Star is born: short dialing debuts in VN

Ruth Sinai

Imagine that you have friends or associates coming to town and you want to book a hotel room for them. Rather than searching for hotels or looking up 11-digit phone numbers, all you have to do is think of the word “room”, punch it in on your key pad, preceded by a *, and you are put through to a five-star hotel in the centre of Ha Noi.

Or imagine another scenario. You’re walking down the street and you come across one of the many traffic accidents that plague this country. You see injured people and want to help. You remember seeing ambulances speeding past with *9999 printed on their sides. The number stuck in your mind.

That is the basic idea of the short dialing service available in some 70 countries around the world and now fully patented and available in Viet Nam, too.

Whether so-called “angel numbers” of repeating number sequences, to which some ascribe lucky vibes, such as *6868 for a home credit loans company, or simply *piza to order a pizza, the service is a proven and powerful branding and marketing tool.

Shortened dialing in Viet Nam was until recently only available for public emergency response services – police, fire, ambulance – and not licensed for private use. This year, One Smart Star Vietnam (OSSV), in partnership with an Israeli company that holds a worldwide patent on the * and # short dialing, has contracted with major Vietnamese operators, such as Vinaphone, Viettel and MobiPhone, to provide the service for private use.

“Every company dreams of having a powerhouse brand that dominates their market space,” explains OSSV’s CEO, Van Ba Dong. “Companies need to develop a strong brand, representing them clearly, and support the brand by having it in their clients’ memory – making it easy for customers to maintain brand loyalty.”

Branding experts say customer recognition is key to developing it as a tool that sets them apart from their competition, and is sorely lacking in the Vietnamese business arena. “When a customer is shopping for a particular product or considering a company to perform a service, they remember your company. They are more likely to choose a brand they recognise. Being able to easily reach the company is a clear advantage, not only in terms of access but also of loyalty,” says Dong.

“This type of exposure is good,” agrees Guillermo Pantoja, General Manager of Melia Hotel Hanoi. The hotel has notified everyone on its database of this option that it now provides for short dialing. “Some 70 per cent of our bookings are digital. This app makes things easy and fast,” says Pantoja, also pointing to the app’s other feature – a customised menu with options from which callers can choose by touching them on their smartphone screens. It allows companies to list services, navigation options, maps and more and for callers to scroll through and pick. For many callers, especially younger ones, this has been proven as a distinct advantage over listening to robotic voices reciting options and having to remember what number to press.

“Having an app is vital, for bookings, for promotions. People want to see what promotions we have, they press four numbers on their phone and they can see everything. We have a very strong presence in Viet Nam. We were the first high-rise hotel in Ha Noi. But today without an app, you don’t exist,” Pantoja says.

Emergency response

Dr Rafi Kot, a pioneer in private healthcare in Viet Nam and founder of the Family Medical Practice clinics, waited for the OSSV service to receive official government approval before launching his Emergency Medical Response service earlier this year. “The *9999 was the key to the success of this service, something people can remember even when they’re confused or panicking,” he tells Vietnam News.

He was so confident of this tool’s effectiveness that he “bought” various combination of “99” from the company to use for future healthcare services he has in the pipeline, such as emergency treatment for diabetics.

“In many cases, the earliest possible intervention can make all the difference between life and death. Our trained dispatch operators can offer immediate, lifesaving medical advice when reached through the short dialing, asking the pertinent questions to decide the best course of action,” says Kot. The service is available in both Vietnamese and English. — VNS

Star is born: short dialing debuts in VN

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