Mr. Ferry

Guest Service / Customer Experience Mgmt

Brand Butler: Infusing the Butler Mindset into Brands

By Steven Ferry, Chairman, International Institute of Modern Butlers

Despite national media attention, the Ritz Carlton South Beach has had a perennial problem keeping its "Tanning Butlers" over the past seven years that it has offered this service: modeling agencies keep snapping them up.

Hotels interested in attracting the wealthier set have been creative for the last two decades in leveraging the cachet (prestige) of the butler: nanny butler, fireplace butler, technology butler, pool butler, dog butler, and maybe you have others to add. All positions characterized by the offering of a narrowly defined service that has nothing to do with butlers, but the implication being that the same level of service is provided.

At the same time, the International Institute of Modern Butlers, as the guardian, so to speak, of the standards of butling, has been busy decrying this dilution of the butler name into a commercial opportunity. The Institute offered the Hotel Butler Rating system precisely to differentiate the serious efforts of hotels with real butler service from these "wannabes," so that guests would be clear on the degree of butler service being offered by any hotel they planned to visit.

The irony is that the Institute has also reached beyond the narrow confines of its own profession, and its cousin, the hospitality industry. With a persistent, some might say unwelcome, drum beat over the last six years, the need to export the mindset of the butler to all service industries (any business or organization, large or small, - whether government bureaucracy, hospital, airline or hotel staffs, etc.- wherever one person provides another with a product or service) has been developed. It is the best return-strategy for improvement of the service experience and increasing the loyalty of clients, guests, customers, patients, etal.

A case of wanting to have one's cake and eat it, too?

The Butler Goes Mainstream

Perhaps, certainly of a conflicted message of "brand name protection versus promulgation of what the brand stands for." Fortunately, trendwatching.com helped bring into focus and so resolve these unaligned positions in its April 2010 issue, identifying the most important trend in the consumer world to be Brand Butler. Trendwatching.com's hundreds of trend watchers in 120 countries actually recognized this emerging trend back in 2007 (when they coined Brand Butler).

How do they define Brand Butler, why is it so important to the corporate and hospitality world, and how does it manifest in, and relate to, the hospitality industry specifically?

Brand Butler is a brand that is brand new and a thousand years in the making. It is the recognition that increasingly, brands are morphing into offering services that assist consumers/clients/guests, rather than the old model of selling them a lifestyle and identity. This translates into less "guff" (the promotion of reverential, soft-focus utopias) and a return to more down-to-earth relationships and practical service offerings. It is the recognition that the butler mindset includes valuable traits in the mind of the consumer, and so of any service or product provider: a high understanding of the client/consumer/guest/patient, a high degree of respect and liking (even for unlikable individuals), and a superior ability to communicate. It is a tried and proven path to the solicitous (showing interest or concern) service that trendwatching.com has highlighted as being the missing ingredient, or the next big breakthrough, in servicing customers, consumers, guests, patients, et al.

In the words of trendwatching.com:

"With consumers looking increasingly for control, for convenience, for assistance, and yes, to be cared for (both offline and online), brands need to shift their product development and advertising prowess to brand-consistent services (and an accompanying butlering mindset) that assist consumers in making the most of their daily lives. For brands, this means that there are now endless creative and cost-effective ways to deliver on this need for assistance, for butlers….

"It has never been more important to turn your brand into a service. Jaded, time-poor, pragmatic consumers yearn for service and care…. Basically, if you're going to embrace one big consumer trend this year, please let it be Brand Butlers… we believe that now is the time to go all-out on 'serving is the new selling.'"

As a side note, one could ask "why Brand Butler and not Brand Concierge, as concierge is another term that has been adopted by other industries as a flattering descriptor. For instance, Westin introduced Running Concierges a couple of years ago to accompany guests walking around the city. Apart from the obvious alliterative advantage, we can only suggest that butlers have been around longer than concierges and so come more readily to mind when talking of solicitous service.

Looking for Brand Consistency

When trendwatching.com talks of "butler mindset," however, one may wonder exactly what that is in the corporate world, and hospitality in particular, over and above finding ways to assist the client, customer, guest, or patient "consumer."

If one simply create applications, policies, and SOPs for employees to implement (such as Adidas' Tokyo store where customers can use showers, locker rooms, attend workshops, and even design their own shoes or rent running gear), then one may well still be falling short, because the butler mindset is not an app, policy or SOP, but a mindset (that is obviously best supported by apps, policies, and SOPs that are aligned with and reinforce the mindset). A mindset can design something to reflect that mindset, but it requires a mind to have a mindset, and that, in Adidas' case, would be not just the designer of the services offered, but also the front-line employees providing the services.

