A concierge’s perspective on vertical living

By Dr Janette Corcoran

Many vertical villages count their concierge as among their most valued feature, but how do these “keepers of the keys” view our vertical lifestyle?

Often the first person encountered when starting your vertical living journey is the building concierge. 

It was for me. 

And I really liked the idea that I wasn’t entering an anonymous building – that there was someone readily contactable and knowledgeable in the ways of this apartment building. 

At that time, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from a vertical village concierge.

I was aware that the origins of the role could be traced back to old France where the royal household employed a concierge to cater to the various needs of guests and be the “keeper of the keys” to the many castle rooms.

And I was also aware that rather than dying off, this role was alive and well in a range of sectors – albeit with a less regal focus. There is the familiar hotel concierge who helps visitors secure those tricky theatre tickets, then there is the airport concierge and, more recently, the hospital concierge. And with a nod to their exclusive past, the well-to-do can avail themselves of the services of a personal concierge (not to be confused with one’s personal assistant or butler!)  

But what could I expect from a vertical village concierge?

According to the US National Concierge Association (and yes, there are several such groups), duties will differ from place to place. But being well-connected and passionate about their role are invaluable traits. Also high on the list is the ability to listen and observe and then make sense of what is seen and heard.  

So, what have our vertical village concierges observed about our vertical lifestyle?

For this I turned to James Naidu – my building’s concierge who introduced me into the world of vertical living.  

Originally from the corporate sector, James is a five-and-a-half-year concierge veteran. Currently based in Victoria Point in Docklands, James is very well known to the more than 1000 residents who dwell there, as well as the many service providers and delivery staff who frequent our building. 

I first asked this keeper of the keys what he had observed as the best feature of vertical living. 

 “Safety” was James’s ready reply – “without a doubt, it’s safety”.  

Digging a little deeper, I asked what form this safety took.  

James noted the visible security measures that are now common across our buildings as well as the growing monitoring services. But more than this, James said that residents felt safe in vertical villages as they did not have to deal with every issue on their own.  

“Compare that to living in a house. If something happens, it’s all up to you.”  

This means that if you are living solo, or are new to the country or are not very physically active, if you live in a vertical village, you have a known first port of call. And this, according to James, is a great benefit of vertical living.  

Turning next to key challenges confronting our sector, James’s view is that the biggest issue on our horizon is designing new ways to live with COVID-19.  

And he emphasises “with”. 

In his opinion, it’s not really going to be “post-COVID-19” anytime soon. 

Rather, James muses, it will be more “how can we live safely and comfortably while this virus is still around?” And with restrictions slowly lifting, the challenge (and perhaps opportunity) is for each building to comprehensively review how can we live together, balancing safety with comfort. 

This led nicely onto our third question about his biggest challenge as concierge and James then spoke about the issues which consumed a great deal of his time. 

It will likely come as no surprise that the top complaint was noise – and that our “stay-at-home orders” have seen a dramatic increase in the number of noise complaints with a corresponding drop in people’s tolerance of these incidents. Resolving such issues is where a seasoned concierge shows their mettle and James’s strategy is to take a personal approach by directly engaging with all parties and seeking reasonable resolution – and, in so doing, “educating people about standards”. 

For our final topic, I asked James about what innovations he saw for our sector. 

Perhaps drawing upon his corporate background, James nominated the trend towards better systems integration, especially the ability for residents to access information in the way they wanted.  

I also asked his opinion about some trends, including the move towards 24/7 concierge services. His advice is that we need to be very clear about this role and, in particular, whether this is a concierge or security position – or some new hybrid. 

Regarding the demand for better and brighter amenities, James’s view is that flashy facilities are exciting when people move in, but as time goes on, most don’t utilise these. In his opinion, it is what is inside a resident’s apartment that is more important – along with the face that greets you as you enter your vertical village! •

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