Inn-Sourced Versus Out-Sourced Concierges
By Harald Mootz Director of Concierge Relations, Les Clefs d'Or USA | December 16, 2012
In recent years some hotels have chosen to outsource their Concierge services. New York and Hawaii have been amongst the most affected, with other cities to follow. Employees of these out-sourced desks wear hotel uniforms and often mislead guests to believe they are employed by the hotel and there to provide unbiased recommendations. In fact, employees of these desks are often required to steer guests toward venues that pay high commissions. These commissions must cover the cost of the rental space, payroll and administrative expenses as well as provide sufficient profit to the out-sourced company. While rental revenue provides short-term earnings, outsourcing Concierge services may have serious consequences in the hotel's long-term revenue goals.
On a recently aired, nationally syndicated, morning news program, an editor of a well-known periodical suggested that hotel guests are best advised to seek recommendations from Front Desk staff or Bellmen, instead of the Concierge, as they are "locals." She qualified this recommendation by implying that Concierges customarily receive kickbacks for referrals made to venues popular with tourists. We wonder if she has been staying at hotels that outsource their Concierge desks. Professional hotel Concierges do not guide guests toward unsuitable venues for their own gain. They take pride in delighting guests with recommendations that best suit their tastes.
Hotels that are committed to providing their guests with exceptional service do not outsource their Concierge desks. They recognize the value of return guests and see the professional Concierge as an integral part of their revenue strategy. Revered as the "go-to" person in most luxury hotel lobbies, Concierges are the eyes and ears of the lobby and are the most actively sought out department by guests. No other hotel employee is better able to provide tailored guest recommendations.
The term Concierge originated in the Middle Ages, from the Latin derivative conservus, which is literally translated as "fellow slave." Early Concierges were known as "keepers of the keys and keepers of the candles." These trusted servants welcomed visiting nobility to the castles of Europe. A well-respected service position, Concierges would go to great lengths to ensure the security, comfort and pleasure of their guests.
As time passed, many European castles became hotels and the tradition of having a trusted staff member to provide guest services, of all types, continued. Frequently charged with making guests' onward travel plans, these Concierges recognized the value of networking with colleagues to ensure pleasant travels and a warm welcome at their next destination.
As the Concierge position evolved and travelers became more savvy, hotel Concierges became more specialized. Seasoned Concierges gained the reputation of being local experts on history, attractions, entertainment, dining, and the arts. In 1951, a group of these Concierges, from nine European nations met and created an association named Les Clefs d'Or (translated as 'the keys of gold'). They designated themselves by wearing crossed golden keys on the lapels of their uniforms.