In the line-up of any hospitality team, Butlers play a significant role. As the conduit between the guests and the rest of the teams and the management itself, this translates to a huge responsibility. A responsibility that demands a unique set of skills and abilities on the part of a Butler.
The following are some of the qualities and skills all professional Butlers share that you can compare against your own skillsets, emulate, and improve upon.
1. Immaculate Organizational Skills
As the focal point of being the one who arranges everything for the guests from dinners to excursions to spa appointments to special moments to celebrations to events and so on, a strong ability to plan is important.
On the one hand, you ought to be careful to not inconvenience the guests by planning in a manner that will get them stressed such as booking a spa treatment just fifteen minutes after a snorkeling trip.
On the other hand, Butlers are also in a unique position to be able to contribute to the bottom line of the company. Great Butlers, therefore, are quite adept at planning the days and activities of their guests in a way that maximizes revenue for their employers.
And in my experience of over a decade as a Butler, two things are necessary for you to be able to plan and rally an organization of people around a meaningful collective goal and deliver the results to reach it.
• An ability to visualize a future scenario. All plans are an abstraction of the future. Therefore, to create that future, you must first create that future in your head. For instance, you are organizing a sandbank dinner for your guests. For that to happen, you must think about the set-up, how to get there, food and beverages, entertainment, and so on.
• An ability to make decisions on the fly. Not everything will go according to the plan. That is to say that you need to have contingencies planned for all scenarios so that you can course-correct when necessary. For instance, what’s the plan if the weather turned and it started raining or the sea became too rough? What else can be done in its stead so that the guests can still enjoy their dinner?
Being able to anticipate all sorts of eventualities and having a solid backup plan is therefore an essential quality of all professional Butlers.
2. Emotional Intelligence
Whether you are aware of it or not, the job of a Butler is to manage the mood of their customers.
And on the outset, that sounds like a simple thing to do. But when you consider the fact that no two guests are the same be it in their beliefs, customs, cultures, dietary requirements, service expectations, spending habits and so on, it suddenly becomes a Herculean task fraught with a lot of sensibilities that you do not want to infringe upon or offend.
The most talented Butlers accomplish that by being aware of their own emotional states of mind to intuitively grasp how their guests are feeling.
This ability to regulate their own emotions with the same frequency as that of their guests helps them to be able to better read the unspoken requests of the guests and act accordingly.
For instance, a guest may be too shy to ask you to go away and leave them alone in their villa but if you know how to harness the power of emotional intelligence, you will be able to notice their discomfort and excuse yourself out of there.
Therefore, brushing up on your emotional intelligence is incredibly important because you can never go wrong serving by feel.
3. An Intimate Level of Product Knowledge
All professional Butlers out there understands the power of having intimate knowledge about the products and services they are offering to their customers.
Understanding the products and services offered by your employer allows you to be confident in your interaction with guests and present their benefits accurately and persuasively. After all, Butlers are also marketeers and salespersons — and guests are more likely to trust those who show confidence in themselves and what they are selling.
Here are some of the ways you can get to know your products and services and project confidence in your knowledge:
• Cross exposures and service immersions. If you want to be a world-class Butler, having a surface understanding of the product and services, especially in the food and beverage areas, billing, and housekeeping areas would not be enough. Therefore, going through an immersion training in those areas that you are lacking in right now is terribly important for you to next level your product knowledge.
• Your own experience using the products or services. One of the best ways you can describe what it’s like to experience a whale shark safari is to go on a whale shark safari yourself because you can then describe it to someone who has never been on one from a point of personal reference.
• Sales training programs. An important part of building that confidence lies in knowing what to do in different circumstances. Therefore, going through a sales training program could help you better understand when to employ different sales techniques such as cross-selling when you have failed in your initial pitch or up-selling when you sense that the guests are willing to pay top dollar for an even better service.
Having a sound knowledge of your products and services not only helps you sell more, but it also makes you sound more confident, competent, and efficient.
4. An Impeccable Level of Personal Presentation and Hygiene
A great deal of projecting a professional outlook for Butlers and others alike in the hospitality and service industry comes in the form of our grooming and personal hygiene.
And since Butlers would be working closely with guests and others, it is important to be on top of your grooming and personal hygiene game because anything less than perfect on this aspect could damage the reputation of the company.
Therefore, on top of the general hygiene practices of taking regular showers, here are some tips on upgrading your personal presentation and hygiene practices.
• Uniforms. Make sure uniforms are clean, well-pressed, and flawless.
• Jewelries and accessories. Avoid wearing jewelries and watches that are too ostentatious or carrying notebooks that are too loud in color.
• Tattoos and piercings. Although tattoos and piercings are common these days, hide tattoos and remove the piercings while on duty.
• Hair. Although this depends on the company policy, a clean and neat haircut with natural colors projects a professionalism on the part of Butlers.
• Use of perfume. Be careful about the use of perfume. Don’t use it too much nor use it sparingly — use it moderately.
Always be wary of your personal presentation and hygiene because it says a lot about you as a person and can have negative consequences in your social life and even your career.
5. An Immense Respect for Guest Privacy and Confidentiality
One of the privileges of being a Butler is that there will come moments in your career that you get to take care of royalties, heads of states, politicians, A-list celebrities, and so on.
Having said that, it can be very tempting to announce it to the world by sharing a picture that you might have taken with them or an autograph they might have given you.
After all, it has real potential in giving a boost to your career and enhance your employability, not to mention the bragging rights that come with it.
However, professional Butlers are extremely discreet about the clients they take care of and refrains from asking for pictures or autographs or divulging any such information on social media or other public forums unless it has been shared first by the clients themselves.
Therefore, it is especially important that you exercise resolve to make sure that you, as someone who takes care of them as their Butler, do everything to ensure that they can relax, enjoy, and let their hair down without having to worry about their privacy being violated.
Being a professional Butler is not easy. Sure, it is an awesome responsibility that you cannot take too lightly. But here’s the thing: It’s also not impossible and can be extremely rewarding — both financially and job satisfaction wise.
If you can strengthen your organizational skills, sharpen your emotional intelligence, deepen your product knowledge, and maintain a high standard of personal presentation along with a deep respect for guest privacy and confidentiality, you can also transform yourself to become a professional Butler.
About the author: Misbah Ibrahim is a Representative at Pure Escapes Maldives. He is also a former Butler with a solid background in Food and Beverage operations.