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March 4, 2014

Building a Successful Concierge Referral Program

Reservation Genie comes with 4 tools to make building a successful concierge program easier that we outline in this blog post. If you’re not a Reservation Genie customer, the strategy still holds true. Courting concierges to send you referrals requires building a relationship. A lot of restaurants think that by passing out free appetizer cards concierges will suddenly start sending them hundreds of customers every week. Wouldn’t that be great? While offering a “perk” to their guests is something we highly recommend, it’s just one of several steps towards building a relationship with concierges. In the end, you have to ensure them that their guests will have a great experience AND demonstrate that you appreciate their referrals with rewards. Ultimately, the top concierges at the top hotels have been in this profession for years and they have built strong reputations. The most important factor is that they can trust that their guests will have great food & great service. The tools we offer just make the process building these relationships easier to manage and more engaging.

Step 1: Set Concierges up with Insider Privileges
Reservation Genie offers a couple of special settings for concierges. In the screen shot below you can see that we encourage restaurants to offer their guests a perk like a complimentary round of presecco or a complimentary appetizer. Try to deliver this to the guest as “compliments of the concierge.” The concierge can use this perk as a closing tool to book a formal reservation. If the guest says they don’t need a reservation the concierge can say “if I book it, you get a complimentary appetizer.” A formal reservation means the guest is more likely to show up instead of wandering into a different place on the way over.

Step 2: Offer a Concierge Bonus
We offer tools to create and promote a bonus for concierges, track the results, and stay on top of your referral program. You simply select the bonus amount and then our system will show that amount to concierges on your profile when they login. It will also send you a report at the end of the month calculating what you owe and includes their mailing address so you can drop gift card or checks in the mail. It will also send them a report, so they know what to expect is arriving soon. The trick is making sure you take care of them promptly. The quicker you take care of them, the more trust they have in your program long term.

Step 3: Get Organized While Building Your Network
Once you have set up a program that ensures their guests are taken care of and offers a compelling bonus on top; it’s time to start recruiting. This process can be challenging, but it reaps high rewards over time. Make a list of the key hotels you want to visit and then set up a calendar of when you’re going to visit them. Keep in mind that they usually have a shift change at 3pm. During slow season this can be a good time to reach them as you may reach more than one shift.

Reservation Genie offers two ways to network with concierges. You can invite concierges to join your network via email or leave instructions on how to set up an account with a dinner invitation. We recommend doing both at the same time. So have something to leave behind that invites them into the restaurant and pick up their card to send them an invitation using our tools. That will make it easier to resend the invitation later if they don’t respond on the first pass.

Step 4: Visit Concierges to Promote Your Referral Program
The recruiting starts with sending a rep out to meet with them. Tell them about your referral program and how you set it up so that their guests are given special treatment when they book reservations. Then ask if they’d like to try the restaurant so they can recommend it with first hand experience. Some high end hotel concierges will object to referral programs, but they may come around after trying the restaurant and knowing that you’re taking special care of their guests. If they say they’d like to learn more, tell them you’ll send them an invitation to join and ask for their email address. If they’re not busy you can send it from your phone and they can register while you’re there. If they’re in a hurry just get a card and send it when you get back to the office. Our system will let you see when they register and make it easy to resend the invitation periodically in case they miss it the first time with a resend button. Just remember, don’t over do it. Also, remember that the goal of the referral program is not designed to persuade concierges to book reservations for money, but to make it a profitable experience for them which produces much higher results.

Step 5: Invite Them in to Dine on the House
Sometimes it’s hard to get a rep to discuss the topic with enough poise to convey all these details and other times the concierges are too busy to go into details. We recommend creating “Dinner for Two Invitations” like the sample below. They include instructions to register for a concierge account with an invitation code that they can enter on the homepage. This code is unique to your venue and connects them to your account. It explains that they can register, book a reservation, add a note that they’re redeeming their dinner invitation, and see the system in action in 3 easy steps. This can cover all the details with a “hands on” approach. It also allows you to discuss the details of any bonuses in person after they have tried the restaurant. We believe that you can’t really expect them to refer customers your way unless they can honestly recommend the restaurant for its merits. And that means having a good understanding of the ambiance, cuisine, and personality of the restaurant. Don’t skimp with a buy one get one free entree offer. Click on the image to see the back side. The idea is to create a flier like that. A simple invitation on your letterhead will also work.

Step 6: Make a Habit of the Process
Don’t expect to have concierges beating down your door after the first effort. In fact, you should expect to do this once a month for a few months if you want to create a strong program. It’s good to keep an eye on your concierge report to see if certain hotel or concierge traffic fades and use that info to revisit them. Sometimes a concierge will have left the hotel and you may need to get to know the new one. Other times they may have heard about a bad experience from a guest and you will need to reassure them that you’re taking necessary action to fix the issue. These are relationships you have built and we give you a lot of tools to make them easier to manage. But relationships require a little routine maintenance or they eventually they fade. Distributing bonuses becomes a great opportunity to check in with concierges. You can drop monthly bonuses by the hotel in an envelope with their name on it or email/call the concierge and invite them to drop by. Make sure you offer the a bite when they drop by!

That’s it. Good luck with your recruiting efforts and let us know if you have questions!

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