The position of Concierge has had many names throughout time and cultures, from doorkeeper to porter, or portero in Spanish-speaking regions, and Suisse in Paris. The primary job of today’s Concierge is to be a liaison for the guest in helping to acquire theatre tickets, tours, dining reservations, and so much more. Midwest Meetings spoke to a few Midwest Concierges to understand how you are able to utilize their services in the most beneficial ways.
“I’ve been at Radisson Blu Minneapolis Downtown for just over a year,” explained Dan Lundin, Director of Guest Services. “I’ve been in the industry for six years and have handled just about every guest service role there is during that time. The thing I love the most about guest service, and specifically concierge work, is that it’s your job to make someone’s day – you quite literally have no other expectation.” That is a pretty powerful (and liberating) duty.
Lundin added, “If you work in a city you love and are familiar with, it’s a thrill to be able to introduce out-of-towners to the local nooks and crannies you can’t find on Yelp or Google, and get that positive response when they come back from a restaurant or attraction you recommended to them.”
LondonHouse Chicago opened last year with Shannon Boland heading the Concierge position. “The architecture, the food, the spirit of Chicago is infectious. I moved to Chicago a decade ago from St. Louis and immediately fell in love with this city,” Boland exclaimed. “I have been a Concierge for just over seven years now and I love making memories for my guests. Twenty years from now, the guests may not remember my name, but they will remember that amazing family vacation they took to Chicago. THAT is why I do what I do!”
Midwest Meetings: What is the oddest request you have ever had? Were you able to accomplish the task?
Dan Lundin: I love the term “odd request” because it usually signals the opportunity to do something really fun! Usually guests will put wild things in the special requests field when they book thinking we don’t actually read them, but we do! I’ve made pillow fortresses for guests prior to arrival and had a guest ask for a drawing of Iron Man fighting Batman to be placed on their pillow upon arrival – I had to beg a much more talented front desk agent to draw that one – but we made it happen! But one of my first experiences of receiving an “odd request” was after I checked a guest into their room and inquired if there was anything else I could do for them. They asked flippantly if I would put gas in their car for them so they didn’t have to do it in the morning. They saw me pause and say “Yeah, sure!” Granted – I had cleared a driving record check at that hotel and there was a gas station pretty much right next to our parking lot, so the liability was minimal. I’ll never forget their faces when I took that task on for them.
Aaron Brandenburg: I would never say that any request was odd. A lot of what I do is bespoke and many times I do provide assistance with visualizing what an experience might look like. One of my favorites was filling one of our beautiful suites with hundreds of red balloons and a single pair of scissors, one of which contained a special note to a loved one.
Shannon Bolund: What keeps my job interesting is you never know what someone is going to ask. One person may ask for directions to the Shedd Aquarium, the next person may want to charter a private yacht. There is no limit to what a Concierge can do. Some of my most memorable experiences have been playing cupid. Fulfilling a request to help with proposals so guests walk into a candle lit ballroom to their favorite song playing, to obtaining a vintage bottle of champagne from the year guests met for their anniversary. I even helped a guest pick out his engagement ring once!
MM: What tips do you have for individuals who have never asked a concierge for help?
DL: Concierges love to talk about their city. Not only that, but there are no “stupid questions” or “silly requests” to a concierge. We are ‘people people’ so we relish the opportunity to connect with others and provide a personalized experience while you’re at our hotel.
AB: If the property you have chosen to stay with provides concierge services, always reach out in advance. The concierge will ensure you receive outstanding service, and often has the unique ability to make your stay a special experience.
MM: With the advancements in technology, do you see the concierge service going out of style in the future?
DL: This is a question I have pondered a lot lately. Honestly, I do not. There are two key things concierges can provide that the internet cannot: personal experience and personal connections. A good concierge will recommend a place based on his or her personal experience and may more often than not have a personal relationship with the management at that establishment. This means you are more likely to get a table even if they are booked solid, or something thrown in like free dessert, etc. Another reason a concierge will always win over technology is that a good concierge will know the tucked away, off-the-beaten-path attractions you might miss, if you just do a quick internet search. Having a personal interaction with a true expert of the area allows the guest to map out their day much more effectively than if they tried to do that same thing on their own. I think nothing beats a good concierge. But I may be a little biased…
AB: Personal concierge services will remain a unique experience to luxury properties. I don’t believe the ability to develop a relationship or have a conversation with a property’s concierge will ever be out of fashion.
SB: No one can ever replace the human factor! A concierge is Google Maps®, Open Table®, Yelp® and TripAdvisor®, all rolled into one! Concierges can help get discounts on tours, have been to the hottest restaurants and can snag you the best tables, arrange the room with pre-arrival surprises, score tickets to sold out shows, and MORE! There is just something about talking to a real person that an app will never be able to replace.
With these tips from the top echelon of guest services in the Midwest, go out and engage your next concierge with the desires of your adventurous heart and make the most of your stay. They will be happy to help!