Written by .

The “concierge” strategy isn’t what you think it is

“Strategically, we’re trying to be the concierge for [blank]. That’s our North Star!”

When I was in university, I paid the bills working as a concierge at a historic hotel – and it was my favourite job. So anytime I hear the word “concierge” come up in a meeting, I perk up. It’s a word I’ve heard in lots of strategy meetings. It’s brought out as a one-size-fits-all strategy that can work for everything. Usually, everyone around the table nods and agrees. If we can make [brand/platform/app] be the concierge for [persona/segment/group] then all will be right in the world.

Except it’s not the differentiating strategy that people expect it to be. At its core, a concierge strategy is describing a good customer experience. And that’s something every brand should strive for. On a deeper level, it suggests you use data and technology to wow customers in a way your competitors only dream of. Rarely have I seen that strategy executed in a way that would make Les Clefs d’Or proud.

The word concierge makes people think about their own experiences at hotels or restaurants. They think of that groomed, well-dressed, knowledgeable person that makes everything hum. Ready with a solution to any problem, they are the personification of the brand. Their one job is to make sure you, the customer, have a fantastic experience.

But when we build customer experiences we’re not always ready to honour the craft of the concierge. To be the concierge of [blank], we need to make sure we have some mandatory ingredients:

Consistency

The level of service you provide to your customer has to be consistent. It can’t be great one day, bad the next. This is true regardless of whether it’s the user experience in an app or a face-to-face interaction with a human. If you can’t be consistent, you can’t build trust – a true concierge is always trustworthy.

Anticipation

A good concierge knows what you need before you know you need it. If it’s noticed that you leave a hotel lobby in running gear, it’s probable that you’ll return sweaty and thirsty. A good concierge would make sure the door staff have a fresh towel and water waiting for you when you return. If you can’t recognize the patterns, actions, and behaviours of your customers you won’t know what they’ll need next.

Timeliness

What a concierge does is time sensitive. Theatre tickets for tonight. Dinner reservations for a birthday. A car booking at the airport for 8:00 pm. For such simple things, being off on timing can at best make something useless, at worst it causes financial harm. If you can’t provide value that’s timely and relevant, you’re not a concierge.

Solutions

A good concierge follows Don Norman’s advice, even if they don’t know it. They focus on fundamental problems rather than symptoms of problems. Then, they create a solution for that problem using their experience, networks, budgets, and resources available to them. If your offering isn’t ready to offer true solutions to real problems by using every single resource available to you, figure out how it can.

Trying to bring the spirit of this storied profession to life in your brand and customer experience is worthwhile, but it’s just good customer experience. Instead, you want a strategy that differentiates you from your competition. One that delivers a value proposition no one else can match. Don’t throw out the pursuit of trying to be the concierge, just integrate it into the differentiating strategy you’ll come up with.