Two clients contact you, wanting to arrange their wedding and honeymoon in some suitably exotic location.
Once their wish list has been communicated, you formulate options. One of the options you may want to be thinking with and offering them, is a location that, in addition to everything else, also offers butler service.
Why? Because the butler is the key to providing up-close-and-personal service for the simple reason that he (or she) is there with the guests in their suite, totally dedicated to finding out what they want and providing it, ideally before they even realize they need it. He or she is the one who sees them with their hair down, make-up half on, laughing and (let’s hope not with honeymoon couples) disagreeing strongly over one thing or another. When there’s a little emergency, it is the butler who smoothes frayed nerves, distracts the embarrassed, and deals with whatever went wrong. He becomes the guest’s right-hand man, she the lady-in-waiting who keeps things rolling along (and that can be a challenge in wedding situations, to be sure) and the focus on helping make this the highlight of the guest’s life.
Apart from a total dedication to serving and an understanding about how to provide invisible, anticipatory service and complete discretion, the butler pays attention to the little details that make up the greater whole.
And the butler understands that, once the hooplah and high-action of the wedding are over, the honeymoon phase means the guests need their space more than their butler: the goal then being to anticipate and provide service that is truly invisible, anticipating when the guests will want transport or a picnic basket prepared; servicing their room and providing signature romantic baths and intimate turndowns, flowers and other gifts while the guests are away from their suite. Organizing special recognitions, such as their favorite music being performed by the band during dinner, photographs when they are in a public venue and presenting them with an album on departure, and so on.
Perhaps the best example of the solicitous service expected of a butler is that of a couple celebrating their 25th anniversary. The hotel did not just present them with a complimentary bottle of champagne and a cake, which in itself would have been fine, but is almost the expected, nothing truly special. Instead, they found out what the couple had eaten, drunk, and what music had played at their wedding (same hotel chain, but a different country, and in the days before computer records). When the couple came to dinner, they were ushered to the best table and given the same menu as had been presented at their wedding.
They made their selections, and when something different was served, they did not object: it happened to be their favorite food anyway, and they were quite mellow by then, listening to their favorite music that the band happened to be playing, and sipping on the free champagne. It was only when the main course was served, again, not what they had ordered but some of their favorite dishes, that they suddenly realized what was going on: the hotel was giving them exactly what they had ordered 25 years before. The woman cried. The man was speechless. What was the hotel doing, in truth? Faithfully recreating the happiest moments of the couple’s life. That’s a pretty good strategy for wowing guests.
And it is the same level of detail and pushing beyond the expected that butlers are tasked with. Not all butler departments are created equal, so one resource you can use to determine just what you can expect from a hotel that promises butler service, is the rating of butler service in many of the hotels around the world.
This article was also published in the inaugural quarterly edition of ttgmena luxury in January 2011.
About the Author (Author Profile)Steven Ferry is chairman of the International Institute of Modern Butlers and the author of bestsellers "Butlers & Household Managers 21st Century Professionals" and "Hotel Butlers, The Great Service Differentiators." He also trains and consults for the profession around the world.
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