Effectively Understanding the Role of the Hotel Concierge

By Leigh Anne Dolecki President, The Northern California Concierge Association | October 28, 2008

What exactly is "the hotel concierge"?

In today's marketing world, the word "concierge" seems fairly ubiquitous. We seem to have many concierges, such as the "bank concierge", who is a bank staff member assigned to direct customers into the teller lines, to keep the lines moving efficiently. We also have the Auto Service Agency Concierge, whose main responsibility is to make sure that their customers have transportation to and from the agency while their car is being serviced. Department stores have concierges; staff members well versed in the store inventory who guide their customers to the correct line of clothing or goods to suit their needs or desires. Some of these concierges also provide general information, along with any advice and/or recommendations to their customers.

The word concierge actually dates back to mid 17th century Europe, when hosts, usually of a lavish property or castle, provided a servant whose primary responsibility was attending to the comfort of their traveling guests. This servant eventually catered to the every whim and wish of visiting nobles; they held a very important position in the household, and often kept the household keys. We can be sure that this "household" key ring included those to the more "limited access" areas, such as the pantry, wine cellar, and brandy hold, and that he would use those keys at his own discretion on behalf of his guests. He became the "go to person" of the castle.

Eventually hotel concierges began to appear in the finest hotels of Switzerland and France, expanding on the value of the "guest service" begun in those royal households. It wasn't until the mid 1970s that American hotels began to add the position of concierge to their staff, providing their guests with the impeccable guest service that they have come to enjoy in Europe.

Today, as in the Middle Ages, it is the concierge who sets the standard for guest service. The hotel concierge is the hotel ambassador, the very face of the hotel; the person uniquely qualified to provide your guests with personal service and special attention that shape the guest's overall experience. From the everyday requests such as directions, and local restaurant recommendations and reservations, to the more involved requests such as a romantic marriage proposal, or the return of the left-behind laptop; the private catered yacht or even the immediate need for a mariachi band, the concierge is the person to whom guests turn for advice and assistance. The concierge is the hotel's "go to person", and his household key ring has been replaced with a "little black book", a blackberry or an iphone. The concierge's currency is information and relationships. His handheld contains a vast database of information and connections: the cell phone numbers of maitre d's and store managers, the inside and after-hours phone lines to local service providers, as well as his network of connections, built over the years, that include his concierge colleagues from the local associations and the worldwide association, Les Clefs d'Or (the keys of gold). You may identify the members of Les Clefs d'Or by the golden keys that adorn their lapels. Those keys represent the highest standards of networking and service.

That explains what the hotel concierge is, but what about who the hotel concierge is?

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