Do you feel like there’s not enough hours in the day? Let’s face it, our increasingly time-pressed, goal-oriented lives ensure we are all accumulating a mounting pile of life administration tasks. You may look around at others who seem to glide through these tasks and think, “I don’t know how they do it!”. How is their tax filed so effortlessly each year? Why don’t they have any personal papers clogging up their apartment?
Stop and be kind to yourself. The answer might simply be, they’re not doing it, they are delegating it to a personal concierge.
On-demand personal assistants are the secret weapon of successful Hong Kong expats. They’re a much-needed extra pair of hands for important tasks. But with so many different options on the market, how can you find the right fit for your needs? We caught up with Caroline Basham, founder of Caroline B. Personal Management, to get the low-down on outsourcing your “to do list” to the pros.
According to Caroline, the market for personal services is split into five distinct categories. Each with differing levels of personalisation.
#1 App-based concierge service
App-based “on-demand” concierge services are a quick way to achieve straightforward tasks like collecting dry cleaning or dog walking. This solution is not well-suited to complex, ongoing tasks because it’s less personal and more functional.
#2 Overseas virtual assistant
An overseas virtual assistant is often based in China, India, the Philippines or elsewhere. These on-demand workers complete simple, computer-based tasks at a low cost. You will need to invest time in directing and checking the output. However, this is not an appropriate solution for confidential or sensitive documents.
#3 Local employment agency
A local employment agency is another option if you have specific short-term needs. For example, a deep clean of your apartment when you move in. The downside is a lack of flexibility and you pay for the “middle-man”.
#4 Membership concierge clubs
These clubs help to source hard-to-find items like concert tickets and pull strings to reserve restaurant tables. Watch out, they often favour their own network of sponsor service providers, only providing limited options.
#5 Personal concierge
For the ultimate in bespoke service provision, a personal concierge such as Caroline B offers all the above services. Plus, unparalleled flexibility, privacy and understanding. Founder Caroline Basham explains, “Caroline B focuses on giving a tailored long-term service. This usually involves a degree of collaboration and sensitive information sharing between us and the client.” This can involve anything from utility bills to salary and medical expense claim management. These tasks require the very highest levels of security and trust.
Digitise your personal documents
An increasingly popular service is the digitisation of client’s documents such as personal letters, financial and legal records. This is an area of personal administration often requiring maximum confidentiality. Caroline B has developed A2D, their analogue to digital conversion service, where they convert client data into digital media on site. “In previous years, we outsourced these tasks, but there was no way of knowing exactly who was working on the material. Keeping the digitisation process in-house with only our trusted staff working on it is our solution.”
This principled stance extends throughout Caroline B’s business practices. Caroline B operates a transparent, ‘by the hour’ fee structure – similar to an accountant or lawyer. The company’s services are not subsidised by sponsorships or rebates from suppliers. This means the company offers impartial sourcing that’s most appropriate to your needs.
Property maintenance and management
A service invaluable to Hong Kong homeowners is assistance in managing tenant relationships, including property maintenance. Caroline B can even deal with the admin tasks that arise from hiring and training domestic helpers. Operating in the most flexible and personalised way, Caroline B can help to source the right person or product, whatever the job, often looking outside Hong Kong to deliver the right solution.
So how would Caroline sum up her company’s personal concierge services in a nutshell? “We provide intelligent and practical help, seeking a genuine understanding of our clients’ specific issues to solve problems.” She adds, “Both Caroline B and the client invest in this relationship to make it work.” This commitment, above all else, this is what makes personal management service Caroline B stand out in a city as demanding as Hong Kong.
See more in our Living in Hong Kong section.