Keep­ing up with the concierges

FROM VIR­TUAL CONCIERGE SER­VICES TO STAFF WHO FUNC­TION LIKE HIGH-PRICED EX­EC­U­TIVE AS­SIS­TANTS, THE MOST BA­SIC CONDO AMENITY IS STEP­PING UP ITS GAME

NOW Magazine - SuiteLife - - Suitelife - BY SAB­RINA MAD­DEAUX

Even if we can’t quite af­ford lux­ury, we like the sound of it. This is how concierges, those white- gloved helpers once ex­clu­sive to ho­tels and re­sorts, be­came a stan­dard amenity avail­able in just about ev­ery condo.

But all concierge ser­vices aren’t cre­ated equal. Some concierges func­tion mainly as se­cu­rity guards – es­sen­tially mall cops with fancier ti­tles and bet­ter dress. Oth­ers ful­fill the ba­sic du­ties of open­ing doors, tak­ing pack­ages and an­swer­ing ques­tions.

Some de­vel­op­ers, in the quest to dif­fer­en­ti­ate their tall glass tow­ers from the ones down the street, have be­come a lit­tle more cre­ative.

TAS, the de­vel­oper be­hind Scar­bor­ough mid-rise Kingston&Co, has a new concierge pro­gram that pro­vides reg­is­trants with straight­for­ward an­swers and one-on-one com­mu­nica- tion be­fore they even sign any pa­pers. TAS hopes the ser­vice ap­peals to ner­vous first-time condo buy­ers by guid­ing them through the sales process with the in­di­vid­ual at­ten­tion that de­vel­op­ers fo­cused on in­vest­ment buy­ers sorely lack.

“We’re not try­ing to cre­ate a mar­ket­ing scheme; we’re try­ing to win over cus­tomers by pro­vid­ing them with the sort of trans­parency that’s of­ten not present in our in­dus­try,” says TAS pres­i­dent and CEO Maz­yar Mor­tazavi.

“In ho­tels, a concierge is a guide to the city. For us, the concierge is a guide to buy­ing your new home.”

Reg­is­trants can com­mu­ni­cate with TAS concierge Tr­ish di­rectly, or they can par­tic­i­pate in an in­ter­ac­tive blog­like plat­form on Kingston&Co’s web­site (kingsto­nandco.ca) that ad­dresses hot top­ics from wor­ries about fluc­tu­at­ing main­te­nance fees to whether too-thin walls will have own­ers beg­ging for noise re­lief.

“Peo­ple feel as though they’re not just deal­ing with some cor­po­ra­tion. They ac­tu­ally have some­one they can talk to,” says Mor­tazavi. “It goes above and beyond some­thing that’s for­mu­laic. Reg­is­trants send an email and get a per­son­al­ized re­sponse from Tr­ish; they can call the of­fice and ask to speak with Tr­ish.”

It’s this de­mand for highly per­son­al­ized ser­vices that’s re­spon­si­ble for the rise of the For­est Hill Group (FHG), which owns high- end prop­er­ties like One St. Thomas and The Av­enue. FHG pro­vides lux­ury con­do­minium concierge ser­vice to 19 build­ings in the down­town core.

Won­der­ing how the up­per crust’s concierges op­er­ate? They are more than just a suit be­hind a desk. They have ex­ten­sive cus­tomer ser­vice back­ground and can draw on an en­tire team back at the FHG of­fices to ac­com­mo­date almost any re­quest, as long as it’s not il­le­gal.

“We haven’t re­ally come across any­thing we won’t do,” says Shanna Berez, client ser­vice man­ager at FHG.

Need to char­ter a pri­vate jet to some ex­otic lo­cale? Th­ese guys got you. Want an in-suite de­signer shop­ping party with your clos­est friends? They can ar­range that, too. Want to pro­pose to your part­ner, like, right now, even though all the jew­ellery shops are closed? They’ll get one opened for you.

While FHG’s five-star-ho­tel brand of lux­ury has cer­tainly found its niche, th­ese ser­vices don’t come cheap. No 24-hour concierge ser­vice does.

With the goal of keep­ing condo main­te­nance fees down, de­vel­oper Tridel is test­ing out a tech-savvy so­lu­tion at its Rêve prop­erty in the heart of King West: a vir­tual concierge.

Tridel part­nered with CBCI Tele­com and se­cu­rity ser­vice provider UCIT to cre­ate a unique HD two-way video con­fer­enc­ing sys­tem with ad­vanced ac­cess con­trol tech­nol­ogy, re­plac­ing phys­i­cal guards and the price tag that comes with them.

“One of the big­gest main­te­nance ex­penses for condo own­ers is the concierge ser­vice, which can cost north of a few hun­dred thou­sand dol­lars a year,” says Bruno Gian­cola, VP of project man­age­ment for Tridel. “Down the road, a concierge re­motely look­ing after five build­ings would be a huge cost sav­ings for the condo boards.”

Rêve’s vir­tual concierge, Vanessa, watches over the build­ing from a mon­i­tor­ing cen­tre in Mis­sis­sauga. She can do just about any­thing a tra­di­tional concierge can: greet ten­ants, open doors (or not), or­der taxis and even ac­cept pack­ages by di­rect­ing couri­ers to de­posit de­liv­er­ies in a mail­box that only she and the in­tended re­cip­i­ent can un­lock.

Tridel plans to ex­pand the vir­tual concierge to more prop­er­ties, each of which might see a slightly dif­fer­ent ver­sion de­pend­ing on their needs. Some might thrive with a 24hour vir­tual concierge, while oth­ers might only take ad­van­tage of the tech­nol­ogy dur­ing hours when most peo­ple are at work.

“It’s been very suc­cess­ful,” says Gian­cola. “It’s hi­lar­i­ous to watch the re­ac­tion at Rêve – peo­ple say good morn­ing and stop to chat with Vanessa.”

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