Do you need a helping hand?
Imagine getting a flat tyre in the middle of nowhere late at night. It would be a nightmare. If you tried calling home for help but no one answered, who would you call next?Or if you are just relaxing at home on a Sunday, suddenly you notice a water stain on the wall. Oh, no! An upstairs water pipe has sprung a leak. You call the plumber, but he's off work. Who else can you call?
What about suffering from altitude sickness while holidaying in Bhutan, or cracking your tooth during lunch at a remote resort? Who can you call?
In all of these emergencies it might be impossible to get immediate assistance.
In some cases, your insurance agency or your personal doctor might be able to help. But if you don't keep their contact details handy, or if they are out of touch, who else would be available for these urgent needs?
Naturally, you might think, a credit-card call centre wouldn't be on your list.
Surprise! That's no longer the case. The scope of services offered by some credit-card operators now goes beyond just financial transactions. Not only are they on call 24 hours a day to help you financially or to guide you toward desirable credit-card privileges, roadside assistance and emergency medical services have also become part of their extra deliverables.
And not just for these emergencies; sometimes the extending of special wishes or a "secret mission" for an executive requires the assistance of someone else who is not the secretary.
If a top manager wants to express his special admiration for someone he likes, he might want to surprise her with a bouquet of long-stemmed imported flowers without letting anyone know. This can be smoothly arranged and, of course, the mission is highly classified.
Other tasks that are simple but time-consuming, like searching for a contact and the working hours of embassies, getting a weather forecast, booking a round of golf or a hotel room, planning for a special show, or visa arrangements, are also part of the card call centre's concierge-like service.
But why would credit-card providers trouble themselves with all these hassles? This is not their core business, nor is there a fat margin. Besides, when the task is service-oriented, it is a promise that could easily jeopardise their brand image, especially when they are not really experts in the field.
Is this worth it?
Certainly, the bottom line should not be to diversify their businesses to the extreme, as the training of their logistics staff is not in this area of expertise.
Generally, these additional services are outsourced at their own cost and delivered to particular groups of customers in order to create brand loyalty.
Because pricing will no longer guarantee loyalty, to hold on to customers, they have to shift to sophisticated services and value-added benefits to differentiate themselves from other brands.
In the end, when you, a cardholder, appreciate their distinct services, their card will become your first choice.
Janejit Ladpli is vice president of travel & leisure marketing, Krungthai Card Public Company Limited.