Update, 3/17/2016. GoButler has now pivoted from its services as described in this post to a new model featuring natural language processing and artificial intelligence. Read this article for more details and the CEO’s perspective: http://techcrunch.com/2016/03/17/a-pivot-please/ I’m sorry if you didn’t get to experience the former GoButler’s services, but please still take advantage of credit card and hotel concierges, and Twitter! Twitter is definitely my #1 most used customer service method. There is also a new [free] service called Get Service to help you resolve issues with businesses.
Original post below:
Personal concierge services have been an invaluable part of my recent life. I will first describe my history with various services, before I get to the star of this post.
About two years ago, my friend Ivan told me about an app called TalkTo, an app that allowed you to search for any local business and send them a message, such as a request for a restaurant reservation or an inquiry of inventory of a certain product. A TalkTo agent would call the business on your behalf and then message you the results within 5-20 minutes. What I loved about TalkTo was that they often provided more information than you asked for. For example, I would message 5 CVS stores in my neighborhood and ask if they had any Vanilla Reloads (moment of silence as we mourn the death of VRs). The TalkTo agent would respond cheerily that yes, they were in stock, there was a $3.95 activation fee, there were at least 10 of them, the store closes at 9 pm, and if I needed any help when I got there, so-and-so was the contact. I would frequently text a businesses an hour or so before leaving work, so that I’d have answers as to whether it would be worth my time to stop by certain stores on my way home, and I loved not having to make phone calls myself that would distract me from my work. (I also really dislike making phone calls and generally pile them all up to do in a row)
TalkTo was acquired by Path in June 2014 and was integrated into the Path Talk app as “Places”. It was a little annoying to get to since using the service required a few more clicks than before (if you know me, you know I value app designs with as few clicks as possible). However, I still used it often and kept referring my friends to it. Sadly, Places was discontinued in May 2015 after the Path Talk app was acquired by Daum Kakao and Path decided not to continue its investment in Places. (please, another moment of silence for this tragedy)
Amex Platinum Concierge
Since then, I’ve become an American Express Platinum card holder (Ameriprise version) and gained access to the famed Amex Plat Concierge. Check out Vinh’s post on his experience with the Amex Plat Concierge for planning his Japan as well as Richard’s post on TPG on maximizing concierge services. I’ve used Amex Plat Concierge myself to help build travel guides and suggestions for my parents’ recent trip to Barcelona and Venice, and have found the people that work there to be exceedingly friendly and helpful. However, they were unable to fulfill certain requests such as checking me in for my Southwest flight (they asked me to call Amex Travel, which I intended to do but never got around to it…again, more phone calls ugh), and their responses often take up to 12-24 hours (correspondence is by phone and/or email).
A few other concierge services I’ve heard of but don’t have extensive experience with are: Visa Signature Concierge, MasterCard Concierge, Facebook “M” (I *really* want this!), Magic, Alfred, Taskrabbit, and virtual assistants such as those on Fiverr and Upwork (formerly eLance-Odesk). Needless to say, the market is saturated, but I think each has their niche.
GoButler is a Berlin startup that was founded in February 2015 and launched in the US (NYC) in April 2015. I first heard of them when the same friend (Ivan) that had introduced me to TalkTo announced to his friends that he was interviewing for a position at GoButler. I was intrigued by this new entrant into a crowded space of “Uber for everything.” Before Ivan even started his first day of work as Product Management Leader in October, I had already texted GO to 25400 (p.s. my referral code is Y8244, type it in anytime, thanks! :D) and made my first request. It was a bit too much of a first request, now that I look back on it. I had them call United Airlines every day for 2 weeks to inquire if any Business or First Saver award space opened up on specific flights that my parents would be on. It was a task I had been doing myself in addition to checking via the website/app daily, and it was getting tiring. GoButler did this for me, not without any mishaps, but overall accomplished the task.
Since October, I have used GoButler to:
- Call hotels to cancel reservations that couldn’t be cancelled online
- Check in for Southwest flights at exactly 24 hours prior (I got boarding group A for the first times in years! AND didn’t have to wake up at 6:55 am to check in!!! woot, sleep is good!)
- Find custom Pokemon-shaped cookies in the Bay Area (required calling a buttload of bakeries)
- Arrange a surprise gift and card for Ivan on his first day of work (shoutout to his lovely gf Jess for all the help!)
- Call every <store name here> in the East Bay Area to ask if <item name here> is in stock (this is a frequent request from me)
- Call HP to inquire on the status of a missing gift card order that claimed to have been shipped
- Call Costco to inquire about the status of an order
- Call Best Buy to ask the name of the manager on duty at the time
- …and many more tasks which require phone calls, since I hate making phone calls so much!
When to Use GoButler vs. Other Concierges
- Use GoButler for tasks that require a bit of internet research or phone calls and/or need to be completed relatively quickly.
- Use Amex Plat for putting together comprehensive travel guides, since they already have templates, and other requests that are not very time-sensitive.
- Use Twitter to communicate with companies directly for quick personal tasks like name changes, flight changes, Hyatt Diamond status matches, etc. They usually respond quickly.
- Use hotel concierges to do things like this (click on the link, I promise it’ll be fun)
Side Note: Personal Information
While GoButler can help you accomplish many tasks and free up more of your time, I don’t recommend it for doing things like calling credit card companies to pay bills over the phone (which requires your credit card number, security word, method and details of payment) or other similar tasks that require a great deal of sensitive personal information about yourself. While it may seem obvious, I have been getting this question a lot, and I personally would not advise that you give your passwords to another live human whom you don’t know anything about. Heck, not even my husband knows most of my security words and passwords!
Try GoButler Yourself!
There are 2 ways to start using GoButler (a FREE service!):
- From your phone, text GO to 25400 (I text them from Google Voice so I can type on my computer)
- Download the iOS app here. It’s also available on Apple Watch!
I would greatly appreciate it if you would use my referral code Y8244! After setting up your account, you can type it in at any time directly as a text. The referral code gives us both $5 towards anything that might cost money, such as if you ask them to purchase flowers for your coauthor. 😉
GoButler does not charge any commissions or fees and what you would’ve paid ordering those flowers yourself is exactly what you would pay them. But you wouldn’t get portal bonuses or category bonuses, so I haven’t used them to reserve or buy anything on my behalf yet.
Be Patient and Use Laymen’s Terms
Many of my friends (including Daniel!) have started using GoButler too. It’s not always magic, but if you break down your requests for your “hero” (that’s what they call the agents) in plain, easy to read, easy to follow language, they should be able to handle many tasks. We as travel hackers have a lot of terminology that is not easily understood by someone outside of the game, so I recommend that if you give them a task that is not something “normal” people do, tell them what to say and give them all the details they need. Be patient and draw lots of circles and arrows for them.
Enjoy this free service! Please leave a comment with your own personal experiences (with GoButler or any other concierge!) and/or leave any questions you might have. I plan to do a follow-up post interviewing Ivan, who is currently VP of Product, so we welcome your questions and suggestions! 🙂