Seasoned travellers of the jet-set can spot them a mile away, need them like a flower needs the rain and wouldn’t go anywhere without them. Who are they? They are the dapper-looking fellows, on call at all hotel lobbies with a distinguishing pin on their lapels. The pin, a shiny golden insignia depicting two golden keys crossed in an ‘x’ formation, has been awarded to them by the international Les Clefs d’Or (The Golden Keys, in English) organisation.
Only a seasoned, professional concierge, the French word for ‘Keeper of the Keys’, receives this prestigious award. Like super-powered Personal Assistants, these professionals are at the service of the VIPs and guests they serve, 24/7. Whether you’re a celebrity VIP or not, from the moment you pick up the phone to arrange your visit or trip, until you arrive safely back from whence you came, your Concierge can be fully relied upon to get things done.
Remaining True to Its Origins
Predating the emergence of hotels themselves let alone the golden keys insignia, the role of concierge developed centuries ago in times when Europe’s nobility travelled from one castle to another. Initially restricted to matters of security as literal keepers of the cumbersome cast iron dungeon and fortress keys, the job soon came to include all matters of safety, especially for travel. Before long, one of the guards was sent ahead to secure conditions and preferences of the family he served.
The Golden Keys society as such began in Paris sometime in 1929 with eleven members. Its aim was to have the members cooperate as an exclusive organisation for the benefit of noble guests. Remaining true to its beginnings, the Les Clefs d’Or fosters interactive friendships among concierges in over 40 associations around the world today.
Unique Skill Set
Although the bulk of their work takes places behind the scenes, concierges are veritable walking directories of who’s who, what-to-do, when and where. These skilled operators of the golden key’s fraternity seem to have endless connections across a broad spectrum of arenas that they call upon to carry out what is asked of them. Already seasoned by the time they’re part of Les Clef d’Or, no service experience is the same as another, so their expertise expands constantly.
Knowing that those awarded the golden keys serve VIPs, owners of hotels, restaurants and those in tourism regularly offer free tours, trips and meals or free tickets to shows and events in the area. Concierges with the golden key’s insignia must continually update their knowledge and first-hand experiences, which add to their repertoire and list of recommendations. But that is just what they have ‘in the bag’ or ‘up their sleeve’, so to speak. The true artistry of today’s concierges is their ability to think efficiently on their feet. Their people skills and communication competency are very often superior to those they serve. Patience, flexibility, organisational ability, problem-solving and multitasking are called upon all at once from the first moment of contact till the last.
Although the bulk of those who earn the golden keys insignia are male, some of the most outstanding in the professions are women. The winner of 2019’s Les Clef d’Or Award went to a Geneva-based female concierge.
No Isn’t An Option If You Wear The Golden Keys
Strongly committed to “accommodate every guest request as long as it is legally, morally and humanly possible”, ‘No’ is a word you’ll rarely hear from the lips of a concierge. Among themselves, their unspoken mantra is, ‘Ma’am, if we can’t get you a white elephant, we’ll get you a pink one’!
Confidentiality – A Hallmark
Possibly the paramount requirement for any golden keys concierge is confidentiality. What happens to the guests they assist and what they were asked to do remains under the tightly sealed lips of the concierge. That doesn’t mean a few crazy requests haven’t slipped out, but by whom, when and where, remains secret. Spare a thought for these impeccable professionals who may not only be asked to supply suitable pumps for a lactating mother but must then freeze the results and fly them across oceans in time to meet a newborn’s feeding schedule. Hats off? Yes, we think so! Golden key bearers are also privy to many very touching, up-close-and-personal, human moments that totally make up for demands of the job.
The newer generation of concierge operates in ‘the new world of work’, where technology rules the day. In their case, there is no ‘front office’ or lobby presence. Many of them own their own companies in related industries and supply their concierge services via digital platforms. VIPs, celebrities and government officials bypass the front desk scenario altogether and while accompanied by someone wearing the golden keys, can get straight to the set of rooms or floor they have booked. Whatever the case, there’s no doubt that the golden past of the golden key fraternity still has a golden future ahead.
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