Butler training Etiquette

Complaint-handling skills for Hotel Butlers

This week my butler class has been doing training on complaint-handling procedures – something I take very seriously. A poorly handled complaint can do irreparable damage. Sites such as ‘’ allow guests to do far, far more harm to your hotel’s reputation than  in the past.

In order to make these sessions as realistic as possible, we asked the trainee butlers to deal with actual complaints received by staff members of the resort in the past. Of course, all resorts have repeater problems and in an ideal world these would be sorted out. However, some things, such as bad weather, poor internet connections in remote areas, and the presence of migrating birds, various creepy-crawlies and the occasional reptile, forever bedevil our efforts to satisfy the unadventurous traveller.

The issue of sand flies came up. Sand flies are notoriously unpleasant; they leave ragged, painful, saliva-filled bite marks and it is common for people to develop allergies after only 50 bites or so. Their preferred habitat renders spraying largely ineffective and in ecologically sensitive areas there is currently no acceptable solution to the problem. Very few insect repellents seem to work and the few solutions that do seem to work are home-made. These contain ingredients such as lamp oil that no sane hotel would offer to a guest.

The question arose as to whether it would be better to warn guests of impending problems, or rather to wait until they complained before addressing the issue. No one likes to be the bearer of bad news, nor do we wish to pre-empt problems. In my experience however, if one is to build trust with a guest, it is better to communicate openly with guests from the outset. This is particularly important for those issues which are unavoidable and for which the management have no remedy. Ideally, this would have been addressed at the time the reservation was made, but we all know this won’t happen. So, it is up to the butler to give the guest the bad news.

This is where the butler’s communication skills and tact come into play. A well-trained staff member is an invaluable asset to the organisation when it comes to guests accepting less-than-ideal scenarios. Very often, a small issue becomes a non-issue when handled well. The same issue left unaddressed, festers, and if handled badly later on, leads to an irretrievable situation.

Having said this, a few minute’s research online lead us to the website of a New Zealand company selling a repellent which they claim is not only effective, but also 100% organic. The team’s response was that this falls outside of their scope of responsibilities. Nonsense. Anything that impact’s your guest’s enjoyment of their holiday is your responsibility. You may not be able to approve the purchase order, but you can get the ball rolling!