Building a Concierge Program for Life

By Tom LaTour Principal, LaTour Signature Group | November 27, 2009

It is here that resort properties can move beyond merely "satisfied" customers to creating loyal ones for life. This bonded relationship is crucial in these tough economic times when there are fewer dollars to expend and each penny spent is closely scrutinized - even for those guests who are sitting in the lap of luxury.

Evolution of the Concierge

What exactly is a concierge? Depends who you ask. In my book, the concierge is the hotel employee with acute insight, improvisational action, personal responsibility and abundant optimism who is entrusted with all the specialized needs of the guest.

But for those who've been in that position or utilized their services, the concierge can be described as part magician for making the impossible appear with the slight of hand; part pit bull for having the tenacious intensity to dig their teeth in and not let go until the job is done; and, part miracle worker often elevated to near sainthood for pulling off feats of near biblical proportions.

The word concierge evolves from the French comte Des cierges, the "keeper of the candler," a term that referred to the servant who attended to the whims of visiting noblemen at medieval castles. Eventually, the name concierge came to stand for keeper of the keys at public buildings, especially hotels. There is even a famous prison in Paris called The Conciergerie, in honor of the warden who kept the keys and assigned cells to the inmates.

In another international twist of the definition, a client from Mexico tells me that in his country, the word concierge means janitor.

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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.