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Charleston Business

Hello Alfred brings home assistance into the modern age

By Dustin Waters

Partnering with Charleston-based rental-housing giant Greystar, Hello Alfred is set to show that home assistance is the next big thing in utilities. 

Founded five years ago by Harvard Business School classmates Marcela Sapone and Jessica Beck, Hello Alfred allows residents to connect with personal assistants—known as Alfreds—who provide help with laundry, dog walking and whatever else might be lingering on their to-do list. Starting out, Sapone and Beck served as both the company’s original Alfreds and the door-to-door marketing team. Now Hello Alfred is available to customers through partnerships with major developers like Greystar, who joined forces with Hello Alfred in May.  

“Working through large developers, it came about that help could be a utility,” says Sharmeen Ferrell, regional manager at Hello Alfred. “We really want help to be a utility within these buildings, so when you come into these buildings help is built in. It’s already there. When people move in, we provide that help via our Alfreds, via our platform, to give them some time back and help make their lives easier.”

Currently, to take advantage of these services, users need to live in a Hello Alfred building. Once a resident signs their lease and is ready to move in, Hello Alfred’s services become another amenity. 

Since news of their partnership with Greystar was announced on May 15, Ferrell says Hello Alfred has caught the attention of other major developers. Meanwhile, Greystar has provided the young company with strong guidance to help Hello Alfred better navigate these growing markets. 

For Bob Faith—founder, chairman, and CEO of Greystar—joining forces with Hello Alfred is just another way for Charleston company to keep up with the times in an ever-changing housing marketplace. 

“One thing is for sure, and that is the sharing economy and e-commerce are here to stay and are fundamentally changing many industries. The rental housing business is the same," says Faith. "Hello Alfred is an innovative app-enabled service that is like having a personal assistant and a house manager that you share with others in the building.”

He adds, “Partnering with Hello Alfred is just another example of Greystar innovating and finding ways to provide the best living experience for our residents.”

A key part of any service that invites a stranger into a person’s home is trust. So before customers can even consider utilizing Hello Alfred’s services, they need to feel confident that they are in safe hands. 

“One of the biggest things that we are built on is trust. We want to establish ourselves as the world’s most trusted brand,” says Ferrell. “We’re really unique in that no one else has the opportunity that we have in front of us. We have the keys to people’s homes. We go in, and we are putting people’s clothes away. We’re buying their food and putting it directly into the refrigerator. That does require a lot of trust.”

This is why all Alfreds are W-2 employees, rather than contractors like you might find with Uber and other companies. Alfreds must also undergo background checks, interviews and additional vetting before they receive the keys to anyone’s home. 

Depending on the city, Hello Alfred offers up to 27 different services, and Alfreds conduct regular in-building events to better inform residents about their offerings. One example of these events includes a demonstration on floral arrangements to notify residents that Hello Alfred can provide fresh flowers in their homes. 

Those who rely on Alfreds to purchase their groceries pay for the cost of goods, which is billed on the back end. If a resident wishes to book a full home cleaning through the Hello Alfred app, their Alfred will contact a local vendor to arrange an appointment, as well as supervise the cleaners while inside the person’s home. 

“The Alfred is the one who is going to let the home cleaner in the home. They are going to quality assure and make sure the cleaning is done properly, and they are going to lock up afterward,” says Ferrell. “The Alfred is the one who is going to let the dogwalker in. It’s that one point, that one person who is going to run all those queues for you and all those things you need to get done, so you won’t have to worry about giving out your keys to all these people to get in and out of your apartment.”

According to Ferrell, Alfreds establish strong relationships with residents, despite the fact that they may rarely meet face to face. Alfreds work behind the scenes, taking care of chores while residents are at the office, but leave behind personalized notes informing the resident of the tasks they accomplished, as well as any potential tasks that the Alfred may recommend. Say an Alfred notices that a resident’s suitcase needs repairing or their tennis racket needs to be restrung. These are problems that Alfreds are trained to notice. 

“A lot of times, the Alfreds really know the residents, so they are talking about what they have going on. They are talking about their favorite sports teams and things like that in a handwritten note,” says Ferrell. “How often do you get a handwritten note anywhere anymore? So our Alfred leaves a note after every visit, letting them know what they accomplished, but also making recommendations.”

This feedback becomes important as the Alfreds effectively become a second set of eyes for the resident, as well as a helpful hand around the house. Something that, even if they won’t admit it, everyone could use. 

“The big thing is getting across that we really believe that help should come as a utility. That’s the really big piece,” says Ferrell. “People don’t always know when to ask for help. Hello Alfred is there to provide that help to people so that they can do the other things in their life that are important to them.”