Maximizing the Relationship Between the Hotel Concierge and the General Manager
By Leigh Anne Dolecki, President, The Northern California Concierge Association
In my first article for Hotelexecutive.com "Effectively Understanding the Role of the Hotel Concierge" we explored the history and value of the hotel concierge. Now we discuss the relationship between the General Manager and the hotel concierge. Are you maximizing the value of your concierge team?
I believe it's safe to say that most of today's travelers are much more "travel-savvy" than ever before. They surf the internet for the best deals, the best amenities, and they are very loyal to their favorite brand or property. Are you putting your concierge team at the forefront of your best amenities and services? Is your concierge team fully prepared to surpass the expectations of even the most discerning guest?
Every experienced concierge can tell you about the many guests who choose your property because of your concierge. We all have notes from guests who:
- Return regularly because they depend upon the great concierge service.
- Stay with you on the recommendation of their friends and colleagues, who were wowed by your concierge team.
- Met the concierge on a site inspection and was impressed by the added value of the concierge to their future event.
- Stopped by to visit your property and met the concierge, who showed them around, and "wowed" them with hospitality. Would you believe that there are guests who make their choice of where to stay after making a round of phone calls to concierge desks, evaluating their performance or potential performance? Please believe it. Guests will not hesitate to tell you that they chose your property because your concierge was the first to respond to their call, and/or seemed the most capable.
Are you maximizing the potential of your concierge team to bring in new and returning guests? Does your concierge team have the confidence and support to reach out to current and potential guests? Let's examine some key aspects of the relationship between the hotel concierge and the General Manager.
Understanding the respective roles of the General Manager and the Hotel Concierge
Obviously, the General Manager and the hotel concierge share the objective of providing service and bringing in new and returning guests; however, their points of view are quite different. The General Manager oversees the "big picture" of operations while the hotel concierge is dedicated to the "momentary snapshot", administering to the immediate needs of the guests. The space between the "big picture" and the "momentary snapshot" not only defines the relationship between the GM and the concierge, it shapes the level of service provided by your concierge team. The key to keeping that "space" to a minimum is in understanding; the concierge must truly understand the GM's point of view of the "big picture," and the GM must truly understand the concierge's point of view of always being "in the moment." How can we gain (and maintain) that understanding? Most concierges and GMs respond to this question with the same answers: communication, education, trust, support, respect and discretion.
Communication: While most GMs and Hotel Concierges will agree that open and regular communication is of paramount importance, most will also agree that this is the most difficult to achieve. Both GMs and concierges are always extremely busy. Does your lead concierge participate in your morning stand-up meetings? Is the concierge an integral part of daily operations? Are you available to your concierge? Please remember that the concierge is the "eyes and ears" of the property, they are the first to notice or be informed when something needs attention, or a guest is having a difficult moment. Your concierge team is the direct connection between you and your guests. Does your team have routine opportunity or a forum to share information with you? This is especially difficult in larger properties. The communication does not have to be a schedule of meetings; it could be as simple as a daily logbook in the shared hard drive. This logbook can be an invaluable source to management, alerting the management team to routine challenges or unexpected glitches, setting in motion the wheels of resolution.
Education/Performance: A concierge team is only as good as their recommendations and capability in problem solving. Are your concierges members of their local trade association, and/or Les Clefs d'Or? The local concierge associations are dedicated to the training, mentoring, and educating of their members through a network of friendship. Les Clefs d'Or or the "Keys of Gold" is the national and international concierge association, dedicated to the same on a worldwide basis. The motto of Les Clefs d'Or is "In Service Through Friendship" and the concierges network intensely through their Congresses and newsletters. Guests around the world recognize the Les Clefs d'Or concierge by the golden keys on their lapels; when they see the keys they know that they are in expert hands. These networks provide access and opportunity for the concierge to answer even the most esoteric questions. Not every concierge can immediately answer questions such as "Who replaced the ailing soprano in last year's production of Turandot, where is she now and can you get me a ticket to see her?" "How much longer do we expect the Aspen ski resorts to stay open?" With a quick phone call to the opera buff colleague, or the colleague at one of the ski resorts, the guest is pleased and ready to make their plans to go to the opera, or on a ski weekend. Please be sure that the answers to such queries are followed with an offer to make arrangements which may include room nights at a sister property (where else?), or a Les Clefs d'Or property. You want your concierges to be part of this global network and you want to be on the receiving end of these relationships.
