© 2015 David Veg / J. Zamora
Marmassistance is a thirty year old company that provides medical, technical, travel and legal assistance services for foreign tourists. The company began in Turkey in 1986, but has since expanded to nearly thirty countries in the Caucasus, the Balkans, the Middle East and North Africa. Much of that growth has been the result of gaining the trust of major travel insurance and assistance companies from all over the world as well as leading car manufacturers and importers operating in Turkey.
Marmassistance has been selected to receive the BID Quality Crown Award for 2015. As a company based in Turkey, it shares a rich history and a place in legend as the site of Troy, immortalized in Homer’s Iliad.
Troy the City
In the early 1870’s, archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann began excavations on a site in Turkey that was eventually identified as the abandoned city of Troy, also known as Ilion. It turns out that what he’d found was actually a series of towns, one built on top of another. The earliest layer dates back to 2,000 B.C. and some settlements in the surrounding area date back another 4,000 years. The town had been abandoned for some centuries when Schliemann found it.
The story of the Trojan war was a well known legend among the Greeks when Homer wrote the “Iliad” around 800 B.C., some 400 years after the events he described. Or maybe not. You see, it isn’t even a certainty that “Homer” is a real person, and the earliest complete text of the Iliad that exists is from the Tenth Century A.D., 1,700 years after Homer supposedly wrote it, and more than 2,000 years after the events they describe. The first mention of Homer that we know about is at least 250 years after his death, but by 400 B.C., more or less, it was commonly accepted in Greek society that “Homer “ was the “first teacher” and is by far the most cited author in early Greek manuscripts.
So Homer may or may not have existed, and the story we have called the Iliad may or may not be the same as the one the Iron Age Greeks told to one another, but it’s what we’ve got. The Iliad is an epic poem which takes place near the end of the siege of Troy over the course of some days or weeks. It doesn’t take us to the end of the conflict; for that story and the episode of the famous Trojan Horse we have to wait for the sequel, the Odyssey. However, through a number of flashbacks in the story, we learn about most of the events leading up to and including the ten year siege.
Ilion, or Troy….Maybe
The modern-day Turkish name for the site is Hisarlik, and the archaeological record is clear that the place was inhabited more or less continuously starting around 3,000 B.C. As technology advanced, defensive walls, buildings and earthworks were modernized, and buildings were commonly built on top of old structures, over time creating a huge mound. It is known that the city suffered an earthquake around 1300 B.C. and that there is evidence of fighting, fire and destruction some 100 years later. The city appears to have been abandoned about 1000 B.C.
“Homer” places the Trojan war around 1200 B.C. and the city shows evidence of a siege at that time. About two hundred years later, during the time of Homer (probably), the abandoned city was colonized by Greeks who were convinced from the very beginning of their occupation that they had found Troy. From that time forward, the Greeks, Macedonians, Romans, Persians and Ottomans all considered the site to be ancient Troy, or Ilion.
The site is on the UNESCO World Heritage list, although not every scholar is convinced that it is the Troy of the Iliad, not to mention the doubts that exist as to whether the siege of Troy ever happened at all. Whether not the connection of Hisarlik, or Ilion, or Troy with the Iliad is more imagined than real, it is an extensive, well preserved and well researched archaeological find, and easily accessible to visitors.
The Charm of Izmir
Only about four hours down the coast from Troy is the third largest city in Turkey, Izmir. With a population in the metropolitan area of nearly 3 million, and a history even older than Troy’s, there is plenty to do, from museums to restaurants, ancient monuments and theaters. And the surrounding mountains, beaches and countryside provide plenty of scenery and outdoors activities.
The city has a reputation for being quite liberal in its outlook and being oriented towards Europe. The city has always lived on commerce and trade, and has a waterfront that is upscale and beautiful. The west facing beach means that sunsets are a treat from one of the bars or restaurants that line the promenade.
The Kemeraltı Market in downtown Izmir has all of the exotic sights and smells, along with bargains, that one would expect in a Turkish bazaar. Food, jewelry, coffee, carpets, flowers, and anything else can be found there. The Hisarönü Mosque, built in the 1590’s, is ornate and understated at the same time, one of the largest in town, and is right there at the bazaar. Izmir is the place where Marmassistance was founded.
International in Scope, Wide Ranging in Service
Today, Marmassistance is the market leader in medical assistance in Turkey, provides service in 14 languages and has on staff 11 full time doctors as well as 120 personnel. Through strategic alliances from Libya to Turkmenistan, Bulgaria to Yemen, it is able to meet the needs of its clients through a network of more than 7000 affiliated offices.
The core business of the company is medical assistance. Because of the sensitivity of health care, and because its clientele is international, continuous quality improvement and customer service are essential for survival. The medical doctors and other staff at Marmassistance provide case management, second opinion, facility referrals, medical evacuation & repatriation, on-site physicals, medical equipment provision, medical escort services and medical counselling.
As the company has grown, its offering in the area of auxiliary medical services has grown with it to include ground / air ambulance transfers, taxi transfers, medical escort arrangements, hotel & flight booking, translation & interpretation services, flight booking, and funeral arrangements.
