Introducing Tortuga’s Elite Concierge Team

The Lab,  
Jennifer Sutherland-Miller

Tortuga’s Concierge team is the face and front lines of the company. They are the badass team of problem solvers that know what is going on in every aspect of the company at all times; and they’re the people customers interact with if they have questions or problems.

“Oh,” I hear you thinking, “So, they’re, like, your customer service then?”

Actually, they’re so much more.

Let me introduce them, and then they can explain.

Lauren Kulifay

lauren
Lauren, our original Concierge and the innovator of Tortuga’s outstanding customer service, believes that “on your terms,” is defined by freedom and flexibility; the ability to get up and go. Living on her terms means not having to surrender the parts of her life that she loves in order to have a job. She gets to travel, write, play, and sing music, while living the ways she’s always wanted to without the boundaries of an office building.

As someone who lives with chronic illness, working remotely means that she is not bound by many of the limitations that come along with being sick. Working remotely, allows her to celebrate life- to thrive in, and be fulfilled by, her work without sacrificing the beautiful moments.

“Living on my terms means that I have a great career that I can do even on the days I can’t walk. I get to do what I love and what I’m good at regardless of where I am. I refuse to let sickness slow me down.”

Angela Rollins

face
Angela, Concierge and the mastermind behind our social media presence, combines work, travel and professional dance into an epic artistic life. This summer, dancing her way across Europe, after an injury in the fall she’s rediscovered her creativity and artistry after spending a lot of time in rehab. Doing dance intensives in various cities, working as she goes has enabled her to have the funds to pay for studio space so she can get back to choreographing her own work.

“Living life on my terms means that I am free to travel to dissolve the boundaries that we have put up among people, countries, and cultures.”

What is a Concierge?

lauren-tortuga-backpacks_smallConcierge is an elite term. We aim higher than the standard customer service experience of answer-the-question-and-move-on.  A concierge is a caretaker.

Taking care of the people who love our products matters to us. We want to go above and beyond – this means keeping lines of communication open with our customers, responding as quickly as we can, and taking care of customer concerns with the delicacy and efficiency that we would expect.

angelaA concierge, to me, feels closer to a problem-solver… or a navigator. We help people even if they don’t buy our product. We help make their travels easier and more enjoyable, even if that means a Tortuga is not what they’re after.

Sometimes people ask us for packing advice, or how to send mail from another country, and they don’t own a Tortuga product. That’s fine. We’re here to help.

How Did You Come to Tortuga?

angelaIn 2012, I spontaneously took a study abroad course. It was just over a month long and I took a 50 lb. suitcase and a full backpack. The stairs in Germany and Poland killed me.

Graduating that fall, I decided to move to Amsterdam at the beginning of 2013 with no intention of returning. I took the 50 lb suitcase again. My intention had been to move around to different cities as I felt necessary, but I just stayed because lugging that thing around was too much.

Fast forward to the Fall of 2014. Planning another 3+ month trip to Europe with no intention of returning, this time, determined to do it right. I searched ‘best backpack for travel’ and the first thing that showed up was Snarky Nomad’s “The 5 Best Travel Backpacks.” I visited every site and picked apart the backpacks. I made a spreadsheet and everything, but the Tortuga was the clear winner with a focus on maximized space and serious comfort with the padded shoulder straps and hip belt.

Back then, Tortugas would only be in stock some of the time. I got on the mailing list and waited for Fred to say that there were some available. That email arrived just after getting out of a chiropractic appointment; sitting in my car on a 45 degree incline in San Francisco I scrambled to order the backpack from my phone. Twice I failed, and then success! The bag was on it’s way to my house.

While waiting for my Tortuga, Fred posted Tortuga’s very first job opening, but I didn’t see it until they had already hired Lauren — good choice!

In January, I took off again; my Tortuga became my home, and I got a little… okay, VERY pretentious. Changing accommodations weekly, I bounced between cities whenever I needed to. I was this badass, high-confidence solo-traveling chick living out of a backpack.

