Today’s Concierge – A Role Model of Service Excellence and Profitability

Concierge… the word appears almost everywhere these days as the ultimate symbol of personal service. No longer only the domain of the hotel lobby, the word “concierge” is appearing across all industries as an individual, whole departments and even virtual functions. When “googling” in the word “concierge” for an internet search, almost four and a half million choices appear. This is more than double the two million results of the same search done last year. The profession is hot and the demand is extraordinary.

Consumers and guests are driving these increasing numbers with a frenzied desire for more personal service. At the same time, organizations are scrambling to convince a skeptical public that the personal touch still exists. They plug in the word “concierge”
with hopes that the public will symbolically appreciate the effort yet many simply use the word or hire an individual without the essence and skills of the professional concierge. The ability to truly deliver exceptional service does not automatically appear by simply adding the word concierge. Organizations that hire properly trained, professional concierges will see significant impact to the bottom line and guest/customer satisfactions levels will soar.

Hotels and hospitality organizations have long been noted as the original venues of this profession yet even those environments are seeing tremendous change and with vision, opportunity in this multi-dimensional role and profession. Today’s concierge plays an increasingly strategic role in the overall guest experience. As the ambassador and key focal point for all types of questions and answers, a professional concierge can make the mundane seem special and the out-of-the-ordinary seem simple. But how does that translate to dollars.and business? Do general managers, senior executives and even the concierges themselves really understand the value of this role and the multiple contributions the concierge makes to the bottom line?

Guests are not only affected by the courtesy and resourcefulness of the concierge, but by the intangible qualities that shape perceptions of the property or organization they represent. Through their role, they have the opportunity to impact repeat business, referral business, extended stays and additional income.

Every time a request is made, entered into a log book or computer or a phone call is answered, that concierge is documenting valuable data which contributes in some way to the business of that environment. A good concierge can let any manager and even vendors know about changing guest demands and help train fellow employees. Professional concierges provide one-stop shopping where guests can have multiple needs and interests addressed.

Many concierges serve as an extension of the general manager or senior executives, whether the concierge and their management know it or not. They both have the same need for the hotel/organization to operate efficiently as a unit. Both must build business for all departments, not just their own. Many managers do not have enough time to interact with guests at the level they desire. Whether by accident or on purpose, management’s highly interactive guest role is often delegated to the concierge. Many concierges today are charged with overseeing lobby staff, managing the service levels of frontline guest interaction and are regularly scheduled for management duties. General Managers and executives in other organizations who employ a concierge should take a closer look at extending that role and recognizing the substantial business opportunity with a truly professional concierge.

And while publicity about the concierge profession tends to focus on the “unusual requests” a concierge might receive, gratuities, both deserved and “under the table” or even news items about the demands of hot tempered celebrities, there is little that focuses on the business side of this profession and the service excellence of a skilled concierge.

Take a look at just some of the tasks and responsibilities a concierge might handle, which go well beyond making dinner reservations. Consider the fact that today our guests have thousands of lodging, dining, restaurant, entertainment and meeting options. Hundreds of transportation sources to get guests to and from destinations. Multiple choices for day and night activities. Unique requests for major business and leisure needs. The concierge directly influences many of those decisions.

Do management teams, including marketing and financial executives know how many rental cars the concierge arranged and by which companies? How many itineraries were set up, both business and pleasure? Do they know how many and what types of dining choices guests have, how many reservations are made on property and where they like to go when they do go off property? How many theatre or other event tickets have been reserved and are there any leisure time patterns/trends emerging? How many new or extra services have been uncovered to meet guest needs? Are there some common tour/activity interests around which packages or other business boosters could be developed? What percentage of time is allocated to business services, amenities or room service? How often is the concierge coordinating requests for repairs or operational issues to keep guest tempers in check (like Russell Crowe!)? How many times have guests asked for help in checking out, or staying longer, or arranging their next visit? Repeat business, referral business, extended stays, additional income-PROFITABILITY!!!

How many concierges have developed/negotiated new vendor relationships which add up to greater leverage for better rates to better serve guests? How many concierges are the first points of contact for prospective investors? What role does/should the concierge play with loyal and returning guests? Some concierges work with Tourism officials or CVB staff which not only builds business for the hotel but for a destination. In fact, Elaine Oksner, a former President of Les Clefs D’Or, USA, the international association of top concierges, was one of the delegates selected to attend the first White House Conference on Travel and Tourism, by none other than President Clinton. He and other top Washington officials valued concierge input for developing a national tourism strategy. Hotels should value the same.

