Concierge Service: A Short History

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Even though I studied French in high school, college and even took a few private lessons, it was clear early on that I would probably never reach my childhood dream of becoming a French-speaking United Nations tour guide. I could have handled the tour guide part but it was the French-speaking aspect that turned my aspirations elsewhere. As they say, the language just didn’t “flow” for me. That’s why I couldn’t trust my memory of the true meaning of the French word “concierge,” so I looked it up. I was quite surprised by the translation, although it did teach me a lot about the history of the Concierge from the 17th century through today.

Concierge is derived from the Old French word conservus meaning slave. The term was first used in France around 1697 to mean doorkeeper and landlord’s representative and later came to be regarded as a hotel staff member who handled luggage and mail, made reservations and arranged tours.

How the concierge industry has changed in the past 400 years…

Today, hotels around the world are not the only companies employing concierges. They do still maintain a concierge staff to assist guests; however, the term has blossomed into an industry unimagined back in the days of ancient French doorkeepers. Today, there are many different types of concierges, from onsite concierge in hotels, hospitals, and office buildings to virtual concierges employed by companies across a variety of industries.

There are certainly differences between being a concierge back in 1697 (when one of your duties may have been making sure each apartment had enough candles for the evening or helping to ensure the safe use of those candles so the building didn’t burn to the ground) and today’s concierge. Today, concierges may also get a request that involves lighting or candles that would be quite a bit different. It could involve something like searching for candles similar to those on the table the night the customer’s fiancé proposed; or assisting with hotel reservations in Paris, the City of Lights, or even helping a customer to find the light by providing directions to the nearest church in his vacation city.

Like the concierges of medieval France, concierges today are also available to serve their customers; however, today virtual concierges exist and are available to serve customers around the world, around the clock. Regardless of changes in the past 400 years, the goal of a concierge today remains the same as it was way back then; to serve their customers, making their lives easier and handling tasks that would eat up their spare time.

Concierges assist with many things, including travel assistance, dining reservations, shopping assistance, tickets or access to special events, help with household services, and even more unique requests.

Concierges just never know what the next request might be, but they do know they will do their best to fulfill it politely, quickly and efficiently. Not because they are slaves to their jobs as the origin of the word implies, but because they are seasoned professionals who receive top notch training in putting the customer first.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Amy Campbell
Research Assistant and former VIPdesk concierge, Amy relates to the customer experience on three levels: through researching the customer service philosophies of prospective VIPdesk clients, as a provider of the superior customer service VIPdesk is famous for and as a consumer who loves to shop and appreciates top notch service.

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