The Hotel Concierge: Effective Technology You Should be Using

By Leigh Anne Dolecki President, The Northern California Concierge Association | November 30, 1999

Let's take a moment to review what is available to us; the effective technology that we should be using, and how to use it to our best advantage. As we avail ourselves of these technologies we must always remember the importance of personalized service. The biggest advantage of this "new world" is that it affords us more opportunity to engage with our guests, and provide them an even higher level of service.

Internet

The concierge now has the entire world of information at his/ her fingertips and is always prepared to fulfill a guest request within seconds thanks to the advancement of browsers, search engines and web design. The virtual world is constantly expanding, and it seems that every day we find new "avenues" for helping our guests. It certainly behooves the concierge to master the art of the key word and website navigation as well as organizing the desktop with favorites, shortcuts and folders for the most expedient service. Even a simple "gadget" or "widget" on the desk top can improve our service enormously. The concierge can immediately provide information on weather, traffic and transit information in real time down to minute detail. For some cities with many restaurants, it is no longer necessary to keep those wrist-breaking binders full of menus that are so challenging if not impossible to keep current. The concierge can print out menus on an as-needed basis from restaurant websites, or for many cities, there are websites with menus of nearly every restaurant in the city. The concierge may go online to purchase tickets for travel, shows or events throughout the entire world like never before. We have new websites that provide photographic images of entire cities or areas that help the concierge provide details of a destination, even the inside of hotels and restaurants. What an advantage to be able to tell our guest that "...you'll see the ice cream store on your right hand side, the restaurant is just beyond it..." or "walk past the grandfather clock and take the hallway to the left, the lovely new caf'e is just down that hall..." It still seems like magic to provide so much information so instantaneously.

Concierge Software

Most concierge desks use the highly sophisticated software programs designed and developed specifically for the concierge. The programs are customized to every individual property/user team and interface with websites that provide driving directions and reservation confirmations that are printed out on hotel stationery. The scope of these programs is mind-boggling. Every task is recorded, along with the details and status. Confirmations can be emailed directly from the program, and guest preferences are recorded and archived for future reference. These programs include their own data base and can include forms that allow a concierge to input information, and downloaded it directly onto a form that is company-specific, such as a car rental agency, or florist. Let's use the example of renting a car. In many cities this can be a protracted process of gathering all of the vital information: drivers' license numbers, billing address, credit information, insurance information etc. Using their software program that is configured to match the rental company's order form, the concierge can quickly input all of the information while conversing with the guest; and with one click all information is downloaded onto the form of the rental agency. The form is then printed and faxed or emailed directly to the agency. The chance of errors of omission is greatly reduced as the concierge tabs from field to field. We also completely eliminate the errors of rushed handwriting. Our efficiency and accuracy are increased, and the concierge remains engaged with his/her guest. These programs can link the entire hotel by including Guest Shipping and Receiving, Restaurant Reservations, Lost and Found, Lent Items, and in house amenities.

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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.