As the coronavirus lockdown eases in many parts of the UK, we’ve seen a marked upsurge in demand for hotel security services. The hospitality sector has suffered more than most as a result of Covid-19 and the need for social distancing, but as routines return to something more like normal, hoteliers are clearly recognising that security must be taken as seriously as ever.
In this post, we’ll offer an overview of hotel security services and why they matter.
Hotel security: an extension of your brand
Whether you’re running a large city-centre hotel or a boutique establishment in a remote rural district, your customers will expect to be safe, secure and treated with the utmost respect. Your own staff will, of course, be trained to be attentive and courteous, but those qualities need to be displayed consistently. It only takes one failure for the customer experience to be spoiled, so if you’re planning to appoint outsourced security staff, it’s essential that their training extends beyond the basics. Approachability and customer care are also vital skills for a good security professional.
In the hospitality business, there’s a balance to be struck between unobtrusiveness and reassurance. No one wants a hotel environment to have the atmosphere of an airport security check but, equally, customers also like to feel that the establishment is a safe haven where they can relax; where they and their possessions are safe. A good security company can do a lot to reinforce this impression without becoming an overbearing presence.
Security and first impressions
First impressions count, and that’s as true of hotel security as anything else. Consequently, it might be worth your talking to a security specialist to advise you on how to establish perimeter systems that are safe, visible and an effective deterrent against theft and intrusion.
Visibility matters because it’s the presence of features such as parking barriers, security signage, CCTV and external lighting that will help to shape customers’ impressions when they first arrive on site. Measures should be robust but not inconvenient for guests. If you can achieve that, then you’ll already be sending subtle signals to your customers that they can expect excellent care.
Routine security services
A good hotel security company should be able to offer a comprehensive suite of services, but your business won’t necessarily need to take advantage of all of them. Packages should be tailored to account for factors such as your hotel’s location, size, amenities and footfall. Here again, having meaningful early discussions with a security adviser can be invaluable. Choosing the right package of services will ensure that your business and guests stay safe, but that you don’t pay more than you have to.
When considering what sort of support you may need, it’s helpful to consider the services that could potentially make up your ideal package. The following are examples, but other services are available to suit different markets and conditions.
External security patrols are essential for ensuring that a hotel’s grounds and any parking facilities are secure and well maintained. The nature of the patrol will depend on the size of the grounds but the mere presence of uniformed staff has at least two important benefits. First, it helps to reassure customers that they are in safe hands; second it is a visible deterrent to opportunistic thieves and would-be vandals.
A well-trained security operative will also use the patrol as an opportunity to check external security features, and to look out for anything that might mar visitors’ impressions. For example, a guard might notice that the growth of foliage has begun to restrict the view of a CCTV camera or partly obscured a security light, or he/she might find damage or graffiti that ought quickly to be addressed.
A welcoming service
Security staff can readily play a part in welcoming visitors to the establishment. Often, to help make their roles as cost-effective as possible, they will multi-task, working seamlessly with hotel staff at the reception desk or as part of the concierge service. Here, they should be essentially indistinguishable from ordinary staff, ready to help with access, general support and customer enquiries.
Hotel security professionals typically provide a less obviously visible role than ‘door staff’ in other sectors because clients are seeking to convey a different image; one of calm sophistication. In a busy city centre, there may be a role for security staff at the door to deal with unwelcome visitors or to watch over guests awaiting taxis outside, but the role is more subtle and downplayed. More often, security staff will attend the reception area, where they can perform a range of additional tasks.
An experienced security specialist will stay alert for a range of potential problems and warning signs. Identifying intruders, unauthorised guests or people under the influence of drink or drugs is all part of the job. Early intervention, coupled with a firm but courteous manner, can often prevent potentially difficult situations from escalating to the point that they affect other guests’ experience.
Floor walks are a routine and important element of a hotel security service. Staff who make regular patrols around the interior of the premises can look out for a number of important issues and potential risks. Examples could include damaged or insecure doors, windows or fire exits; unattended baggage; suspect packages; obstructed fire exits; or damaged facilities such as leaks or breakages in public washrooms. Security staff can act as the eyes and ears of the hotel’s management, alert to any issues that could compromise security or the visitor experience.
Hoteliers will be well aware of the risks and nuisance associated with unauthorised visitors gaining access to guest rooms or other areas such as kitchens and meeting rooms. A routine room check can be conducted as part of an interior patrol, with staff testing door locks and checking that vacated rooms are truly vacant. Where rooms are found vacant and unlocked, this is an opportunity to test internal door and window locks, check for any damage or suspect items, and then to report any potential lapses in security protocols to management.
Event logging and response
Keeping an accurate record of patrols, incidents and the condition of the premises can be an important role of security staff. This provides useful management information for the purposes of staff training, maintenance and planning. It can also prove invaluable in the event of a contested insurance claim or customer complaints, since it can act as evidence of due diligence on the part of the hotelier.
In cases where CCTV monitoring is not carried out by a specialist off-site agency, security staff can provide an on-site monitoring service as part of their roles. This helps to ensure that CCTV is used proactively, to identify potential risks as they arise and, thus, helping to prevent problems, rather than simply using CCTV footage as evidence of wrongdoing after the fact.
For many city-centre hotels, business continues 24 hours a day. However, for smaller establishments, night-times can be quiet, so employing someone to attend the reception desk might not be cost effective. This is another example where security staff can provide a cost-effective service by multi-tasking; providing a presence at reception to deal with any customer enquiries, but also monitoring CCTV systems and controlling access to the premises.
Not all hotels have on-site security personnel, but those that don’t often like to be able to call on a security team to help them respond to an incident. Good security companies will offer an ‘accompanied attendance’ service, whereby security staff can be sent to accompany the hotel’s representative in order to respond quickly to an incident. This is particularly helpful where there is a risk that an intruder might still be on site.
Generally speaking, guests want to stay in a pleasant and secure environment, and this makes their wishes entirely compatible with those of security staff and management. However, hotels will sometimes encounter guests who make themselves a nuisance and risk undermining other customers’ enjoyment of the establishment. Examples might include excessive noise, drunken behaviour, bringing in non-paying guests or perhaps even harassment of staff or other guests. Any of these situations demands a firm but courteous response, and this is a role best assigned to a trained security professional.
Security staff will have the skills to defuse a potentially confrontational situation and should be able to secure a positive outcome very quickly. They will also have the experience not to be drawn into a personal argument. (By contrast, hotel staff can often feel flustered, hurt or stressed by such an experience. Delegating the role to a specialist helps to protect employees against undue upset and anxiety, and helps protect the business against staff absences due to work-based stress.)
Specialist security roles
In addition to the more routine roles listed above, outsourced security staff can also offer useful support with regard to special events, and when applying additional security measures in readiness for the arrival of VIPs.
An experienced hotel security will also be able to offer practical advice on issues such as staff training, access control measures and plans for emergency evacuation – e.g. in the event of a fire, a bomb threat or some natural disaster.
Ultimately, effective security is about planning and readiness, so a vital first step is to speak with a professional adviser and develop a tailored security plan. This will help to asses your risks, decide how best to apply resources and then how to keep monitoring and managing your security measures for maximum sustained effect.
For advice about security planning, training or on-site support, please call us on 0800 035 6607. Alternatively, you can send us your questions via our enquiry form.