The New Renascence Spa of Spa Butlers & Butler Spas

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

This is good news for those hotels and resorts with spas that have invested in the latest industry concept of spa butlers, introduced a few months ago to the spa and hospitality industries in and the latest issues of Spa Business and Spa Management magazines. For spa guests, the total immersion experience made possible by the fusion of these two service pinnacles creates a lasting impression. Why? Because the model handles the key drawback with every spa experience, which invariably ends abruptly as a guest leaves the spa to return to his or her suite. For hotel/resort/spa management, the Renascence Spa model represents the next generation of hospitality experience and somewhere to go when you have already traveled as far as the road leads in pampering guests.

This symbiotic liaison between spa and butler programs makes the butler service an extension of the spa experience, wherein butlers providing their usual high-end service on the hotel side are then trained further in the methodologies in play at their spa, with the goal of continuing the spa environment in the guest's own suite.

From the guest's perspective, she (or he) occupies a serene/mellow/invigorated world after being pampered, prodded, plucked, sweated and doused in the spa. It's a destination and transformation she seeks when she thinks about and ultimately walks into a spa-and more often than not reaches. Yet the world that greets her as the spa doors swing shut behind her runs on different agreements: people rush around, lost in thought, stressed. When she reaches her suite, it seems lifeless, out of synch and unsympathetic to her new state. If she is experiencing a catharsis, detoxification, or crisis, or if she just wants to have a sounding board or a ready ear, she is on her own.

Now imagine a butler who knows how guests can react to their spa experience and how to assist them with understanding and empathy. Knowing a guest's spa program, 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, be they therapeutic baths, showers, or simply a much needed glass of pure water to preempt dehydration.

The spa butler acts as the main point of contact before, during and after the guest's stay. Translated into the real world, this program means the butler asks and cares about the guest's goal in coming to the spa, giving accurate and convincing explanations of treatments to the guest (and for that important bottom line, upselling). He ensures the guest's room reflects the guest's needs and wants, such as providing Pilates mats, preempting allergic responses, and smudging or applying aroma mists (Smudging is the Native American practice of burning sage and/or cedar to eliminate odors and so purify a space. In this case, the idea is not just to eliminate unpleasant smells, but also synthetically derived fragrances that are sometimes employed inside guest suites).

The spa 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 she will be experiencing at the spa. He smoothes the preparations for each spa experience and helps her through the ramifications of each spa treatment with follow-on services that help her land gracefully from her spa experience.

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In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. 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.