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Through the Eyes of a Hotel Butler: Achieving Guest Satisfaction


by Osvaldo Torres Cruz, June 3, 2009

When Ellsworth Statler opened the Buffalo Statler Hotel in 1908, he initiated differentiation within the hospitality industry by offering for the first time a private bathroom for each room, a light at the door, a pitcher of water for each guest and the morning paper. 

After the Second World War, the Hotel industry accompanied the expansion of tourism by increasing the number and quality of the services offered. Howard Johnson and Kemmom Wilson stand out as the creators of one of the first hotel chains -the Holiday Inn-, which offered, among other services, air conditioning, private bathroom, and in-room phone. The first differentiation strategies were related to the development hotel facilities and the creation of new and innovative services. 

During the 90s, Hotels were faced with a new challenge: globalization made it increasingly difficult to offer exclusive products within an already huge Hospitality industry. Services which at one time had been exclusively offered by a few hotels became regular services at a great number of establishments. 

Then, Hotels began to establish differentiation in connection with their retention and loyalty strategies, aimed at achieving guest satisfaction by determining guests’ needs and offering services adapted to such needs, giving rise to a new type of service: customized services. This new kind of service attracted a large number of guests and set standards within the market regarding differentiation. However, at the beginning of the XXI century, increasingly more hotels offer customized services, taking us back to the initial question: how is it possible to make a difference?   

It is worth mentioning that the analysis of the elements that make up hotel services is made by guests according to their own criteria and experience, and this is the basis for their opinion and image regarding such services. Therefore, it is not only necessary to offer personalized services , but also to determine the criteria applied by guests regarding each service: how they perceive it and how it affects their physical and emotional wellbeing, according to my experience while I have been  butlering, a good way to achieve this is to think of PERSONALISED SERVICES as PERSONALISED  RELATIONAL SERVICE ( PRS). 

Establishing Hotel-Guest relations is essential for differentiation within the market. Relational strategies strengthen and secure these relations.  Hotel Butler Services  is a priceless relational tool, providing what we can call  “moments of truth”: the direct interaction between the provider and the receiver of the service , where it is possible to get to know the guest,  determine both, rational and emotional guest needs and satisfy them in a personal way, so it makes possible to have an impact on their sensory and spiritual world, generating positive feelings and emotions that trigger unique enduring experiences. If you know what guests want and you offer it just as they want it, they shall not look for it anywhere else. 
Personalized Relational Services, which lead to get closer bonds lasting in time, are established as soon as the guest’s reservation request is received and his requirements are met, and even after his departure. The same policy is applied at the welcome arrival, his assistance during his stay, the generation of service needs as a way to get to a better knowledge of the guest’s characteristics, pursuing to design for him unique and personal experiences, and in the systematic follow up of his satisfaction as a way to validate the experiential process.
The personalized service, seen as a relation service (PRS), also leads to the creation of a differential relations system, focused to raise the emotional value of the rendered services, some  PRS´s  advantages are as follow,

  • The one who receives it satisfies his/her need and perceives it as an experience. The one who provides it obtains information on the guest being assisted that is essential for differentiation strategies. Their goal is to establish, develop and maintain interaction with the receiver of the service -offering long-term value- which translates into permanent satisfaction, thus generating guest loyalty.
  • PRS helps us to establish priceless relations-interactions with the guest, adjusting the actions and services strategy to meet his expectations, thus raising the emotional value of the services. 
  • PRS is an important tool to be used in the micro-segmentation of the services, conveying that the guest feels more identified with them. As a result, the expected emotional value will be achieved. 
  • PRS is a supporting validation instrument for the design of an experience, so that we can determine the service emotional value and the meaning of the lived experience, through the interaction-relation established with the guest , this way we can  personalize the meaning of the experience.
  • Personalized Relations Service is an active and dynamic service, constantly seeking for the guest emotional welfare and the generator par excellence of positive holistic experiences.
Personalized Relational Services are a new vision of customized services. Their goal is to establish, develop and maintain interaction- relation with the guest -offering long-term value- which translates into permanent satisfaction, thus generating guest emotional loyalty.

Eliciting positive emotions through the customized services rendered

Creating an experience does not mean coming up with particularly attractive or flamboyant things, but focusing on what the guest feels. It entails conceiving the guest as an emotional being rather than a functional one. In short, it is a question of eliciting positive emotions and feelings. It is necessary to get inside the skin of the guest and understand that he/she is constantly perceiving colors, shapes, and faces and receiving information through the senses of hearing, smell and touch, as human interaction is basically emotional. 

How do we elicit emotions? 

According to experts, emotions are usually a response to external and internal events or stimuli. They can even outlast the stimulus. Therefore, providing customized services to our guests allows us to identify internal and external stimuli that can evoke positive emotions in them. Once identified, these stimuli can be reproduced and thus influence guests’ behavior during their stay.

A person, whether consciously or unconsciously, regards an event as relevant when it is related to a personal goal that is considered important. An emotion is positive when the event represents a move forward toward achieving that goal, and negative when it is experienced as an obstacle. Therefore, emotions can be positive or negative depending on whether the event is in line with our personal goals or not. Daily contact with guests through customized service allows the gradual identification of the events and stimuli that trigger emotions in them. 

Generating positive experiences in our guests is closely related to the feeling of moving forward toward an individual goal which, in turn, depends on the level of satisfaction of individual expectations. When the service provided exceeds our expectations, it is felt as a positive move toward an individual goal, and even more so when the “wow” effect is achieved, I would like to share with you some ways to generate positive emotions and feelings  while butlering:

  • When waking up in the morning, the guest listen to the voice of the butler asking about his rest and offers him a nice cup of coffee made in the way he likes best, together with the newspaper open in his preferred section.
  • Arriving to the room: After a wearing day of work, he finds, ready to be used,   the suit previously handed over in the morning. Getting to the recommended restaurant, he finds the ambience just right to relax and enjoys the welcome glass of wine from the winery he likes best.
  • When unpacking a lady’s luggage the butler can perceive her dressing style; thus he can give her his recommendations for her shopping and even she can count on his company, if needed.
There can never be two identical situations or two persons who show exactly the same intensity of feeling in connection with the same event; that’s why customized service before, during and after the stay allows characterizing the degree of intensity of the emotions and feelings experienced by each guest. The detailed observation plus the butler direct and systematic contact, will let him to decipher and visualize the eventual functional and emotional needs of the guest. Therefore, these needs can be fulfilled prior to the guest’s requests and satisfied by personalized services adequate to his lifestyle. This way, the guest can perceive those services as tailored-made and feels identified with them.

Which are the advantages of generating positive experiences for our guests? By regarding the stay as a positive experience, one of the most significant positive emotions is evoked: WELLBEING, which in turn triggers another positive emotion – SATISFACTION- which generates the feelings of MOTIVATION and GRATITUDE.

The motivated guest is eager to be assisted: more receptive, accessible and even helpful.  The guest is more confident regarding the services offered and thus demands more services, generating greater interaction with hotel employees. This increased interaction allows obtaining more information that can be used to provide increasingly customized services. Consequently, the guest becomes a priceless Hotel ally, as confidence translates into loyalty. 


Osvaldo Torres Cruz
Hotel Butler.


Also See: Through the Eyes of a Hotel Butler: Mastering Guests' Information / Osvaldo Torres Cruz / May 2009



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