March 30, 2001

Rising to the occasion
Corporate concierges bring tenants new level of service
By Paul Restuccia

Real estate companies are finding that having concierges available to tenants is the ticket not only to enhancing customer service but building bonds with tenants that help retain them.

The concierge concept, once the domain of hotels and high-end residents, is spreading into the local commercial real estate industry.

Everyone from property managers to company human resources departments to residential brokers are creating or have created concierge programs to enhance their services.

Property managers point out that every commercial building has its own personality and the decision on what kind of concierge service to offer is based on factors such as the size, tenant mix and level of service desired.

Some firms opt for an in-house staff, while others contract a third-party concierge service for their buildings. And in mid-size Class A buildings or those without a property manager on site, it's often more cost-effective to combine security and concierge functions, where the staff not only makes dinner reservations, secures tickets and processes dry cleaning, but also does access control and may even serve as a building's point person for property management requests...

...A third option that real estate companies are using is to hire a firm that combines concierge service with a security function. Firms like Boston-based Palladion Services Inc. perform both, with the staff built around the concierge concept from the ground up. This 4½-year-old company serves around 40 Class A commercial buildings in the Boston area.

"We recruit from the same pool of concierge talent as second or third-tier hotels," says founder Richard Primrose, who, unlike the founders of many security companies, did not come from law enforcement, but Harvard Business School.

After managing contract security for other companies, Primrose saw a niche for a concierge service that would work in tandem with security and at a cost competitive with high-end security-only firms. "We find it easier to hire people with concierge skills already in place and then we teach them the security end, " he says...