Your Concierge: An Undiscovered Powerful Marketing Tool

By Elaine Oksner Guest and Concierge Services Trainer, Hospitality Excellence, Inc. | November 30, 1999

Today's hospitality world presents a constant ebb and flow of sales and marketing challenges, especially with recent changes in the economy. With that in mind, there may be people on your hospitality team who present an undiscovered sales and marketing resource. Savvy hoteliers can make a strategic move in their overall sales strategy by harnessing the power of the concierge position. Before I tell you how and identify six ways to maximize this often underused resource, let me explain why this strategy will work.

I remember, and perhaps you do as well, when the term "concierge" was not a regular part of our vocabulary. If you traveled to Europe, of course, you discovered concierges in most hotels. They were the gentlemen in uniforms, often with gold crossed keys on their lapels, who, once you had checked in, were in charge of your visit. They collected your key when you left the property and gave it back to you when you returned. These ubiquitous fellows made sure you got your messages and packages, gave you directions, recommended restaurants and entertainment, and assisted with future travel needs. They could help with emergency medical and dental needs, arrange tours, babysitters, and just about anything else you can think of.

As Americans traveled more abroad and interacted with these service professionals, they realized they would like to be just as pampered on their home turf. And, as luxury properties were expanding their market in the United States, many European-trained hoteliers were hired and were coaxing their European concierges to cross the ocean and set the standard for service here. In no time at all, home grown men and, yes, eventually women, too, were being trained as concierges to assist the well heeled travelers here with their every wish. Today's concierges are in hotels and resorts all over the world and are an international mix of men and women who put their own stamp on the job. They bring their individual charm and personal style as well as a wealth of knowledge and an address book full of key contacts into play to serve the most demanding hotel guests.

During the past several decades, the public has seen, through first-hand interaction, as well as stories in the media and even characters in movies, that the epitome of customer service is represented by hotel and resort concierges. If you see a picture of a concierge with the gold crossed keys of Les Clef d'Or, the prestigious international concierge association, don't you automatically think that this person can handle anything that comes up? That is their job and their reputation, and it is well earned.

Now the term "concierge", because of the reputation of these service pros, has been somewhat hijacked and used in every possible venue. There is a "concierge" at the movie theater, the car dealership, the office building, the department store and most new condominiums. The good news is that the term is being used so much that everyone now knows its meaning has something important to do with customer service.

Even some hotel chains are appropriating the term for specialized segments of their market to entice their guests. Perhaps you have "ski concierges" or "tea concierges" or even "bath concierges" at your property? The terms would mean nothing without the years of hard work of the pioneering lobby concierges who built the outstanding reputations. "Concierge" - that key word - evokes a mental word association with terms like "luxury", "excellent customer service", and even "miracle-worker".

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Coming up in June 2019...

Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.