Mr. Khan

Concierge

Concierge Relationships that Benefit Guests Beyond Hotel Borders

By Shujaat Khan, Chief Concierge, The Capital Hilton

The seasoned Concierge stands ready at his desk in the hotel lobby, to aide any and all that require assistance. The most effective hotel concierges are those that understand that it's not always what you know, but often who you know, that counts, when it comes to satisfying their guests.

Being well connected with the owners and management of local venues opens doors and creates opportunities that otherwise may not be possible. Developing relationships with restaurant owners is the best way to be assured of prime tables and excellent service for your guests. It's in the restaurant's best interest to please your guests, knowing that excellent guest feedback will be positive to their bottom line. Likewise, it's in the Concierge's best interest to always recommend the best fit for the type of restaurant the guest requests. While the best steakhouse in town may be Restaurant A for a business dinner; the best steakhouse in town for a family with small children could be entirely different. Being able to consistently make the best recommendation for guests is one of the reasons the Concierges' networks are so important.

Equally critical to the success of a Concierge is being well connected with fellow Concierges, locally, nationally and internationally.

Luxury and business travelers are very savvy. While their basic needs remain the same, they are worldlier and come with an entirely different set of expectations, than they did just 10 years ago. In this technological age, the little black books of the seasoned concierge have been replaced by I phones and Blackberries. Now more than ever, the constantly expanding network of the experienced concierge is critical to their ability to exceed their guests' expectations.

A concierge working in the lobby of a busy luxury or business hotel will be requested to recommend or make reservations for restaurants, entertainment, transportation, sightseeing, and shopping, hundreds of times a day. They will be requested to acquire goods and services for some of their guests including simple things: beauty treatments, foreign newspapers, and personal assistants, to the more unusual, such as purchasing and furnishing a town home for their guest's child coming to study or acquiring luxury vehicles in just the right color. Guests' requests vary from the ordinary to the bizarre. However, in most cases, the seasoned Concierge relies heavily on their extended network to consistently satisfy their guests' requests. Without their network, accomplishing the volume of requests at a busy Concierge desk would be nearly impossible.

While everyone knows that Concierges often design onward itineraries for their guests, perhaps it's not as well known that sophisticated travelers frequently rely on their trusted concierges to make recommendations on where they should have their next vacation, or where they could host a business meeting in Istanbul two days later.

Les Clefs d'Or concierges have a directory which lists members worldwide. Their network is far reaching and their ability to pick up the phone and secure reservations in the Czech Republic is as simple as securing a table at a local eatery. Giving special guests a letter of introduction for them to present to concierges in other cities assures the guests of a reliable contact, one whose safety, satisfaction and pleasure is their primary concern.

When concierges make recommendations outside their area of expertise, placing a call to their next destination often results in VIP treatment for the guest upon their arrival. Their accommodations may be upgraded; they are likely to receive a welcome note and sometimes an amenity upon their arrival. This reflects well on the receiving hotel as well as the referring hotel. Ultimately, it results in the guests' delight.

There are thousands of concierge stories demonstrating the successes of their network. Below are some of my favorites:

  • Robert Watson working at The Park Hyatt in London received a call from his counterpart at The Park Hyatt in Chicago who was hosting the British Prime Minister at his hotel. He was approached by the British Ambassador who asked him to check if the Grand National (biggest hurdle horse race in the world) was being shown in the US TV Networks, because the PM wanted to see it before she returned to OK. During his research, the Concierge discovered that no US network was broadcasting the race. Knowing that the Prime Minister wished to view the race before returning to the UK, he called his counterpart in London for assistance. After confirming with the BBC that the race was not available in the US, Robert Watson personally video taped the race and sent it via special courier to Chicago. When the Prime Minister's breakfast tray was delivered the next morning, it contained a video of the race with a note from the Concierge.

  • One afternoon I was approached by a guest who had to change his flight to Rome because the negotiations he was conducting did not finish on time. While I was on the phone with the airline, I noticed that he was upset about having to miss his wife's birthday. After I made the flight change, he asked me if I can make some arrangement for her in Rome. Without even blinking, he was assured that we would take care of it. I called an International Florist, and was told that due to the time difference, flowers could not be delivered until tomorrow. The good old Clefs d'Or Concierge Network was put to a test. Les Clefs d'Or concierge at the Hotel Excelsior called the florist's home and a few hours later, a tuxedo clad opera soprano was singing happy birthday to his wife. He delivered 44 magnificent roses (it was her 44th birthday) and a bottle of Dom Perignon vintage 1961 (the year in which she was born). The guest's wife was thrilled by her husband's thoughtful gestures and was not angry that he was unable to fill the promise he had made to be with her on her birthday.

  • Recently, a newly inducted LCD member was tasked by his management to secure a table a few days later at the Jules Verne restaurant in Paris. Through emails and phone calls to the restaurant, he came to learn that to secure a table at the Jules Verne; you need to call three months in advance. Not wanting to disappoint his management, he called Ms. Elizabeth Wilson at the LCD headquarters to ask for assistance. Despite a plea sent by her to some of the top Concierges in Paris, the request was not confirmed. Elizabeth reached out to Jerome Jeannest, the Chef Concierge, Inter Continental in Los Angeles, who used to work in Paris at the luxury hotel across from the Eiffel Tower. Jerome was able to dial in to his old Network and secure a table as requested.

These vignettes demonstrate the Concierges' desires to please not only their elite clientele, but their every day guests and their management as well. The Clefs d'Or network reinforces the "can do" attitude of all of its members. Ultimately, the more active the members are in the association, the greater their personal network grows. A professional Concierge with an expansive network benefits all those who seek assistance.

Everyone wants to be made to feel special. A seasoned Concierge is in the business of making their guests feel like they are the most important person on earth. Always aiming to please, they will go to great lengths to satisfy their internal and external customers. They do this by utilizing their vast contacts to ensure that the clients' delight does not end when they've left the Concierge desk.

The more resourceful and well connected the concierge is, the more efficiently they work. A novice concierge who has no connections may take two or three times longer than the seasoned concierge to satisfy guests' requests. The rewards of supporting your Concierges' participation in networking events, locally, nationally and internationally, will not only benfit your guests and staff far into the future, it will positively affect your bottom line.

Shujaat Khan's hospitality career spans three decades. His career began at the Watergate Hotel as a Guest Service Agent. He was promoted to Reservations Manager, Sales and Meetings Coordinator, Front Office Manager and Head Concierge. Now he is the Chief Concierge at the Capital Hilton Hotel, in Washington DC. Mr. Khan has a deep commitment to fostering growth and professionalism among Concierges. For over a decade, he has served on the Board of Directors for Les Clefs d'Or, USA. He was instrumental in developing a training program for Caribbean hospitality professionals. Mr. Khan can be contacted at 202-639-5712 or Shujaat.Khan@hilton.com Extended Bio...

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