Tips on Combining Technology and Hospitality to Increase the Bottom Line
By Holly Stiel President, Thank You Very Much Inc. | August 14, 2010
I have heard it said that necessity is the mother of invention and that desperate times require desperate measures. These old adages are certainly playing themselves out through the big changes in concierge services that are happening in Las Vegas. Who would ever have thought that the heart and soul of a concierge's job and the wizardry and effectiveness of technology would culminate in a partnership that generates millions of dollars of revenue while serving customers efficiently? It's what's happening in Las Vegas and what's happening in Las Vegas should not stay in Las Vegas.
While it was the sheer volume of guest requests for concierge services at these mega-hotels that instigated the necessity for change, the bottom line is that they created a model that can be applied to dramatically increase revenue for hotels around the world no matter their size. For hotels on the Vegas Strip, there was simply no possible way that a traditional concierge desk with a few people on the front line would ever be able to keep up with the constant demands via email and website reservation requests, let alone calls and requests from guests on the property.
It took visionary thinking to maximize the use of space and talents of the staff. As a case study, I'd like to introduce you to one such visionary leader among Las Vegas concierges. Jeanne Mills, concierge at The MGM Grand has been in and around Las Vegas hospitality since she was a small child. It is safe to say that a Las Vegas hotel lobby is literally in her blood. As the daughter of the former Bell Captain from the old Dunes Hotel, Jeanne literally grew up with a passion for hotels, guest service and the unique scene that makes up Las Vegas. So, it comes as no surprise that this first recipient of The Liberace College Scholarship Fund would be the same person to envision the concierge in a new way. In a nutshell, here is what she does.
Managing a staff of 56 concierges, and with the help of technology, Jeanne runs a full front and back-of-the-house concierge staff. There are nine stations in the front and nine in the back, presently being expanded to 18 back of the house stations. All phone calls and emails are answered in the back office. Shifts are rotated so both the rewards and stresses of each position are shared. This alleviates the usual problems and subsequent costs of burnout, turnover, carpel tunnel syndrome, sore feet, sick time, and emotional stress, while providing excellent guest service in the process.
Because most everything can now be accomplished electronically, Jeanne has changed the way the job is actually performed. In the old, antiquated days where a telephone, a personal relationship and four steps were required for each transaction -- a guest would make a request, the concierge would write it down or put it in the computer, contact the restaurant, car company, spa, etc., make the reservation, then check to make sure that message was delivered to the guest or have the guest come back to check on it. With computer systems, all of those arrangements can be made in real time. No call is required, the guest has an instantaneous answer, and confirmation form and no checking back is required, thus eliminating two steps for the concierge and one for the guest. This has been working for restaurants on line through the use of Open Table software for quite some time. Jeanne, however, has taken the idea to new levels. She has combined sales and service absolutely seamlessly. Since every outlet at the MGM and Mirage properties have a reservation system, Jeanne and her staff toggle between twelve different screens. If a guest wants to book a spa service, Jeanne goes directly into the spa reservation system, books it and confirms it. If the guest had called the spa directly, the interaction would have stopped there, but not with this new way of combing sales and service through a professional concierge team. Because Jeanne's staff is trained in all systems and has the mindset of a concierge, they begin to work their magic. Jeanne calls it the cross-sell and the up-sell.
They continue talking with the guest and asking questions instead of just answering them. "Are you interested in going to a show? (Pause for the answer). May I tell you about our shows?" She then books the tickets on the spot. Next the concierge will inquire about their dining plans, asking probing questions -- to match the guest's vision with one of the many fabulous restaurant venues in the MGM/ Mirage family. So now, a spa appointment has become show tickets, dinner and perhaps an airport pick-up. There are also possibilities for booking tours, room service deliveries, club passes, etc.