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At your service.

The concierge -- to Hoosier hoteliers, it means personalized service.

A concierge was once a fixture in exclusive Old World European hotels and, later on, in black-and-white movies. But what is a concierge? Derived from a Latin word for slave, concierge originally meant custodian, janitor or doorkeeper in French.

To Hoosier hoteliers, it means personalized service.

"The United States doesn't have the equivalent to the textbook definiton of European concierges," says John Wise, director of rooms operations at the South Bend Marriott. "A concierge here is more of an information person, a host or hostess at a continental breakfast or evening hors d'oeuvres reception."

And that's the kind of concierge service found at some Indiana hotels. "We provide a continental breakfast and newspapers and magazines," says Rolando Pimentel, front-office manager at the Fort Wayne Hilton. The concierge on duty also may give information, order flowers or obtain tickets.

According to a study by Marriott Corp., 60 percent of the survey respondents indicated they liked hotel concierge service because of the food and beverages.

"They like to be able to leave their rooms, walk down the hall and get something to eat," Wise says. "The most important thing is the continental breakfast and the evening snacks."

"It's not just a free breakfast," says Terri Dokken, a concierge at the Indianapolis Marriott for four years. "It's my job as a concierge attendant to know if you're unhappy and find out why so I can make it right. And it's my job to know if you're happy so I can keep on doing it."

Besides hosting breakfast for Marriott's Honored Guest Program members, Dokken also lists among her various duties arranging airline reservations, obtaining tickets for concerts and plays, giving directions, making reservations at restaurants, and--because she's flown just about everywhere while an airline attendant--making vacation recommendations. For guests who want the best jogging routes, Dokken draws up maps as well.

"It gets old sitting in a hotel room looking at four walls," Dokken continues. "I just do anything within my power to make sure they have a most enjoyable stay. They're not at home, but I want them to feel like they're at home."

Even without a formal concierge attendant, Lezlie Woolums' front-desk staff at the Adam's Mark Hotel in Indianapolis is trained to provide guests with service "above and beyond the call of duty. As far as any of the guests' needs, we take care of it ourselves."

For example, a Japanese guest wanted a tour of the city. "One of our supervisors set one up through a limousine service and made sure everything went off without a hitch," Woolums says.

Another time, she continues, a Swedish guest needed to make travel arrangements, but spoke very little English. After making all the arrangements, the hotel employee escorted the guest to the airport to make sure everything was OK.

Alan Jackson, a concierge at the Indianapolis Marriott, adds "problem solver" to Wise's earlier definition.


And he's had a few minor problems to solve in his more than four years at the hotel.

"I have had people who have come in and the luggage has been lost," Jackson says. "If I can get an idea of what somebody wants, I know where to send them."

But for the most part, Jackson's duties are hospital in nature.

One time, a guest wanted a non-alcoholic beer that neither Jackson nor the hotel kept in stock. The next day on his way in, Jackson purchased a top brand of imported non-alcoholic beer and had it chilling when the guest returned to the lounge. "He loved it and it's fun to do--it makes you feel good."

Also important to the concierge job, according to South Bend Marriott's Wise, is "remembering the customer and what they like and what they want.

That's part of what Jackson does best. He discovered one guest's pretzel preference. Each time this guest returns, Jackson has a bowl of the snack waiting in this room. "It's little things like that that makes a person feel like he's coming home."

And it's little things like that for which Jackson was given a ROSE--Recognition of Service Excellence--Award for 1991. The Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association began awarding the ROSE each year to individuals who provide service beyond the normal call of duty for those visiting Indianapolis.

There are virtually no limits to a concierge's job description. Other duties by national and international concierges have included teaching a guest's grandson to fish, obtaining tickets for a sold-out performance of "Cats," having a DC-10 with specific configurations flown in for an African president, and arranging--in four hours--a party for a guest at a mansion that had a swimming pool.

Gaining access to be coveted concierge level or lounge can happen a couple different ways. Most hotels have their frequent-stay clubs, and guests, after a certain number of nights. can earn their way to that level. Or, in some hotels, guests can pay $10 to $25 above the corporate rate.
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Title Annotation:Business Travel; concierge service in Indianapolis hotels
Author:Gilbert, Jo
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Date:Oct 1, 1993
Previous Article:Sleeping well.
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