Interview: Jessica Gorman, Concierge, Member of Les Clefs d’Or USA
This week we celebrate International Women's Day and I am happy to share a new interview with Jessica Gorman, a 15-year luxury hospitality veteran, formerly at The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead in Atlanta and since 2017, back home in Miami at The St. Regis Bal Harbour as one of the resort's Les Clefs d'Or Concierges.
Jessica is as passionate as ever about her career as a Les Clefs d’Or Concierge. She served in five different capacities including sales, special events and the executive office before finding her “dream job” as Concierge. Jessica is the recipient of the Les Clefs d’Or 2017 Marjorie Silverman Young Leader Award. I am always happy to meet other incredible women working in Hospitality, and Jessica and I met a few months ago in Atlanta, when I asked if I could interview her for Hospitality Vitae.
[Leticia] When did you decide to become a concierge?
[Jessica] It was the Summer of 2008 when I had been working at The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead for four years and at that time was a Sales Manager. I missed the hands-on aspect of being a part of the hotel operation. I love to raise the bar on standards and expectations. I love the opportunity to create WOW moments. I informed the General Manager that Concierge was my hotel dream job. The rest, as they say, is history!
[Leticia] Can you tell me more about your path to become part of the Les Clefs d'Or?
[Jessica] My General Manager at the time made a "deal" of sorts with me. He said, "I'll make you Concierge if you promise to get your keys." I said, "Yes sir, give me five years." Part of becoming a Les Clefs d'Or member is the requirement to have five years' experience as a concierge in a hotel lobby. In those five years (and still to this day), I set out to learn as much as I could both about my city (which was Atlanta at the time) and the world around me. My goal has always been to be "one step ahead of the guest" and an expert on as many topics as possible. I always try to "know a little about a lot." This takes on many forms. It could be attending local Concierge events at new restaurants and attractions to become more familiar with options for guests or it could be exploring on my own and introducing myself to as many leaders and purveyors in the community. I even attended a Les Clefs d'Or USA leadership summit as a local concierge association board member prior to applying to network and learn from senior leaders within the organization. As soon as the five-year mark of my concierge experience approached, I submitted my application for membership in Les Clefs d'Or USA and worked diligently toward that ultimate goal.
[Leticia] You were awarded the prestigious Marjorie Silverman Young Leader Award from Les Clefs d’Or, in 2017. How that impacted your career?
[Jessica] As a nominee, and ultimately the winner, of the 2017 Les Clefs d'Or Award, I was incredibly humbled. First, to be nominated by the USA Section, the largest in the world and to be considered a leader among the world's finest in the concierge profession was and still is an experience I will forever treasure. I was one woman competing against 12 men for the top prize and the chance to share my passion for this unique profession with the world. In the USA, it is the opposite of the rest of the world where there are more female concierge than male. It is a traditionally male role in other parts of the world. One of the most lasting memories of the competition I have is becoming like a small family with the other 12 competitors. It was dubbed a "friendly" competition and for good reason. We are all there to better ourselves and showcase our talent to the world. On at least a weekly basis, we still chat on our WhatsApp group, whether it be to wish one another a happy birthday or to obtain assistance with an unusual guest request. I would say the way that winning the award has impacted my career most is the relationships I have built both in the USA and around the world as well as the way that I benchmark others' examples of service excellence in order to improve both my and our team's performance on a daily basis.
Read more about it in the POINTS GUY website: Best Concierge in the World? She’s One of Them Now - Link here.
[Leticia] What is the best part about being a Concierge?
[Jessica] The absolute best part about being a Concierge is having the opportunity to create a memorable moment for a guest that will last a lifetime. It could be as simple as penning a birthday card from a child's favorite Transformers character (I recently created this moment for a 6-year-old guest whose father now describes my network as "intergalactic") or as extravagant as utilizing your worldwide network of contacts and friendships to ensure a husband is able to have the exact Louis Vuitton handbag on the table at his wife's 35th birthday dinner with less than one day's notice (and the handbag was only in stock in two stores in the world and it could not be placed on hold).
[Leticia] What is one of your favorite guest stories?
[Jessica] My favorite story is one that came out of a mistake I had made when providing information about operating hours for the local children's museum (a most basic request). A repeat guest who had often traveled by himself to the hotel on business was accompanied by his wife and two and a half year old son. When they arrived at the children's museum it was closed for renovation. I was horrified that I had ruined their visit or at least inconvenienced them. I sincerely apologized and arranged for the hotel to pay for their transportation back to the hotel as well as take them to another venue with our compliments. While the family was at the new venue, I approached our pastry team and requested they prepare rice krispie treats in the shape of legos so that I could include a note that read, "I hope I can rebuild your trust in the hotel and my service." A few months later I received an email from the parents of the child informing me that when they arrived at their hotel on another vacation, their son ran to the phone in the room right away. When they asked him who he was calling he said, "I'm calling Jessica to do all the fun things!" It was a wonderful lesson in recovering an opportunity with both genuine care and creativity. The human connection is what brings life and excitement to providing a stellar customer experience. Mistakes happen. One of my favorite quotes is, "People will forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them FEEL."
[Leticia] What advice would you give to concierges around the world who want to apply to become part of Les Clefs d'Or?
[Jessica] The most important piece of advice I would give to concierges around the world who have ambitions to become a Les Clefs d'Or member is to learn! Whether it is reading blogs, newspapers and various industry publications or exploring both your backyard and the world, knowledge will take you further than you could ever imagine! Open yourself to every opportunity to learn something new about yourself, your city and the world at large. Travelers see the crossed gold keys and expect expert advice and service that they could not read about. Make it a priority to work toward ensuring every guest leaves your desk with expectations exceeded. Get creative and think outside the box. It will make for a more fulfilling experience both for the concierge and the guest. In my award interview, Les Clefs d'Or President Simon Thomas asked the question, "Why you?" My answer was simple, yet profound, "Because my passion for this profession knows no bounds!"
Les Clefs d’Or (literally translated to “Keys of Gold”) is the only and most well-recognized national organization of hotel lobby concierges. The crossed gold keys are the international symbol of the organization and are displayed on the uniform lapels. I couldn’t agree more to what they say in their website: “These golden keys mean you’re dealing with a seasoned professional, one who’s developed the skills and contacts to open doors for you around the world”. Les Clefs d’Or is in 45 countries and has almost 4,500 members worldwide. Interesting fact: The conciergerie was (and still is, especially in Europe) a male-dominated field. In the USA, however, concierges are 60% female, 40% male!