Keeping an Eye Out
It is well known that containing costs is a continuing challenge for health care and service providers. Because of the strong relationships that Marmassistance has developed over the past three decades, clients are directed to the best medical facilities and service providers while at the same time preventing inflated healthcare costs, overtreatment and overcharging. Taking advantage of foreigners in need is unfortunately a fact of life in most tourist areas, and here Marmassistance gives peace of mind to both the traveller in need and the group paying the bill. As a result, Marmassistance’s cost containment program has be an award winner for three years running by avoiding prolonged hospitalization and unnecessary bureaucracy. After a provider is selected, the company continues with cost investigation services, medical cost monitoring, a cost estimation system, statistical reporting and cost breakdowns. © 2015 David Veg / J. Zamora
In addition to medically related services, Marmassistance offers a complete menu of fast, reliable and professional vehicle assistance services in cooperation with automobile clubs and travel insurance companies as well as car manufacturers which sell their products in Turkey. For these partners, Marmassistance makes available roadside assistance, towing and rent-a-car arrangements, spare parts provision, repair management and customs services.
The company credits its commitment to total quality management and improvement as the primary factors which have allowed it to grow in a logical and controlled fashion while at the same time maintaining world class customer service. Recently, Marmassistance has taken this client centric approach to a new level, creating tailor made solutions which leverage existing competencies to create new services like medical tourism, extended auto warranties, global travel insurance and others.
Being a first mover in its business is nothing new for Marmassistance. When the company came into being in 1986, medical assistance, roadside assistance and health care provider coordination were unknown industries in Turkey. The group started in Izmir, and gradually expanded both in geographical scope and in terms of services provided, becoming Turkey’s first private air ambulance provider, joining up with the leading international assistance network, ARC Europe, and eventually growing to become the multinational enterprise it is today.
You are Known by the Company you Keep
ARC Europe was the first international automobile club to partner Marmassistance, but it wasn’t the last. The company now counts 11 international automobile club partners as well as more than two dozen insurance companies and such major automobile manufacturers as Ford, Chevrolet, Ducati, Iveco, Jaguar, Mercedes, Opel, and Skoda. British Petroleum and Exxon also count on Marmassistance.
Marmassistance has embraced technology in order to improve service with its MarmNet web-based file handling system which combines ease of use, transparency and control and eliminates the need to communicate with email. This system is robust and comprehensive, providing critical details in real time to the people who need such data the most. Drivers can take advantage of Marmassistance’s Mobile Roadside Application, allowing drivers to access the reliable and fast roadside assistance with a single click. GPS technology means that drivers need not give directions, describe landmarks or even know which highway they are on. And of course, invoicing is paperless.
Quality Management Ensures Excellence
Because it works with partner hospitals, Marmassistance audits its third party providers to ensure that they meet international standards for care, transparency, and ranks them accordingly. The company also engages a German auditing firm, Temos, to provide certificates for “Quality in International Patient Care” and “Excellence in Medical Tourism.” The goal is simple: make sure that all clients receive world class attention and care. Marmassistance is itself certified in compliance with ISO 9001 and ISO 27001 standards.
Doing Well by Doing Good
The BID committee was impressed by the fact that Marmassistance has a company culture of giving back to the community. As they state themselves, “We know it’s in all of our best interests to contribute to the economic, environmental, and social sustainability of our communities across the world.” As a result of this, and pursuant to their stated policy of contributing to the well being of the less fortunate, Marmassistance has participated in relief efforts in a number of floods and earthquakes, and has provided humanitarian aid to strife-torn regions like the Balkans, Iraq and the Caucasus. Every year the company is involved in numerous non-profit projects like blood donation to the Red Cross of Turkey and donations to charity organizations that support the underprivileged, undereducated children and children with leukemia.
Because of its commitment to continuous quality improvement, innovation, and good corporate citizenship, Marmassistance has been selected to receive the BID Quality Crown Award for 2015 at the convention in London.
ABOUT BID AND THE INTERNATIONAL QUALITY CROWN AWARD:
BID is a private and independent organization founded in 1984, whose primary activity is business communication orientated towards quality, excellence and innovation in management. A leader in the broadcasting of Quality Culture, BID recognizes those companies and organizations which lead the most important activities in the business world, and is considered the founding organization in the broadcasting of the Culture of Quality, Excellence and Innovation in 179 countries. The trophy symbolizes a pledge to the principles of Quality Culture. The QC100 Total Quality Management Model, together with the Quality Mix program, media coverage of the convention and its impact on the community and business sector, create an unmatched platform for continuous improvement within the organization and awareness of the achievements of the company at an international level. Awards are given only to those who are committed to improving their Quality Culture based on the principles of the QC100 Total Quality Management Model. Candidates are proposed by the leaders of previously awarded companies who they consider worthy of the award. Especially meritorious candidates may also be nominated. The International BID Quality Award Selection Committee then chooses the winning companies who will receive the award in New York, Paris, Geneva, Frankfurt, Madrid and London.