This week’s Success Story has revolutionized the realm of customer service with an innovative new app that makes it easy to collect and act on customer feedback. Benbria is the brainchild of co-founders Ronald Richardson and Mason Du.
Incubating a Blaze
Customer feedback is all about timing. The sooner you can respond to a situation, the faster the issue can be resolved, and the better the customer feels. But the problem is that businesses often don’t find out about a problem until long after it’s happened, and after the customer has had time to complain to all of his/her friends about the experience and post it online. By then, the public might have gotten a sniff of the situation and chimed in with all of their complaints, leading to a PR nightmare.
This is the problem that Ronald Richardson and Mason Du set out to solve when they created their company, Benbria, and its flagship products, BlazeLoop and BlazeCast.
The Ottawa startup first set up shop within the Wesley Clover business incubator. It was here that Benbria worked on perfecting its service and approached its first few major customers, which included a major U.S.university and the Ottawa police department, while being mentored and financed by Wesley Clover for the first years of its life.
Wesley Clover also hooked Benbria up with Mitel and March, two other companies that went through the incubation process, to see if their products were compatible. Mitel and March would carry and integrate the Benbria products of BlazeCast and BlazeLoop into their own services. Despite some problems setting up this arrangement, the deal gave Benbria much needed credibility and market presence, which was much more valuable for the startup long-term than had it been a regular sale.
Now, Benbria and its products have won multiple awards, including two for co-founders Ronald and Mason, and their products are being used by multiple Fortune 1000 companies.
Taking Customer Service by Storm
In order to improve their services, businesses would have to gather customer feedback by using surveys and website forms. Though this was excellent for gathering detailed data post-sale, it didn’t help the customer improve his own experience. Any action on the company’s part would take place after the fact, which is too little, too late for many jilted customers.
BlazeLoop eliminates this problem by giving customers an accessible, easy, and effective tool to provide instant feedback about their experience. The customer can log into a web or mobile app, send a text, email, or use a special kiosk to send in their comments. This information is then sent directly to the front-line manager, so that he or she can immediately respond to the incident and, in so doing, make the customer happy, keep the matter private, and fix the problem for future customers. All this in a matter of seconds.
This speedy response time will help win over customers that would’ve otherwise gone out of the store and spread their bad experience over social media. This turnaround can produce strong brand advocates that will push your excellent service to the community and generate new and repeat business.
BlazeCast is the second part of Benbria’s product line, offering a different take on customer service. It is an outbound multimedia platform that allows businesses to send messages to multiple customers across multiple platforms. This makes for instant, easy communication with a high degree of visibility. This has proven popular not just with retail and commercial brands, but also for emergency services, schools, and government agencies.
A Many-Splendored App
Benbria has won numerous awards since setting up shop, having been recognized as one of the most up and coming technology companies by Branham, Profit Hot 50, Online Business Journal, and the Canada’s Top 10 competition.
The products themselves have won awards too, with BlazeCast being awarded the 2009 Internet Telephony Excellence Award, 2010 Communications Solutions Product of the Year by TMC, Product of the Year by Unified Communications Magazine, and for Leadership and Innovation by Golden Bridge Awards. BlazeLoop received the 2012 CRM Excellence award from Customer Interactions Solutions Magazine.
Even co-founders Ronald and Mason have received their share of recognition. Ernst & Young named Mason Du Entrepreneur of the Year for 2011, while Ronald Richardson won the Fuel Awards Entrepreneur of the Year.
What did they do right?
Have a great product. The easiest (and hardest) way to grow a successful business is to have a great and innovative product. This is, after all, the basis of your entire business. A great product will practically sell itself and, by the same vein, no amount of sales or marketing will hide an imperfect product.
Look at the long view. When Benbria was first starting out, they had the option of either making a sale, or taking the hit in favor of a deal with long-term benefits. They chose the latter option, despite multiple foreseen and unforeseen issues, hoping that the investment would pay off. It did, and the opportunities that resulted now far outstrips the value of what the original sale would’ve pulled in.
Don’t stray from core competencies. As a startup, Benbria was hard-pressed to meet its ROI numbers. But doing so would’ve meant straying their focus from the core offerings of BlazeCast and BlazeLoop and delving into features or programs that were outside the realm of their expertise. Instead, Benbria stayed the course, improving on and marketing its core offerings until it finally hit its “boom” period.
Revenue isn’t the only metric. Most companies judge their products’ success by its revenue. But Ronald and Mason believed that it wasn’t the only measure of a products’ success. There was also user satisfaction, stickiness, ease of operation, number of subscribers, and other metrics that went deeper than a raw number. These additional metrics indicated a products’ potential for success, and Benbria took this to heart.