Lessfuss and the Virtual PA — A workable concept?

Few of us would turn down the use of a personal concierge service. With the rise in busy lifestyles and the need to still get the more mundane tasks of everyday life sorted, one online startup reckons it has a solution.

Cape Town-based Lessfuss is an online personal assistance service for busy people who can’t afford or don’t need a full-time PA. This is according to Marije Pierson, one of the company’s four co-founders who spoke with memeburn on the startup’s plan of action.

Launched late last month, the founders say Lessfuss offers the personal attention most of us would expect from a concierge in the form of a product that is scalable. Claiming that there is nothing like it in South Africa, the company argues that it is an ideal service for people who feel time-pressured and don’t have a PA at their disposal.

The company’s founders and shareholders, Bradley Whittington, Jennifer Poole, Lisa Retief and Marije Pierson come from a variety of backgrounds including marketing, systems engineering, development and customer service. Lessfuss is self-funded and sees itself clearly in the online services sector.

“We encourage assistants to use anecdotal advice and personal experience where appropriate in completing tasks, and welcome unusual requests from clients,” says Pierson. “We’re building a kick-ass system to do the tasks and plan to do lots of nifty integrations.”

But is there a big deal to it? The company certainly makes the case without reservation. “We make people more productive, by helping them delegate,” says the company, noting that the service can relieve individuals of time consuming, but mundane tasks.

“We cut down on their stress-levels by taking care of annoying admin. And we help people free up more time, so that they can focus on what’s important to them, like working on their dream project, or spending more time with their family,” says Pierson.

A monthly subscription gives users a set number of tasks, which they can submit via email or on the Lessfuss website. The tasks the company currently accepts must be desk-based. Examples of tasks are as wide-ranging as “find me a list of Italian restaurants in my area open on a Monday”, “I need to find out what the weather was doing on 23 September 1997 in Cape Town” or “Are there flower wholesalers who can sell me yellow roses on 8 June for my wedding and how much will they be”.

“Most people can’t afford, and don’t need, full-time personal assistants, but would love to have someone to delegate small annoying tasks to from time to time. Lessfuss provides a service where subscribers will be able to get their tasks completed says Pierson.

The idea is that people pay a monthly fee for a number of tasks which should take no longer than 20-30 minutes to complete.

The concept, however, is not new. PA Direct Online in the UK has been offering much the same service for a number of years. Like Lessfuss, the company has seen a specific focus on users who typically “do not have the time, space or budget for in-house staff, but have the same critical administrative office workload as any other business”. Virtual PA in South Africa also provides similar services. But if time is money and a luxury some are now willing to pay for, the market for companies like Lessfuss may lie in offering users a convincing case for why and how their service can lessen the of daily tasks which are essential for the customer, while not essential that the customer does it.

At present, it’s clear that the company is targeting busy people across the spectrum, though entrepreneurs, SME owners, and working parents in particular form a particular core in the company’s strategy to grow its client base. Whether the prospective market takes up the offer — or grows if the average working professional see the benefits of delegation — remains to be seen.

The company says it holds to a relatively simple pricing structure with easy task submission via email or webform. While focusing on a quick turnaround on tasks within 24 hours where possible, Lessfuss does ask for more time on occasion to complete a request. The company also suggests follow up tasks, seeking to pre-empt future requests.



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