Instant gratification has taken on a whole new meaning. Want a slice of your favorite pizza? Maybe a new tie to better match your suit? Or tickets to the big game? GoButler, a self-proclaimed “virtual personal assistant,” will be happy to provide.
“Butlers” (or you can call them "heroes" if you prefer a less formal term) are the trained operators that work for the German-based startup company GoButler. The virtual concierge service began as a side project in February. But as GoButler co-founder and CEO Navid Hadzaad told TechCrunch, it was so popular (10,000 requests within 48 hours) that the startup had to revert to a waiting list only two hours after it was launched.
It’s almost like Magic – that’s another text-based concierge service launched at around the same time as GoButler. Magic co-founder Mike Chen told CNN Money, “Our premise is basically, if there’s something you want, there’s a way to get it to you,” he said. “The only barrier is time and money.”
But there's a big difference between the assistants offered by GoButler and those offered by Magic – how much they charge. As Mr. Hadzaad explains, GoButler is currently completely free to use. Magic is not. GoButler users pay for the goods and services they order – but not for the concierge service that helps to provide them.
“The obvious part would be monetizing on the customer end through premiums, but where we see the real value is on the supply side…The goal is to have customers going through us for whatever service, product or information they desire, and we’ll make it happen,” he said.
Services like Amazon and FedEx can get anything to your doorstep in a matter of days, but Magic and GoButler offer to provide a more customized service, catering to the more personal aspects of your life. Want a seat at the hottest restaurant in town? Or need an opinion on the best gift for your significant other? Both companies have concierge-type services that connect you with actual operators – not robots. Once connected, you text the “Hero” with your request and a real person responds to your message and keeps you updated.
It’s like having your own personal butler without spending exorbitant amounts of money. According to butlerschool.com, the modern butler usually earns a salary from anywhere between $50,000 and $150,000 annually, plus benefits. This means that personal assistants are usually only employed by the wealthy – a trend that could change as technological developments like GoButler take a stronger hold on the middle class.
But be forewarned, the service can have its limits. And startups can be notoriously glitchy. One writer on Recode.net, describes the challenges he faced trying to get a new headset and a chicken parmesan sandwich delivered by Magic. Both orders were fraught with problems, including delays and unexpected cost.
There are a couple of conclusions to draw from my Magic experience, which Chen tells me was one of the few bad ones the service has seen. First, having an idea resonate with a core group of techies doesn’t mean you: a) necessarily have the expertise to deliver on the idea, b) have the staffing in place to deliver on the idea, or c) should take a $50 VIP pass from people when you aren’t prepared to deliver on that idea.
Unlike a real butler, you can't ask these personal assistants to clean your room or wash the dishes. (They can, however, contact a cleaning service for you.)
According to a US Census report, e-commerce made up 7 percent of retail sales in the first quarter of 2015, up from 2.8 percent in 2006. And according to the National Retail Federation, quarterly e-commerce sales have increased by around 15 percent each year since 2010.
Magic and GoButler appear poised to help leverage this growing market. The sky's the limit. As Mr. Chen told TechCrunch, “As long as it’s legal and possible, we can do that. It may be expensive, you may want a helicopter to Vegas, but if it’s possible, we will do it.”