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.

Founder and Chairman of the International Institute of Modern Butlers, Professor Steven Ferry consults and trains butlers in hotels, hotel condominiums, private villas, resorts, and private estates; spa butlers in facilities with spas, and corporation employees on a variety of topics. He is Chairman of the International Institute of Modern Butlers and author of the best-selling industry texts, "Hotel Butlers", The Great Service Differentiators" and "Butlers and Household Managers, 21st Century Professionals". 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:

APRIL: Cultivating Guest Satisfaction and Retention

Simon Hudson

According to the Oxford Dictionary an apostle is a “vigorous and pioneering advocate or supporter of a particular policy, idea, or cause”. For hotels, creating apostles should be a priority. They are the most loyal customers and they are so satisfied that they want to convert others to share their experiences. But how do hotels create apostles? This article looks at how some hotels around the world are delivering not only superior products and services, but through customization and personalization are creating guests who would not dream of staying anywhere else. READ MORE

Edward Reagoso

In the hustle and bustle of being accountable for so many facets of the hotel business, a hotel general manager needs to do one thing to truly secure his or her future in our industry, that being “insuring your team members truly care about your guests stay.” Sounds simple enough, right? This is not rocket science and I mean no disrespect to anyone struggling with operations or sales issues that can often seem surmountable. We all have these problems at one time or another. There are resolutions to every issue we have. The resolution to any problem is really just a matter of applying a specific strategy that will minimize the issue or frankly, make it go away completely. How many times have you walked into a situation with a guest that was surprised and upset that a tiny issue was never dealt with by a front desk agent, housekeeper, waiter, maintenance person, or even a manager that worked for you? I have too, the important thing is that we learn from this and move forward. One must insure everyone on our team grasps the importance of caring and the application of certain techniques can solidify a culture. Getting everyone on your team to care about your guests really is the key. READ MORE

Rick Garlick Ph.D.

A primary objective of hotel operators is to keep their properties full of ‘heads in beds’ to capacity. While this goal is understandable, there is a risk hotels may market themselves indiscriminately and draw guests that are not a good match to their particular value proposition. While this meets a short term goal of wasting as little inventory as possible, there is a longer term risk that these guests may provide negative feedback about their stays, even though the hotel was being true to its own identity and branding. Indeed, the guest experience cannot be fairly evaluated apart from the expectations and preferences a person brings to the hotel from the time he or she books a room. Using a comparative restaurant example, a top steakhouse could never deliver a satisfying experience to a committed vegetarian, even if it provided the best cut of meat and the most attentive service. You have to like steak to positively evaluate the experience. READ MORE

Aaron  Housman

Things will go wrong. It’s inevitable in life and in business. And the sooner one gets to that conclusion the sooner he can get on with what comes next: preparing for the inevitable. In the hotel business that means following up with guests when the experience is substandard for any number of reasons, from guest service to property maintenance to the type of sheets on the bed. But there is a difference between just preparing for the inevitable and being well-prepared. Following up effectively with upset guests doesn’t happen accidentally. It is planned, trained tracked and executed every day. It is a way of life for best-in-class operations. READ MORE

Coming Up In The May Online Hotel Business Review


Feature Focus
Hotel Sustainable Development: Integrating Practices for the Environment and the Bottom Line
The term “sustainable development” was first coined in 1987. In a report entitled, “Our Common Future,” the Brundtland Commission defined sustainable development as follows: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This definition immediately caught on. In the business world, it is sometimes referred to as a triple bottom line – capturing the concept that investments are profitable, good for people and protective of the environment. Within the hotel industry, companies have taken an active role in committing themselves to addressing climate change and sustainability. Hotel operations have realized that environmentally sound practices not only help the environment, but can lead to cost reductions, business expansion, and profit growth as consumers increasingly seek environmentally sustainable products and services. In a recent survey by Deloitte, it was noted that 95% of respondents believe that the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives. Additionally, 38% of respondents said they made efforts to identify “green” hotels before traveling, and 40% said they would be willing to pay a premium for the privilege. These results suggest that consumers want and expect sustainability in their travel plans. In response to these trends, many hotel companies and on-line travel agencies have even begun offering their consumers an opportunity to purchase carbon offsets to reduce the environmental impact of their trips. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document how some leading hotels are integrating sustainability practices into their hotels and how their operations, consumers and the environment are profiting from them.