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 April 2019...

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.