Concierge Services: From the Hotel Lobby to the Palm of Your Hand

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The Evolution of Concierge Services

The origin of the word concierge is uncertain, but many believe that it comes from the Latin word “conserves,” meaning “fellow slave.” Others claim that the first concierge originated from “count of the candles” or “comte des cierges” a phrase that described people who lit the candles and maintained them at major events. As time went on, the “comte des cierges” were given additional responsibilities, such as fulfilling the requests of visiting nobility. In the Middle Ages, concierges were the “keepers of the keys” to government buildings and to the houses of aristocrats.

Typically, we associate the concierge with the hotel industry; however, due to the benefits that a concierge can provide – and thanks to technological advancements, concierge programs and services have matured and expanded exponentially over time.

What is a Concierge?

Dictionary.com defines a concierge as “a member of a hotel staff in charge of special services for guests, as arranging for theater tickets or tours,” and this definition remains true, as almost every major hotel in the world provides these services to their guests. Additionally, many public buildings (residential and offices) also utilizes the services of a concierge.

The major difference is that concierges are now not limited to the hotel lobby. One of the biggest breakthroughs in the concierge industry is virtual concierges – something that VIPdesk specializes in providing to an array of companies across industries.

Also, hotels like Hyatt are using technology to their advantage and offering concierge services beyond the hotel lobby and offering guests virtual concierge services through their e-concierge service and via Twitter at @HyattConcierge.

Let’s take a look at the different types of concierge services and programs:

Hotel Concierges

A hotel concierge can provide a wide range of services for guests. If there is anything a guest needs or has a problem with, the concierge is the person to call.

Concierges generally assist guests with tasks like making dinner reservations at nearby restaurants, arranging spa services, recommending day and night activities, booking transportation (i.e., limousines, airplanes, etc.), obtaining tickets to special events and assisting with tours of local attractions. In many high-end establishments, a concierge is often expected to “perform magic” by achieving what many would deem impossible.

Concierge Services as an Employee Benefit

Many companies are now offering corporate concierge services as a benefit to their employees in order to help employees to better balance their professional and personal lives. The more an employee can utilize their concierge to help complete personal tasks, the more they can focus on their job.

In most cases, the Employee Concierge is not sitting in the front lobby, but are virtual – which means they are reachable via phone or email 24/7/365 and do much more than help with dining and directions. A Concierge can help with any task, big or small, and truly save people time—some tasks that a Concierge can assist with include:

  • Finding a local plumber
  • Comparison shopping a new digital camera
  • Planning an overseas vacation

Hospital Concierges

Many hospitals are now offering concierge or personal services. A hospital concierge provides similar services to those of a hotel concierge, but in some cases they also serve patients, as well as employees.

Credit Card Concierge Services

American Express was the first to offer concierge services in 1984, and has a reputation for having the best service. Because there is so much competition today, many credit card companies are doing whatever it takes to stand out and that means many credit cards now come with a free concierge service and it is now possible to find and utilize these services on cards that have no fee.

In many cases, concierge services are part of a credit card’s loyalty program and designed for those with high credit limits and a premium credit card with annual fees (up to $500 a year); however, stiff competition has forced issuers to extend the service to a wider range of consumers. Now those with annual household incomes $100,000 or more are eligible, instead of just focusing on the super affluent.

The level of service can vary by credit card issuer and by credit card, but the services that these virtual concierges offer are widespread and diverse. Also, because these concierges are available 24/7/365, many travelers prefer their credit card concierge to the one in the hotel lobby – as they do not have to wait in line to talk to someone, they can simply pick up the phone and call.

All credit card concierges can provide basic tasks such as finding out nutritional information on a take-out meal, directions to an upcoming appointment or finding a reliable electrician. Some can go well beyond the basic tasks and help procure tickets to sold out shows, get access to premiers or restaurant openings and provide special discounts and offers available only to those who carry the credit card.

One of the biggest downfalls to many credit card concierge programs is that many people don’t realize they have this exclusive and extremely helpful perk. For many, the only way they can find out is by calling the 1-800 number listed on the back of their card. I strongly feel that credit card companies who offer concierge services should be far more benevolent in marketing this service – for the benefit of the consumer, as well as the financial institution. Concierge services can be a huge asset and time-saver for the busy professional or parent always on the go.

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