Ovation, a relationship enablement platform for restaurants and retailers, recently announced a round of almost $1 million in seed funding. The total amount raised was led by Monta Vista Capital and includes 500 Startups, Steve Young, and angels from San Francisco, Utah, Boston, and Japan.
While online businesses have live chats to engage with customers, restaurants and retailers have been struggling to keep up. Zack Oates, Founder & CEO of Ovation, had traveled to 47 countries and gone on over 1,000 dates and was frustrated by this lack of communication with local businesses. "What I realized was that the only way I had to communicate with these brick and mortar businesses was if I took an online receipt survey, which I'm never going to do. It's 2019, we should have a better solution than that," Oates said.
Ovation collects customer information and measures experience in the moment through simple survey tools. Happy customers are then asked to share their experience while unhappy customers start an instant SMS chat with management. Unlike other services, customers don't have to download an app, create an account, or type in a code from a paper receipt.
"Receipt surveys give businesses really good data but are hard for the consumer to do. On the flip side, online reviews are really easy for consumers to do, but they usually hurt the business - every negative review loses you thirty customers and people are three times more likely to leave a negative review than a positive one," Oates explained.
Ovation has a variety of ways customers can engage with the business: scanning QR codes, texting a number, or using an iPad kiosk with the integrated app. It's a one question survey asking "How was your experience?". The customer is then asked for feedback that goes directly to management through the Ovation app, and management can chat with the customer. If they loved it, the customer is prompted to leave an online positive review and to come back in the future. It's super simple for business managers to use too. With three clicks businesses can respond to a customer.
"We enable companies to delight their customers by actually responding. The most common response from customers is along the lines of 'Oh my gosh, I cannot believe someone actually read this,'" Oates said. "We have over 50% connection rate with customers, meaning that if a customer is upset and someone uses Ovation to reach out to that customer, more than half the time the customer is going to respond. In terms of customer engagement, that's off the charts for upset customers. That allows businesses to really get to the root of what went wrong."
Oates emphasized that Ovation's goal is not to get businesses more reviews. It's a relationship enabling platform. "We are here to build meaningful relationships with customers in a way that is impossible without Ovation. It's more than the reviews. It's about the relationship. Without us, customers are just strangers walking in and out," Oates said. "We are working on changing the way that consumers look at brick and mortar and bringing it up to par with online business."