IntlSOS 30 Years - From East to West - Page 150

International SOS | From East to West
Assistance Centres
Assistance Centres have always been at the heart of
the company and core to our global service delivery.
In the early days they were called Alarm Centres;
this was changed to Assistance Centres to reflect
the fact that most calls are for a wide range of help
and information rather than just emergencies.
Local Knowledge
First Assistance Centre staff at Prapanca,
Jakarta, Indonesia, late 1980s.
Fact No. 27
In 2013 our Assistance
Centres received a total
of 4.9 million calls.
Our first two Assistance Centres were in Singapore
and Jakarta. As we expanded into different
countries throughout Asia, we opened further
Assistance Centres to provide a local service. This
was provided by nationals who spoke the language,
knew the country and understood the culture; they
were led by international co-ordinating doctors and
other experts. That remains our approach today. We
have 27 Assistance Centres delivering services in
over 90 languages, all over the world, fully
operational 24/7, every day of the year.
Throughout these years the Assistance Centre staff
have dealt with calls on a vast range of topics, from
travellers with lost wallets to members in remote
locations seeking help for a severely injured worker.
Whilst many of the calls each Centre deals with are
similar, there are inevitably regional differences. For
example, the Johannesburg Assistance Centre has
dealt with many calls about animal incidents with
tourists. As Dr Fraser Lamond puts it: “The big five
– Lions, Leopards, Buffaloes, Elephants and Rhinos
– have certainly made their presence felt in Africa!”
Snakes, spotted hyenas and hippos have also made
their mark on many unfortunate members.
The number of calls we receive varies between
Assistance Centres and changes over time as our
clients’ needs alter. In one place a mining operation
might scale down, whilst another place may start to
boom; we have to adjust accordingly. The content
of calls has also changed. With better standards of
healthcare in many countries, and people better
prepared for travel, fewer medical transports are
needed. Our focus on awareness and prevention
has likewise increased the amount of medical and
security information we proactively provide to
our members prior to travel.
Highly Trained
Dealing with the calls to our Assistance Centre is a
very challenging job and requires a broad range of
skills; for example, one caller might want us to
recommend a dentist, the next might need support
after a colleague has suddenly died. Our Customer
Service Executives (CSEs) are the first to answer
calls. They handle non-medical and non-security
matters, such as confirming the time of an
appointment or dealing with other administrative
The CSE immediately passes all calls seeking
medical or security advice to the medical or security
member of the call answering team. Having a
medical professional as part of our call answering
team is what sets us apart from other companies
and has done since our early days. Today security
experts are also part of that team.


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