Superb service is indispensable to creating a luxury brand, and no more so than in property. To compete on a luxury level, not only must the entire property package fulfil the needs of the high-end market, but the service that surrounds the property must wrap it with an intrinsic value to customers. In recent years, property management companies owned by luxury developers have expanded and formalised their residential concierge services by offering assistance similar to that found in five-star hotels. In an increasingly competitive market, a residential concierge is another way to bring luxury to people who have everything. 'In providing premium services at no cost to the customers, it goes beyond their expectation,' said Sunny Yeung Kwong, associate director of Sino Group, one property developer that provides concierge services at its top-tier residences. Traditionally, property management has been about maintenance of space and, while that is still a priority, developers also recognise the value of being customer-focused on a more personal level. As a result, white-glove property management services have been extended and formalised with the goal of enhancing their clients' daily lives. A normal day in the life of a concierge at a high-end residence might include taking care of a resident's urgent housekeeping needs, running errands or acting as a resource for shopping tips, holiday travel recommendations, or gift ideas. A concierge is there to cater to the whims of the residents. 'In fact, delivering premium customer service is a priority for the group, thus our concierges never say 'no' to our residents. Everything being requested can be arranged,' said Irene Wai, general manager of Supreme Management Services at Sun Hung Kai Properties, who looks after premium residential properties including 8 Severn Road, No 1 Po Shan Road, The Vineyard, No 1 Ho Man Tin Hill Road and The Leighton Hill. While luxury property developers have offered personal services to residents for decades, the formalisation of residential concierge services occurred within the past five to seven years. They have been largely modelled on international concierge programmes. Success is derived from creating a culture of customer service among frontline employees. 'A concierge is often expected to achieve the impossible,' said Ms Wai, and continuing hospitality training teaches them to do it with a smile. Staff who work on the frontline are schooled in the art of hospitality for the wealthy. To understand their clients, training includes equipping them with considerable lifestyle knowledge (that may be vastly different from their own), housekeeping information and maintenance requirements. The fresh focus on customer satisfaction has really paid off. 'Customer satisfaction is an investment. If our customers are delighted with our concierge service, then our money is well spent,' said Mr Yeung, whose company provides concierge services at their St Andrews Place, The Royal Oaks, Mount Beacon, One SilverSea, Bowen's Lookout and Three Bays properties. Of The Leighton Hill, where 20 concierges work around the clock for 1,500 residents, Ms Wai said: 'With a reasonable staff cost [employing them] is relatively good value for money as our service is highly appreciated by our residents.' Perhaps this success is also bred from providing these services in-house, refusing to subcontract to a large hospitality group. By keeping the services under its own banner, there is more direct communication between residents and the property management, which leads to better understanding of clients' needs. It has foregone subcontracting because the company felt it could train its own staff better with knowledge gained from years of serving its clients' needs. Understanding clients' lifestyles is a property developer's stock in trade. Aside from building grand apartments in the best locations, with branded fixtures and beautiful clubhouses, developers have found that properties must provide the best amenities. That is, once a high-end buyer's basic property needs are met, the provision of innovative services that go far beyond traditional property management services becomes the draw. It is that last point that concierge services seek to fulfil. Interestingly, although residents were unfamiliar with the concept in the beginning, they quickly came to embrace the benefits of having a concierge who not only meets their demands but anticipates their future needs. Now, provision of the service is a given for top-tier residences to compete in Hong Kong. 'Clients at the luxury end are actually expecting concierge services to be available nowadays and those without would be at a disadvantage,' Ms Wai said. Marketing is of the utmost importance. Yet, you certainly would not have been accosted by a luxury concierge at the latest show-flat open house because the marketing was decidedly low-key. Instead, for example, you would find a Sino Estates Management's Premium Living Courtesy Ambassador on hand to demonstrate its services to potential buyers through social gatherings, business engagements and private events. The future would see Sino's upcoming luxury projects continuing to fulfil the demand for custom-made hospitality services, Mr Yeung said.