More than just advice, concierge services provide special help
Concierge services are relatively new and higher levels of assistance that evolved out of the hotel-based help business travelers have long called upon when on unfamiliar turf. In the late 1990s, there were only a handful of firms in the space; but today, industry veterans estimate there are more than 1,000 concierge services around the world covering the entire spectrum of support needs, from basic everyday tasks like picking up your dry cleaning and prescriptions or walking your dog to more substantial undertakings, such as hiring the perfect personal chef or snagging one of your valued clients a reservation at a perennially booked, five-star restaurant.
However, don’t think of concierge services as just discounted tickets to sports events or generic recommendations you might expect of, say, your platinum credit card company or a luxury hotel. From small boutique services to large, global organizations with thousands of employees, there are sophisticated concierge services—one-stop shops—ready to satisfy your every need. Costs, as you might assume, vary widely and depend not only on the service requested but the area of the world you’re in at the time. Pricing is typically based on one or more of the following: hourly and day rates, a la carte charges or invitation-only, annual membership fees.
Stan Doobin, owner and CEO of Harvard Maintenance, a New York-based building-maintenance and security-services company, has been a member of The Bluefish, a premier lifestyle, concierge and travel service, for four years. He touts the company as an invaluable business resource. “Basically, whenever you need something nobody else can pull off, you call them,” he says. “[Maybe] one of your clients is in town and wants tickets to the Emmy Awards or a Victoria Secret fashion show. They save you the time and deliver on something you wouldn’t have been able to do yourself, and they make you look like a hero at the same time. You place that phone call, and—voilá—magic happens.”
Doobin recalls one instance when he was trapped with nothing to do at an industry conference during a national holiday in Brazil. “We were all really bored, and I thought it would be fun to go see Iguaçu Falls, but I didn’t know how to do it,” he says. “I made the phone call to Bluefish and 30 minutes later they had a private plane and a tour guide booked. Whatever you need, however you need it, you’ll get it, and the biggest grief they may give you is ‘Give me a half-hour.’” The value, he says, is impossible to assess in purely financial terms. “Having your family and friends say ‘thank you’ from the bottom of their hearts is hard to quantify—and very unusual in today’s world.”
All concierge services are not created equally
As you might expect, the type of concierge services you might want or receive in Dubuque will be different than what you might get in Dubai—as is what you’ll pay for it. “If a CEO is located in or visiting New York City or another world capital, pricing for services there will be higher,” says Katharine Giovanni, a leading concierge trainer and founder and chief happiness officer of both Triangle International (an independent concierge and customer-service training firm) and the International Concierge and Lifestyle Management Directory, a leading online concierge listing. “Some concierges charge so that the client will prepay for a block of time. They’ll say, ‘Pay me for five hours, and you’ve got me for whatever you want to do.’ Others treat it like a private club, with annual fees and with services bundled at each level based on the markets they serve.”