If I wanted a generic answer, I’d read a guidebook

Have you ever found yourself stepping into someone else’s conversation at the concierge desk to offer a guest an opinion of your own? Perhaps there’s a language barrier, the concierge looks lost or the advice the guest has been given has nothing to do with what they asked for. Except in the first of those three circumstances, there’s nothing I hate more than a hotel employee who, with full confidence, makes a blind recommendation on what to do or see without first trying to gauge my interests. Sure, I may have asked for a recommendation, but that recommendation should be customized for me. After all, no one knows the city better than they do, and nothing makes me lose more confidence in the concierge than a passerby with a better suggestion.

All too often, concierges rely on the given must-sees and must-eats that work for the common first-time visitor. But do these lists work for the repeat visitor or the one looking to get off the beaten track? 

It’s a rhetorical question, but it begs us to ask why this happens. For the most part, it’s because the wrong candidates are hired to fill the concierge role. Hotel experience isn’t important here — intuition and experience are. And unlike other technical roles in the hotel, a concierge should be someone who:

  • is genuinely interested in the city
  • is intuitive 
  • has experienced most of the must-sees and must-dos
  • loves trying new things in culture, food and history
  • wants to help complete strangers enjoy the city, too

Once that person is hired, ensure they do the following:

  • Never provide a generic recommendation.
  • Ask guests what interests them (culture, food, museums, arts and crafts, sightseeing, etc.).
  • It may seem obvious, but ask what guests have already done.
  • Ask how many days guests have left in town (the recommendation should change if it’s the guest’s one and only day, or the first day of a weeklong trip).
  • Ask how much time guests have for activities. (Do they have the whole day, or are they leaving for the airport later?) 
  • Gauge how active they want to be (do they want to walk, hike, cab it, stay close or go far).
  • Then customize the experience with a variety of options.
  • Go above and beyond by rounding out the experience with a variety of dining, transport and/or additional activities.  

Ultimately, concierges should be passionate. But don’t underestimate the need to further develop them. Once hired, encourage concierges to continue seeing and doing new things — on the company’s time and dime. Only then can they make the best recommendations to your valued guests.