The Web Concierge

An article by David Brooks on July 24, 2008


A few years back I worked at a hotel as the front desk manager. I won’t name the hotel or tell you the location, we’ll just say that it wasn’t the best overall environment and leave it at that. The owner was nice and the staff I worked with was great, but it was the guest angle that presented most of the problems.

When your hotel isn’t the best on the block you have the unique dilemma of being compared to the neighbors. Of course, you’re charging a certain (much lower) rate than the competition, and the guests like to pretend that they are staying in the best hotel in the world. Furthermore, they often expect you to pretend along with them. Obviously that doesn’t always happen. Even though I was the front desk manager I had to deal with the guest for the entirety of their stay. So, in all actuality I was a concierge as well.

con·cierge [kon-see-airzh; Fr. kawn-syerzh]

  1. (esp. in France) a person who has charge of the entrance of a building and is often the owner’s representative; doorkeeper.
  2. a member of a hotel staff in charge of special services for guests, as arranging for theater tickets or tours.
  3. an employee stationed in an apartment house lobby who screens visitors, controls operation of elevators, accepts deliveries to the tenants, etc.
  4. a janitor.
  5. Obsolete. a custodian or warden. Unabridged (v 1.1) Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.

What the above definition doesn’t exactly convey is that the concierge is one of the most important people in the hotel. They are the person that deals most directly with the guest and has the biggest impact on that guest. If the customer has a bad experience it often falls back on the shoulders of the concierge. That of course assumes that the guest is logical and sober. (That’s something entirely different…)

So what am I getting at? Usually it’s the front desk person who gets you setup with your room but it’s the concierge that handles everything else in your stay. It’s like that when you’re working with the web, except, unless you’re in a larger production environment the person who makes the initial contact and promises the setup (the front desk manager) is often the same person that deals with the client on a regular basis (the concierge).

There’s also that general part of delivering goods and services to the client. When you deal directly with them, you are the one that is perceived as making good on company (or individual) promises. So it’s important that you have great interactions with the client, otherwise the whole thing is going to bomb. That is, of course, unless you have someone that is looking over your shoulder to smooth things over with the client.

On the other hand, a good concierge knows when to draw the line. I was not prepared to deliver on every request that the guest wanted me to look into. I’m not getting into that type of detail, we’ll just say those requests were rejected on a legal or ethical level. Knowing when to not deliver something is as important as delivering the things you should. Even if you cannot or will not make a certain type of delivery you must treat the guest with respect. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t tell them why their request cannot be completed, if that’s something you must do.

My point is this, if we watch what a hotel concierge does we can often apply it to web. Deliver exactly what the client needs in a way that makes them think that you are their best friend while at the same time being conscious of the best practices and morality issues involved. You are the person that will most likely bridge the gap between company and client, therefore it’s important to keep on the good side of both parties involved.

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About David Brooks

David Brooks is the owner of the small creative studio, Northward Compass, based out of Orlando, Florida. He writes electronic and ambient music as Light The Deep, and fantasy stories about a place called Elerien.

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