There are many ways that the concierge can, through education, provide added service to your guests. What are the strengths and weaknesses of your concierge team and are you addressing them? For example, let's say that you are in a city that features museums and art galleries; do you have at least one concierge who is well versed in the art world? A class or two in art appreciation would yield a very big "wow" factor for your art-loving guests. Perhaps one of your concierges is an avid sports, or wine buff, are you encouraging those concierges to share their knowledge and expertise with the team, increasing the team's knowledge to share with guests? Concierges are by nature "information junkies" and enjoy learning, let's face it, they love being an "expert" on anything. If the General Manager must understand and value the concierges' performance, the concierges must also understand the "big picture" value of their own performance and be willing to put in some extra time and effort. A little can go a very long way.
Are your concierges involved in the pre-arrival planning for your guests? Your guests will be surprised and impressed with an email from the concierge team introducing themselves and offering assistance prior to their arrival. Many hotels now feature their concierge on their website, what a lure for potential guests!
Are any of your concierges notary publics? A common request, notaries can be difficult to locate outside of the Monday thru Friday 9 to 5 schedule. How impressive it is to simply respond with, "Yes, we have a notary on staff..."
Do your concierges speak more than one language? If not, are you encouraging them to take classes? The advantage of the polyglot concierge team needs no explanation.
If the General Manager must understand and appreciate the value of the concierges' education, the concierges must likewise understand and appreciate the "big picture" value of education, and be willing to expand their world.
Trust, Support, Respect and Discretion
These words consistently appear in all of my informal polls on this topic, and are too interrelated to address separately. It's not uncommon for a concierge to jump through some hoops, or bend the rules a little in order to fulfill a guest request, especially a difficult one. The General Manager encourages his concierges to "think outside the box", and he trusts that even the most challenging request is fulfilled not only efficiently and effectively, but also ethically and legally. One concierge shared with me that his General Manager tells him with complete respect 'I do not want to know how you accomplished that, but thank you', and it's better left that way. The General Manager must have absolute trust in his concierge team on every level. Trust that they are solving problems creatively and efficiently, keeping up with the latest information, promoting their property, and continually providing the best in guest service. The concierge must have absolute trust in the support of their General Manager. It is incumbent upon the concierge to earn the absolute support of their General Manager.
The marketability of your concierge team is unlimited. Your concierge's network provides endless opportunities to create relationships and partnerships within your local community. Examples that come to mind are:
- The concierge who created the partnership between his property and the local fine arts museum, resulting in the hotel advertised as an "official sponsor" of the latest traveling exhibit, along with a guest package of room nights, tickets to the exhibit, and the opportunity of a private tour.
- The concierge who answered the call of the distressed bride who needed help with wedding plans. The concierge took charge and used her own network to provide the transportation, flowers and even ordered the cake. This "always-thinking" concierge created her own bridal package that is now offered to guests, resulting not only in increased revenue for the property, but a few impromptu marriages (and impromptu revenue) as well. These are just a few of the countless concierge networking opportunities that result in increased revenue. The aforementioned concierges had the confidence in their own position to take advantage of an opportunity and turn it into a marketable relationship for the hotel.
Maximizing the potential of your concierge team, encouraging their education, and establishing the necessary trust and support will result in opening not an avenue, but an entire horizon of providing the very best in guest service as well as marketability for your property. The successful relationship between the General Manager and the Hotel Concierge has no limit to bringing visibility and both new and return revenue to your property.
Leigh Anne Dolecki joined the hospitality industry after a 20 years in theatre production. Since becoming a concierge in 2000 she has served as vice president of the Northern California Concierge Association; at the end of 2007 she completed a two year term as president of the NCCA. She represented a membership of over 160 concierges. As president, Ms. Dolecki provided educational opportunities for members by planning meetings and events, as well as building relationships with service providers throughout northern California, keeping NCCA members on the forefront of guest services. Ms. Dolecki can be contacted at 415-955-5552 or firstname.lastname@example.org Extended Bio...
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