Are You Delivering Concierge Customer Service?

Are You Delivering Concierge Customer Service?

  • October 1, 2020
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I love my work role and have for many years!  However, sometimes I get the question: “If you could do any work role you wanted other than your current role, what would it be?”  I always say, “A concierge in a busy upscale hotel.”  It is not the hotel, per se, that attracts me.  It is the capacity to serve customers in a highly personalized way.  

But it means more. Concierges operate with limited boundaries, always with the employment of cleverness and adaptability. They can pull strings, rely on special favors, and pull rabbits out of the hat in a fashion that leaves their customers amazed, not just served.  They do not know the meaning of “we can’t” and adroitly negotiate barriers in a manner most people would never consider. They are problem-solvers, treasure-hunters, and firefighters.

My physician was a concierge doctor.  I paid an annual fee to have access to him when I needed him. He traded in a for-hire position overseeing 2000 patients for a major hospital group for about 200 patients to whom he could become the old-fashioned come-to-your-house-physician my parents enjoyed.  My annual physical went from 15 minutes to 75 minutes.  He was an assertive advocate on my behalf.  When the hospital lab lost the orders for my getting blood work for my physical, the lab dreaded the wrath of Dr. T, who would intervene like a superhero with a mission.  Then, he retired.

I now have a new concierge doctor who loves technology and around-the-clock access as much I do.  Dr. Nic purchased Dr. T’s phone and his nurse’s phone when he bought the practice so patients who elected to stay with him as their concierge doctor would not have to program in new phone numbers.  My first physical was last month—a full 90-minute complete check-up. There was nothing drive-by about this inspection.  All the related services I need—sonograms, lab work, stress test, chest x-ray, you name it—are now all under one roof at Lake Country Medical Group.  What if the service you provided your customers was concierge?  Here are four factors that can make your customers’ experiences truly concierge.

Create Easy, Around-the-Clock Access  

Amazon eliminated the concept of business hours.  Now, nine to five-Monday to Friday looks archaic.  While Amazon is online and not brick and mortar, it has altered customer expectations.  But access does not have to be around-the-clock staffing.  Here is an example.  I have a get-away mountain home on the banks of a North Georgia river. Arriving there late one Friday evening, I discovered the PVC P-trap under the bathroom sink had a small leak when the faucet was running.  I called the local Ace Hardware to listen to their voice message and learn when they opened on Saturday mornings.  But the owner answered the phone.

“Are you still open?” I asked in surprise.  “Oh no.” said the owner.  “When we close our store at 6 pm, I call forward the store phone to my cell phone in case someone has a hardware emergency.  Would you like me to meet you at the store and open up?”  “No,” I told him, “I was just calling to listen to your voice message regarding your store hours on Saturday morning.”  I have never forgotten his willingness to serve me when I needed it.  It was concierge magic at its best.

Leave Your Customers Smarter Than You Found Them  

In the era of hunker down and stay in, the winning organizations focus on customer education.  Dr. Nic has started a regular newsletter to all his concierge patients.  At my recent physical, a statement like, “Your uric acid is a bit high.  That is a precursor to some bad news—gout” was coupled with, “We can provide you a list of foods to eat and avoid that will help you drive that number down.”  Their website not only has a patient portal but a connection for telemedicine.  These are not just pathways to medical information; they are avenues of patient education.

Customers love service providers that help them learn.  While their confidence is amplified by smart, their receptivity is lowered by smart aleck.  Wisdom by a customer educator is best conveyed nonjudgmentally, centered on the receiver, and warmed by compassion for the customer.  It is sharing, much like a friend might offer a tip on where to catch the most fish.  It is laced with as much attention to the learner as to the expertise.   With Dr. Nic, counsel and suggestions are delivered with the warmth of a neighbor, without arrogance or any hint of a need to prove. It is how great concierges perform.

Affirm Those That Support You  

My business partner and I stayed at an Embassy Suites in Chicago while working with a nearby client.  One evening we asked the hotel staff for a restaurant recommendation.  “Do you like seafood?” front desk clerk Jessica inquired.  Getting our heads to nod up and down, she enthusiastically recommended an upscale seafood restaurant within walking distance.  “Let me call them right now and get you a great table.”  This was behavior you might expect of a concierge at a luxury hotel, not a front desk employee at a modestly priced property.

The restaurant provided us a delightful experience with attentive service.   When we declined dessert after a delicious meal, the waiter brought a plate of small cookies and hearty strawberries to our table.  “These are compliments of Jessica,” he proudly announced.  We were blown away.  It clearly was a worked out in advance system to provide mutual affirmation and support.  She recommended them; they made her look like a superstar.  It was pure concierge magic.

Honor the Etiquette of Great Service  

There is a specific set of service manners common among great concierges.  They are always on time.  They are patient, kind, and eager to make their customers feel valued and affirmed even when a customer is dead wrong.  They may be tired, but they refused to do tired, radiating confidence and freshness even after being on their feet long past quitting time.  They view every customer interaction as the start or continuance of a respected relationship, not a perfunctory transaction with someone they are likely never to see again.  Follow-up is as vital as start-up because it signals genuine care, not superficial assistance.  

Concierge service is a quest for the best of what we can offer interacting with a goal of surfacing the best in customers.  It is the pursuit of the nobility of service.  In the parlance of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company (fashioned by founder Horst Schulze), it is the manifestation of “ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.”

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