Equity Residences is an investment fund with a continually evolving portfolio of properties, which its members may enjoy. Like any luxury club, staff are always on hand to provide top-notch concierge service, working to meeting guests’ needs, before, during, and after their vacation. I spoke with Guest Relations and Asset Manager, Laura Krueger, and Operations Manager, Adrienne Hodell, to learn more about Equity Residence’s customer service.
Trip planning begins in April of each year. This is when "Priority Visit Designation" opens, allowing investment partners to specify when and where they would like to stay in the 12-month period from the following October. The number of available nights varies according to the amount invested. This system allows guests and staff to begin planning for Christmas vacations, reunions, and special occasions well in advance. During the Priority Visit Designation period, members can choose dates and times for a stay at one of the Equity Residences properties; they may choose to stay at a partner property, or they can choose to take a capital dividend if they will not be traveling during the time period. Confirmations for the following year are then sent out in May.
Thirty days before the scheduled stay, Equity staff will contact the guest to provide directions, the address of the property, and to clarify any requests, from providing someone to meet them at the property, to scheduling activities, private chefs, and dinner reservations. One week before the trip, they call again to touch base and make sure that everything is planned to the guest’s liking.
The concierge staff have certain rules in place for welcoming every guest to a property. If the guests will arrive after dark, the lights will already be on. Music will be playing, and a bouquet of flowers will be waiting, along with a basket of snacks and a bottle of wine. A fire may be lit or a fan running. Equity Residences wants their members to feel as if they are home from the minute they pull up to the property. To quote Laura: “No one wants to arrive at a dark, cold house.”
So what are some examples of a concierge-assisted Equity Residences vacation?
Laura mentioned one recent vacation on Hawaii’s Big Island. She and the guest spoke in advance to discuss plans for the itinerary so that upon arrival, a full week’s activities were already planned. Groceries had been stocked, dinner reservations had been made. But the concierge’s job didn’t stop there. Throughout the week, they were on hand to constantly update and tweak the schedule as needed. The weather’s not looking good for that ziplining trip tomorrow? No problem. The concierge rescheduled the activities to fit the forecast. One kayaking trip was so much fun that it finished later than expected - But, no need to miss dinner when the concierge has already called to move the reservation to a little later. This example of full-service throughout the week meant that at no time was the guest worried about having to rush from one destination to the next or missing out on a plan.
This anticipation of guests’ needs is something that is important to Adrienne in her role as operations manager. She remembers one recent party calling to say that they had arrived at their property in Utah to find it without power. Adrienne had been there less than an hour earlier to prepare everything but a power outage struck after she had left. Adrienne suggested they build a fire and enjoy their wine, beer, and snacks while she called the power company. A little later, she received a text from the guests, showing them happily enjoying their cozy, improvised, first evening. The power came back on soon after, but thanks to the careful planning and forethought of the Equity Residences staff, a disaster had been averted.
For an example of meeting a guest’s more specialized needs, Laura notes a trip to Longboat Key in Florida. Among the party was the guest’s 90-year-old father. Not wanting him to feel left out because of mobility issues, the guest requested motorized scooters for the entire group. One thing Equity Residences prides itself on when hiring concierge and property staff is finding people with a deep knowledge of the area. The local property manager knew just where to find rental scooters, and the vehicles were lined up outside the property for their arrival. The guest also wanted a sunset dinner cruise around the bay. The property had a private dock and so the yacht could collect them there, the captain having already collected the catered meal from a local restaurant. Since the elderly guests preferred to eat some two hours before sunset, they were able to work around that as well, providing dinner at the start of the cruise, and then enjoying the waters and the sunset, before returning to the private dock.
Nothing is too much for the Equity Residences staff. Laura says, “We have been able to accommodate anything that has been requested. Sometimes we have to get a little creative, but we always make it work.” Many of the staff have had long careers in hospitality, strengthening their ability to not panic but to deal with any situation, and Adrienne emphasizes that they are constantly striving to improve, to provide the perfect vacation experience.