In other words, the app developers and managers need to understand and adopt the mindset, in order to then create the apps and SOPs; and beyond that, customer service employees in each company need to understand and adopt the mindset in order to apply the procedures that have been conceived with the butler mindset in mind, and so bring about brand consistency. Which is to say, the trend does not just impact product development and advertising, as outlined by trendwatchers.com, but also the actual service provided when it is person-to-person.

Otherwise, launching Brand Butler as a brand strategy may well result in confused ideas, SOPs, product and service offering design at the front end, and poor service at the back end for lack of extending the Brand Butler concept through to customer service-and therefore a lack of brand consistency that jaded customers will reject as care without soul or passion.

The main challenge in achieving this brand consistency is translating the butler mindset into practice drills, role-playing, and one-on-one procedures that bring about the required mindset and smooth communication skills upon which genuine service is predicated.

For more information on this trend, and examples of services major brands are providing in their pursuit of Brand Butler, see http://trendwatching.com/trends/brandbutlers/

The latest (mid-May) example of Brand Butler that came across my desktop screen is Monkey Butlers. The mind boggles, but the nod to butlers comes from Helping Hands: Monkey Helpers For The Disabled, which trains South American Capuchin monkeys, at a cost of $45,000 a head, to help amputees and paralyzed soldiers from the Afghan and Iraqi wars. The vets shine a laser pen at an item and the monkey butler will fetch it (or switch it on, for instance, in the case of a light switch; or open it, in the case of a peanut butter jar, etc.). Assistance on a practical level with an exclamation point.

Hitching onto the Brand Butler Star in Hospitality

Leisure services already see this Brand Butler service-over-sales approach, in such as Ski Butlers (in ten locations across the US), who are front-runners in ski services in the country.

Another recent application of Brand Butler comes from the venerable Lanesborough in Knightsbridge, London, one of the first adopters of real butlers in hotels, which initiated its Picnic Butler in May, 2010 to deliver the "ultimate hassle free picnic" at $400 a pop to "cash-rich, time-poor picnickers." This, at first blush, would seem to weaken the status of their "Butler Butler," but it need not. The Picnic Butler lays out the picnic in Hyde Park with crystal glasses, china, rugs, and cloth napkins, serves champagne and dishes such as Cornish poached lobster with Beluga mayonnaise, balotine of truffled foie gras, and Cropwell bishop stilton trifle with pear marmalade and oatmeal sable.

This bright and mouth-watering idea, most probably conceived over some beers by marketing rather than within the bowels of the Lanesborough kitchens, is something they are selling; but it is also, given the solicitous execution (more than the use of the word "butler") of the service, a Brand Butler-oriented move designed for its particular guest list.

Le Richemond in Switzerland, likewise, recently instituted a "Watch Butler" to indulge the horological aficionados amongst its guests.

Each of these brands elected to use the word "butler" in their newly created titles…a tendency peculiar to hotels in the main. Do we now need to add a suffix to each hotel title: "Receptionist Butler," "Valet Butler," "Housekeeping Butler," etc. in order to signify that we are serious about Brand Butler?

No need to answer this question. It is the actual service that counts, not assertions of service embedded in titles. This issue, however, might well be the next windmill toward which the Institute will tilt its lance.

In the final analysis, not all hotels can afford to, or will find it appropriate to its guest lists, to field a butler department. But they cannot afford to miss out on the Brand Butler trend with the rest of its employees. A genuinely caring mindset is part of the butler mindset, but there is a lot more to understanding and adopting the butler mindset. It is not something that occurs with a few days of ongoing training. But any attention to the subject helps.

Does Brand Butler represent a long stretch for hotels? Not high-end ones, where the effort is always to find something that will make the guest experience more pleasant and desirable. There is the butler in everyone in hospitality-the honesty, the creativity, the caring, the social graces, the phlegmatic (calm disposition); it is rare to find someone with all these qualities who is able to keep them turned on day in, day out, despite all the reasons not to; and rarer still to find the entire team like this. All of which reinforces the value of the butler mindset, and the skills to achieve it, in its various manifestations to hotels and resorts around the world.

Butlers, however, having been at it longer than hotels, may be able to offer pointers to reinforce the existing push.

