Your (almost) every wish is my command

- Margaret Jao-Grey  () - September 10, 2001 - 12:00am
It was a choice between Keanu Reeves and monkey brains soup. Shaking the hand of the movie actor was my idea. The other one came from my blood-thirsty son who got the idea from the second Indiana Jones movie.

Admittedly, both were outrageous requests to test the 24-hour concierge service of Diners Club Premiere Card. I was probably going to be struck blind and definitely dumb if Reeves even came within seeing distance. And I certainly didn’t want a poor monkey to die for something I wouldn’t even taste.

Last Sept. 3, Security International Card Corp. executive vice-president Alex Ilagan agreed to have me test the 24-hour concierge service, the major come-on to cardholders who spend an average of P100,000 a month.

SICC assistant vice-president for business development Patrick Carlos lent me his card. To make sure I didn’t get carried away, I was given a credit limit of P5,000.
The test
The test was conducted last Thursday, Sept. 6, at the 12th floor office of International SOS president Serge Gynkewich, Jr. SOS is the service provider of SICC.

First, I got an outside line–so the SOS operator wouldn’t know where the call was being made from–and then I dialed 633-3899 for the concierge service.

It was 11:10 in the morning. The operator answered in two rings, identified herself as the concierge and asked what she could do for me. In part because there were people listening in, including Gynkewich, and in part because I knew I would go over budget if I asked for either Reeves or the monkey, I asked instead for the CD soundtrack of Kenneth Branagh movie, "Love’s Labour Lost," a Shakespearean comedy set to the 1920s music of the Gershwin brothers, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and Jerome Kern.

I knew the soundtrack was not readily available and was–at less than P500– well within my price range. (You see, I wasn’t also sure if Carlos would bill me next month for the purchase).

I had to repeat the alliterative title several times. The operator then asked where the CD would be delivered and when. We agreed on the next day, Sept. 7. The operator also asked for a fax number, e-mail address or cell phone number so she could call me back.

I gave the cell phone number of Dessa Virtusio, the daughter of public relations man Romy Virtusio. The operator called back at 11:40. She found the CD. She said she would call back again by 4 p.m. of the same day to finalize the time of next day’s delivery.
"Our people are trained to answer the phone within three to five rings," said SOS (Phils) sales and marketing manager Raymundo Alonso. "There’s a different process flow for each kind of request. They’re provided with prompters or questions for each request."

For example, if the Premiere cardholder wants to order candies, the operator will ask details on the kind of chocolate and the brand.

The SOS operator is expected to complete the process within two hours, looking up the requested product or service from a list of accredited suppliers which are not necessarily cheaper but which provide consistent quality.

It took the operator 30 minutes to complete my request.

Since its launch a month ago, Alonso said SOS has processed four requests for Diners Premiere, three for flowers and boxes of candy and one for two shower heads that needed replacement. "We handle all kinds of requests, so long as they are reasonable," Alonso said. Included among requests deemed reasonable are getting a reservation at The Country Club in Canlubang, one of the hardest golf clubs to get into because guests must be accompanied by a member.

Escort service is not considered a reasonable request in part because the girls who knock on hotel rooms at odd hours of the night normally do not accept credit cards. "We would probably give the cardholder the names of escort providers which could be found in the yellow pages but that’s as far as our services would go," Alonso said.

Basically, the 24-hour concierge service is geared towards executives who do a lot of traveling and would need someone to handle reservations for hotels, car rentals, restaurants and golf playing time as well as short-term business services and equipment.
The operator called again at 4:30 p.m. to confirm delivery of my CD by 9:30 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 7. By that time, the card of Patrick Carlos had been verified and he had signed a confirmation form approving the CD request. This Diners Club process of verification and confirmation significantly reduces the possibility of having the card cloned, a clear and real danger in buying services from the Internet.

In the near future, the operator will no longer ask for the name of the Premiere cardholder. To increase the confidentiality of the requests, only the cardholder’s number will be asked.

Sometimes, however, confidentiality is inadvertently breached. Although this has not happened to Diners Club, Gynkewich tells the story of an SOS-Singapore operator who called the home of the request maker to confirm the sending of flowers to his wife. The wife answered the phone and told the operator she was sending the flowers to the wrong address. It turned out the original address was the home of wife number two.

The CD I requested was delivered at 9:30 a.m., as promised. The messenger asked to use the phone to update SOS. The CD was prettily wrapped and came with a personally written card. I guess I won’t be paying for the CD after all. – MJGrey

  • Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?
Login is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with