App of the Month: TalkTo

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I started using TalkTo after Stuart and the TalkTo team demoed their product (and apps) at our September DrinksOnTap here in Boston. Three months later it is still on my phone and I’m still using it on a weekly basis.

Why Should You Care about TalkTo?

As an app developer and app connoisseur, I blow through a lot of apps, and few really stick. TalkTo stuck and is an app that will really change the way you go about your day to day life.

The first step is to download the app, it’s free. Their service is available on iPhone and Android (search TalkTo), mobile web, or by navigating to their website.

Then search for a business, type your message, and a few minutes later you’ll get back a response. Magic. That’s it. Get answers, don’t waste time on the phone, get on with your life (this should be their slogan). For those of you who want to continue to think their service is truly just magic, read no more.

So How Does It Work?

When TalkTo launched they had no businesses signed up for the platform. But it’s the same product today as it was back then. If the business isn’t signed up for TalkTo’s service, TalkTo will call the listed phone number when you send that business a message and they’ll wait on the phone to get you an answer. It’s that easy. Brilliant!

Using call centers (I think they’re located in New Jersey but certainly not offshored) is a great stopgap for a communication system with little buy-in from businesses (at least for now). Eventually more businesses will join and they won’t be forced to entertain what I can imagine is a rather asynchronous and potentially bizarre conversation.

(I send my favorite Boston restaurant a message via TalkTo)

7:00PM - Ring Ring. Call Center Agent (New Jersey Area Code): “Is it crowded? and do you take reservations?” Business: “Not crowded at all! What time would you like your reservation?” Call Center Agent: “Not sure, Thanks” click

(TalkTo sends me a message letting me know it isn’t busy, I ask for a reservation at 7:30)

7:05PM Ring Ring Call Center Agent: “I’d like a reservation for 2 tonight under Ben Johnson at 7:30PM” Business: “Sorry we don’t have room at 7:30, could you come at 8 instead? Also, what is your phone number” Call Center Agent: “Don’t have a phone number, let me get back to you on a time” Click

You can see how this could go poorly. Eventually you get what you want (and it’s extremely convenient for you) but at what cost to the business. That being said, in all of my usage of TalkTo, I’ve never used it with a business that complained (at least no complaints were transmitted to me from the agents).

Ways I’ve Used TalkTo

If you’ve downloaded the app but are wondering of ways to use it, here are some of the ways I’ve used it over the past few months.

  1. Checking on the availability of products in retail stores before I make a trip (I’ve texted the Apple store at least 3 times)
  2. Booking my hair cut appointment while in an airport.
  3. Confirming with a venue about an event we were hosting (DrinksOnTap).
  4. Checking on the price of gas near me.
  5. Figuring out what businesses were open during Hurricane Sandy.
  6. Checking on restaurant availability and yes booking a reservation.
  7. Seeing what bars were crowded.
  8. Letting a lunch-spot know I had left my rain coat and asking if I could come pick it up later in the day.
  9. Asking the movie theatre if they accepted movie passes for a particular movie.

What They Could Do Better and Where They Should Go

The app, like every product, isn’t perfect. For the less app-adept, some of the interface is hard to handle. Getting it to look for businesses in a particular location is tricky at times, especially if that particular location isn’t your current location (or you are constantly shifting locations due to a commute). When a business isn’t in the system, adding it is a necessary but time consuming endeavor. I’m sure others, that don’t know the guys that built this, might be frustrated.

In the future I’d love if the agents I worked with had a shared sense of who I am and what types of requests I’ve made in the past. That way I wouldn’t have to type in my name every time and they could accomplish tasks for me on a more ongoing basis. In this sense TalkTo is tiptoe-ing around the Concierge industry. For now TalkTo is just a pipeline for communication but will they become the concierge of the future, quickly, conveniently, and digitally serving up the answers to the problems you have, booking the reservations to the places you want to go, and assuring that the things in your life you don’t have time for are taken care of?

That’s a pretty neat idea, and one I hope they’re looking to. That obviously won’t come without a price tag but they may just have a market for it if they execute as well as they have to date.

Either way it’s a great app and you'd benefit from trying it out. I'll be doing one app a month - let me know what you think of this one! @scoober.