The beginnings of the profession can be traced back to the medieval era. French noblemen left the care of their castles, its residents, and their guests in the hands of an individual. These persons were called the “keepers of the candles" or “comte des cierges” in French. They were entrusted with the keys of the castle. Although the job today still entails making either the stay or travel of an individual memorable, it has gone beyond this level of service.
Concierges are often masters of the ins and outs of their locale. They know how to get their clients to places that interest them, they know people who can facilitate the unique and challenging needs of the people they serve. The really good ones seem to be capable of nearly anything, both the unusual and the impossible. All high-class reputable hotels have these cordial quick-thinking people in their employ. They are most often recognized as the face of the institutions they serve.
What a modern-day practitioner of this profession does depends largely on the type of institution or facility employing him or her. This is due mainly to the fact that the needs of the clients of these facilities vary. Thus, the responsibilities of those who work for a hotel varies somewhat from those who work for cruise ships, casinos, resorts, private individuals, corporations, and so on.
There are duties and responsibilities, however, which are common across the board. Foremost among these is communicating with the facility or institution’s customers. They are often the people these customers go to when they have concerns or needs they want met. These communications are done in person, over the telephone, and, more recently, over the Internet.
Another common responsibility is being an information resource on how to enjoy the services offered by a facility, as well as those found in its surrounding areas. Concierges are expected to be able to know the best possible routes from one point to another, whether by foot, by public transportation, or by private vehicle. People expect them to be able to know where to find events, tourist spots, destinations, and other things that they may be interested in.
In connection to being a reliable source of local information, part of the job is to be able to book customers into different events, to make reservations for them at their intended destinations, or to acquire the requisite tickets. They can also help make appointments or assist in arranging their customer’s itinerary so that the client can make the most of his or her stay.
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There are several key skills that concierges need to master. One is the ability to navigate. They know about local museums, shopping districts, tourist attractions, and even where to get a cup of the kind of coffee the customer craves. More importantly, they know how to get there regardless of the means of transportation preferred. They can also help the customer understand this in an accessible manner. Part of this is being able to show the destination’s location on the map, what route to follow, and the landmarks along the way.
People in this level of the hospitality industry also have good language skills. They often know all or nearly all of the local dialects, and one or more foreign languages. Concierges today work in teams under a Chief Concierge and seldom work alone. Thus, there is usually one among them who can communicate well with the customer. This is particularly helpful for those who are employed in the travel industry.
It is quite frequent that a customer makes an unusual request which little is known about. This means that in order to successfully serve the customer, good research skills are necessary. This includes knowing whom to ask about particular questions and being able to gauge the reliability of the information obtained.
Above all, the profession needs excellent customer service skills. Talking to people and helping them is an inescapable and inherent characteristic of the job. Those who show promise in this profession are pleasant and sociable. This characteristic is natural or cultivated by those interested in working in this field. This is useful in networking with others who may be of help in getting that exclusive theater performance ticket, for instance.
Concierges are no longer limited to hotels and resorts. They are found working in cruise ships, for travel companies, corporations, community care facilities, and even private individuals. They work in teams headed by Chief Concierges. Various aspects of the job are assigned to certain team members, so the workload is distributed and easier to accomplish. Furthermore, some companies offer concierge services to private individuals and companies. This means that going into private practice, and then later owning one’s own company, is a distinct possibility.