
Since the housekeeping staff is usually most involved in the lost & found process, we’ve put together an example of a lost & found housekeeping SOP. It should be able to provide a good example of what common procedures and protocols might look like for housekeeping staff when dealing with lost & found-related situations.
- If an item is found, take it to the dedicated lost & found location in your hotel as soon as they are found.
- If you have permission to access this area, make sure that you secure the item under lock and key when you have delivered it.
- Report finding a lost item to your manager.
- If asked to do so, fill out the incident report yourself to record the item in the lost & found register.
- Put each item in a separate plastic bag before storing.
- All valuable items (phones, wallets, tablets, computers, jewelry) should be stored in a secure locker.
- If it’s a non-valuable item, it stays in lost & found for two months if no one retrieves it and is then discarded.
- If it’s a perishable item (like food), it can be discarded after three days if no one claims it.
If your hotel has dedicated lost & found staff, they would probably have more detailed SOPs related to the steps they need to take throughout the process.
In some hotels, it can be a collaborative effort between the housekeeping staff and the front desk staff. Housekeeping will usually find the lost items and bring them to the attention of management, while front desk staff will take steps to contact the guest and try to get their lost item back to them. In such circumstances, makes sure that you create proper SOPs for both.
How Hotel Lost & Found Software Can Help
Property managers that have been dissatisfied with their lost & found practices have been turning to digital solutions for help recently. Hotel management software can help hotel managers run every aspect of their hotel operations better and lost & found management is no exception.
Here’s why so many hospitality professionals are turning to hotel lost & found software for help:
Keeps Everything In One Place: Traditionally, there would be one area of the hotel where all of the lost & found related things would be, including the lost items and documentation related to each specific case. Having lost & found management software takes this one step further by keeping everything in the cloud and available on your phone or tablet at any time. Take pictures of the items, write detailed incident reports, including the guest’s contact and reservation information, and more, in one place where every team member who needs to access this data can access it at any time and from anywhere.
It’s Easy to Use: Hotel management software is made to be intuitive and easy to use. All your staff needs to do is download the app and gain immediate access to the system. Most software solutions for hotels also offer built-in training features and even options to change languages for staff that might not speak English well enough.
Creates Order Through Meaningful Features: By making the entire lost & found management process more compact and systematic, the entire team benefits. Not only are all your necessary SOPs located within the software, so are all of the actionable items that need to get done. Everything is centralized and digitized, so your staff doesn’t have to look anywhere else when dealing with a lost & found claim. They can record, track, and manage all items, take photos of the items, enter guest information, compare items that are lost & found within the database, track the path of items, and even receive smart suggestions automatically based on the description of the items that have been inputted.
Mitigates Reputational Damage: Software makes your process more effective, which makes your guests happier. When guests see that you are effectively looking for their lost items, or even better—you have been able to locate their lost items quickly—their confidence in your hotel increases. This leads to positive reviews and future bookings.
It’s Affordable: Thanks to the way technology has developed in the cloud, companies that sell hotel management software can offer it at a low monthly subscription rate that’s affordable for any property. Hotels don’t have to worry about maintaining the software, it’s all done for them. The software is maintained and updated for you at no extra cost, making hotel management software one of the best purchases your property can make in terms of return on investment.