News | 02 Apr 2015
Today’s Concierge: The Marketing Platform Driving a Differentiated Customer Experience
Mary Naylor, CEO of Aspire Lifestyles Americas, has been at the forefront of the Concierge industry since founding Capitol Concierge, the nation’s largest corporate Concierge service, in 1987.
In the two decades since she launched Capitol Concierge, followed by the formation of her second Concierge company, VIPdesk (now Aspire Lifestyles) in 1997, Naylor has seen a fundamental shift in the landscape of the Concierge industry. Aspire Lifestyles’ Concierge services are contracted by major brands who offer Concierge services to their customers as part of a loyalty or best customer program.
“When I first got started in the Concierge industry, pre-Internet, a Concierge in effect acted as a search engine for customers,” Naylor explained to Loyalty360. “A Concierge would routinely be asked to conduct research, such as track down a magician for a birthday party, in addition to the traditional dining and event ticket requests.”
Until the late 1990s, her Concierges also received thousands of calls for directions and people looking for nearest store or Starbucks. In the past five to seven years, she added, there has been a significant change in behavior among Concierge users—the valued end customers of Aspire Lifestyles’ clients.
“Today,” she said, “end customers handle simple requests on their own with the Internet, mobile apps and on such sites as Open Table, which means our requests have become more complex like finding rare and unique items and even planning special events.”
“In response, our Concierge service had to evolve over the past several years in order to meet our clients’ needs,” Naylor said. “A Concierge service now is much more than fulfilling traditional dining, tickets and entertainment requests.”
A Concierge service must provide customers with something more than they could obtain or learn on their own, Naylor said.
“Concierge services must provide end customers with a combination of trusted advice, access, value and personal, proactive, multi-channel delivery in order to drive customer engagement,” she explained. “We have transformed Concierge from a basic dining, travel, and ticket fulfillment service into a marketing platform. Concierge services are now a strategic marketing tool that our clients use to acquire and retain customers, while simultaneously bringing the entire customer experience to a whole new level.”
It is the focus on the customer experience that is the reason why, according to Lori Byrne, SVP of Sales and Marketing with Aspire Lifestyles Americas, a Concierge program is a core underpinning of many of its clients’ respective loyalty marketing strategies.
“The emphasis on the customer experience is of ultimate importance across our client base,” Byrne said. “Not only the customer experience, but the role the customer experience plays in the creation of those memorable moments in life that no amount of money can buy. Our clients in multiple industries—including major credit card companies and financial institutions—are looking for a way in which they can differentiate their products and services, especially for their affluent customers.”
Providing Concierge service is a way that brands can develop deep personal relationships with their customers as an extension of their customer loyalty strategies, Byrne explained.
“Concierge provides a differentiated level of customer service that involves much more than a Google search,” Byrne said. “The personal touch that Concierge provides sets the stage for a personal relationship between a brand and its customers. From welcome calls to new customers and reminder calls ensuring that customers don’t overlook special occasions or milestones, to a stellar service experience with every interaction, Concierge consistently reinforces a brand’s value to its customer’s lives.”
Customers can also rely on their Concierge to bring memorable experiences to life, turning them into something that they will remember for a lifetime.
“One example of the benefit of Concierge service is making dinner reservations for Saturday night,” Byrne said. “The Concierge provides a stellar, personal service experience and then adds exclusive experiences and benefits on top. The customer will get to meet the chef, secure a special table, perhaps a complimentary glass of wine or appetizer—they will have a unique, special and memorable experience that they can’t get anywhere else.”
Naylor said that clients expect Aspire Lifestyles to deliver solutions customers couldn’t necessarily find on their own.
“End customers expect exclusive deals and special offers across various lifestyle verticals,” Naylor explained. “They don’t just want to use a Concierge for hotel reservations, they want their Concierge to go one step further and provide complimentary upgrades, late check-in, breakfast and more.”
Providing clients—and their valued customers—with exclusive experiences has driven one of the main changes that Aspire Lifestyles has made in the past several years.
“In response, Aspire Lifestyles has developed and built a whole division exclusively devoted to partnerships and value added benefits for our clients’ customers,” Naylor explained. “Aspire Lifestyles has developed a global network of Partnership Development Managers, dedicated to developing partnerships across all of the key lifestyle categories. From sourcing and contracting with car rental companies to provide unique benefits to customers, to building our own preferred restaurant program and luxury hotel network to developing retail partnerships and more,” she added.
The incredible transformation in the Concierge arena—the transformation of Concierge from a fulfillment service to a marketing platform—not only plays a large role in Aspire Lifestyles’ recent changes, but in the company’s future plans as well.
“As the role of the Concierge has changed, so has the reach and scope of many of our client programs,” Naylor said. “Many of our clients are using Concierge as a single point of contact for their customers.”
Naylor said that as the reach and scope of the Concierge increases, so does the Concierge service delivery process. “Every time a customer places a request, the Concierge learns more about their preferences,” Naylor explained. “Those preferences are then built into the customer’s personal preference profile. What we are doing now is developing a next-generation service delivery platform that will take customer behaviors and usage patterns and integrate them into a relevancy algorithm, designed to serve up the relevant benefits for each customer, based on their preference profile. The future of Concierge service delivery is all about getting the right marketing with the right assets.”
This article first appeared on http://loyalty360.org/loyalty-management/april-2015-online-issue/todays-concierge-the-marketing-platform