Written on 22nd November, 2018

Customer Service Lessons from The Royal School of Butlers Training Course

The events team from Gilmerton House have just completed a 5 day Butler Training Course delivered by The Royal School of Butlers and Maclean & Bruce, hosted at both Borthwick Castle and Gilmerton House.

Gilmerton House is endorsed by The Royal School of Butlers and kicked-off this partnership with the Butler Training Course.

The objectives of the course  were to enhance and bolster the already high customer service standards and skills in the team at Gilmerton House, as well as prepare the other students for roles as butlers. The skills learnt on The Royal School of Butlers course ensure the Gilmerton House events team is even better equipped to provide guests with a flexible style of service.

Grant Harrold, The Royal Butler at Gilmerton House.

The Royal School of Butlers was founded by Grant Harrold and his business partner Jack Stooks to offer exceptional Royal British etiquette and butler training. Grant is known as “The Royal Butler” having worked for the Prince of Wales as a member of his household at Highgrove House. Her Royal Highness Princess Katarina is the School’s patron and a senior lecturer.

The Royal School of Butlers runs courses at famous landmarks like Blenheim Palace, The Ritz and Thornbury Castle.

“Previous students have come from a wide variety of countries and industries. They’ve included private jet crew, house managers, concierges and chauffeurs,” says Grant Harrold, Director of The Royal School of Butlers.

“All students or their employers have their own priorities so we need to be careful to cover everything outlined in the course and allow time to focus on areas of specific interest to students.

“Napkins are always a top favourite on the course, with table laying second and trays third, and valeting fourth. Being a personal valet is a very particular area which working staff should always avoid unless they have been trained in what to do and what not to do!”

How could the course enhance the high standards of customer service at Gilmerton House?

“I understand how best the skills learnt by a butler trained to the Royal Household’s own standards can lend additional support to an events team. The objective is to predict the needs of guests, and pre-empt problems, while remaining unobtrusive.

“The training given by The Royal Butler to the staff at Gilmerton House enhances the already outstanding service provided by the team. The course focuses on consistency, so that all members of staff are working using the same methods (such as table settings, napkin folding, valeting and so on), and ensures that these are all correct.

“The first part of the course is spent working on social interactions such as how to meet and greet, use the correct titles, use eye contact and body language, as well as one of the more crucial and under-estimated elements which is appropriate behaviour. By this we mean how a professional butler, or any member of staff, should act while working. Even in the most formal of settings no guest wants an over-eager host or butler looming expectantly over them. Equally, in the most relaxed and informal households there are still boundaries which should be observed.

“Today’s guests are well travelled and used to receiving really good customer experiences, so we work through The Ultimate Butler Training Course programme making sure that everyone is working at the highest level in order to deliver the best possible service at Gilmerton House.

“Working in a private house is about the interaction between guests and staff, being professional as well as personal.”

What interesting elements of etiquette (and manners) are covered on the course? What is modern society’s attitude to etiquette and is an understanding of it being lost?

“This is a huge subject! On the course we cover general etiquette including introductions, handshakes, kissing, body language and posture, appropriate attire, titles and cards, plus any other subjects which invariably crop up during the course. When training butlers the etiquette is focused on how to behave around your employers and their guests, as well as colleagues.”

What makes a good 21st century butler? How has the butler’s role changed, compared to 100 years ago?

“The basic role of today’s butler is still similar to 100 years ago, but generally speaking it is very unusual to find a household anywhere in Britain which is staffed to the same level as it would have been 100 years ago.

“Today’s butlers are often called ‘House Managers’ and required to fulfil secretarial and personal assistant as well as the more traditional role. In a private venue such as Gilmerton House the butlers would offer a valet service which includes unpacking and packing for guests (this should be optional) as well as the more front of house roles which are expected of them.

“The course teaches the reality of working as a real butler in the 21st century, and NOT how to be a parody of what we all imagine a butler to be! No modern day day butler should be seen wearing anything other than a smart business suit, shirt and tie. Leave bowler hats and tails (unless you are a guest and the dress code specifies), a la Carson from Downton Abbey for the actors.

“The majority of employers and guests would be uncomfortable to have a stuffy butler hovering in the background, so we have to move with the times and make sure that the butlers we train are personable while remaining professional, but fit into the real world.”

What was the feedback from the trainee butlers about the course and what they learnt?

“The students found the course interesting and fun, and it gave their confidence a boost. A lot of the practical aspects are not new, other than the valeting which is almost always new to students.

Gilmerton House kitchen - cooking course.

“The wine day and cookery day are taught by external experts with my support, and are always a great addition to the week. Both days give students greater confidence in these areas which can be a bit tricky. It’s all about laying a very solid foundation which can be built on over time, so that’s what we do.

“The course throws up a huge number of weird and wonderful questions which is very much the point. It is only through working our way through the everyday duties of a butler that we get to explore the role in greater depth.

“For the Gilmerton House events team, the butler course enhances the already high service provision, and re-emphasises how important it is that customer service has to be flexible and adaptable.”

What’s the essence of The Royal School of Butlers ethos?

“The Royal School of Butlers is the only course taught by a former royal butler, so students can lay a table or tray, or unpack a suitcase with absolute certainty that if anyone questioned it that they are doing it in exactly the same manner as a butler in Buckingham Palace would do it, and that’s pretty unique!

“Not one minute of the course is wasted, even lunchtimes are spent discussing the role of butler, as students are always full of questions. Some other courses will add experiences which don’t really add value, but do add to the cost of the course. Our course is short, sweet and to the point, giving aspiring butlers exactly the same basic training they will need in order to apply for a position in a private house.

“Holding the courses at Borthwick Castle and Gilmerton House gives the student an unparalleled opportunity to work in real environments, and ones which are out of this world!”

How would you describe Gilmerton House and its ambience?

“Both Vikki and I love Gilmerton House for a number of reasons. From a practical point of view, it worked very well for the course as it is far closer to a real house where a butler would be employed than a commercial venue.

“This was a great environment to work in as the students experienced that fine line between being in a very elegant house which is simultaneously a relaxing place to be in.

“Gilmerton House provides a great setting for teaching students how to cast a practised eye over each room as we walked through it to ensure everything is perfect.

“Lynn, the housekeeper, led us through this process so that we could learn first hand from her about the exceptional standards that already exist at Gilmerton House.”

You can find more information on House Parties at Gilmerton House here.

Posted in: Gilmerton News