Published in Private Edition 29, October 2015
So you want insanely good service, discretion, smarts and great credentials? A top-class concierge needs to be part genie, part saint. Meet Mr Smith.
So you want to tour Cape Town with your partner, three children, an au pair and the family hound, and are all set to drive yourself from the airport to your rented villa on Clifton’s third? Sound like much of a holiday? Enter Anthony Smith, who will promptly despatch a driver to take over, and convince you to maintain that modus operandi for the duration of your visit. His offer to keep your staff and offspring occupied, separate and together at the right times, and the dog from getting into a frenzy just so you can have some alone time with your partner, may just clinch the deal.
It’s that kind of can-do attitude that allows his company, Ambienz Bespoke Concierge, to be all things to all people in the consistently demanding luxury service industry. That, and the ability to read clients well, supreme problem-solving acumen, round-the-clock availability, discretion and a sense of humour. In short, the kind of staff you’d like to hire in the business.
Anthony worked in fitness, hospitality and real estate before cottoning on to the intrinsic value of what his villa rentals business really offered – requests from clients to share recommendations on everything from restaurants to tours to hairdressers. The add-ons evolved into a bespoke service now sought-after by private individuals as well as boutique hotels. ‘We sell the Cape Town lifestyle. The hotel service was just another extension of that,’ he says.
He’ll arrange a one-on-one meeting with clients to learn more about their background, country of origin, interests and hobbies in order to tailor-make appropriate itineraries. They’re flexible, mostly, except when something like a last-minute request to change a hair appointment threatens his carefully laid plans. ‘You have to know when to draw the line,’ says Anthony. ‘Ask me for a table on the deck at The Grand at 11.45am on a Saturday when you’re 10 minutes away. That I can do!’
What about tracking down a non-toxic face cream you discovered on your last visit, or a supplier of organic meat? Anthony will find both in a matter of minutes, in the latter instance going so far as to find out which restaurants the butcher supplies and offering to make a booking.
His approach is simple, really – pull out all the stops to give clients a memorable experience. Be discreet. Listen. Think out of the box. Find the unfindable. Make things happen, if necessary, on the go. But to do that, it’s often about who you know. That Little Black Book. Anthony taps into an industry expert when a client wants a wine made with a particular grape, or suggests a florist who works from home and can happily do ‘loose’ and ‘free’ table arrangements when a client is doggedly resisting an event organiser’s pitch of 20 formal bouquets.
One global high-end fashion client says of the Ambienz offering: ‘Very few local service providers have an understanding of the international standard, or are willing to adapt. We look for people who can follow a brief, within a budget, of course, always; who are willing to fit in with our requirements without being fussy and pretentious; who can contribute their own ideas, within the parameters of the project; and who try to make a plan. Those are the people who work for us.’
Anthony agrees. Capetonians still don’t get it, he says. For example, a request to charter a boat for one client only may be met with counters like ‘but it’s very expensive’ or ‘we only take so many guests’. He’s had similar reactions to attempts to book a three-day four-wheeler trip up the Ceres mountains. ‘People don’t know how to deal with this market,’ he says. ‘There is money to be made if service providers are prepared to overcome the challenges posed by unusual requests.’
On the other hand, he’s had people wanting to fly onto Table Mountain and refusing to accept that local legislation stands in their way. ‘Money can’t buy everything. But some simply like pushing the boundary. The outcome is a recommendation in itself, and that’s what this business
is all about.’
* For more information, visit ambienz.co.za or call Anthony on 076 629 2638.