At your service

Written by Malabika Sarkar | Malabika Sarkar | Updated: May 9 2010, 22:12pm hrs
Anamika Vij (name changed) is an investment banker. She has an Ivy League MBA. She looked headed for vice-presidentship when she had her child, but could not trust her maid to look after it. So, she is on a sabbatical. If you are in a similar position, you are just the person the assistance services industry is looking to address. Assistance services, which help cope with the daily demands of professional and personal situations, can be as diverse as concierge services on credit cards to home surveillance or credit card protection. The answer to everyones needs

Home alone

Axis Communications provides home surveillance to nuclear families in urban areas. Working professionals can monitor their children or caretakers while they are at work, or also keep watch on their house when they are traveling. The set-up is simple and requires broadband connectivity with fixed IP and the IP surveillance camera. Wireless cameras also allow a set-up without any wiring or cabling required.

Given todays busy lifestyles, people seek the convenience of assistance services rather than having to directly purchase the product and upgrade when necessary. Therefore, we foresee assistance services gaining popularity in India, says Prakash Prabhu, country manager, Axis Communications, India.

Imagine that you are away from home and your debit or credit card goes missing. You can just make a call to CPPs Card Protection 24-hour helpline to report the loss or theft and CPP will notify all the banks concerned individually. CPP not only blocks multiple debit or credit cards that a consumer may have, but assists the member by providing emergency travel assistancefacilitating hotel bill payments and arranging travel tickets for the consumersto safely get them back home.

Customers can also register their cards as well as valuable and important documents for easy reference should they ever need them and when the originals are not around. In case the customers are traveling and lose their passports etc, CPP will guide them through the process of obtaining a replacement by directing them to the nearest Indian consulate.

Card control

This becomes a valuable service if one were to consider that there are 26 million credit card users in India and an average persons wallet contains at least one debit and credit card. We believe card protection is necessary for any individual who has a card. Before entering the Indian market, we conducted some detailed consumer research and we received positive feedback. The product was liked by the majority of our target segment, says Gagan Maini, CEO, CPP India.

All a consumer needs to do is, after receiving the welcome pack sold through the partnered banks, is call the CPP card protection helpline and register the details of the cardscredit, debit, ATM, membership and loyalty cards. One can also register their card and personal documents like PAN card number, drivers licence numbers, passport details, etc.

Globally, CPP works with over 200 business partners (banks, retailers, etc) and has over 11 million customers. In a mature market such as the UK, the penetration of card protection is over 40% of the carded base. We believe that in a growing market such as India, as more customers carry more plastic, the relevance for card protection will only increase, says Maini.

CPP has partnered with eight leading credit card issuing banks, including Citibank, Standard Chartered, HSBC, Kotak Mahindra Bank, ICICI, Axis Bank, Barclays and LIC Cards. In a survey conducted for CPP by Nielsen, as many as 83% of women surveyed in Mumbai were interested in CPPs card protection service.

At your service

Another example of assistance services is the American Express platinum concierge service, which is available by invitation only. Now, in case you spotted something you really liked in a store while travelling abroad, but you were too busy to buy it, the concierge service will get it for you and even arrange the delivery. American Express Platinum card provides a complete array of services to its card members, round the clock. Consumers need to just inform the dedicated concierge services team what they want and where they saw it. The team will locate and purchase it for the card holder and arrange the delivery. Even if the card holder cannot remember the exact location or the details of the card, the team will collect information on the item and then confirm with the card holder. This card can also deliver a bowl of hot chicken soup to a friend abroad on behalf of the card member.

If a card holder loses his briefcase with wallet, visa and platinum card inside, the platinum card emergency services can even help with passport or visa replacement and emergency funds. A replacement card will also be issued immediately. Emergency services also include overseas medical assistance. When urgent medical help is needed, emergency cash advance of up to Rs 3.6 lakh is arranged for the member. To top it all, through membership travel services, members can book flights, arrange local transport and make reservation for accommodation throughout the trip, wherever they are travelling.

Global exposure has resulted in the Indian consumer evolving his outlook, aspirations and lifestyle needs and choices, says Simran Kalra, vice-president, American Express. Added to this, his sense of achievement emanates from his ability to achieve more in less time and this has led to a paradigm shift in the quality of products and services. Moreover, they believe its about having the world at their fingertips exclusively and their innate desire to have the best now.

A burgeoning economy provides a greater thrust to this industry. With an increase in the number of working women and their level of wealth, the demand for personalised services is also increasing. So whatever your requirement, assistance is on hand as never before.