It is 10.18 and I’m waiting for my new cleaner.
Estela* looked amazing on Helpling. She had a 4.8 star rating and a dozen glowing reviews. Even better, she was available to start the day and time I’d asked for. Yay!
Except, no. She’s now 20 minutes late. I check back through my emails from Helpling. All very straightforward and nice:
- “Thank you for your booking”
- “Your new cleaner is Estela Santos”
- “Get to know your new cleaner Estela Santos now”
- “Reminder! You have a booking with Estela tomorrow at 10:00”
I go to the website to see if Estela has left a message for me there. Not only is there no message, there’s NO RECORD of my booking, nor the welcome message I’d sent to Estela.
Instead I see this message:
“Hello Jemima…it looks like you don’t have a cleaner right now…messy houses make us sad’
I phone the mobile number given at the bottom of reminder email and after a few rings the phone is answered. Her English isn’t brilliant but it’s soon clear this isn’t Estela at all. It’s “Leah”. Leah says she can’t come to clean today as her brother has just split up with his wife. She offers to come and clean for me tomorrow.
That’s fine – but I didn’t book “Leah”. I booked Estella with the 4.8 star rating and a dozen glowing reviews.
Not what I wanted
Helping is an online marketplace for cleaners. It operates in the same way as other disruptor sites like Uber, Airbnb or TaskRabbit. These sites are cheap because they do things at scale and cut out the middle man/woman. But you want the person or place you’ve researched and booked. Not a last minute substitute with no digital paper trail.
At this point, I’m kicking myself. I thought I’d done all the right things. I did some proper research on Helpling beforehand, and followed client instructions to the letter.
Helpling is a German company who bought out UK-based Hassle.com in 2015. I saw Hassle’s founder Alex Depledge speak in 2014 and she was open, clever and confident. Hassle sold for an impressive €32m. And things seemed to go ok after the takeover. A Google search for Helpling reviews brings up solid 4 star ratings.
So everything’s fine, right?
Well, no. Take a closer look at Helpling’s Trustpilot page and it seems likely that most, if not all, of the 5 star reviews are fake. I’ve left my own 1 star review. If you scroll through, there are quite a few stories like mine – but they’re flooded out by the positive comments. Most of these comments sound a bit generic or wooden (“Good website!”). Many of these are left by “people” with faceless avatars and 1 review to their name.
Sound like a Twitter bot to anyone?
Speaking of Twitter, after Estela failed to show, I skipped over to Helpling’s Twitter to find they last posted an update in August 2018. Same story on Facebook. And the last post on YouTube was 2017.
These are all social media profiles linked to from Helping’s existing website so it’s strange they don’t actually give any current information.
I’m not saying everyone has to be on social media – far from it. But if you’re a consumer-facing brand with a large market, why wouldn’t you do social? The only reason I can see is that the feedback you get is so toxic, you’re better off putting your head under the parapet and shutting up shop altogether.
That strategy might work for a while. I don’t see it as sustainable.
*Not her real name.
Photo by Honest (a brand with pretty good social media)