INVESTMENTS TO BE MADE IN LOYALTY
Mikhail, the first and most important question is, what is a Concierge Service?
I would put it this way: it's a professional service of highest class represented by a personal concierge, aimed not only at the service quality but also at optimization of both the time of a club member and the financial component of any case.
This is a community of like-minded people in a form of a closed club, where its members get privacy and access to a variety of competencies of the club team. Fulfilling the unique tasks given by our clients, we continuously develop our knowledge and skills. We are personal travel and lifestyle assistants with a wide range of trusted contacts all around the world. We demonstrate in practice and have already proved in the context of many cases that the club membership in not only able to be paid off, but also make the money. Which is not the point for the club members, as a rule, but still significant and pleasant. Our philosophy is reflected in our slogan "Privacy Has One Attorney-In-Fact" and it is confirmed by the loyalty of the club members. "Comte des cierges" is a French phrase, from which, according to one of the theories, the word "concierge" originates, which meant a person responsible, already in the medieval period, for fulfillment of important tasks and holding the keys to a castle.
Why is it a Concierge Service? Why have you chosen this particular business area?
It is always the right thing to do what you understand and have the need to develop, I would even say a passion. In the case of the Concierge Service, for 10 years, I've worked as a personal assistant to large business owners. And before that, I spent 8 years in hotel business. I have tons of knowledge and contacts in the industry, and, what's most important, practical and usually successful experience. Therefore, I was interested in development from the point of view of my own business. It's a kind of closure of a triangle as I've put it for myself.
What are perspectives of such business? What is the development horizon?
Any business aimed at provision of a high-level service, where there are people who are ready to consistently provide such service, always has every chance of development and scaling. The problem of the client is to find such a product, and as you know, you can't get enough of a good thing. At the same time, there are enough people willing to pay for the service. It's like investing. People are willing to invest, but they don't know what to invest in. There is money but investors do not believe those they are offered to invest in.
Recently, we did a little research, selecting a perfect Concierge Service. We faced the problem that none of the Concierge Services, other than yours, could clearly formulate the service it offers, and could not respond in time to requests. How do you think what is the key to the success of your particular business?
In this case, everything is as simple as possible. It is the very individual approach and personnel, which, as you know, play a huge role.
And if you bear the business globalization in mind, when you created the business, did you count on a small club of clients or did you still want to attract corporate clients?
Business always starts with writing a plan, which never works later on (laughs). We were not going to attract corporate accounts. At present, our core such client is ESforce (eSports holding of Mail.Ru Group).
The main goal of the club, if we are talking about its individual members, is to stay within the limits of 300 accounts. Here, first of all, we are talking about quality, and when the amount is more, the quality is difficult to be guaranteed.
ESports players are quite specific people. How do you cooperate with them?
There are some peculiarities, but this is the issue of building relationships. They are simply less sociable in the conventional sense. You can't really talk to them on the phone, it's the messengers that are mostly used. But there are connecting links in the form of their managers who understand them and easily find common ground.
You have to be able to build relationships and dialogue with any client with whom you negotiate joining the club.
Can you consider your business as investments in loyalty?
Do you mean that a high-level service converts loyalty? Sure, it goes without saying. The best indicator of this investment is when clients bring other clients.
You said that personnel played a huge role. How do you select them?
There is a variety of approaches. Someone is inspired through your own example, someone is recommended to you, finally, someone doesn't fit in with the company or vice versa. Thus, through trial and error, the team gathered together. It's the same thing as with personal assistants, the market is large but it's difficult to the one – all business owners and managers know what I mean.
You travel a lot. How do you manage to combine both the quality of your life and the quality of the services you provide?
It is, first of all, a lifestyle. Second of all, one of the main messages of the club is the investment in product knowledge. And in our case, the product is the knowledge of the location, hoteliers and contractors in any jewelry, automotive, art stories and so on. This business has no right to exist without the very trips, without acquaintances and without maintaining of contacts. A website may have good pictures, but mostly people ask if we have been there, if we know it, and if we understand it? Therefore, it is the only thing you need to invest in, which, in the end, generates the very loyalty.
It turns out that you have to test everything on yourself. Be responsible for the quality of your offer.
Yes. Plus, in each location, when you know a certain specialist or a manager and if a client has problems with hotel or yacht, you can call a certain person you know, rather than to a common number. It, as a rule, solves any problem. Or it makes it clear that the problem is unsolvable in one way or another. In any case, it gives an objective picture of the situation.
Can we say then that the Concierge Service is a service that is based on face-to-face interaction?
Only on it. Based on honesty, consistency and trust with both clients and counterparties.
How many contacts do you have in your phone's address book?
Let's have a look together, it's interesting. 5341.
I know that the membership in your club is fee-based. What were the club members interested in during the pandemic and how was communication with them built?
Yes, we have a fee-based membership in the club, there is an annual membership contribution. So, we have extended the membership of all the club members for the duration of the pandemic. Being the affected industry, we voted with our feet. This was taken very well. This was the correct and right thing to do, although, most of the clients contacted us despite the pandemic. Therefore, someone who did not contacted us, got a 2 months extension from us, those who did, got a 1 month extension. There were lifestyle cases: assistance in the purchase of cars, watches and jewelry, there was also the arrangement of export, accordingly private flights, there was a very difficult case, I would say a pinpoint one, Malé – Vladivostok.
Does it happen in your work that you try to anticipate the client's wishes in advance, or are they still on request?
We, understanding, knowing, analyzing what the client is interested in, give him proactive travel, lifestyle offers and so on. Moreover, we have thematic email marketing that is made for us by the club's specialized consultants: travels, restaurants, cultural events, art market, exhibitions, sports, movies and TV series. Such email marketing is made available once a month to the clients. As it turned out, it was a very smart idea. Email marketing converts many potential clients into dialogue. It is useful and informative, and people get ideas from there and implement them through their concierge.
How do clients get to you?
Mostly, word of a mouth marketing works here, as well as partnership with major car brands, insurance companies and clinics, and don't forget about social media sites.
If we talk about the partners you've mentioned, you also attract clients with their help. How does the partner sell your service? What is its interest here?
The interest is the get additional loyalty of its clients. Travelling and concierge service are non-core for all those partners. They can only provide such services only through a certain partnership program. If their clients receive high quality services from us, then they are loyal to those who have provided with, gifted or recommended them such services. Plus, as a part of cooperation, the partners receive the same special marketing emails, selected for them, co-branded or monobranded. We can also work as a white label.
We know for sure that you have something exclusive. We did a little research with this regard. How do you manage to make exclusive offers, such as a villa, for example?
Yes, we've bought a villa in Mykonos. We made an investment in some sort of a portfolio story. Understating what a strong, professional back office is, we felt that owning and managing a villa and sales was a very good business decision.
What are the prospects for the development of the Concierge Service today?
The rosiest ones. Let everyone get better sooner and the world return to a stable mode, and in this context, it is the concierge due to having lifestyle and many other strong competencies as well as travel, that is a more secured model rather than a pure travel model, which was proved by the pandemic.
What are your three rules of life?
Three of them! Attention to details, maximum involvement in what I do and faith in people and in the principle of mutuality, including belief in what you give out is always returned.
Do you talk to yourself?
In an ongoing dialogue, but it is necessary to pay more attention to the choice of topics, not all deserve attention (laughs)
Do you prepare for important meetings? Do you play scenarios?
I didn't for the meeting with you, you haven't even given the topics and it turned out to be more interesting. I know that a lot has been said and not everything will be included into the final version. I don't have a lot of preparations for meetings with clients, as I know the subject matter. Being able to listen, capture the details, adapt within the conversation are what's important.