Tortuga’s philosophies stuck with me and it became clear that I could live the life I wanted to live if I found a company that allowed me to work remotely and choose my hours. Fall 2015, Tortuga was hiring for a second Concierge. This time I was on it. I got my application in and made sure it was highly personal so that it was clear that I wanted this job, not just any job, and so that I would stick out as an individual. I didn’t get hired.

After I had Skype interviews with Fred and Lauren, I waited, but ultimately, Fred sent the, “Sorry we’re moving forward with other applicants,” email. Tactfully, I asked for feedback and he said that they just weren’t sure how dance was going to impact my ability to stay committed to my job at Tortuga.

I sat on that for a couple of months and then my mom got me the Tortuga Air for my birthday.  Impulsively, I sent Fred another email saying that I was still really interested in working for Tortuga and that I’d be happy to help in any way that I could, even if only for 5 hours per week or on a project-by-project basis as I was needed. Unbeknownst to me, it hadn’t worked out with the person they had hired, so we had another Skype session and he ended up offering me the job.

The random skills I’ve picked up over the years came into play in amazing ways. A year-long marketing & PR internship I’d taken gave me the skills I needed to further add value to Tortuga. And of course the random front desk jobs I’ve had, as well as being a dance teacher, has given me the human-to-human experiences needed for the Concierge role.

lauren-tortuga-backpacks_smallLiving in Europe, I was doing as much traveling as I possibly could. Having never been a light packer, I was scouring the internet for ways to not bring everything I owned on trips. I found Packsmith and was blown away by the helpful packing tips and lists that were available.

That took me to Tortuga’s site where I saw the Tortuga Travel Backpack for the first time. It was sold out at the time, but I knew I had to have it. I hovered over the site like a psychopath until it was back in stock. I got my backpack and was forever changed.

When I wrote a blog (complete with a Ron Swanson GIF) bragging about the Tortuga and Fred commented on it which made me feel like a celebrity. Not long after that I got a hand-written letter in the mail from him saying thank you for the blog I wrote. I’d never had an experience like that with a company, so a few months later when I saw they were hiring I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of.

lauren-tortuga-backpacks_smallWhy Are You Passionate About What You Do?

I love to help people. I love to love on people. I love getting to work for a company that encourages me to do that without a hidden agenda.

angelaI think it comes from my desire to teach people. I love getting questions about how to pack, or anything else that I can help with. I love being able to be of value to other people, to add value to their lives.

angelaWhat is your goal as a concierge team?

To help people. Straight up. We help in any way that we can. Like Lauren sending a customer her backpack to borrow because a replacement wouldn’t get there in time for his trip.

lauren-tortuga-backpacks_smallOur goal is to be the best. We want to be fast, efficient, and friendly. We want our interactions with customers to be personal so that people know they’re dealing with a person and not a machine.

Going the Extra Mile: Highlights

lauren-tortuga-backpacks_smallOnce, I let a customer borrow my daypack because his wasn’t going to arrive in time for his 6 week trip through Europe (his had been lost by the shipping carrier). I mailed my daypack to him and had a replacement for him sent to my address. When he got back from his trip I mailed him his new daypack with some money to return mine to me.

Another time, a customer emailed needing to return her Tortuga Air, which she had purchased for her father. He passed away before he was able to use it and the bag was still brand new with tags. Of course we initiated a return for her, and then I asked Fred if we could send something special to show some Tortuga love. Fred picked out a nice plant and had it delivered to her to tell her that her loss was also ours and that we were so grateful to have them both as a part of the Tortuga team.

What Would You Like Customers to Know?lauren-tortuga-backpacks_small

We aren’t always able to fix everything, but we do our best to help as much as we can. We realize that customer experiences with companies can make or break that relationship and it isn’t something we take lightly. We will do our best for you and we are happy to help.

angelaI’m here to help. With anything that I can help with. We’re not going to give you the run around, we’re going to give you an answer and we’re going to work with you to find the best, most fair solution.

TL;DR

Tortuga’s concierge team takes it so far beyond traditional “customer service.” Lauren and Angela have a passion for helping people. They are lovers of the mission at Tortuga, to live on your own terms. They genuinely want to see you get the perfect bag for your lifestyle and make your travel experience better. They go the extra mile, every single day, to make that happen.