Spa Butlers: Adding Value to Spas and Hotels Alike

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

Imagine you are, as one guest noted, returning to your hotel suite looking like a scrubbed vegetable and feeling anything from exhausted to exhilarated to even nauseous. You are about to run into the one key flaw inherent in every spa experience: it ends the moment a guest leaves the spa to return to his or her suite. The way to make a guest's experience a complete one, and offer a total immersion in the "get away from it all" relaxation and rejuvenation, is to form a joint venture between the spa and butler programs. Simply put, make the butler service an extension of the spa experience, wherein spa-trained butlers provide their usual high-end service on the hotel side, but with the added knowledge and techniques that enable the spa environment to continue in the guest's own suite.

Does this mean that the butler will roll up his sleeves and stretch, massage and pluck the guest? Not at all: but put yourself in the shoes of the guest. If you have ever been pampered and prodded, sweated and doused, this should not be too difficult. When the doors of the spa swing shut behind you and you make your way to your suite, you re-enter a world that runs on different agreements. People rush around, lost in thought, and not up to speed on your own serene/mellow/invigorated world. You open the door to your suite and it is, well, flat and empty and definitely not that interested in your new state.

Guests may even experience a catharsis or detoxification as a result of their spa experience. How reassuring or safe would an empty suite be, with butlers at the end of the telephone line who know nothing of your condition or how to assist.

Now imagine a butler who knows how guests can react to their spa experience and how to assist them with understanding and empathy. It would create quite an impact on guests. Moments of drama aside, when a butler knows and understands the spa program of a guest, he can converse about the guest's experiences with good reality, should the guest so desire, and can also take actions to enhance that program-such as adding a complementary (not necessarily complimentary) bath salt to the bath, rather than one that conflicts with the spa program.

The spa butler is a new creature in the hospitality and spa industries, for he or she is really the architect of the ultimate spa hospitality experience, designing and arranging the entire spa guest experience. The spa still delivers the spa services, but the butler acts as the main point of contact before, during and after the guest's stay. Because he understands and knows what the guest is going through, and the basic spa methodologies, he can be there for the guests and extend the entire stay into a smooth experience for them. That's the simplicity of the spa butler program.

Translated into the real world, this program means the butler asks and cares about the guest's goal in coming to the spa; he cares about the guest's room, ensuring that the space reflects the guest's needs and wants. The butler supports the guest by being a sounding board and conversing with understanding and empathy. He introduces the guest to the people, places and services he or she will be experiencing at the spa, answering all questions and resolving all concerns. He smoothes the preparations for each spa experience and helps the guest through the ramifications of each spa treatment, asking the right questions.

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.