The age of advertizing-only strategies is over; running a business these days is all about listening to your customers. But most companies still make it nearly impossible, or at least very difficult to lodge a complaint and receive results. Remember the last time you got billed for calls you didn’t make on your phone, or your brand new laptop started falling apart without reason, or your incredibly expensive designer jeans shrank after one wash? It probably occurred to you to make a complaint, but just finding the contact information on the company website was a journey in itself, not to mention the series of unanswered emails, and finally the time consuming phonecalls to the customer service department where you had to spend hours explaining your issue to some hapless soul in another country who understood not one word of what you were saying. This is exactly what happened to Mike Klanac when one of the high-end knives he got for Christmas broke within three months. He spent the next two months on a merry chase, trying to track down a human who would respond to his complaint, and finally, got a response only when he posted on the company’s Facebook page. Frustrated with his experience, he started thinking of how the complaints process could be disrupted and improved upon. And so, the idea for GripeO was kindled.
“Complaining doesn’t have to be a negative thing”
According to Klanac, CEO and team leader of the Buffalo, NY based startup, complaints are not a bad thing; instead they’re an opportunity. If businesses listen to their customers with attention and care, they have the invaluable opportunity of identifying systemic business problems they would otherwise have missed. “For competitive businesses, complaints are actually qualified market targets, ripe with demographic data, on the cusp of a new vendor decision,” he says. “We don’t think that complaining, if done right, has to be a negative thing.” GripeO makes the entire complaint process streamlined and fast, so you can lodge your complaint right when you decide to make it, and the whole thing takes you less than a minute. GripeO notifies and manually authenticates businesses who can then respond to the complaint through GripeO’s internal system. Their strategy is to encourage businesses to resolve as many complaints as possible by offering discounts and the like.
However, when complaints are left unresolved or ignored – that’s when GripeO takes them to the Complaint Marketplace where the original company’s competitors can try and convert the dissatisfied customers to their own product. Offering companies an ad-market style platform filled with qualified leads is how GripeO plans to monetize. They hope to bring in revenue after the first 6 months itself. As for verifying the authenticity of the complaints, GripeO plans to heavily push Facebook and Twitter account authentication, since they don’t allow anonymous complaints. They have a proprietary algorithm to determine if someone is complaining too much, or carelessly -Klanac compares it to the eBay buyer score mechanism.
Starting up in Buffalo with Z80 Labs
GripeO is part of Z80 Labs, a Buffalo-based incubator from which they have received funding worth $50,000. Speaking of Buffalo as a startup hub, Klanac says, “the startup scene is really starting to take flight. The area has great local schools, and there is a ton of top quality technical talent.” He adds that they have been lucky to be incubated by Z80 Labs since they truly understand GripeO’s vision. Launch is planned for this Fall, with a website, an app for the iPhone and iPad, an Android app and a mobile stylesheet. They are also open to roll out further as requirements dictate. The marriage of a great idea and an incredibly focused 6 member team comprised of friends who’ve worked together in an extensive software and ERP corporate background is what could potentially help GripeO reach heady heights of success.