So How Was Your Butler? Ratings Keep Hotels Honest & Validates Serious Players

By Steven Ferry Chairman, International Institute of Modern Butlers | March 06, 2010

Where butler departments are established properly, they enjoy varying degrees of success based on their adherence to the basic purpose of butling: the providing of a discreet service that anticipates guest needs.

Failed butler departments are caused by violating a few basics: not selecting proven service professionals for butlers; not training them on the persona, mindset, communication skills, and service skills of the butler in a hospitality setting; launching the butler program without bringing the rest of the employees aboard, so it appears as a threat to their income stream; and trying to cut costs by cutting service, resulting in harried butlers providing an irreducible minimum of service to too many guests.

What drives these shortcuts? In my experience, it has been one or more of three distinct impulses:

  1. Money motivation, where the goal is solely to increase revenue by riding
    on the coattails of the butler profession, with little patience for or
    interest in the financial outlay, sweat equity, and intelligent thinking
    necessary to deliver the actual service.

  2. A manager either not understanding or taking a personal dislike to the
    idea of butlers. In one instance, an inexperienced and unethical GM was busy
    accepting personal favors, protecting his incompetent prot'eg'es, and
    creating a culture that put loyalty to his own agenda ahead of servicing
    guests. He resented being shown up by the service expectations of the
    popular Head Butler and the butler team. So the GM did everything possible,
    both covert and brazen, to undermine and end the butler service so desired
    by the hotel owner and guests. As the Head Butler at this establishment
    noted with typical understatement, "GMs unfamiliar with the service would do
    well to respect the advice of their Head Butler. If one has not worked with
    butlers before and does not understand the concept fully, it will be very
    difficult to provide the support/level of understanding required to make the
    program a success. Instituting a butler department is a project that
    requires dedication and support on all fronts-ownership, management, and
    operations-in order to succeed." This story is still playing out, but the
    Head Butler is standing firm while taking over increasingly the functions of
    other departments being mismanaged by the GM that had been cutting across
    the ability of the butlers and the hotel to service the guests.

  3. A manager focused on slashing costs. In one instance, an owner had
    invested heavily in establishing a butler department (on one floor of a
    brand new facility) that proved very popular with guests and media (almost
    always the case). Yet when the revenue began to flag facility wide after the
    grand opening (as a result of inadequate sales and marketing), he thought
    one solution lay in the savings that could be accomplished by firing all the
    butlers, and proceeded to do so. The hotel continues to flounder to this
    day, having lost its signature service and earned itself a poor reputation
    in the local community upon which it depended for its personnel, all on top
    of the original inadequate sales and marketing efforts which were not
    remedied by these firings.

Hotel Newswire Headlines Feed  

Jerry Tarasofsky
Frank Meek
Kristi White
Mike Kistner
Dan Brown
Steve Kiesner
Steven D. Weber
Joyce Gioia
Nina Curtis
James Coleman
Coming up in April 2018...

Guest Service: Empowering People

Excellent customer service is vitally important in all businesses but it is especially important for hotels where customer service is the lifeblood of the business. Outstanding customer service is essential in creating new customers, retaining existing customers, and cultivating referrals for future customers. Employees who meet and exceed guest expectations are critical to a hotel's success, and it begins with the hiring process. It is imperative for HR personnel to screen for and hire people who inherently possess customer-friendly traits - empathy, warmth and conscientiousness - which allow them to serve guests naturally and authentically. Trait-based hiring means considering more than just a candidate's technical skills and background; it means looking for and selecting employees who naturally desire to take care of people, who derive satisfaction and pleasure from fulfilling guests' needs, and who don't consider customer service to be a chore. Without the presence of these specific traits and attributes, it is difficult for an employee to provide genuine hospitality. Once that kind of employee has been hired, it is necessary to empower them. Some forward-thinking hotels empower their employees to proactively fix customer problems without having to wait for management approval. This employee empowerment—the permission to be creative, and even having the authority to spend money on a customer's behalf - is a resourceful way to resolve guest problems quickly and efficiently. When management places their faith in an employee's good judgment, it inspires a sense of trust and provides a sense of higher purpose beyond a simple paycheck. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.