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Interview: Marianne Morin

Marianne Morin, National Director of Les Clefs d’Or and SGM Ambassadors Trainer

Once a unique feature of the hotel industry, concierge service has now been applied to office towers and other commercial environments, where it is being increasingly integrated into their welcome and customer experience strategies. How?

You are now National Director of Les Clefs d’Or and Head Concierge at Westin Montreal. Why is the concierge regarded as the reference when it comes to customer welcome and experience?

We help craft dreams because, for the concierge, everything is possible. We turn the customer experience into a memorable moment by creating strong ties. The Clefs d’Or’s code of ethics and values ensure a solid commitment to offering an exemplary service.

You train SGM Ambassadors, who offer concierge services. What are you trying to instill in them?

I am passionate about service. When you love what you do, people sense it immediately. I want these ambassadors to be experts in customer experience. The training I give provides a thorough base, with a participatory component. We explore this excellence in four distinct ways:

  • Customer service in all its forms
  • What “exemplary service” means
  • Keys to success and supporting tools
  • A workshop to develop these skills

How is the hotel concierge offering replicated in corporate environments and office towers?

We are service ambassadors, and our art is the art of welcoming. Concierge training allows ambassadors in the business world to offer this quality of welcome. It instills awareness of the codes, values and human side of the brands and owners that occupy the building. It’s a little like being welcomed to a high-end hotel. You feel good, even “special,” and all the day’s worries simply vanish. The training that I give to these ambassadors equips them with the tools to welcome visitors in a personalized manner, to nimbly navigate delicate situations and even give tips on the best destinations for a business lunch or a great place for an after-work drink. Concierges have access to a vast network of contacts and are experts on their city.

During the current pandemic, what can a concierge offer to create a memorable customer experience?

In the short term, a sense of safety! When we return to our workplaces, we will have to take into account people’s health and train our ambassadors ahead of time to ensure that sanitary measures are respected, and especially, to add a little warmth. We want to avoid giving the impression of arriving at a clinic, with mandatory hand-washing and social distancing between people. We will have to work to loosen the mood and re-establish confidence.

The character Monsieur Gustave in the film The Grand Budapest Hotel left a mark on the collective imagination. This colourful concierge was played brilliantly by Ralph Fiennes. Over the course of your career, have you ever met a Monsieur (or Mme!) Gustave who inspired you?

I love this question, because I had the opportunity to meet so many inspiring people in the hotel and tourism industry! But without question, Gérald Parent, General Manager — Travel & Lifestyle Services at American Express Canada, was MY Monsieur Gustave. His career and experience inspired me. He was head concierge at the Hotel InterContinental Toronto, and at 28, he became the youngest president of Les Clefs d’Or Canada. He is a mentor who sets the standard for generosity, professionalism and humanity! During our last Zoom meeting, he mentioned the important role that the concierge has to play in the current situation, which is affecting our industry so dramatically. It’s at such a time that their creativity and resourcefulness shine.

Here’s to “exemplary service”!