Monday, 11 April 2011

Concierge/Reception or Front Office?

This is a question that many General Managers have made while facing the current crisis but, unfortunately, the elimination of the Concierge and the Reception desk into one big Front Office has been a tendency for some years now.

The majority of General Managers in the hurry of increasing the profits decided to lower the costs, starting by the staff, and the front of the house was where the change was more visible. By combining both departments they were able to cut 1/3 of the workers. In theory, this is a good idea. They hoped that the new Front Office employee could combine the skills of the Concierge and Receptionist and become a more dynamic and pro-active worker that could provide valid results.

I totally support this idea for 3 and 4 stars hotels, but 5 stars?

Not long ago, I was watching our Head Concierge and noted that there was a Brazilian couple that spends every morning more or less one hour by his desk. I became aware that the conversation was not only about advices and recommendations but also about history, politics and much more. The Concierge, in this case with 40 years of experience, was sharing his knowledge with the guests, and they were receiving it like children in a school bench.

I finally realized that these conversations were part of the client's "Lisbon experience". This is the way that it should be. Of course, not every guest wants it or needs it but, in a hotel like ours, it's imperative to have a Concierge's desk.

Only those who are specialized and experienced in concierge service are able to connect with the customer and design a plan for a "City break" or a long stay. They will be able to help you choose what restaurant to book, because they've been there and they've tasted the food. They will help you decide which are the most important sights to see, if you are short on time.

It's clear now that something that was standard a few years ago (Reception/Concierge) it's now an added value. Some of the new 5 stars hotels have only one desk. I strongly doubt that they will have the time or the knowledge to spend 1 hour, every day, "educating" a guest about Lisbon.

On the economic side this may not be the best solution but on the service side this is the only solution.

Concierge... here to stay!

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