Platform helps stores compete in digital age

Service enables retail and restaurant customers to give instant feedback via messaging apps, writes Trish Dromey

Platform helps stores compete in digital age

Service enables retail and restaurant customers to give instant feedback via messaging apps, writes Trish Dromey

To help bricks and mortar stores to compete in the digital age, Dublin startup ServiceDock has developed an innovative customer feedback and service platform for retail and restaurant chains.

“This is the first solution in the world to capture location-specific customer feedback via messaging apps. It equips brick-and-mortar stores with the type of digital customer-engagement tools that are normally only found online,” said ServiceDock co-founder and CEO Oisin Ryan.

The two-year-old company, which recently concluded a €450,000 fundraising round, has already signed up some high-profile customers in Ireland, including Eddie Rockets and Captain America’s restaurant chains, as well as well as Mothercare, Woodies, and Sky retail. Mr Ryan says the company is now ready to move outside Ireland into the export market and is making plans to target large chains in the US.

ServiceDock started out in 2016 by developing a messaging-based customer service platform targeted at large businesses with call centres.

“This provided a platform for businesses to handle customer service queries over popular messaging apps, such as Facebook Messenger,’’ says Mr Ryan, who co-founded the company with Brazilian computer programmer, Leonardo Correa.

Although they launched on the market and began signing up customers, they found that large companies were slow to change their customer-service software and decided to change direction.

We pivoted and switched our focus to capturing and analysing customer feedback for chain stores, redeveloping and repurposing our platform.

As a result of prior involvement in Localmint, an online retail directory that provided information about opening hours for chain stores, the founders identified a gap in the market for a messaging-based customer feedback solution for those types of businesses.

“Consumers who want to provide feedback often have no obvious way to do it,’’ said Mr Ryan, explaining that, often, their only option is to contact the head office, not the local outlet where they have just eaten or purchased an item.

ServiceDock set to work on creating a solution that would allow consumers to provide feedback at outlet level, via messaging, and for local staff to respond directly. At the end of 2017, it developed a basic version, which was piloted by Eddie Rockets.

In 2016, when they set up at the Greenway Hub at Grangegorman, the founders had used €25,000 of their own funding.

In 2017, when they switched direction, they secured €150,000 in Angel investment.

Releasing the full version of the new platform in February this year, ServiceDock intensified its fundraising efforts and secured €200,000 from Enterprise Ireland, in high-potential startup funding, and more recently received €100,000 in private investment.

Recent investors include Ben Ward, the commercial director of Mothercare.

Mothercare became a customer in May this year and our platform is now used in its 15 stores. The best endorsement you can get from a customer is when a director decides to invest in your company,’’ said Mr Ryan.

The funding allowed the founders to take on three employees and increase the staff size to five.

To date, the company has operated by allowing the customers of restaurant and retail chains to provide feedback and message outlets by using Facebook Messenger and its own web messenger.

In the future, it wants to extend its service to allow them to use WhatsApp, the most widely used app in Europe, and has applied for permission to do so.

In its first move outside Ireland, it will be targeting the US, because Facebook Messenger is already the messaging app of choice in that market.

“We have already attended a foodservice technology event in Orlando and are following up on a few leads,’’ said Mr Ryan, adding that it plans to use recently raised funding to expand into the US.

As an Enterprise Ireland high potential startup client, ServiceDock aims to achieve a turnover of €1m by 2020, by which time it expects to have trebled staff numbers to 15.

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