News for the Hospitality Executive
|By Liz Doup, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Dec. 27, 2003 - At South Florida's posh resorts, a concierge can help with almost anything. Choice theater tickets. A Mongolian-speaking translator. A special dinner for your baby.
But now it's 3 a.m. and your laptop has crashed. Your PowerPoint presentation is scheduled for the 9 a.m. meeting and you're in a real -- not virtual -- panic.
You need a technology concierge.
The latest amenity to hit South Florida's upscale resorts, these computer whizzes are on call day and night to solve your computer woes.
Can't connect to the Internet?
Can't open your e-mail?
Can't coax anything from your hard drive?
Not to worry. These tech titans come to your rescue, more welcome than Super Bowl tickets when digital disaster strikes. Computer problems, after all, are the great equalizer. Like death, there's no escape.
Spend enough time tied to one and you'll watch helplessly as your hard drive melts down or your screen freezes, holding hostage the report the boss needs right now.
On the road, untethered from the help desk at the home office, you're hopelessly adrift.
"We know people are going to have challenges," says Crissy Poorman, public relations director at The Ritz-Carlton in Manalapan. "We're here to meet them."
You can tell Poorman works at a place where you can pay more than three grand a night to put your feet up. She's the essence of tact. Not a peep about guests going ballistic when something goes awry.
Same goes for the tech crew -- often called e-butlers or technology butlers -- that works at these plush places. They're not just computer competent. They're diplomats who approach their job with Zen-like calm no matter the guest reaction that ranges from tears and frustration to unbridled panic.
"Some are angry on the phone," says Mike Little, who works for the Boca Raton Resort and Club. "They'll say, 'I'm paying all this money to stay here and my computer doesn't work.'"
That's hardly the resort's fault, but when a computer goes kaput, you want to blame someone. Despair usually dissipates when technicians arrive, a comfort with their soothing manner and cyber solutions.
They'll help load software, disable pesky firewalls, connect your laptop to the Internet and, in a pinch, help put your PowerPoint presentation together. No surprise that most techs live close to work. Many are on call 24/7, helping guests clad in bathrobes as well as business suits.
"If it's 3 in the morning, we'll be there," says Victor Martinez, who also works at the Boca Raton Resort and Club. "We'll get it working."
One guest, scheduled to do a presentation for a medical conference, couldn't retrieve the information during an early morning run-through. At 8 a.m., the panicked phone call came.
"She said she'd do anything in the world if I could help her," Martinez says.
When he couldn't coax the computer into compliance, he helped her redo the presentation, just in time for her meeting.
During his four years at the resort, Martinez has found no one exempt from computer crises. Men. Women. Old. Young. Yes, even kids need help at times. A popular request: connecting to Nickelodeon's Web site. When they ask to connect to something -- ahem -- a little more adult, Martinez has a comeback: "Is there a reason you need to go there?"
Typically, tech whizzes like Martinez are already on staff tending to in-house computer problems. But as more guests travel with laptops, computer problems have multiplied faster than a rogue virus. So techs help them, too.
Usually their expertise is free, though a guest might be charged for supplies. A few resorts loan laptops and offer extra modems and batteries. Some hotels, like the Westin Diplomat Resort in Hollywood, offer tech services for extended business hours, rather than 24/7. But help is still available.
As often as not, guests' problems are solved with a simple phone call.
"I've got it plugged in, now what?" Or "How do I get to the Internet?"
At The Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, the tech crew once helped a business group set up their entire network at the hotel's conference center so it was a live extension of their New York office, giving them e-mail and data access.
Occasionally, guests need more personal attention. For instance, at the Ritz-Carlton in Manalapan, computer tech Eric Brunett once purchased a laptop for a guest at his request, putting the tab on the man's hotel bill.
Another time, he went to a guest's room around 1 a.m. when his computer wouldn't cooperate. By 3 a.m., Brunett had a solution.
The guest did his presentation but had to repeat it a second day. Another problem. Brunett, to the rescue, made another call, then sat in on the meeting to make sure all went well.
So how does he react when his home computer goes on the fritz?
Brunett smiles. "I don't have one."
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(c) 2003, South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. MAR, VIA, HOT,