INNOVATION: the Concierge’s Weak Spot

When I started writing this piece, my aim was to illustrate innovation in the concierge industry, highlighting our efforts to create a better customer experience, but after hours and days of wracking my brain, I simply couldn’t find enough concrete examples of innovation.  I tried my best to just be nice, but this is not me.  I see now that I have no choice but to instead shed light on our lack of innovation and, because of my love for our industry, help propel us forward in our evolution so that we take advantage of cultural changes that make concierge magic more relevant than ever.  My desire is not to shock anyone, but to effect change, and doing so might require some discomfort and disagreement.

What should innovation look like in the concierge industry?

Innovation starts with identifying a need, problem, or opportunity, and then making the effort to translate an idea into a solution that provides value for our clients.  This means we need to go beyond developing ideas and find the motivation to put in the hard work. And for an innovation to be considered viable, it must be replicable at an economical cost and must satisfy a specific need, big enough to make an impact. This factor comes alongside the vision, and its importance cannot be underestimated.

As concierges, our mandate is to create a fantastic experience for our clients, and this means working within their *current* norms and conventions–recognizing and cooperating with the technologies they use to conduct their daily lives.  

What happens when I push my innovation

Every time I pitch Ask PAM as the next big thing for concierges, I am brushed aside and told that the industry is dying. And this negativity is one of the reasons I founded Ask PAM. I didn’t do it because I believed the industry was dying; on the contrary, it was because I understand the priceless difference a concierge can make in someone’s life and the increased relevance of concierge work in our cultural climate.

The initial problem I wanted to solve was one of communication;  I sought to improve and facilitate communication between concierges and their clients, adding new technology to the process that would eventually help concierges grow their businesses and expand by serving more people with better processes. But even after developing some of the best tools for the concierges, I realized we are facing so many additional challenges.

Roadblocks to innovation in the Concierge Industry

We have to recognize that in some ways we are our own worst enemy.  Most of the barriers to innovation come from inside the industry itself.

  • Many concierges are still extremely resistant to technology; they believe that it will remove the human touch that makes their work special.
  • Hotels often neglect to update the tools used by their concierges. Pen and paper are is so outdated. And even though I shouldn’t only blame the hotels, given the number of concierges who are not yet comfortable with technology, it is indeed the responsibility of a hotel to equip its staff in the best way possible. Believe it or not, I’ve seen countless shameful issues with tools in five-star hotels, from 10-year old laptops that keep crashing to hotels that require concierges to rely on their personal cell phones (a decision that prevents concierges from engaging in texting, the preferred method of communication for many clients.)  It’s 2017, and these habits are unacceptable.
  • Concierges don’t take full advantage of collaboration: Yes, concierges do *sometimes* collaborate, but at the industry level this collaboration is still very selective. An unfortunate truth is that many experienced and established concierges will only make the effort to collaborate with a chosen few, and this leaves many concierges, especially young ones, without a community or mentors.   Many young concierges I’ve spoken with have had little success when seeking out older, more experienced members of our industry to work with.  Is this the best we can do, or should veteran concierges be putting in effort to cultivate the continuation of the industry? Without a strong and unified community, it could be difficult to face the coming wave of technological breakthroughs unless we own them.
  • High-end hotels often forget to promote their concierges but are still selling a unique and authentic guest experience as opposed to other alternative accommodations. Today, less than 10% of hotel guests are aware of the availability and role of a Concierge. It becomes difficult to cultivate innovation in a sector that is continuously preventing it.  

Our industry shouldn’t be dying–its relevance is only increasing!

We’re working in a milieu in which customers not only expect quality service at all times, but they also want the *perfect* experience that goes with it.

Concierges are a very rare and unique treasure in a world in which high customer satisfaction and perfectly curated experiences are more and more an expectation.  

  • They have a unique local expertise that is far superior to what can be found online or through generic databases.
  • They are the human touch that can make people feel good about themselves. They put the customer at the center, making sure he is taken care of in the best ways possible.
  • They know what will make someone’s experience complete after assessing the situation; they are the experts and have developed the skills to predict a client’s needs.

So, what now?  What next?

After almost a decade in the industry and two years of working on a solution to fix this problem, I am done being politically correct 😉

DON’T GET ME WRONG, I LOVE MY INDUSTRY. This is precisely the reason I am taking the time to write this. I want all of us concierges to wake up and start doing the right thing.  We need to stand up, excel, go the extra mile, and make our voices heard and save our asses while we still can.

Because I want to see the results of our efforts and dedication for the industry, our work will re-focus on promoting better customer engagement and experience. I want more than anything to help concierges directly, but we need to see ourselves as valuable, relevant and worthy of the effort in order to evolve.  Concierges, you are welcome to join our team with more than a thousand concierges.  This number is solid but small, and the more of us who join together, the stronger and more powerful our work. We need your voices in order to create the concierge revolution.

It’s time to leave our comfort zones…

In their daily quest to create personalized customer experiences, concierges certainly don’t take NO for an answer. Let’s extend this power beyond the individual client and use it to save our industry!  While some concierges have become too comfortable or uninterested to fight for the field, it is up to those of us who are passionate and motivated to save and adapt it. We need to mobilize those who have the understanding, vision and awareness that the need for local curated expertise is here to stay.

I don’t have the exact answers, but we can start with the identification of the problem. People who need us the most need to know we exist, and this starts with COMMUNICATION.  We can create magic as long as we have the opportunity to connect with clients, become visible and take our place on the high-tech communication platforms used today. We are becoming invisible and misunderstood at a time when the world need us more than ever. It may sound dramatic, but let’s work for it and it’ll become reality before you even know it.

How do you see us innovating as an industry?  On my end, I’m confident that facilitating communication will open countless doors, and this is why I’m putting my everything into Ask PAM. In what other ways can we innovate?  It’s time to share your ideas and help our industry explode with its true potential!