By Osvaldo Torres Cruz, Butler at Alvear Palace Hotel in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Throughout history, the word “butler” has been associated with service. The definition of “service” in the dictionary reads:
1. occupation or function of serving the state, an institution or an individual;
2. organization and personnel supplying some public demand;
3. contribution to the welfare of others.
Considering this definition, it may be said that the butler is someone who provides services, i.e., who serves other people , with the aim of satisfying their needs for their own benefit.
The fact that butlers used to serve their employers during long periods of time –in many cases, the butler’s whole life- put them in an unparalleled position: they got to know their employers like no one else did, which allowed them to anticipate their needs, ensuring that those needs were satisfied just as they had been requested, guaranteeing the quality of the service provided and therefore, the employers full satisfaction.
As the hotel industry evolved, hotels not only adopted infrastructures never before imagined but also developed and perfected the services available to their guests in order to make them feel more comfortable and foster differentiation within the industry.
One of such newly developed services is the hotel butler. Which is the difference then between this type of butler and the traditional butler? In my opinion, the main difference lies in the active role of the butler in today’s hotel industry.
As any business, hotels are concerned with profitability. This is achieved through high occupancy levels, which is a result of customer -i.e., guest- loyalty. Customer loyalty is not simply a matter of meeting the customers’ expectations, but of exceeding them.
How can we possibly meet guests’ expectations if we don’t know what they are? How can we exceed guests’ expectations regarding a particular service if we don’t know what they expect from it?
Here is where the active role of the butler is vital. When the guest arrives, the butler must establish the guest’s profile, be it through the information provided before the guest’s arrival or through personal contact with the guest or a guest’s acquaintance. The hotel butler must have a series of strategies that serve as tools to get to know the guest’s needs and as means to generate service needs.
Daily personalized assistance, detailed observation, the capacity to analyze the guest’s behavior are, among other, the tools that the butler resorts to on a daily basis to determine what the possible needs of the guest are, to generate such needs, and to transform them into services provided with the requested level of quality, showing the butler’s capacity to satisfy the guest’s needs and exceeding the guests’ expectations in connection with them. For example:
If we know that an arriving guest likes classical music, the butler suggests a concert of the Philharmonic Orchestra and offers to iron the clothes that the guest is going to wear to the performance.
The modern hotel butler does not wait for the guest to make a request, but generates the guest’s requests through suggestions, comments and a high capacity for implementation. The hotel butler is in charge of preparing a profile so that in-depth knowledge of the guest can be achieved.
Butlers are the hotel’s best tool for providing personalized service, offering a unique experience and an unforgettable stay that will make the guest want to return.
Butler Service at the Alvear Palace Hotel, Buenos Aires, Argentina
The hotel butler makes all the difference. Even though some hotels have not set up a butler department, they nevertheless offer certain services that are typical of such position, performed by a different kind of employee under a different name, e.g.: valet, runner, assistant, bellboy, and so on.
The basic services offered by the hotel butler are, namely:
1- Laundry and ironing.
2- Shoe shine.
3- Packing and unpacking.
4- In-room breakfast and beverages.
What is the difference between the services offered by a hotel butler and those provided by any of the other positions mentioned above?
When taking the tray to the room, the hotel butler is not just offering breakfast or tea; he is also bringing with him an amount of information gathered beforehand that makes it possible for him to know the guest in greater depth, thus being able to anticipate the guest’s needs.
When the butler enters the room to collect the laundry, he also carries away with him an interpretation of the guest’s immediate environment that contributes additional information to the guest’s profile, enabling possible strategies concerning services that guarantee the guest’s well-being and satisfaction.
The butler has received training on service quality, service strategy creation, preparation of a guest’s profile, stay satisfaction follow-up, management of complaints, and so on, that allows him to offer a highly personalized service.
It must be borne in mind that the main goal of any business is profitability and that, in the case of a hotel, it is closely related to the creation of customer loyalty, which depends on the degree of satisfaction experienced by the guests during their stay. The hotel butler is the cornerstone of a highly personalized service that guarantees high quality standards.