When I first joined the concierge industry in downtown Minneapolis in the early 90’s, property management companies across the nation were just beginning to catch up to what the hotels had known for years; treating a guest to a complimentary personal service which exceeded and enhanced the guest experience, was a smart business move. It consistently meant an increase in repeat business.
For property acquisition and management firms, a new trend was starting and that was to institute a service which would ultimately treat tenant companies and their employees like a guest in a fine hotel.
Although at that time not fully formulated by the owners and managers of Class A Office Towers, the prevailing thought was that the new service concept would be an added plus in leasing space and maintaining tenants in those properties. And they were correct. It was a huge success!
Concierge services became popular in not just the corporate arena, they also caught on in civic, academic, residential, private clubs and medical institutions as well. Having a Concierge service which honored any request provided it was legal and ethical for the Concierge professional to do, just like their hotel counterparts, became a status symbol in the real estate industry.
Overtime, corporate Concierge services expanded to plan building tenant events and to assist the leasing teams in the art of seducing new tenant companies. Talented Concierge professionals through the power of world-class networking were immensely revered for being able to entertain, connect with and be an invaluable resource to new and existing guests, tenants, patients, organizational members and well just everybody who used the Concierge services.
In my position as a corporate Concierge in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul for instance I secured hard to find tickets to popular plays both in local theaters and nationally, planned huge corporate events in my office towers (at one point I serviced five) and made reservations worldwide to name but a few of the services I provided on any given day during my career. I received written thank you’s from tenant companies who said they leased the space in the property in which I was located because of my comprehensive services, and I received dozens of thank you’s from individuals who worked in those towers as well.
Throughout my years with property management companies I was valued and respected greatly for my resourcefulness. And this was not as easy as it looked to others. It meant hours and hours of my own personal time networking locally, nationally, and internationally. Success in this field has always been about personal connections with other industry experts and securing a first-hand knowledge of a vast array of hospitality related businesses on behalf of my clientele.
Investing in my success as a Concierge professional meant taking a leadership role in our industry. In 1995 I became President of the Twin Cities Concierge Association. And because there was a pressing need to expand my reach nation-wide and indeed internationally for my clients, I founded the National Concierge Association (NCA) in 1998.
I am not alone in my industry efforts or my career history. There are literally hundreds of services throughout the USA today which exist solely to be of service to tenants in office towers, residential, civic academic and medical settings as well as in hotels.
Or at least we were until just a few years ago.
The Concierge industry ebbs and flows depending on what the economy and industry trends are doing at any given moment. A few years ago, after 9-1-1, hotels indiscriminately eliminated their concierge services, citing the lack of travel business brought about by the tragic turn of events. In the years that followed, they then brought them back as guests demanded that marvelously personal and special amenity.
Similarly, about 3-4 years ago, the trend in the corporate world of Class-A Office tower property management, was to create high-end conference centers and elaborate workout and relaxation facilities which then replaced the cost of providing other services to tenants. Essentially the reasoning behind this move was that property management firms wanted to appeal to millennials who they believed needed instant gratification and could purchase anything they desired online therefore no longer needing the services of a Concierge.
To be sure, trends are challenging in our industry. But trends are just that; a trend and they are here today and gone tomorrow.
COVID-19 has devastated the hospitality industry. A vast majority of Concierge in hospitality related businesses have been furloughed or laid off or have gone out of business. In the corporate world, the Concierge talent management took such pride in having such a short time ago, has either been laid off or delegated to perform other duties. This at least has prevented those individuals from having to join the unemployment lines. In the hotel world however, the trend has been to yet again eliminate the Concierge services altogether to save operation costs.
Having a Concierge service in all aspects of our busy work and personal lives is a necessity not an amenity. As we navigate the new “normal” coming in the near future, (whatever that dictates for all of us), having a Concierge on hand to assist with weathering our challenges will be vital to our businesses, our society, to our personal lives, and to our sanity.