Cheval Collection's Kate Fletcher: adapting to changing times as an operator

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Serviced apartment provider Cheval Collection has remained open throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. Kate Fletcher, GM of two of its London properties, tells SAN the changes the company has had to implement.

Cheval has adapted to maintain high service levels in the face of significant changes to guest, team and supplier behaviour and expectations. Despite the necessary changes to how guests and staff members were able to interact during this period, the company says resident feedback has been extremely positive, with some guests praising the team’s responsiveness and availability, which remained consistent 24 hours a day.

From 24 March, Cheval Collection employees who were able to work from home began doing so. The company’s IT team swiftly set up equipment, transported it to individuals and successfully tested access and connectivity. Cheval Collection also rapidly activated new staffing plans, which were put together in mid-March. This included extending accommodation to the operational team members and their families, and changing rotas to facilitate seven-day shifts, followed by a week off duty. This enabled Cheval to provide private transport to work for employees on their week at work, and a sanitised apartment to stay in.

Kate Fletcher, general manager of Cheval Three Quays and Cheval Calico House says:

“Now more than ever communication is so important. Running a business remotely whilst juggling the concerns of team members and stakeholders has been exceptionally challenging. Many of the team who continued to work on property had concerns ranging from safety on public transport, childcare worries and financial pressures to anxiety linked to loneliness and isolation. Our people are our biggest asset and we have invested time in talking to team members to understand their individual concerns."

"Those at the head of their departments were given the tools they needed to manage their team members remotely and to keep them motivated and driven. We have been especially vigilant to keep everyone, including any furloughed employees, abreast of the national picture as well as Cheval’s business decisions, whilst encouraging them to continue their learning and development from home using online tools. Making sure that our staff feel confident to continue looking after our guests, in our new, adapted way, is a top priority. Training has taken place for dealing with new scenarios, such as taking the temperature of arriving guests. Some crises have necessitated new skills, such as when our net curtain cleaning partner closed down and the laundry had to take place in-house."

"The team has welcomed the opportunity to use their off duty week or former commute times positively, learning skills including gardening, baking, Spanish, sign-language and volunteering in their local communities. It’s been a privilege to see how adaptable the team has been and how positively they’ve responded to the sudden changes to their daily routines."

"As expected, cleaning regimes have also changed dramatically. Expectations have risen from guests, team members, suppliers, stakeholders and government bodies. Many changes have accompanied enhanced cleaning schedules, requiring team training in PPE usage and new equipment, such as infra-red facial temperature machines, protective screens and key clean machines. We have adapted our welcome hamper to include sanitiser and sealed gloves and aprons, whilst adapting the consumable content to ensure guests feel reassured."

“Each day has presented a new challenge which we have worked together as a team to overcome. We have adjusted to the new ways our suppliers and contractors are working, carefully re-allocated business costs whilst physically transforming the residences. New signage is in place, sanitiser stations have been installed by touch-points, collateral and magazines have been removed from apartments and public areas, lobby seating has been reduced and re-spaced, and the back-of-house areas have been de-cluttered.”

“We have received a multitude of new guest requests, ranging from storing parcels for three days before sending them to the apartment, opening parcels and sending wiped-down contents only after 48hrs and using accessible cupboards without face-to-face contact for deliveries to delivering sealed packets of clean linen and towels. We have assisted shielding guests with on-line orders whilst they have not left their apartments and those with pets to protect themselves whilst out walking their family dog.”

“Despite new challenges, there are many positives to take from this time. The local area at Cheval Three Quays, with iconic views of the Tower of London and Tower Bridge, has never looked so tidy and litter-free, and the air above London is so clear. What’s more, relationships with our guests have strengthened as we are in a time when guests are at home more and there is more interaction. This can be seen through the glowing guest feedback the team has received.”

Feedback from guests of Cheval Three Quays and Cheval Calico House during the Covid-19 pandemic:

“I just want to send a quick note of thanks for the Calico House team, who are making our stay at the flat so great! The whole team is fantastic, but I want to say special thanks to Jolanta and Ruben who are always ready to help, extremely responsive and always cheerful and friendly! Stay safe and have a wonderful week," Alex Z

“Just wanted to drop a thank you note for amazing hospitality from all of your staff (Concierge and House Keeping) at Cheval Calico House. The whole quarantine period has been a challenge while staying alone, and the staff here made it as best as it could be. I had a phase when I suffered from anxiety and I was wondering who I could talk with in wee hours. The staff were extremely supportive, heard me and made sure I felt better. Can't thank you all enough. Appreciate it genuinely. I will never forget my stay at Cheval. Thanks again." Sharly J

“Due to Covid-19, the world changed drastically. Adaptation became a necessity to survive, and as more time was being spent indoors, the influence of home environment and surroundings became a high priority. My partner and I have been living at Cheval Calico House for more than five years now. To begin with, there is no way we would have survived in excess of two months of lockdown in a hotel room. The spacious, bright and well-equipped apartments combined with a friendly and attentive 24 hour concierge at Cheval helped us pass these trying times with ease. We did not have to worry about food or grocery deliveries as the concierge was on top of their game and went above and beyond by keeping deliveries right outside our apartment door. Additionally, to have maintenance a phone call away in such unprecedented times was extremely beneficial. Every single aspect that could impact our way of being was well thought and planned to the T by the management team. For us the biggest difference between staying at Cheval and a hotel room is that Cheval is home, the staff your family, which cannot be replicated by a hotel. Not in the way Cheval does it." Karan S

 

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