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Concierge services: Are they right for your organization?

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in Employee Benefits Program,HR Management,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Between the year-end business crunch and the bustle of the holidays, December can be the most stressful month for your employees.

If your organization, like most, is doing more with less this year and asking a smaller staff to take on more responsibility, you could find yourself with distracted employees and a dip in productivity.

More organizations are turning to concierge services for help.

Concierge services can take on some of your workers’ holiday planning and shopping by doing personal errands like locating hard-to-find presents, ordering gift baskets, making family dinner reservations, picking up dry cleaning and buying theater tickets.

Employees pay for the tickets, gifts and other items they buy through the service.

The cost to employers: very little. Some services charge a few dollars a year per employee; others collect an hourly rate of up to $30; and a few charge both.

The benefit to employers: a lot. JPMorgan Chase estimates its return on the investment it makes in concierge services is 139%, largely because each call to its concierge service saves the employee 2.5 hours of research—much of which might be done on company time.

How concierge services work

Your organization contracts with a concierge service to respond to phone calls, faxes and e-mails from your employees who want to save time finding hotels for business travel, ordering flowers for clients and relatives, shopping for gifts, identifying caterers or buying tickets for concerts, shows and sporting events. The concierge figures out if the items are available, from whom and for how much, and notifies the employee, who approves the transaction and gives a credit card number.

Some services also will run personal errands—including grocery shopping and getting the car serviced—for a fee to the employee.

Five percent of employers offer a concierge or errand service to their employees, up from 2% five years ago, according to the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2007 Benefits survey.

Examples:

  • About 35% of Commerce Bank’s workers have used its concierge service for everything from booking cruises to finding a late-night dry cleaner.
  • During tough economic times, JPMorgan Chase’s work/life staff has been able to convince the number-crunchers to spare the concierge service because so many employees use it and report it helps lower their stress.
  • Accounting firm Grant Thornton contracts with a concierge service that takes employee requests at any time, any day of the week.

“Grant Thornton takes employee benefits very seriously,” says Chad Means, national director of HR operations. “It is important for our program to stay rich and innovative in order to demonstrate our commitment to current and potential employees.”

Most large concierge services don’t meet with employees personally. However, a personal errand service called dock3 sets up shop at its clients’ offices so employees can drop off their car keys for an oil change, their dry cleaning for same-day service or their packages for overnight delivery. Employees can rent DVDs, use the dock3 address for personal deliveries and have their shoes repaired. Some companies even negotiate for extras, like an on-site manicurist.

Making it work for you: 7 tips

Here are seven tips for getting the most from an outside concierge service:

1. Negotiate a fee that covers access to the concierge service for all staff, regardless of how often your employees use it.

2. Consider a concierge with local staff to run personal errands for employees, as well as take phone and Internet orders for tickets and dinner reservations.

3. Select a service that is open 24/7.

4. Ask for a regular rundown of how many employees use the service and how much time the concierges spend on each request. The data will help you figure your return on investment.

5. Constantly promote the service among employees to maximize its potential as a retention tool.

6. Tout the benefit to recruits as a way the organization helps employees save time and balance work with family responsibilities.

7. Can’t afford to put a concierge on contract? Ask local concierges and errand services (such as pet sitters, dry cleaners, grocery delivery services and housekeepers) for discount coupons for your employees. Make the list—along with contact information—available organizationwide.

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