Apparently, the word ‘bong’ does not sit well with people who don’t know what it means in Cantonese (help). So homecare app Agent Bong now goes by Agentbong to reduce misunderstandings from anglophone communities.
But the app certainly sat well with the people at Startup Grind. Agentbong was awarded the Startup of the Year Award at the Startup Grind 2017 global conference held in Redwood City, California.
Winning an award? Early users of the app might not be convinced as we’ve seen a mixture of review articles online including one published on Vulcan Post.
So we contacted Sam Ng, co-founder of Agentbong, hoping to find some answers for homeowners and he gladly accepted the request.
Owners Can No Longer Choose Their Own Helpers
Some users were peeved that homeowners can no longer choose their own helper.
But that doesn’t seem entirely true. Here’s how the procedure is like right now:
The change was made after months of exploring and market research.
Sam said, “It was definitely a good feature for the customers. However, it discourages the helpers as only 1 out of 3 gets selected. We want to create a fair platform, and make sure the ecosystem is healthy and balanced. Customers can still choose their preferred helper but it will depend on the helper’s availability.”
How Reviews Help Match Up Homeowners And Helpers
Things are slightly different now, but feedback still holds an important role in the app’s operations.
Instead of letting customers pour over multiple reviews, the new model cuts down time taken to complete the entire booking. Based on previous customer reviews of the helper, the enhanced matching engine will assign the best helper for their next job.
“A customer’s rating is directly related to whether helpers are suitable for the next job or not.”
The public comments section on Agentbong’s Facebook has also been removed to collate all feedback through the app. This allows them to better “manage all complaints and address them accordingly”.
As it is, this might be helpful in avoiding unnecessary conflict between helpers and customers.
Homeowners Could Be More Understanding
“Homeowners and helpers are both our customers,” said Sam and holding Christmas parties is just one of the activities to keep the morale up. Agentbong values protecting helpers and their rights and he urges homeowners to keep communication clear and be understanding.
He brought up two incidents when homeowners were being unreasonable:
“This is very unfair to our helper because she gave up another job to take on this job. We hoped to keep both parties happy so we decided not to charge the customer and pay the helper ourselves,” said Sam.
Sam noted that this service can be difficult for his workers especially caregivers whose job nature is more complicated as they provide service to the consumer and inevitably, have to interact with concerned family members. He assured that his caregivers are not any Tom, Dick, or Harry.
Training is mandatory before sending helpers out.
Agentbong’s helper pool includes housewives, cleaners who used to work in malls or hawker centres; caregivers who have had prior experience caring for family members; and nurses who had worked or are currently employed in hospitals.
Sam explained, “Our nurses are all registered under the Singapore Nursing Board. People who are qualified nurses somewhere else but not in Singapore, won’t be stated as a nurse on our platform. For other caregivers we have onboard, they will need to go through an AIC (Agency for Integrated Care) certified course before they can start working.”
Agentbong’s Future Plans
Agentbong plans to expand to Malaysia, Australia and Japan.
Sam is setting his sights on Australia as he has lived there for over 10 years.
He claimed, “I know the country very well and it’s definitely suffering from ageing population. And most importantly, so far, there’s no dominant player in the market yet. Our potential to go there is still huge!”
But what’s already confirmed, is a partnership with a hardware provider in Singapore. To complement homecare services, Agentbong will provide smart home solutions, which includes the likes of door sensors and fall detection.
Agentbong’s website will also soon be updated to allow customers to book online.