We are used to seeing them in the hotel lobby of 5 star hotels and of course, the personal concierge services provided to individuals. But we’re now seeing the rise of concierge shopping centres, banks, online, health funds and even telcos.
Traditional hotel concierge and members of the exclusive Clef d’ors are no doubt shuddering at the thought of their profession being applied to what might otherwise be described as a Receptionist or Customer Service Attendant. All the training, connections and prestige has been watered down to nothing.
But let’s face it the Concierge was not originally the domain of the hotel. The word itself is French, meaning ‘keeper of the keys’. During the Middle Ages, concierges did just that. When castles across Europe hosted visiting nobility, the concierge kept the keys to the castle rooms, and ensured that guests had everything they needed during their stay. By the 1800s, a number of buildings in Europe, from government offices to prisons, had their own concierge on staff.
There is even a famous prison in Paris that is called The Conciergerie, in honour of the warden who kept the keys and assigned cells to the inmates. This was were Marie Antoinette spent her final hours!
Whilst the original role of the Concierge and that of a hotel concierge are closely related, in more recent times, the Concierge has become the ‘go-to’ person who has the connections, tenacity, calmness to execute any request regardless of how outlandish.
In his best selling book Concierge Confidential, former hotel concierge Michael Fazio details his career as senior concierge at the Intercontinental in New York, the story about filling a bathtub with chocolate for one guest, is particularly amusing!
Michael Fazio, with a colleague Abbie Newman saw an opportunity to take their skills, connections, and some clients, outside the hotel space and open Abigail Michaels Concierge Services.
This was certainly not the first personal concierge service to be established, but it does highlight how the role of the concierge has stepped outside the doors of the traditional hotel space and now provides services previously only indulged in when staying away from home.
Globally there are countless personal concierge businesses run by large organisation such as Les Concierges, Quintessentially and Ten as well as dozens or smaller boutique style services like The Concierge Collective who provide services to individuals who want to offload the minutiae of everyday life.
This evolution of the concierge has seen the complexity of the role increase from handling the keys of the Parisian palace through to the solving the modern day dilemma of rehousing a stray cat from a holiday island near Guam to Melbourne (true story). Whilst not an everyday occurrence, the experience, the ability to project manage, to think laterally and above all have an encyclopaedic contacts list, are all vital traits of a successful modern day concierge.
So what of the more recent adaptation of this role?
The Concierge that greets you at your bank, or directs you to the department store in a shopping mall, or wears a security uniform and sits in the lobby of your office block? Do they ‘deserve’ to wear this centuries old, highly esteemed title of Concierge?
If we examine it closely, in essence, the role of the Concierge has always been there to provide access. Whether it is providing access for the Lord of the manor to his home or access to a nanny service for an executive mum, it is all access.
A concierge facilitates access and assistance; access to whatever the customer wants and assistance to get it seamlessly.
It is simply denoted by their ‘prefix’, the type of access or assistance a concierge will provide, the Hotel Concierge, Personal Concierge, Building Concierge, Retail Concierge, Call Centre Concierge and so forth.
So perhaps a little limited in the types of access and assistance they can offer, a retail concierge, for example, is perhaps is no different to their forebears who could provide access to just one door. It might be all you need.