Professor Steven Ferry was born and raised in England, where he worked in education, hospitality, and private service before moving to the USA to continue in private service. He took a break from service to establish a photographic and writing communications company that produced a wide range of educational, PR, marketing and editorial products for many major US publishers and corporations, while also writing books for the butler profession and ultimately, being drawn back into the service industry to train and consult. At the request of peers, he founded the International Institute of Modern Butlers (www.modernbutlers.com) in 2004 to set and raise standards for the profession. Mr. Ferry can be contacted at 813-354-2734 or stevenferry@modernbutlers.com Extended Bio...

HotelExecutive.com retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by HotelExecutive.com.

Receive our daily newsletter with the latest breaking news and hotel management best practices.
Hotel Business Review on Facebook
RESOURCE CENTER - SEARCH ARCHIVES
General Search:

DECEMBER: Hotel Law: Vast and Varied Issues and Concerns

Gregory A. Wald

On July 1, 2016 several federal agencies published regulations that significantly increased, and in some instances doubled, the civil penalties that could be levied against employers for Form I-9 paperwork violations, unauthorized employment of foreign national workers and for other immigration-related violations, including immigration discrimination charges. Due to the implementation of the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015 (Sec. 701 of Public Law 114-74) (“Inflation Adjustment Act”), higher fines and civil penalties have now gone into effect for assessments that occur on or after August 1, 2016. These higher penalties can be applied to violations that occurred after November 2, 2015, the day the President signed the Act into law. READ MORE

Jerome G. Grzeca

Hotels, like other U.S. companies, are struggling to find solutions to staffing shortages. Every month, more than a quarter-million Americans turn 65, which is a trend that has profound workforce and economic consequences in this country. In addition, unemployment rates continue to fall, dropping to 4.9% nationwide in September 2016. These changes, along with other factors like increases in occupancy rates and high labor costs, have resulted in many hotel companies having trouble finding and hiring qualified workers for open positions. Of course, it’s not an option for the rooms not to be cleaned or for the meals not to be prepared and served when employees are hard to find. READ MORE

Arthur Tacchino

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is likely one of the most confusing pieces of legislation you have to comply with, and the hospitality industry, especially hotels, is more complex than most when it comes to ACA reporting. This year, the stakes are higher as the IRS removes all the safety nets that were in place in 2015. Whether you reported with complete accuracy and auditability for 2015, or the notion of ACA reporting still makes your head spin, there’s a lot to learn from last year’s mishaps and this year’s expectations READ MORE

John Mavros

Employment arbitration agreements commonly include mandatory class action waivers. Class action waivers can be a powerful tool for employers to prevent potentially devastating class action lawsuits. Until several months ago, employers didn’t have to think twice about whether a class waiver was a lawful part of their arbitration agreement. That all changed when Federal Circuit Courts in Lewis v. Epic Systems (7th Circuit) and Morris v. Ernst & Young (9th Circuit) held that class action waivers violate the National Labor Relations Act’s guarantee of collective action and therefore could not be enforced under the Federal Arbitration Act. These decisions have created a circuit split between Federal courts across the country. This article will survey this treacherous legal landscape and share some guidance for employers’ arbitration agreements during these uncertain times. READ MORE

Coming Up In The January Online Hotel Business Review


Feature Focus
Mobile Technology: The Game Has Changed Forever
Consider these astounding numbers - it is forecast that in 2016 there will be 196 million smart phone users in North America alone. Worldwide the number of users is expected to surpass 2 Billion. According to hotel internet marketing firm HeBs Digital, currently more than 21% of online bookings and nearly 19% of room nights are generated from mobile devices (smart phones and tablets), while 45% of web visitors and nearly 40% of page views originate from them as well. Consumers are also increasingly using their smart phones for search queries, with more Google searches taking place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries, including the U.S. and Japan. Advances in mobile technology have changed the game forever and for hotels, that means having a mobile strategy is now as critical and necessary as having an Internet presence. Hotels must engage guests/travelers on their mobile devices and to add value to their experience. Mobile check-in, mobile payment options and mobile SmartKeys are quickly becoming commonplace features, as is the capacity for guests to place requests for all hotel services directly from their mobile device from anywhere on the property. In addition, some larger chains are creating their own apps which serve to enhance other facets of their operations - marketing, branding, cross-selling and impulse buying - all of which contribute to increased revenue and guest satisfaction. Still other companies are experimenting with the potential uses of wearable technology and the possibilities of geo-targeting promotions. The January Hotel Business Review will explore what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in this mobile space, and will report on the solutions that are proving to be most beneficial for both companies and their guests.