Layla Roberts, our founder and CEO, was lucky enough to fall accidentally into the world of concierge, when she got a job as a Concierge Lifestyle Consultant for platinum credit card holders. She knew immediately this was the career path she was born to follow and decided to start her own company within 3 months of starting! It took her a little longer to pluck up the courage and save some money, but after working there for almost three years, she finally left in November 2012 to focus on Concierge Connections. She doesn’t regret this time working for a large corporation as it was certainly an invaluable experience.

Layla has a philosophy in life that you generally ‘get what you pay for’. For example, she doesn’t not mind if Ryan Air charge her to use their toilets on board as long as their flights are still £1 (plus taxes). This philosophy has also never been truer than with concierge services.

There are three main call centre concierge companies in Australia, including the one Layla worked at. The other two companies may differ somewhat, but in Layla’s mind, there are four main ways that call centre concierge differs from personal concierge:

Not entirely, but for the most part, the majority of Layla’s colleagues who were working as a call centre concierge were there to pay the bills. Layla appeared to be the only one passionate about the role. Some requests (e.g. can you make me a booking at Rockpool Bar & Grill a week tomorrow at 8.30pm for 4 people) do not require passion (unless they are fully booked of course), but for the majority of requests (e.g. help, I have absolutely no idea where to go on my honeymoon, it can be domestic or overseas and must be within a 10 hour flight), a desire to help, to persevere, to listen, to care is essential. For Layla, concierge is a way of life, not just ‘for Christmas’.

Secondly, at the call centre where Layla worked, they did not have access to the clients’ credit card details for security reasons, as the banks were outsourcing to them. Clients assumed they were the bank, which caused all kinds of confusion. On the whole, not having their credit card details was a major source of frustration for Layla, her colleagues and their clients. It meant, for example, that if they wanted a booking at Per Se restaurant in New York, they would have to do a conference call with the restaurant and the client at gone midnight in Sydney (due to the time difference). They were not even able to make any bookings at one of Sydney’s hottest restaurants, Momofuku Siebo, as they only take online bookings and credit card details are required. Another time not having credit card details on file was frustrating was when a popular event went on presale. All Ticketek and Ticketmaster presales are online only, which meant that they could not assist them with presale purchases. Once a general public sale started, it would get worse, as they would often have to queue on the phone to Ticketek/Ticketmaster for hours sometimes, assuming they could get through that is. In short, clients would often miss out on tickets altogether, due to this inadequate system.

The third main difference between these two concierge business models is that call centre concierge employees can only work on virtual requests, i.e. anything that can be done over the phone, internet or email. They cannot wait at your home for a tradesperson whist you have an important meeting, they cannot queue at the Apple store for the latest iPhone for you, they cannot collect your mail whilst you are on holiday and email you if anything urgent arrives, they cannot pick up your child or your dry cleaning, they cannot buy a gift for you to give to your mother that evening. A personal concierge can do all of these things and so much more.

And last but by no means least, the staff turnover rate at call centre concierge is quite high. Layla was there almost three years, but this is almost unheard of. Several clients would ask for Layla by name and wait until the next day if she was not in, but this was also unusual. Due to these factors as well as the nature of shift work, clients would often call and get a different person every time, sometimes for the same request which could lead to all sorts of Chinese whispers and problems. It also meant it was very difficult to get to know a clients’ likes and dislikes and build a relationship with them, which in Layla’s mind, is the key to any good concierge.

In summary, some of Layla’s ex-colleagues in other departments used to joke that we were just a ‘glorified Google’. In hindsight, Layla would agree that this is true for 90% of the people who work in call centre concierge. If you want a more personal service with someone who is passionate about helping others, please contact Concierge Connections for a free consultation.

Concierge Connections is a member of iCALM. It is the only industry body based locally, supporting the Australian and New Zealand Concierge and Lifestyle industry. You can find more information about them here: http://www.i-calm.com.au