Butler standards Newsletter Richard Ratliff

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, June 2018, Professional Standards of Performance

Professional Standards of Performance: Application #6

By Richard L. Ratliff

SmartPhones and Social Media

Scenario: The world of technology, with smartphones in particular and social media shared across the planet in real-time, has impacted our profession greatly. I have been told, “It is easier to text than talk. You can be more honest. Plus, bystanders can’t hear what we are saying.” These points may or may not be true, but social media’s downside is that it can be addictive—interfering with other responsibilities and relationships. On the plus side, personal assistance applications (from instant communications, calendars, scheduling capabilities and note-taking features to directories, Internet access, emergency contacts, etc.), all in remarkably compact form, have been a boon to the modern butler.

The Standards: The Professional Standards of Performance specify that a butler’s first concern is for the members of the household and their guests—their comfort, pleasure, welfare, and security. A butler may have the responsibility for overseeing all household operations. The Standards also state that a butler “should possess and employ all of the office tools, equipment, and hand tools required for his various duties and chores.”

Recommendations: Use the tools as tools: do no let them supplant the real world. The problem of social media addiction is easy to avoid with proper discipline and frankly, a busy-enough schedule. Social media and smartphones offer the butler the opportunity to communicate with, and be reached by, members of the household, staff, vendors, and household guests. But like a chef with his razor-sharp knife, the modern butler must be disciplined in the use of this tool. He must:

  • Master the personal assistance features;
  • Master smartphone and social media etiquette;
  • Leave the phone in his pocket when not in active use toward a productive end.

While butlers were probably fascinated by the prospect of taking calls on the new-fangled telephones a century ago, instead of greeting real bodies at the door—one of their time-honored and accepted roles—they have obviously and similarly embraced the modern telephone in their pocket or wrist. But butlers have performed well for generations without these virtual social media and technologies, relying on face-to-face interactions and slower print media, which are still appropriate and much appreciated today. As we operate in the real world, it would behoove us to stay connected with it by practicing these skills and communication channels, and not disappearing into a virtual world, because one still has to deal with real people, when all is said and done.

Professor Ratliff is a retired butler who co-authored Volume 1 of Serving the Wealthy and has published three other books and over thirty articles. He can be reached via the Institute.

The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and superior service expertise of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, updated with modern people skills, and adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resorts, spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts & cruise ships around the world.