Concierge: What It Takes to be the Keeper of the Keys
A day in the life of a hotel concierge... At a hotel in Washington, D.C., a guest approached the concierge on duty, and said, "I need an elephant." He wanted it for a photo shoot for his wife, who was running for political office. "I'll check in with you after lunch to see how you're doing," he added.
Using her ingenuity, the concierge first called the National Zoo to see if they rented out elephants. While they didn't, a local petting zoo in Virginia did. She had her elephant even before the guest had finished lunch.
It was all in a day's work for a professional working in one of the most prestigious service careers in the hospitality industry - concierge.
The term "concierge" first appeared in France in the Middle Ages and came to refer to the officers of the royal palace guard whose job it was to protect the king in his palace. The concierge was the holder of the keys in the royal households, with access to all the important rooms. The concierge's responsibilities were diverse, including overseeing the administration of domestic services and performing special tasks at the request of the royal court. The definition broadened with the rise of the grand European hotels in the 16th and 17th centuries, though it was not until the mid-20th century that the concierge became a must-have feature of North American hotels.
So prestigious is the concierge that there is an association, from France, dedicated specifically to hotel concierges, Les Clefs d'Or, whose motto is "service through friendship". Today their membership numbers in the thousands of concierges representing countries from around the world. Members are distinguished by the gold keys they display on their lapels.
All in a Day's Work
Though it's not every day a concierge has to find an elephant for a guest, one day is never like another in the busy career of a hotel concierge.
Yes, the concierge is often the person guests call on to make reservations, organize car rentals, give directions, share local knowledge, make activity suggestions. But his or her work rarely ends there. You often get called to help with emergencies, are tapped to handle unexpected or outrageous requests, and basically have to provide solutions to whatever challenges guests bring your way.
The Successful Concierge
Here are some of the criteria for becoming a successful concierge:
- A willingness and passion to serve.
- An excellent background in guest or customer service.
- Good grooming and good personal presentation.
- Top knowledge of the venues and the clients of the environment you're
- going to serve or want to serve.
- Additional languages are an asset, plus excellent command of English.
- Ability to multi-task and display grace under pressure.
- Desire to be a creative problem-solver.
A successful concierge isn't just about performing certain job duties or possessing certain skills; it's about personality and a passion for customer service. You must remain calm in a hectic environment and always display integrity. You need to have an extensive network of contacts and a knowledge of how to develop these contacts. The concierge can become a hotel guest's social adviser, personal confidante, and all-around information provider, with a knowledge of everything from antiques to zoos.
Your Career Path
Since being a concierge is not your average 9-to-5 job, it's no surprise the path to becoming one is not a straight line. Concierges come from all backgrounds and industries; some have been teachers, nurses, public servants, flight attendants and travel agents - anyone with enthusiasm and a commitment to service can chart a successful career path as a concierge.
Concierges earn on average $20,000-$50,000, but a successful, experienced concierge can earn much more, since this career relies heavily on gratuities. Many concierges make the leap from the hospitality industry to the corporate environment becoming corporate concierges.
For all concierges, one of the greatest rewards seems to be the personal satisfaction they get out of making the impossible happen for their guests and hearing "I don't know what I would have done without you" at the end of the day.