On Mondays we’ve been discussing working with a remote assistant. We’ve taken a brief side trail for a few weeks looking at actually trying to use American Express’ concierge service. This week I’m going to show an attempt to use the service to find housing in Mexico. My wife and I lived in Durango Mexico for a few months and couldn’t seem to find any type of furnished housing. I figured the concierge would be good at locating this type of thing–especially since dealing with lodging in other countries seems to be something American Express advertises they do well.
Here is the message I sent:
I am looking at spending some time in Mexico next fall. Specifically I am looking at the town of Durango in the state of Durango. Could you see if there are any furnished apartments/homes available down there? At this point I’m just looking to get an idea of what would be available and what the pricing would be.
Here is what I need:
– At least 2 bedrooms.
– Accepts a small dog (around 9 pounds)
– Highspeed internet connection
– No scorpions
I got a message back saying that I needed to contact their “Villas of Distinction” department. I called them and when they realized I was looking for something longer than 3 months, they directed me back to the concierge service. The representative offered to call the concierge service and get them back on the task for me only to call me back an hour latter saying that they wouldn’t talk to her an I would need to call them back.
I emailed them back again with the following:
I spoke with Michelle and was told that they only handle very short term type arrangements. I’m looking for something for 3 months. Michelle tried to call concierge to tell them to go ahead, but concierge wouldn’t help her help me unless I sent a response to my original request (see your response below).
I’m pretty confused why you couldn’t take Michelle’s call and look up my original request. It very much seems like I’m getting bounced around which does away with the benefits of this type of service anyway.
I’m trying again. Please see my original request below. If the concierge who receives this just doesn’t feel like helping, please pass it on to someone who can be helpful. Also please include the name of the person responding so if I get the run around again I can at least know who I was talking with–especially if they try to pass me off to a different department.
For the careful readers out there, you might be able to detect that I was a bit frustrated with getting bounced around. It seemed like the concierge service was getting paid to respond to requests–not necessarily do anything useful with them.
A few days later I received their reply:
I hope your day is going well. After contacting some companies in Durango, DGO I unfortunately was not able to find any companies or private properties for rent. I also consulted the Durango Tourism that informed me there weren’t any agencies in Durango who deals with property rentals. The Durango Tourism suggested perhaps placing an ad in one of the local papers or searching the paper classified. I believe the market for rentals in Durango, DGO is not in great demand.
Paper: The voice (La Boz De Durango)
Phone: 52-618 812 9911
Paper: The Sun (El Sol)
Phone: 52-618 811 2100
Paper: El Siglo
Phone: 52-618 813 7080
I do apologize I was not able to locate a rental property for you. If there is anything else I can do to assist you, please do not hesitate to contact us.
While this is useful, it isn’t what I had hoped for. In their defense, the concierge does seem to have legitimately tried to locate a place. And if nothing is available it definitely isn’t her fault.
My experience with the concierge service is that (for the most part) they won’t be able to do anything faster for you than you can do it yourself. Many times it will take longer because of the back and forth required. A couple people have suggested that calling in will get you better service because they can ask you questions on the phone.
One thing interesting to note is that the concierge service isn’t even provided by American Express directly. It is provided by a company called Circles Company Associates, Inc. They provide concierge services that you can bundle with the products you offer your customers or as a perk for employees. So if you are big company you can give all your employees concierge services by signing up with Circles.
Their service might be a little more useful if you are in a big city or traveling to large cities. They can probably do a better job of finding a great restaurant in Chicago than finding a place to stay in a non-vacation area of central Mexico. The bottom of their emails usually encourages you to call them about sending flowers or gifts for birthdays or special occasions so that might be another area where they shine.