Hotels start to serve their wired guests.

Andrew Cohen
May 28, 2009

Several months ago, the Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur, introduced a "techno-butler" to help guests get their E-mail, configure their laptops, and access the Internet. The idea seems to have caught on. The Ritz-Carlton, Chicago (which, despite its name, is run by the Ritz-Carlton's archrival, the Four Seasons), recently debuted a "compcierge" service. Here's how they compare.

Name and ageHansan Lim, 25Joe Tesfai, 39
HotelRitz-Carlton, Kuala LumpurRitz-Carlton, Chicago
BirthplaceJohor, MalaysiaAsmara, Eritrea
QualificationsBachelor's degree from Hawaii Pacific University; a year in customer service at the Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco; assembled problem-solving manual for the Kuala Lumpur hotel.Computer science degree from the University of the District of Columbia; designed a 160-user network at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai; manages the 120-user network in Chicago.
Typical advice"You have to push the ON button, sir.""You need to double-click faster, sir."
Heroic rescue"Many Americans have America Online, but Malaysia doesn't. This is a challenge. I've learned I can access AOL's Web site from the hotel account and give guests a special program to check their email.""Before a big presentation, the C drive on a guest's Dell laptop died. I had the office email me the presentation, and I put it on my laptop for him to use. I had Dell FedEx me a new hard drive, which I installed the next morning."
Gratuities"So far, I haven't been tipped. Malaysia's not a tipping culture. I don't mind. I don't see myself as a computer genius. I'm just helping guests with simple office appliances.""People are quite generous. I always explain that tips are unnecessary, that the service is free. But guests can't believe it. Some try to get me to come to their houses."
High-tech ambitionTo watch the internet industry continue its expansion in Malaysia: "When I came back after being in the States, I was so surprised to see my five-year-old cousin playing video games on the Net."To prepare the Ritz-Carlton for the millennium bug: "We will have spent $600,000 by year's end. It will be a moot point if there's no electricity. We have an in-house generator, and we've stockpiled barrels and barrels of diesel."
If you could ask the competition one question, what would it be?"If technology butlers caught on in the States, they'd get pretty good tips, right?""What kind of training do you need to be a technology...butler?"

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