Why Concierges Are Essential to the Guest Experience
By Johan Creytens Owner & General Manager, Hotel Heritage, a Relais & Chateaux Property | December 08, 2013
It is interesting to observe how the role of the concierge has evolved over the centuries. Particularly in Europe, concierge means "keeper of the keys," referring to someone who was the caretaker of a small inn, usually living on the premises. Over time, the role of the concierge transitioned into the hotel employee whose occupation is to assist guests with special requests, anything from directions, to dinner reservations, airport transfers and tickets to concerts among other things.
The hospitality industry is, of course, ever evolving and adapting to continuous changes, especially in the world of online media. With smartphones at the hand of each guest, the question is often posed: "Do we really need a concierge in our hotels anymore?"
While for some this might be a "yes or no" answer, the truth is much more complex when it comes down to service, especially in hotels that value high standards and personalization. And while your smartphone can talk to you and make suggestions based on location and online reviews of restaurants, for instance, it cannot read your body language or ask you the right questions (at least not yet!). In some hotels, efficiently loaded information tablets are gradually replacing quite capable concierges at the front desk to save on time and money. But, is this the right approach into the future?
Concierges are essential when you are looking to plan a special stay or a memorable evening. A tablet cannot get you into a restaurant where there is a three-month wait list, can it? But, a person – the concierge – is much more likely to find you reservations, get last minute concert tickets, access to VIP lounges, and is generally far more capable meet extremely unique requests. There is power is human connections, and the best concierges have established long term relationships with the right people for the right clientele. It's a dance they have mastered well and the price doesn't come cheap, but the experience is most certainly something to boast about – to others – on social media and online reviews.
Generally speaking, it is much more likely that you will find the best hotel concierges in top rated hotels, whether independently managed or not. Chances are the room rate at those hotels is quite high and the guest service expectations are also very high. But, personalization does come with a price, even in the world of instant blogging and immediate gratification on social media. You can replace some things with smartphones and tablets, such as directions and top historic tourist attractions, but finding a private tour last minute, or securing that special dinner on the last night before your departure is something that the professional concierge knows how to do well. Perhaps that is what might make your stay that more favorable – making you a repeat guest.
The role of the concierge includes additional responsibilities within the hotel that really can make or break the hotel's overall standard for guest service. The concierge should exemplify the standards of service, impress upon other staff members on taking the steps to ensuring a fulfilling and memorable guest experience. With that in mind, concierges are often times called upon training sessions and employee orientations in hotels in order to understand how they make their magic! Experienced concierges have an array of stories to lend from in order to showcase examples of how they fulfilled the seemingly impossible guest request, or how they took a poor guest experience and made it magnificent. Sometimes, concierges are referred to as artists; they are indeed masters of communication, understand body language and generally know how to establish rapport with guests early upon their arrival (and at times, even prior to arrival).
Anticipation of the guest's needs is absolutely essential to this profession and concierges should interact with the other staff to help them hone some of these skills. Also, inter-department communication is necessary in order for the concierge to better service the guest.
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