IntlSOS 30 Years - From East to West - Page 28



International SOS | From East to West
If you can service Japan
you can service the world.
— Lisa Tan
The growing Japanese business gave us the volume
to set up throughout Asia, opening facilities in Kuala
Lumpur, Seoul, Taipei, Manila, Bangkok and Tokyo.
We set up dedicated service desks in our Assistance
Centres for our Japanese clients, staffed by
Japanese speakers. The first was in Singapore with
an initial staff of seven, which gradually grew to 38.
Since then other Japanese Service Desks have been
set up in Sydney, Paris, Philadelphia and, of course,
Tokyo itself.
Lisa Tan (far right next to Arnaud
Vaissié), Singapore Assistance Centre
with Japanese Insurance clients,
December 1999.
Lisa Tan joined us in 1988. She spent
two years setting up and upgrading
the Assistance Centre operations in
Seoul and Hong Kong. In 1991 she
returned to the Singapore Assistance
Centre as Operations Manager. She
then focused on building the Japanese
business. The dedicated Japanese
department was established, in
Singapore, in 1994, headed by Lisa.
She now has global oversight of the
quality of the service delivery to our
Japanese clientele.
20
As well as the direct impact on our business growth,
the Japanese experience had many indirect
benefits, as Arnaud had predicted. Because we had
to demonstrate to the Japanese our ability to
deliver, we were forced to formalise our operations
and network of contacts. This was an excellent
discipline and, as Pascal says, “fundamental to our
capability to grow.” Pascal points out that the world
of emergencies is all about getting someone from A
to B. But the Japanese take that for granted; they
want to know in advance how it will be done and to
test and verify all procedures. The concept of
medical assistance was new to the Japanese so
being able to explain it to them, in writing, was a
useful exercise. We had to learn to listen, especially
to any complaints, and stop assuming we were
always right, which Pascal ruefully points out, was
“very difficult for a French doctor!”
Lisa trained her staff to deliver that detail daily. For
example, if arranging a medical transport on a call,
once the doctor had finished speaking to the
patient, the Customer Services Executive took over,
asking how many bags the person had, where their
passport was and so on. Questions which might
irritate some nationalities serve to calm others.
Paying Attention
Lisa has hugely enjoyed her time working with our
Japanese clients. She believes that as a foreigner to
them she has been able to see things differently,
whilst her fluency in Japanese has of course been
vital. Two cases particularly stick in Lisa’s memory,
and reflect the service approach she developed:
The first was an avalanche in Nepal, near Mount
Everest, in November 1995. It hit a Japanese
trekking group, killing 13. It was the biggest
mountaineering disaster of its kind at the time.
After the initial emergency and rescue had ended,
Lisa spent a great deal of time making
arrangements for the return of the bodies of the
deceased. It had been suggested that the deceased
should be simply cremated on the mountainside
but, as Lisa fully appreciated, that would be quite
wrong for the Japanese.
She recognised the spiritual importance of returning
the deceased to their families, and that this should
be conducted with absolute dignity and respect.
It was arranged for embalmers to go to the site
and for coffins to be built. Lisa sent a Japanese
speaker to smooth the way and deal with any local
complications and customs involved in handling
mortal remains. As the families arrived, they were
flown by helicopter to see the accident site; the
families then returned home on the same plane as
the deceased. Typical of our company culture in such
circumstances, money did not get in the way. We did
what we needed to do – down to the last detail. The
key insurer also dispatched two claims adjustors to
work with us on-site, to expedite all arrangements
and deal with any queries about insurance coverage.

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