I always regarded the insurance packages provided with credit cards or flight tickets as pure scams that nobody would ever get to work.

However I own a Visa Premier debit card since it was the cheapest my bank was offering at the time, and I was forced to use their medical assistance service once.

While I eventually got reimbursed, the whole process took so much time, patience, and resistance to incompetence that I feel the need to write it down somewhere.

At least in France, Visa Premier's medical assistance service is handled by Europe Assistance. If you are a customer of Europe Assistance or the owner of a Visa card, this is a warning. I hope you will not experience the same service as I did. If by any chance someone at Europe Assistance stumbles on this post, please do something to improve your customer service. You are dealing with people who need help (your company name should be a hint) and you cannot have such a subpar communication process.

Agents do not read the text of filed requests

Getting reimbursed for my fiancée's medical expenses took us 46 days, during which I had several contacts over email and phone with Europe Assistance's agents.

All of them were very polite, but of a limited professionalism. While I understand that on the phone agents do not have the time to review all the information of a ticket, it should be obvious that when they're using asynchronous communication such as emails they should check the request history first.

In our case, it was clear that the agents did not bother to check first. While most of the people they deal with is under French healthcare, it is not my fiancée's case. I had to explain this several times to agents who expected me to produce a proof of reimbursement from the French healthcare. Almost every of my early interactions started with "you need to provide a proof of reimbursement", and then I had to explain that it was neither possible nor required.

The same thing happened with the documents that we were asked to submit, namely a copy of our plane ticket and a copy of my  fiancée's passport. I sent both and then called to check that they were received. And the conversation goes :

Agent - Yes we received you plane ticket, we will start the verification process.
Me - OK... wait, you have received the plane ticket AND the passport right ?
Agent - No only the plane ticket, you need to re-send the passport

Tell me Europe Assistance, how hard is it to show on your agents' computer a small box explaining what is the next step and what is expected from the customer ?

Europe assistance does not understand what asynchronous communication means

I mentioned later that I emailed them, then called them. That's how you must work with them. Remember 1995 when you called your mom to tell her to check her emails ? Europe Assistance is blocked on this year...

There is absolutely no way to confirm that the email was received... in 2014 it seems unbelievable to me that their ticketing system does not automatically confirm that the email was received, but even worst : I sent more than 10 emails ending with something like "please acknowledge reception of this mail". I know that the emails arrived, because I received an answer a few days later, but never, not only once, did an agent bother to reply a one-liner such as "thank you for your message, we will process it in the next few days".

Seriously, when you use asynchronous communication, please provide peace of mind to your customers by acknowledging their messages.

You might wonder why I am so fixated on getting my emails acknowledged, but here's the reason...

Emails with big attachments are "lost"

Europe Assistance's mail servers have a ridiculous limit on attachment size. I do not remember the exact limit but nothing more than a couple megabytes could be sent. When you know that they ask for the full copy of a passport (yes, all pages, including the empty ones), imagine the consequences. I had to send 40 mails, one per page, to make sure everything reaches this seemingly impermeable wall.

All email services impose a limit on attachment size, but it is customary when an email is too big to warn the sender by replying with a warning.

Europe Assistance seems to have never heard of this common sense solution. They simply drop the email in some black hole, and nobody ever hears of it, until you call them only to learn that they never received it.

How is that decent customer service ? How hard would it be to assist the user into sending his documents to their services ? I am a software engineer and when something does not work (like an email that never reaches its destination) I can guess the reason and it is easy enough for me to resize an image, but is it the case for all their audience ?

They do not push the process forward, you have to call them for that

This really drives me crazy. Their support system is here for one thing and one thing only : follow the process that they themselves defined.

During my phone exchanges with their agents, it happened twice that the process was stalled for no apparent reason.

Me - "We have completed the process, sent all the documents, but we are still waiting for the payment"
Agent - "Ah yes your request is here, let me process it and get back to you"

Wait, we have been waiting for two weeks while our request was just sitting on your (virtual) desk and you were not processing it ? What if I hadn't called ?

They are unable to process a complaint

At some point, I complained on twitter, curious to know if there would be a response, not hoping much from a company that still does not master email.
So I was amazed to receive an answer a few hours later :

After some complications because their community manager does not know that he needs to follow someone so that the person can DM, I explained my issue, hoping that it would get escalated and that things would get smoother.

I then got the dreaded answer "I checked your file, and you just need to provide the reimbursement proof from the French healthcare service". Aaaah thank you so much Europ Assistance, I see that you reviewed my situation carefully, especially my messages explaining that my fiancée was not registered under French healthcare.

I will never sign up for Europe Assistance again

I am lucky that my credit card's assurance was provided by Europe Assistance, because now I know that I will never decide to use their services for me or anyone who is dear to me. I seriously hope that they will improve their service, because my experience with them did not look professional at all.