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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. We’re going to outline those tools 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. 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 XYZ perk.” A formal reservation means the guest is more likely to show up instead of wandering into a different place on the way over. Also, make sure you offer them insider access. One of our concierges settings lets concierges book on shorter notice than regular patrons. This is important as concierges frequently need to send guests on short notice as they are looking for a place to eat now.

Step 2: Offer a Concierge Bonus
Reservation Genie only charges cover fees from concierges. We don’t charge any cover fees from patrons, so we can charge a little more for concierge referrals and give 50% to the concierge. We charge $2 per cover and send them $1 per cover. In many markets, $1 per cover is well below the “industry standard” for concierge referrals. If you wish to make your package more compelling, our system will let you offer them a ‘Gift Card Bonus’ per cover and track it for you. You simply select the bonus amount and then our system will send you a report at the end of the month calculating what you owe and to which concierges. It will also send them a report. Make sure you manage those bonus distributions in a timely manner. Don’t leave them wondering if you’re really going to show up with the bonus amounts or they may starting sending customers to a competitor.

Step 3: Get Organized While Building Your Network
Once you have set up a program that ensures their guests are taken care of, gives them insider access to inventory, and offers a decent 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 we’ll send you some “dinner for two invitations” that you can distribute (see below). We recommend doing both at the same time. We should mention that if you invite a concierge to join our system, we rebate $1 per cover every time that concierge books a reservation at your venue for the life of the account. You’re doing us a favor by spreading the word about our system and we didn’t want to profit from that effort. So we built some tools to track and reward your efforts. That’s not to say this effort was entirely selfless as we make money if they book elsewhere and they can also invite their coworkers to join and we’ll make money from those bookings.

We should mention that if you invite a concierge to join our system, we rebate $1 per cover every time that concierge books a reservation at your venue for the life of the account. You’re doing us a favor by spreading the word about our system and we didn’t want to profit from that effort.

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. We give them the option to donate their earnings to charity and you can mention that if they bring up this point. 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 and book a practice resevation. If they’re in a hurry just get a card and send it later. 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. 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. Our “Dinner for Two Invitations” offer a convenient solution. 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 so that you get the rebate in cover fees mentioned above. 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. We will send you the Dinner for Two Invitations shown below that you can have your rep hand out. We won’t send anything with a lesser offer as it can cheapen the relationship you’re trying to build and we don’t want concierges thinking our clients are cheap. Click on the image to see the back side.

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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