How many concierges have assisted guests and meeting planners with party planning ideas or assistance with corporate meetings or other business events which represent future business? A concierge must be technologically savvy to keep up with the multitude of information sources which help them service their guests. And, since the concierge is often one of the most connected persons in town, many concierges assist fellow employees as well as guests with their requests. This results in saved time and in turn, more productivity for that employee while on the job. What is that worth in employee retention, satisfaction and human resource dollars?

Many human resource professionals are discovering the value of the concierge role as a cost effective way to attract, train and retain valuable employees. The concierge can be the utility player who models service excellence, cutting across all departments. And, don’t underestimate the value of a concierge as another benefit to help decrease employee stress. Some hotels and organizations use the concierge to help welcome and orient new front-line employees. They recognize that investing time in showing new employees how to energetically provide good service and memorable guest experiences can help hotel/business managers avoid the consequences.and costs.of guest or employee dissatisfaction. The concierge can become that catalyst and in turn, the role model.for the seamless delivery of service.

The key is to hire professional concierges who are trained in service excellence and have the credentials to handle all of the above. Les Clefs d’Or, the only international association of professional hotel concierges, awards the prestigious keys of gold to concierges who have fulfilled a five year commitment to the hospitality industry including three years to the concierge profession. Les Clefs d’Or concierges strive to deliver the ultimate guest experiences in quality service and uphold the highest professional and ethical standards of the concierge profession. The National Concierge Association grants memberships to concierge professionals whose principal occupational responsibility is to complete or facilitate any request that is legal, ethical and appropriate. Others who have received or pursued concierge specific training and who understand guest experience management are also worthy candidates.

Another key facet of a truly effective concierge is the ability to network and make things happen. A good concierge has or can build a powerfully effective rolodex and network. Seasoned concierges can call on resources from around the world to ensure guest expectations are not only met, but exceeded. Look for a concierge who understands the importance of developing and nurturing relationships, not just contacts.

Recognize that a professional concierge, who has all of these ingredients, should be recognized and compensated for the integral guest service and bottom line contribution that they make. Tie them in to the profitability they generate. Understand that their role has escalating significance and should be reflected on the pay scale. You get and your guests get what you pay for. Don’t depend on the fickle generosity of guest gratuities to motivate a seasoned pro. While they make it look easy and even fun, a concierge’s job is challenging and their unique skill sets are in demand. Hold them to a standard and compensate them for it.

Entrepreneur Magazine noted concierge services as the hottest business idea of 1999. Now, almost six years later, concierges are in real estate, brokerage firms, automobile dealerships, healthcare, law firms, funeral homes, consulting groups, airports, beauty care, call centers, technology, transportation and the list goes on and on. Corporate concierge programs are doing thousands, and in some case, millions of dollars in sales. One innovative former Les Clefs d’Or credentialed concierge in Naples, Florida branched out to form a unique concierge services firm. TeCroney Concierge Services offers everything from a rental concierge, virtual concierge, notary on the go and even timeshare representation, all with the standards of service guests/customers expect from a concierge. As his company’s track record develops, franchising may be in his future. He started as a hotel concierge and is now a successful entrepreneur. Major companies like American Express and Conde Nast Traveler all have extensive concierge functions to better service the prestigious clientele they serve. Many concierges are being lured away from the hotel environment as they respond to industry and consumer demand for service role models.

Here are six points to consider in evaluating and grading your property on the potential for service excellence and profitability in existing or desired concierge roles:

  • Create/manage a concierge department or function with the right foundation and expectations. Understand and try to track the profitability impact of this role.
  • Recruit qualified, well-trained personnel. Look for those with concierge training or experience. Do not dilute or shortcut the concierge role with other personnel. An effective concierge is one professionally trained and permanently assigned to be a concierge.
  • Make sure internal standards delineate lines of authority and empower the concierge to be a utility player and effective resource for both employees and guests.
  • Recognize market demand and compensate for effective performance and bottom line contributions.
  • Create an environment for success. Ensure the proper support and tools are in place for effective delivery of concierge services.
  • Involve the concierge in documenting and analyzing the guest information they collect for additional market, guest service and business opportunities.

Recognize today’s concierge phenomenon as indicative of guest/consumer expectations and key in to the professional service excellence role models for greater guest experience success.