To be a concierge is to be the “keeper of the keys.” The responsibility of holding the “keys” of an establishment involves gaining the expertise, experience, and connections to promptly and consistently provide guests with only the best recommendations and world-class service at any time, day or night.
Engaging in business with concierges involves a lot of propriety, effort, and communication on a new level, so ornate brochures and business cards won’t be enough to convince them.
Having a clean, updated fleet with smart-suited drivers is important, but impressing concierges requires much more.
LCT recently talked with service industry professionals about what they look for in a top-notch limousine transportation provider and we assembled these 10 tips for making a connection with a concierge.
1. Go the extra mile to get your foot in the door.
Instead of making an unscheduled sales call, speak with the leader of the concierge team. Regena Falling, president of the national association of professional hotel concierges, Les Clefs d’Or, recommends scheduling an appointment with the Chef Concierge. Providing a telephone number or email address that will always be answered at any time of any day is also essential, says Dave Elcon, director of guest services at Loews Coronado Bay Resort and Spa in San Diego, Calif. “Nothing can substitute making a relationship with the actual concierge and the actual property.”
Having a meeting is only the first step, as concierges will only recommend services if they have had a positive experience with the service firsthand.
With that in mind, promotional excursions are good ways to create brand awareness, says Michael Beninate, concierge at the InterContinental in New Orleans, La., and a member of Les Clefs d’Or. Sponsoring a concierge night, management meeting, or team building event can result in much future business.
Once a contract is secured, companies should visit the property and personally thank the staff for their continued business, says Debra Rosenberg Matsumoto, director of sales and marketing at Le Merigot Hotel in Santa Monica, Calif. “Extend special offers or concessions in return for their continued support.”
2: Join a local concierge association.
Becoming an affiliated member in a local concierge association will not only increase brand presence in the area but also provide invaluable opportunities to network.
“Sponsor a chapter meeting and have the concierge come out and sit in and look at the fleet of cars,” says Sara-ann Kasner, owner and founder of the National Concierge Association. Members can familiarize themselves with the drivers and network with company management.
“Being part of an association would definitely be an added benefit for companies trying to engage in business,” Elcon says. Participating in concierge trade shows or summit meetings in the area are also important opportunities for operators looking to expand beyond their communities.
Concierges that attend these events are trying to stay abreast of new, first-rate services that they can recommend to their guests, says Jeanne Mills, vice president of Les Clefs d’Or and Chef Concierge at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
3: Keep communication flowing
Maintaining a relationship with the concierge and management team is central to keeping their business.
“Schedule regular meetings between the owners and managers of your transportation company with the Chef Concierge and discuss guest trends and feedback,” Mills says. Choosing a good representative to be the face of the company is also beneficial, Beninate says.
Newsletters that mention special promotions, rate discounts, or new additions to the fleet are also simple and effective tools for keeping concierges informed. In addition, Rosenberg-Matsumoto recommends following up with sales visits and offering to provide commissions, upgrades, or courtesies as needed for VIPs and special groups.
A friendly and articulate reservations staff that provides a quick turn-around for confirmations are also greatly appreciated, says Kim Lowthers, director of sales and marketing at the InterContinental Buckhead Atlanta.
4: Anticipate client needs
Guests can arrive at any time, day or night, so operators should be available 24/7 and carry a diverse selection of vehicles, Elcon says.
“The company we currently work with will have four, five, or six vehicles waiting for us, just in anticipation of the business. They’re able to do that because we talk, and they ask, and they try to anticipate what we need and what our guests need.”
Offering a diverse group of knowledgeable, multi-lingual male and female chauffeurs is also a worthwhile investment, Mills says. If a guest is not as used to traveling as other more experienced guests, going above and beyond to care for them can really impress concierges, Kasner says.
5: Be flexible
Understanding how business works from the concierge’s perspective also helps the partnership. “When you have a hotel that has global clientele, they don’t necessarily care if somebody is closed,” Elcon says. “They just need what they need, so the concierge needs to be able to deliver on that level.”
When clients ask for late night or early morning last-minute runs, a concierge will know who to call for someone dependable. “I like the fact that our companies do their best to fulfill our requests even in a moment’s notice,” Beninate says.
Chauffeurs also should be prepared to make unplanned stops during a trip. “It can’t be, ‘Well, you just hired me to go to this particular place,’” Elcon says. “They have to be flexible and want to provide that good service.”
6: Be an extension of the concierge
One of the best ways to impress a concierge is to have a staff that is not only familiar with the city, Lowthers says, but also familiar with all aspects of the property.
“There’s nothing better than picking a guest up at the airport and selling them on the hotel when they arrive,” Elcon says. “By the time they get to the actual property, they’re ready to book an appointment with the spa or make a reservation at the restaurant.”
Drivers that care as much about the guests and their overall experiences as the concierge does are also sure to make a lasting impression, Mills says. Companies that can provide service for the property at a high level of standard have better chances of staying with the property and being a primary source of transportation.
7: Stay competitive and simplify processes
Price sheets need to be straightforward and reflect competitive rates with the local market. However, if services come with extras that competitors do not offer, companies should justify their rates to show that.
“Concierges are going to want to know if the company is competitive with other companies in town,” Kasner says. “Price is always an option depending on who the clientele is.”
Streamlining and simplifying accounting procedures is another important aspect, Beninate says. He adds that placing orders should be simple and accurate. The transportation company that works with the MGM Grand did just that, and also created an easy means of making reservations for the staff, Mills says.
8: Don't promise what you can't deliver
Concierges expect timely service at a high standard of quality, so companies need to keep the client prioritized and maintain honest communication throughout the partnership. If a vehicle is unavailable, a chauffeur does not arrive on time, or a sales representative changes the terms of an offer, the likelihood of getting repeat business is slim to none.
9: Go above and beyond to right wrongs.
Drivers can make mistakes and some problems cannot be solved, but if a company decides to ignore a concierge’s call regarding a client complaint, the company should also consider the business relationship over at that point.
“I want them to follow up with me and with my client and I want them to go over the top to make it up to them,” Kasner says. “The limo company that isn’t responsive will not get my business again.”
10: Know the limits and maintain transparency
Companies should respect the boundaries of existing contracts, Falling says. “There is a proper time and way in which to bid contracts and soliciting a line concierge to book you a few runs is not the way.”
Wait times are also an important measure of service for concierges. Operators need to be honest and accurate. “If you cannot have a car there in five minutes, please give a realistic time in which you can,” Mills says.
Leaving concierges in the lurch will reflect poorly on the client’s selection and the judgment of providers, Lowthers says. Bribery is also not appreciated, as it displays a lack of respect for the concierge and the vendor, she adds.
Bribes or cash tips at the door may or may not be prohibited at different properties, but they are ultimately not wise avenues for companies wanting repeat business for the long haul.
Added Efforts Lead To Success
Concierges are loyal to specific companies because they have proven to be dependable and run a professional operation, Rosenberg-Matsumoto says. The chauffeured transportation operators who continually provide amazing service above and beyond the call of duty are the companies that secure contracts time and time again.
“There’s an old saying that the customer is always right,” Kasner says. “We all know that they’re not always, but in the service industry, that couldn’t be anything more than the golden rule.”