At some point the secretary became the executive assistant and then a strange thing happened – there seemed to be less of these assistants. It seems executives started doing more and more of their own “secretarial work” such as scheduling meetings, making travel reservations, etc.
But let’s face it… Work is not getting easier for many of us as we all struggle to catch up with e-mail and assignments on nights and weekends. The internet has created an environment where those who choose to work 24x7 finally can. Even those who don’t want to sometimes work around the clock. Twenty years ago your messages were contained on pink pieces of paper in slots in the reception area.
You simply couldn’t access these pieces of paper at 2 in the morning. There was even a time *GASP* when messaging was not voicemail or e-mail but instead letter writing and faxing! Now of course you can work around the clock – sans envelopes -- and many of us find ourselves on airplanes and in strange hotels at dawn, midnight and at many other times throughout the day.
This means there is a need to have travel assistance when you are marooned in Detroit at 10:00 pm on a Friday night and everyone in your office is gone. By the way, I have nothing against Detroit or the very fine people living there. But even the Detroiters must admit “marooned in Miami” just doesn’t have the same ring to it. ;)
Credit card companies are aware of the need for help in making travel reservations and other related services and they offer credit cards with high fees which can assist travelers with special services designed to help them as they hop from airport to airport, etc.
I recently started using MobileCierge
(877-CIERGE-1, 877-243-7431) a service designed to provide whatever you need, whenever and wherever you need it. This service is similar to what you get from credit card companies and is bundled into a nifty smartphone application making it a useful tool for business travelers.
With the software you can look up people, a business or do a reverse look up on address or phone number. In addition there is access to weather, news, sports, entertainment and other services.
The interface on Windows Mobile devices is quite good and there is integration between the services provided and the contacts on your device. In addition you can map addresses fairly easily.
The software while great is only part of the reason to have this service. you really need it for the phone support which in my two test calls was fantastic. I give the service an A.
This is why it is so impressive. From a trade show floor I called an agent and asked for a fusion restaurant between Asian and Mexican cuisine (I know, I know – an impossible task) and the agent soon e-mailed me the following:
C502482 - Asian/Mexican Restaurant Reservations
Good Afternoon Mr. Tehrani,
I have located a few options for your dinner this evening, both restaurants are on International Drive near the Convention Center. Both of the restaurants are Asian inspired, Ming Court is Chinese and Thai Thani Restaurant is Thai food. Both of these options have openings for 7:00pm this evening for 3 people and they are both rated very well. They offer casual elegant dining featuring award winning cuisine. Please let us know which option you prefer and we will make the reservation for you. Please contact us at 866-475-7505 with your preference or if you have any further questions or need any additional assistance.
On another call, I asked for a direct flight between New York and Las Vegas on American Airlines. The agent came back with a flight which I knew was a problem because there is no direct flight between these cities on this airline.
Instead the agent found a flight that stops in Dallas, TX but doesn’t change airplanes or flight numbers. When I mentioned this the agent apologized and said the initial view in the system didn’t mention the stop in Dallas.
This glitch is why the service didn’t get an A+ and to be honest a 7.5 hour flight time between these cities made it obvious to me there was a problem.
Beyond this, the agent jumped through a number of travel hoops and questions without skipping a beat. This conversation lasted for about 20 minutes.
I asked what other services are provided and the agent told me they could help me find a pet groomer, rental car, dentist, medical assistance, a vacation package, etc.
It seems like the options to test are endless but unfortunately my article writing time is not so I will share one final story with you about how this service was used by a sick passenger on a cruise line as a call for help. The passenger needed to be airlifted from the cruise but the coast guard wouldn’t make it happen. The call center called their local politician (I think it was a congressman) who put a call into the coast guard to have the passenger airlifted. According to a doctor at the receiving hospital, this action saved the customers’ life.
You can have the world at your fingertips just like me for a mere $5.99/month. A service like this pays for itself for years if you use it to get on a flight when yours is cancelled or when you are trying to get difficult to acquire seats located together at a show or sporting event.
I imagine if credit cards companies can use such a service as a way to generate revenue, service providers may consider doing the same. After all, finding enhanced services customers will pay for doesn’t always have to involve switching , signaling and application serving equipment. Would I pay per month to get a service like this from Vonage? Absolutely. AT&T Wireless? Yes!.
The fact that credit card companies are so far ahead of service providers when it comes to providing services like this is surprising to me.
But getting back to MobileCierge… The name implies a blend of mobility and concierge and in this regard it does not disappoint. I highly recommend MobileCierge and I wonder if their call center agents have the answer to the question… Where did all those administrative assistants go?