Just two months after receiving a set of quality steak knives as a gift, Mike Klanac was cutting a pizza when one of the knives broke. Frustrated, Klanac says he almost tossed it in the trash but his wife encouraged him to take up the issue with the company.
“Thus began an odyssey of dropped calls, confusion, social media, and eventually, two months later, a new knife,” Klanac says. “I love the way that technology allows us to innovate the existing way we do things, and I quickly realized: we can do this better.”
Klanac had been previously involved with several successful startups, and assembled a team to work on a “minimum viable product” and started to prove out the concept. The feedback was strong, and shortly thereafter they launched GripeO, a platform that helps foster better communication between consumers and the businesses they have issues with.
We spoke with Klanac to get a better understanding of how GripeO works and what’s ahead for the Buffalo, NY-based startup.
What’s the core problem your platform is designed to solve for customers? At what point does a customer turn to you for help amplifying their complaint?
GripeO solves several problems for customers. First, we are a convenient and consolidated complaint platform. This means you don’t have to worry about how to submit a complaint, because GripeO works for any business. It also means that we put an emphasis on making things easy. Our form is short and you can use GripeO on the computer or a mobile device whenever an issues presents itself.
The second thing that GripeO does is we make complaining effective. If a business is verified with GripeO, it means they listen! We take the complaint right to them. If they aren’t, or you’re dealing with a particularly indifferent brand, GripeO lets you post the complaint to multiple social networks. We show you how to compose your tweet or post correctly, and even default the right social care handle. We’re meticulously collecting the correct, active customer service handles for companies. Those handles are also accessible via our Social Customer Service Directory.
If you really want to increase the visibility of your issue, GripeO lets you add a “meme” to the image, which is a funny or sarcastic comment. This increases engagement with the post as much as 150%!
Give us an overview of how you work with retailers. Do you have retailers who are verified on the platform?
To be clear, GripeO is not a consumer advocacy company. We are a complaint platform whose goal is healthy, effective communication between consumers and businesses. When we receive a complaint for a company that’s not currently using GripeO we let them know at least two ways (often Phone, Email, and Twitter). A free, simple verification is all it takes to get access to the issue. We have had over 60 businesses verify since we launched two months ago, and several of them are recognizable, billion-dollar brands. Many are using the simplified, free help desk we offer to mediate the issues. We’ll be rolling out premium features this year that will position GripeO well to be the go to solution for the modern customer service tool set.
Any trends you’re seeing with the complaints directed at companies in the retail sector?
One trend we’re noticing is just how ineffective the customer service process has become on Twitter. People simply do not construct complaints correctly, in terms of tagging, and adding constructive information. Even when this all goes well, there’s a misconception that brands can effectively use Twitter for customer service. That takes real monitoring and social listening — something many companies are struggling to adapt to. We believe they’ll get there, and personally, I feel that Twitter is the strongest pure communication platform in the world, but not without the help of companies like GripeO that build off the Twitter process and tighten up the process.
What are some of the tips you have for customer service teams that manage social media accounts for retailers?
For starters, what are you waiting for… claim your business on GripeO! After that, here’s a few suggestions that could help:
- If you have a big brand, identify a second Twitter account as “BusinessName Cares.” Note the hours that you’ll operate the handle, and simply respond to your users. Listen!
- Second, select the appropriate categorization of your Facebook page so that your “Message” button is active. This a great, free way to have live/semi-live chats with your users.
- Finally, don’t use one customer service channel to send someone to another. Don’t have Twitter and Facebook presences only to refer someone elsewhere like the phone or a website. This is called giving someone the run around.
What’s next for GripeO?
We’re really excited about what the future holds for GripeO. We believe our vision of becoming the modern customer service tool set resonates well, and we’re going to continue to grow and bring that message to consumers and businesses. We have a ton of new functionality rolling out, such as the Complaint Marketplace, where ignored complaints can be purchased as leads, and we’re about to close a round of funding to assist with scaling the operation. Have an idea for us? Don’t hesitate to let us know.
Previously on Bright:
- Website Highlights Consumer Frustration with Lengthy Hold Times
- Q&A with Mike De Jesus, Head of Travel at Twitter