According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word ‘concierge’ is from Old French and was probably derived from the Vulgar Latin (common speech) word conservius, an alteration of the Latin word conservus, which meant ‘fellow slave’.
As all aspects of our lives have evolved, particularly over the last two to three decades, more of us are gaining access to special services regardless of what could be called our “station in life”. With life becoming so fast-paced, it becomes very difficult to deal with life admin, amidst the daily hustle and bustle, and we all need assistance which has meant greater exposure to the services that a traditional concierge would provide for hotel guests.
There was a time when personal service was solely the domain of the rich and aristocratic. Whether it was accessing concierge services at five-star hotels, hiring butlers to deal with the home and/or having a team of personal assistants to run your day-to-day affairs, this was for the privileged few.
As a result, there’s been an explosion of personal services from all quarters. For example, while mobility has become easier, particularly when travelling to other cities for work, and while there are facilities like Uber to help us get about, there are times when we need a more personalised service, which is what Avis offers in their Chauffeur and Point 2 Point services. These take the form of a personal chauffeur to meet and drive you to the various places you need to be or to simply take you from one place, like the airport, to a specific destination. This allows you to use drive time to get work done, while also feeling secure in the fact that the driver has been trained in everything from advanced driving and hijack management to basic first aid.
The beauty of it is you aren’t charged for kilometres travelled and, while Point 2 Point is only available in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, Chauffeur services are available nationwide.
On the other end of the spectrum is Quintessentially, which is a membership-only, high-end lifestyle concierge service established in London in 2000 and now with at least 60 offices globally. In Africa, they’re present in South Africa, Mauritius, Nigeria, Morocco, Egypt and Angola. Quintessentially assists with all of an individual’s needs from the basic day-to-day running of their households and lifestyle interests to travel. For example, for wine enthusiasts, they can assist with wine trading, access vineyards and other exclusive experiences. They can even help a member’s children gain entry into an exclusive school, and make arrangements for tutoring and the likes.
They have three tiers of membership, namely:
- General – this is more of a reactive service where the member can call in with their requests.
- Dedicated membership – a lifestyle manager is assigned to the member and they learn about their needs, passions, lifestyle, etc. to ensure that they can, in some ways, pre-empt services surrounding these. For example, retain details about family birthdays and other special occasions and provide gifting options.
- Elite membership – This is for true global citizens who, as an example, spend time in different cities during the course of a year. There is a lifestyle manager in each city (for up to three cities) who stay in regular communication with each other to ensure that the member’s needs, such as stocking up the fridge, are catered to regardless of where they are.
Membership is an annual fee and the requests are diverse. They have had A-list artists perform private concerts, arranged dinners in unlikely places, like an iceberg in Greenland, chartered flights and closed off lounges at airports solely for members. As a result of the worldwide network, they’re able to satisfy the most unique member desires.
Another service provider is Luxury Seventy Seven which provides for a personal concierge to cater to whatever needs you may have, including personal ones such as security, fitness, medical and housekeeping; entertainment, such as organising tickets to concerts, the theatre, sporting events, and making arrangements at private clubs and restaurants; and, travel, including charter flights.
Another area that has grown over the last few years is “virtual” services at rates that are manageable for most of us. Daily PA provides virtual services such as online research, managing emails, blog posting/scheduling, reminder services and chasing sales/advertisers/invoices; sounding-board services, including presentation dry-runs and digital notes; and transitioning online services, including social media setup and management, newsletters and online payment systems.
VA Connect can take over all the little – and not so little – things in your life, under the themes of Organising and Personal, Admin, Writing, Marketing, Research and Everything Else! They can even handle a range of business dealings, from preparing financial and business reports and dealing with customers to dealing with recruitment and human resource functions for your company.
Other virtual service companies include Admin Assist that provides business and personal services and assigns a virtual assistant to you; as well as VA Virtual Assistant that focuses on business services with a client base of businesses in South Africa, Zambia and the United States.
The reality is, it’s never been easier than it is today to find organisations that you can delegate important functions to, as well as alleviate the pressures of mundane chores that are inevitable in life, allowing you to focus your time and energy on actually living.