“I like to think of us as the MacGyvers of guest service. We figure it out.”
Nancy Nitsche, director of concierge services at Aria
Desert Companion: How would you explain to a kid what you do for a living?
Nancy Nitsche: I have had to do that. I went to my kid’s class at school to do exactly that, and I wore my keys, my gold cross keys, that mean I am a member of Les Clefs d’Or. It’s an international concierge association and it’s a pretty difficult process to become a member. You have to be a professional concierge for five years before you can even apply. But when I wear those keys on my lapel, it’s a sign to guests that they can expect a consistently high level of service.
DC: Did the kids at school understand that symbol?
NN: I explained that it was kind of like being in the military. If you become a colonel or a general, you get more of these stripes or pins, and so I had moved up and earned my gold keys.
DC: And did they understand what it is to be a concierge?
NN: You know, nobody ever says they want to be a concierge. Even in college, you don’t know. You kind of have to stumble upon it. But I told them: What I do is everything. If you come to stay with me, I will help you deal with whatever you need, a show, a car, some flowers, a special game to play on your Wii, anything. I’m the person you come to.
DC: So did you know you wanted to be a concierge?
NN: I never thought I was going to do this. I was a financial management major, although growing up I wanted to be on TV. The next Connie Chung. But I got into this because I needed to network. Like everyone else, I was broke after college, and no one wanted to trust me to run their financial portfolio. You have to grow your natural market, and when I found out that as a concierge you get to work with every facet of a hotel — and knowing there are thousands of workers at these hotels — I thought, there’s my natural market.
DC: How did you decide this was the job for you?
NN: It’s a powerful thing, to make people happy. I get to make a difference for someone every day. There’s a very sentimental side to this job, a personal connection that people don’t realize. You get to do such unique things. I’ve helped many guys propose to their girlfriends, helped them when they were very nervous and wondering if she was going to like the ring. It’s going to be okay. We’ll do this together.
DC: Sounds like that happens a lot.
NN: It does. I remember one guest had a medical condition and he couldn’t eat sitting up, he had to kind of lie down on an incline. He was calling and asking for menus for in-room dining, because he was with a large group of guys and they were getting ready to go out to different restaurants that he couldn’t go to because of this condition. We started calling around to find some restaurants that had places to accommodate him, like, maybe at Julian Serrano he could lie down a bit in one of the banquettes? We ended up getting a roll-away bed for him and putting his group in some private dining rooms at some of our restaurants, so he could be with his friends and still have the experience they were having. It was over-the-top for him. He was grateful, and it’s not something he specifically asked for, but you know ... if you hear something like that, you want to do something.
DC: Are there really as many unusual requests as we think?
NN: Pretty much every day you get one that stumps you, one that makes you think, I don’t know about that, but I’m about to find out. I love to learn. It’s amazing what people ask for and it’s amazing what you can get. I like to think of us as the MacGyvers of guest service. We figure it out.
DC: You’ve been doing this for 15 years. At this point, are you still figuring things out, or are you mostly drawing on your experience?
NN: I do a lot of figuring out because, at my position, everything filters up to me. Our staff is amazing, really self-motivated and sincere people that will do whatever it takes. But when they get stumped, it comes to me. Unless it’s illegal or immoral, we’ll figure it out.
DC: These days, we all have a super information machine at our fingertips at all times. Has technology decreased the demand for concierge services?
NN: I get asked that a lot. Do we really need a concierge anymore? We need to offer things they can’t find themselves, that’s what makes us valuable. An app on your phone can’t talk to the guest and find out what they like. If you haven’t done anything extra, you haven’t serviced that guest. And our volume is so high, still. We’re getting 600 to 800 phone calls a day just at Aria, plus people calling prior to their stay.
DC: What is the biggest misconception about your job?
NN: Well, it’s not “con-see-air.” (Laughs) Other than that, the biggest misconception is the $100 handshakes. That’s not normal and not expected. Anything we get above our salary is gravy, but people think it’s all about kickbacks, and it’s not like that. In Las Vegas there’s such a stigma about that, cab drivers and bellmen, but perhaps because of that stigma, we’re probably more straight-laced than other cities.
DC: Tips are nice, but your job has other amazing perks.
NN: Yes. Being local, growing up here, you kind of take things for granted. It’s like people who live in California and never go to the beach. How many locals have been race car driving at the NASCAR track? There are so many things people don’t think to do, and through this job I’ve been able to do many of them. I really became addicted to experiencing Las Vegas, and it made me fall in love with this city all over again.