Concierge services for travel and medical assistance: the VIP experience
Concierge services are becoming popular with consumers. Lauren Haigh explores this trend
In today’s increasingly digitised and personalised world, the modern consumer prioritises speed and convenience. It is therefore unsurprising that the popularity of concierge services is on the rise. Indeed, according to a recent report, the global concierge services market was valued at US$537.6 million in 2018, and is expected to expand by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.3 per cent from 2019 to 2025.
In the travel and medical assistance sector – from destination and activity planning, to delivering a personalised approach to medical services – consumers can benefit from concierge services. In fact, remaining competitive relies on a company’s ability to provide these benefits.
Going above the ‘average’ assistance call might mean a truly personalised experience, including tailored support for dealing with unexpected issues and 24-hour assistance. It also prizes technology, with artificial intelligence (AI) concierge apps offering chat support and instant access to data. Customer loyalty ultimately depends on the service received – so travel and medical assistance companies need to ensure they are going the extra mile.
“At AXA Partners, we place a ‘customer-first’ mindset at the heart of all core assistance processes,” said Kushal Rajani, Head of Go to Market, AXA Partners. “We use a concierge approach as a way of inspiring our services to go beyond the average assistance call – such as ordering alternative transport in case of motor breakdown, or medical support when troubles arise while on holiday.” Rajani added that today, particularly since the pandemic, there’s a demand for extras. “Customers expect a service quality that focuses on more than the incident resolution, with a further ‘what if’ or ‘general enquiries’ state of mind that feels like a type of ‘concierge’ service. They’re looking to get the most out of the product they have, the services it provides and all of the possibilities that go with it.”
In fact, remaining competitive relies on a company’s ability to provide these benefits
Indeed, the pandemic had a significant impact on consumer behaviour, causing companies to re-evaluate customer service. Competition is tougher than before, so evolving this offering is a key differentiator for travel and medical assistance companies.
A turnkey experience
A customer-first mindset involves being available at a time of need, whether great or small, night or day. Scott Adamski, CPCU, Head of Global Product Development, AIG Travel, said concierge services are an important part of the company’s suite of assistance services. “In order to create a standout experience, those covered under an AIG Travel insurance plan would have access to 24-hour medical assistance services, emergency assistance services and more, with fully staffed in-house departments and full integration across teams,” he said. “The covered traveller has a more turnkey experience this way, with the knowledge that someone is taking a comprehensive view of their needs, whenever they call. With the comfort of knowing that insureds can have many critical, unforeseen needs met, customers can enjoy extra-mile treatment if their provider offers concierge services that allow them to get the most out of their trip when everything is going just as planned.” Increasingly, beyond round-the-clock availability, customers are seeking a personalised experience, wanting to feel seen and heard.
Technology holds great potential for minimising human intervention
“We provide 24/7 services and our coordinators at the assistance centres are always available,” commented Aleš Marcol, Sales and Product Director, Global Assistance. “We have no interactive voice response and other robots, so communication is H2H – human to human. In addition, we behave humanely and professionally, always going the extra mile.” The importance of effective communication channels and the ability to connect in an empathetic manner cannot be understated, as Chris Carnicelli, CEO, Generali Global Assistance, articulated: “In any situation where someone is looking for help, communication is paramount. You don’t only want to be efficient and available; you need to be capable of really understanding the customer and relating to them on a human level.” One way that Generali achieves this is through staff diversity. “We’re proud to have native speakers of over 20 different languages on our assistance team. In addition to being available 24/7, our team has both the language skills and cultural awareness to understand the intricacies and nuances of our customers, what they’re looking for, and how to make sure they feel comfortable and satisfied,” he said. This level of sensitivity and relatability is key to delivering a flawless experience in which the consumer feels valued and, better still, understood.
IMG is also focused on regular updates to existing products and the development of new ones. “At IMG, we pride ourselves on being there for our customers. This is ingrained in our mission, vision and culture. Our dedicated team of in-house, international, multilingual specialists and highly trained customer service professionals back the benefits our members need with the services they want,” said Chief Operating Officer, Amanda Winkle. “We have many examples of how we have helped our customers over the years – from arranging complicated medical transports in remote parts of the world, to thinking outside the box and creating unique solutions for those in need of medical care during the Covid-19 pandemic. Our technology, products and people all stand behind the comprehensive solutions we offer, and we are continuously creating products, or updating our existing programmes, to ensure customers receive the best service we can offer.”
It is important human-to-human communication is available when required, and technology such as chatbots and digital services can help ensure agents are freed up to take care of more complicated issues. “Digital conveniences for ordering and tracking services allow human help through our agents when it matters most,” said Rajani. “Services like Dr Please, that allow direct access to doctors, or Travel Eye for supporting business travellers as part of the duty of care by employers, are applied to help the individual interact in a quicker way and get up-to-date information at their fingertips for peace of mind.” Indeed, technology holds great potential for minimising human intervention, and artificial intelligence (AI) can provide improved suggestions and options to consumers as per their evolving needs and plans. For example, concierge AI provides rapid and reliable answers to basic repetitive questions, meaning human help is available to field more difficult queries, while concierge apps offer instant information, acting almost like a personal travel agent. According to executives at Booking.com, 80 per cent of customers prefer self-service, providing it’s done right, of course, demonstrating the importance of effective concierge AI. This information is instantaneous, and completely necessary when considering an emergency telediagnosis and treatment, for example.
Beyond personalised, 24/7 care and access to customer experience enhancing technologies, there are additional bonuses, as Adamski revealed: “AIG Travel’s concierge services include perks such as restaurant referrals and reservations, event ticketing, golf tee time reservations, local activity recommendations, translation assistance and so many others.” Unexpected situations and requirements, both medical and otherwise, are often an indisputable part of travel and concierge services can be key to overcoming such challenges and needs, reducing stress and ensuring flexibility for travellers. In addition, considering the demographic of high-net worth individuals, who expect, and indeed are paying for, a heightened level of convenience and efficiency, luxury concierge services provide a means to meet these high expectations.
Apps are undoubtedly helping with the increasing demand for immersive concierge services, simplifying tasks like finding information and payment. Beyond these tech benefits, concierge services can deliver 24/7 availability, awareness and sensitivity, and personalisation. This helps companies fulfil and even exceed expectations, therefore improving loyalty and retention. As digital innovations continue, further developments in AI concierge services are likely, with the potential to save time, cost and effort, continuing to free up human agents to deal with the most important tasks.