Q&A with “Talk to the Manager”

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TalkToTheManager allows customers to connect with the management staff of a business through anonymous text messages whereupon the restaurant or hotel can resolve issues in real-time.

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An ancient relic of the hospitality industry has been revived to help navigate the ever-important digital conversation between businesses and its customers. Talk To The Manager (TTTM) is the prodigy of the primitive comment card that used to adorn nearly all businesses who wanted to gain customer feedback.

TTTM doesn’t rely on metrics that traditional comment cards can measure. Instead, they’ve realized that a customer’s perception is priority number one and what better way to make a great impression than to let the customers ask the questions rather than default to a business’s pre-scripted survey. Along with TTTM’s analytics, customers help hone the exact tools that business can implement to improve the quality of their experience in real-time.

The way it works is: when you sign up with TTTM, you receive a unique phone number that customers can text their anonymous comments to whereupon the management staff can respond. The applications for this simple yet effective app can be used by any business to tailor their experience to meet customer expectations.

We recently had a chance to interview the creators of Talk To The Manager. Their business model is proof that tackling tough issues in the hospitality industry don’t always demand complex solutions.

What kinds of variables do you track besides the negative and positive feedback?

We’re currently building out a TON of new features in the dashboard that will provide much deeper analytics, but be displayed in an easy-to-understand (and actually use!) format. However, until they’re completed we’re unable to disclose exactly what they are, but keep an eye out in the coming months. They should all be released within the next three months (hopefully much sooner).

Your service seems like a more proactive approach to customer satisfaction opposed to reading about  performance and food on websites like Yelp. Do you think your service will facilitate not only better reviews, but also relationships that create repeat customers?

We definitely believe our service to be a proactive approach. And you hit the nail on the head, we built this specifically to help get better reviews and create brand loyalty. We don’t want to stop reviews, because that would be silly, they can be a great tool and are never going away. But we want businesses to get a chance to respond to issues privately before they end up on public review sites, that way they can resolve issues and get better reviews. A lot of people today are talking about online reputation management (ORM) but we like to think of our service as preventative online reputation management.

Have you considered building a space online where people who use your service get to post a review on your site instead of Yelp?

No. We don’t want to be another review site. The point of our service is to get private feedback directly to on-site management in real-time so they can resolve issues. We are all about privacy. We keep both the manager’s and the customer’s phone numbers hidden from each other, and all feedback is kept in our dashboard for private viewing by the business. We like to think of it as their diary. Sometimes you make mistakes and have bad days, hopefully with our service you get a chance to correct those mistakes and they don’t have to be written on a public review site for everyone to see.

On the other hand we have found that over 75% of the messages from customers are positive, so we have created a way for the business to share these positive anonymous customer testimonials on their Facebook and Twitter profiles if they would like, but that is their choice.

Disruptive technology is a big topic that’s discussed right now. Did you consider how your service would change the traditional conventions of how restaurants will run their kitchens and services?

In all fairness most things being created for the restaurant industry today would be disruptive if they were actually adopted. The restaurant tech industry has so much competition right now because there really hasn’t been too many tech advances adopted by the industry as a whole, so there are some MAJOR opportunities. That’s a big reason our technology is so simple. We’re not some new app you and your customers have to download, or some website you have to visit, instead we are a simple text messaging service that requires absolutely no set-up. At our most recent trade show we had an older gentleman who owned a chain of restaurants pull out an old flip-phone from probably 2003 and ask us if our service would work on his phone. He was kind of being snide and joking until we told him yes it would work no problem and his jaw about hit the floor. He has since signed up.

So I guess in answer to your question, yes, we absolutely understand the possibilities of how our service could ‘disrupt’ the industry, and have a ton of additional features/products in the pipeline that can help it get there, but for now we are only worried about proving to the restaurant industry how simple our tool is and that it is a tool that is ACTUALLY USEFUL.

Some argue that this trend is a step toward the digital obsession with people and their electronic devices. How do you respond to this type of commentary?

There’s really not much that can be said at this point to stop the digital revolution. A lot of people don’t like the fact that consumers are becoming so addicted to their devices. As a company we don’t have an opinion whether or not this is a good or bad thing, we just see opportunity and pursue it. We’re entrepreneurs.

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