What Makes a Concierge Department Great?

By Sam Wilhelm Chef Concierge, Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea | December 15, 2013

"What is your hotel doing to support and modernize your concierge department to stay ahead of the competition?"

This intriguing topic, posed by HotelExecutive.com's editors, hit home because I had just been re-reading the story of Isadore Sharp, our Four Seasons founder and chairman, whose business acumen and personal insights are legendary. Sharp built a company and a culture based, essentially, on the golden rule. He says it this way: "The reason for our success is no secret. It comes down to one single principle that transcends time and geography, religion and culture. It's the Golden Rule – the simple idea that if you treat people well, the way you would like to be treated, they will do the same."

Thinking about this principle got me asking myself: What separates a good resort concierge program from a great one? To me, it is providing guests with a level of service and personalized and customized itineraries that exceed guest expectations and industry standards. The golden rule comes into play in everything we do when dealing with guests and colleagues alike. We all want to be "looked after." We all want to have the best possible experience when we travel. As concierges, we intuitively know the importance of making a connection with our guests and with everyone with whom we come in contact. Our job-done right-has a big impact on the guest stay, particularly since expectations are high.

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Yet, within the hospitality industry, particularly here in Hawaii, there has been a growing trend toward outsourcing the concierge department. A primary factor for hotels is looking for ways to cut costs and build revenue. Are these business decisions short sighted? I think so. Fortunately, my employer, Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea, has not only bucked the outsourcing trend but has allowed my department to grow and has placed major emphasis on our completely in-house services. The philosophy is simple: the concierge program is at the heart of our Resort's operations. We believe that for our well-traveled guests, our concierge service should be considered priceless and indispensable.

Concierges must have both the guest's and the hotel's interest at heart. The job of the concierge is to provide guests with information and the best experiences, whether it involves one or more components that cost money or not. An outsourced desk may have different priorities and, in the end, they are in business to make a profit. The concierge department's role is not to make a profit. Rather, it is set up to be a critical service to enhance the guest stay. Revenue generation is not the goal.

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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.