RoadNews Road Report:
Cyber Butlers Serve Road Warrior's Cyber Needs 

I was recently made aware of a new service being offered by several of the major international hotel chains. Previously, I had used various butler services such as shining shoes or pressing suits wrinkled by too many hours packed in a high humidity environment inside a suitcase. But now there is a new wrinkle in some hotels' reach for more and better services to their travel weary guests. These farsighted hotels have merged the concept of technical support and concierge into one helpful entity which they refer to as a special type of butler/concierge service. For example, at the Ritz-Carlton hotel you would call the Technology Butler. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel chain initiated its new technology butler service in one of it's Asian hotels. By early June of last year, the Ritz-Carlton had rolled out the service at all of its properties.

The Technology Butler at a Ritz-Carlton Hotel is a designated staff member trained to handle a variety of technical problems related to notebook/laptop computers and telecommunications. But Technology Butlers aren't limited to computers. They are equipped to cope with any office communication/computer technology-related problem. One of the most common problems is voltage conversion. Guests sometimes forget to bring the necessary power converters and power adapters. Some travelers may not realize they are necessary because they assume that all phone jack and power plugs are the same all over the world. Most of the hotels now have data ports in all their rooms to accommodate road warriors as well as the casual traveler with a laptop computer.

Most requests for help deal with reconfiguring laptops to ignore the local dial-tone so they can pick up their e-mail from thousands of miles away.  Internet connection assistance, such as identifying a local ISP, or helping a guest find a local dial-up number for one of the larger, well known hosts such as Compuserve and America On Line, is all in a day's work for these new cyber butlers. They also help with setting the proper modem speed, assisting in getting e-mail access, voltage conversion, faxing, palmtop or electronic calendar setup, resolving hardware and software compatibility, and more recently, dealing with the nuances of  international roaming cellular telephones.

In keeping up with the times (and the competition), The Inter-Continental Hotels and Resorts' CyberAssist program also was launched. Their 24-hour, technology-support service that was developed at the company's Asia Pacific hotels properties went brandwide in June. This was spawned by the hotel's research that indicated that more than 80 percent of its business guests travel with a laptop/notebook computer.

Each Inter-Continental Hotel and Resort has a CyberAssist Coordinator trained to handle the technical needs of their guests. The Management Information Systems manager is usually the coordinator that can set up a computer, connect it to the hotel's power and telephone systems, and provide support for various software and hardware products. With laptop computer use on rise, it is not always possible to distinguish between a business travelers and a recreational travelers.

On a recent trip to New Zealand, I was surprised to find the front desk of a major hotel had phone adapters and power adapters available for the use of their guests for a modest fee. In checking with several airline pilots staying at the hotel, I discovered that they had stayed at other hotels where the adapters were free to their paying guests.

These modern day cyber butlers/concierges have one thing in common: They spend much of their time configuring laptops and loaning adapter kits.

The next time you pop into a Ritz or an Inter-Continental give these services a try if you run into difficulties. Keep an eye out for the emergence of other hotels' cyber services in the future as they try to keep up with the competition for cyberspace services.

You can check out their facilities and/or make reservations by these links: 

Ritz-Calrton Hotels      Inter-Continental Hotels

Return to the Article Index