The Virtual Concierge at your service 2008

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A concierge is no longer just found in a hotel lobby but can be seen at car dealerships, in shopping malls, at airports, in corporate buildings and even hospitals. A concierge is added service and can create loyalty to businesses and brands. It use be that offering a Concierge is something that a company can offer to differentiate themselves from the rest, but nowadays, it is just what a company needs to keep up with the Jones’. Do you take advantage of concierge services available to you through your credit cards, hotels, work? If you had to pay for Concierge service, would you use it and how much are you willing to spend?How do you feel about the Virtual Concierge and the idea of “at your service” at your point of need, anytime, anywhere?

 

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One Response to “The Virtual Concierge at your service 2008”

  1. Yoav Says:

    I agree with many of the other postings in this blog so I will try not to repeat the same ideas.

    Some mentioned the use of the electronic kiosk which I though was worth analyzing more. I remember several years ago when the airlines industry started introducing the electronic ticketing stations (like the ATM), initially they introduce it for the shuttle flights ( e.g. NY – Boston), while still maintaining the same ticket counters with humans. While flying back and forth, I have noticed that in the first few weeks very few dare the technology experience. Lines to the ticket counters were as busy as ever while the kiosks were empty. “What a poor way to introduce it to the market” I though, “why don’t they just get few ticket counters reps to show to the few that will dare but need initially a hand holding?, why not start with the frequent flyers?”, well they listen to my thoughts or saw the obvious and few weeks later few reps were approaching individuals within the line and offering their help. Within few days I could see the difference, the electronic ticket counters were getting more attention – but still limited – it was very frustrating to find out in the middle of the process of using one of these ATMs that you need help and one is not easily available. The airline (few of them at least) paid attention and introduced these ATM in front of the ticket counters and now you have a person readily available to support you or others (one rep covers 2 or more of those machines). – So there are some lessons here – the more complex the process the more we likely to seek help from human, and people will dare to use some of the technology if they are assured that there is a human (virtual or not) that can be on standby to help. And it is a great pleasure to get a help from someone that does not have to ask you to repeat the process from scratch because they can see from their end what the traveler already attempted to do.
    Other points:
    We need to keep in mind that yes there might be some resistance for adoption but the magnitude of the resistance is likely to drop over the years as the younger generation (born with PCs) get older and travel more.
    I will dare to guess that the setting of the environment can also be intimidating. For example, (again hypothesizing) when a customer approach the monitor and is now expected to talk to the screen some might feel as they are expected to step to the stage and sing. Some might look around to see who is looking or observing them before they feel comfortable enough to engage at ease. So enclosing the area of the virtual concierge environment (via a set of walls – not virtual ones) to provide a feeling of privacy (close to room setting or cubical) can add a lot. In addition to providing better customer service, making these technologies available for individuals from their room (via TV, Laptop, Cell phones, name it) will be a great leap. “Why should I get dressed and go down to the lobby if I can do it in my private setting?”
    I would recommend to Anna, if it is not already available, place another computer that Anna can remotely control to show and discuss different alternatives, directions, etc. This technology is readily available and used for remote presentation and collaboration. Anna at any point can relinquish control to the customer to conduct his/her search via sites that Anna picks or suggest. – Similar to self service, but Anna is there readily available to help.
    Anna, I read some of your background (all the way back to managing shoes manufactures in the Philippines to supply you with your own design line of shoes, to visioning and executing the virtual concierge), it is clear to me that you have the personality and the passion to move to the next level. I suggest that you might want to consider developing an offer (assuming a sound business case and validation is done) to outsource the concierge business. Provide similar service to different chain of hotels and companies. I don’t think hotels see the concierge as a differentiator (no offense – other things will differentiate them). What they will seek is more cost effective service. This one can do the job, and even better – why not 7/24, anywhere to any city. Yes, there are many items you will have to think about: team, compensation model, partnering with technology companies, etc. but with your background, passion and motivation, I am confident you can do it. I do see a solution that can be done with a virtual team and with minimum to no investment. Good model to consider is the “virtual tutoring” (if you are not familiar with it just Google it)
    This service can be extended to other areas: Banking – support customers using the ATM for complex transactions (and yes 7/24) – It will be nice to see banks extend such service as a differentiator.
    I work with one of the largest global banks and traveling to many locations, beyond my office, and I find it irritating to travel to a different location where I do not have an access to waiting in some high rise floor for someone to open the doors to guide me in. Why because many of the banks got rid of the receptionist, or the receptionist is out of lunch. Access to the floor can be assisted by a virtual receptionist – or more likely someone’s assistant that also fill this role when needed.
    How about extending such service to companies like Zagat?
    And the list can go on and on. I truly believe that there is a big future for such concepts – some already are successfully applied ( e.g. virtual tutoring)

    Cheers,

    Yoav

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