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:
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.
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.
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.