The Hotel Butler - Recognizing the Value Butlers Bring to the Bottom Line

By Steven Ferry Chairman, International Institute of Modern Butlers | October 28, 2008

Where the butler concept fails, it is because he (or she) is cast in (frankly) degrading-to-the-profession roles such as "bath butler," "fireplace butler, "technology butler," "baby butler" (who provides rocking chairs and watches children), "dog butler," "ski butler," and "beach butler." The idea being, apparently, that anything offering superior service in some small area is called "a butler" in an effort to siphon some of the prestige of the profession. At best, the idea is myopic, at worst, self-defeating.

At least when the term valet was extended to "dumb valet," that furniture item upon which one lays out clothing for the following day, there was no pretence that this was the real item.

Fortunately for the profession, the public were not fooled or taken in by these "dumb butlers" and the practice has faded relatively rapidly-hopefully before it soured guests on the value of being serviced by (real) butlers in hotels. And fortunately so for the butlers working in top hotels around the world, who do justice to the profession, and the hotel managements who have recognized the value butlers bring to the bottom line and the repute of word of mouth for their establishments.

In an industry that is completely premised on the idea of service, and in which service is a key differentiator, it's a no-brainer to institute butler service. Butlers have always represented the pinnacle in service quality. After the initial required training, the running of a butler service is not much more expensive to provide than regular service, yet it allows rack rates to be raised and creates a loyal following of repeat visitors, as well as enhancing word of mouth and thus new business that make the investment most sound.

Instituting butler service can be done gradually, perhaps instituting it on one floor, and at not such a great cost, especially when considering the return on investment. Fifteen rooms can be well serviced by four butlers on three shifts, for instance, with one of them assigned as Head butler. If service is to be 24-hour, then a fifth butler would be needed.

Assuming an owner or manager decides to institute butler service, the next question is, "How?"

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Coming up in February 2018...

Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.