What Is Concierge-Style Customer Service? 5 Ways You Can Offer It
Concierge customer service isn't just for hotels; it's a white-glove level of service designed to elicit next-level customer loyalty
Once exclusive to five-star hotels and luxury retailers, concierge-style customer service is something today’s mainstream businesses aspire to deliver.
Hotel concierges are known for being emotionally intelligent, observant and proactive. Their sole purpose is to find opportunities to make a hotel guest’s stay as memorable as possible – often by anticipating their needs, making recommendations or offering “random acts of kindness.”
First and foremost, hotel guests view the concierge as a trusted advisor who makes recommendations for restaurants, tourist destinations and a variety of services to enhance their stay.
Even though many of the most celebrated examples come from five-star hotels, they should inspire you to up the CS ante even if you’re not in the hospitality business or even offering white-glove service. Here are five ways to offer concierge-style customer service.
1. Offer unexpected amenities/perks
“Surprise and delight,” now a buzzword in CX influencer circles, is at the core of concierge-style customer service. Unexpected amenities and perks are the quickest way to a customer’s heart. Why? When someone makes us feel noticed and special, we never forget. Unsurprisingly, hotels have always excelled at this.
The Westin brand, for instance, provides running kits to guests through its Gear Lending program, catered to those who may have packed light but would like to exercise during their stay. The hotel delivers fitness gear and shoes in your size to your room to spare you having to pack your smelly running shoes on a business trip – useful, surprising and seamless.
A more heartwarming example of a hotel going above and beyond is when a little girl left her favorite stuffed animal at a hotel in Ireland. Staff gave the bunny five-star treatment complete with turndown service and high tea.
“I lost my owner at breakfast,” the Adare Hotel Manor posted on its Facebook page, showing a picture of the bunny that a staffer had found.
“I have to stay at the Adare Hotel Manor tonight, but hopefully my owner will come to collect me tomorrow,” read the photo caption, which showed ‘Jellycat’ tucked in bed holding a TV remote with some chocolates on the bed next to him.
By the next day, the hotel had tracked the bunny’s owner, but not before they treated Jellycat to a poolside lounge, tea and cakes and a stroll around manor grounds after getting directions from the concierge.
2. Perform random acts of kindness
Naturally, we want the customer experience to unfold without a hitch, but s**t happens. A great concierge steps in to remedy the situation without being asked.
In 2007, a family staying at the Ritz-Carlton in Bali had brought specialized eggs and milk for their son, who had numerous food allergies. Upon arriving, they discovered that the food had spoiled, and after the Ritz-Carlton dining staff scoured the town they still could not find a replacement. Then the executive chef remembered a store in Singapore that sold the items, so he asked his mother-in-law to buy the products and fly to Bali to deliver them, which she did. For a business like the Ritz, the costs of over-the-top gestures are repaid in lifetime customer value.
“The goal is to develop such a strong emotional engagement between the hotel’s staff and their guests that a guest will not consider staying anywhere else, even if they have an option,” Simon Cooper, COO at Ritz-Carlton, told Bloomberg Businessweek.
Mitigating the pain of a painful situation is a huge win for any business. At the Four Seasons in San Francisco, a UK couple had started their honeymoon in San Francisco and were scheduled to go to Hawaii. However, with a huge hurricane threatening the Hawaiian islands, all flights to Hawaii were canceled. Andreas Rippel, the hotel’s chief concierge, booked them on a new honeymoon at a tropical resort in Punta Mita, Mexico, changing all of their flight and hotel reservations on their behalf.
“It took a couple of challenging and intense hours to pull this off, but they were able to enjoy a honeymoon that otherwise would not have happened,” Rippel told Forbes.
3. Provide a better digital customer experience
Companies that push for digital customer service are for right-channeling customers away from live agents to reduce the cost per interaction, instead directing them to confusing FAQs and dead-end knowledge bases.
Consequently, digital-first companies have begun to offer digital concierges designed to help customers who need help with technical troubleshooting. For instance, Amazon’s MayDay button lets Fire Phone users immediately connect with a live customer service rep, while many ATMs enable customers to request a video chat with a bank teller on the spot. Meanwhile, the biggest draw for users of Capsule, an online-only pharmacy, is that customers can chat with licensed doctors 24/7 and receive automated refills for prescription medication.
4. Enhance the in-store experience
An effective concierge isn’t necessarily human. Often, a digital concierge who is always on call and can service many customers simultaneously is far more practical. At a big-box store like Home Depot, for instance, hunting for a store clerk is tiresome.
A new chat feature lets Home Depot customers ask for the whereabouts and availability of specific products and receive an interactive map over Apple Business Chat detailing the aisle and bay where the item can be found - “so the consumer effort to buy that particular product is significantly reduced,” explained Marc Hayes, VP of product & strategy at LivePerson, which powers the service.
In August last year, Japanese clothing brand Uniqlo introduced Uniqlo IQ, a machine learning-powered “digital concierge” service that shares personalized style recommendations from the retailer’s sprawling collection. Swedish apparel brand H&M offers a similar service via SMS.
(Image credit: Uniqlo)
Built into Uniqlo’s smartphone app and accessible through voice activation via the Google Assistant, the concierge makes recommendations based on the occasion, personal preferences and even daily horoscopes. The feature was created using Google technology by Inamoto & Co., alongside the Japanese agency, Party.
“As retail moves deeper into the digital realm, shopping needs to be not just portable and perpetual but personal as well,” Rei Inamoto, founding partner of Inamoto & Co., said in a press release. “Available through chat search and even voice activation, this iteration of Uniqlo IQ is the foundation of how Uniqlo will provide customer service on a personal level not just reactively but also proactively.”
5. Remove customer pain
While concierges are best known for stepping in to fix problems or offer unexpected perks, true concierge service involves removing the pain from an otherwise painful experience. Insurance company Progressive allegedly provides a concierge-level claims service. Auto repair typically involves numerous phone calls, long waits for responses from all parties involved, followed by more delays. With Progressive, you can drop off your car at one of their service centers and they take care of the rest – writing estimates, arranging repairs with a body shop and renting a temporary replacement car if you need one.
Similarly, the Coldwell Banker Concierge Service helps people with their needs before, during and after they sell their homes, such as home repair, maintenance and access to local providers of each.