Hello Alfred, one of the latest on-demand services offered in the sharing economy, is helping real estate agents win the loyalty of their clients by offering the gift of time.
- Shared neighborhood butler app, Hello Alfred, enables busy professionals to order household services and errands from their smartphone.
- The company offers gift cards that agents and brokers can purchase for their clients. You're looking at about $128 for a one-month subscription.
- The app shares commonalities with Uber in that it's an affordable luxury.
- For now, the service is only offered in New York and Boston, but Hello Alfred has other major metropolitan areas on its radar.
The “shared neighborhood butler service,” offered via a smartphone app, enables busy professionals to order household services and errands like dry cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, tailoring, bed-making, trash removal, package delivery and prescription ordering and pick-up.
The company was founded in 2013 by Harvard Business School graduates Marcela Sapone and Jess Beck, who channeled their frustration with juggling daily household tasks and their 80-hour workweeks into an award at TechCrunch Disrupt SF in 2014.
“We figured there must be something out there for individuals who work long hours, but aren’t able to afford to hire a personal assistance,” said T.J. Connolly, vice president of sales and strategic expansion for Hello Alfred. “We wanted something that would give Average Joe some personal help, but still be affordable.”
Press ‘A’ to chat with your butler
Users download the Hello Alfred iOS app, then schedule a welcome appointment at their home. During this meeting, assigned client managers do a walkthrough of the home to collect users’ preferences, learn their routines, answer questions and accept a copy of the house keys.
Client managers visit the home on a set day each week. Hello Alfred’s headquarters manages communication between client and client manager. For inquiries and special requests, clients can chat with their butler by pressing a large red “A” at the bottom of the app or by sending an email.
Connolly said client managers go through a rigorous triple background screening and two-week training period with a more experienced butler prior to being hired. The “Alfreds,” as the company calls them, are salaried W-2 employees. Hello Alfred is insured for up to $1 million for theft and up to $2 million for damages.
Hello Alfred works primarily with multifamily and condominium property managers to offer the service to their tenants and residents, but the company also offers gift cards that agents can purchase for their clients. Prices range from about $128 for a one-month subscription to about $1,500 for a one-year subscription. Gift cards cannot be refunded or redeemed for cash or credit, except where required by law.
“When I purchased my condo five years ago, my agent got me an electric grill,” Connolly said. “That was wonderful, but if I were given something that saves me two to three hours a week, that is time I can put to work.
“Giving the gift of time is a great way for realtors, property owners and landlords to create stickiness with their tenants that they otherwise may not have the opportunity to create. It helps to maintain an open line of communication with clients to tell them, ‘I care about your work-life balance and well-being.'”
An affordable luxury more personal than Uber
For now, the service is only offered in New York and Boston, but Hello Alfred has other major metropolitan areas on its radar this year.
Although many consider Hello Alfred a shared economy startup like Uber, Connolly said the company varies from Uber in important ways.
“Uber is an on-demand service, but we like to say that Hello Alfred is a ‘beyond-demand’ service,” he said. “Because Hello Alfred client managers visit a client’s home on the same day each week, after a few times of working with people, we know what they need and when before they even have to ask us for it. If we know you have ordered peonies for the last three weeks, we go ahead and suggest that for you. These things alleviate some of the stress associated with the household routine.”
But Hello Alfred is similar to Uber in that it is considered an affordable luxury, which is increasingly becoming an amenity that is important to millennials and busy young professionals, Connolly said.
“In hypercompetitive markets in major metropolitan areas, differentiation is really key right now,” he said. “Home prices are at their peaks, people are competing for buyers and every new building has every amenity you can find. The world is changing, and for the most part, buildings in metropolitan cities have not changed with their residents. But people are running their lives with apps, ordering Uber for transportation and booking restaurants through Open Table. The natural progression is to adjust to those expectations.”