Interview with Paul Fisher from Niggle

In my adventures in online reputation I came across Niggle, a new way for businesses to get feedback from their customers.  As I didn’t give them many column inches before, I caught up with Paul Fisher to get the whole story.

Could you give us some background on Niggle please.  How’s it going?

Niggle’s primary aim is to make it easy and convenient for customers to send feedback to businesses, and to help businesses deal with that feedback in a way that improves their business and bottom line.

The seed of the idea stems from my days as a restaurant owner, when I was totally fascinated by our fluctuating sales patterns and became intensely curious as to what was going on in the minds of my customers.  When I started looking at collecting feedback from customers I found that there are lots of barriers that stop people for communicating directly with businesses, and so Niggle’s job has really been to address those barriers.

Niggle helps businesses to ask for feedback in the right ways.  For example, by using Niggle a business is guaranteeing to it’s customers that their feedback will go to the right person.  We also guarantee that the customer will stay anonymous if they wish while still allowing the business to reply or issue vouchers or rewards.  For businesses with premises, we offer the use of text message feedback, or feedback via Twitter, which is both convenient and instant for the customer.

In the current climate where everything is public, businesses seem to appreciate ways to foster private relationships with customers.  Just one month out of beta testing and we have several hundred independent businesses and a number of small chains using our technology.

Niggle is different from services such as Qype and trusted places in that the feedback is private between the customer and the company. Surely, however this prevents your site from becoming a destination site for consumers looking for information on the best service.  Are you shooting yourself in the foot?

Qype and Trusted places are very much focused on consumers, where we are very much focused on businesses.  If we do our job and enable those businesses to effectively communicate with customers, negative public reviews should be avoided.  In some ways, our website is our last line of defense. First and foremost we aim to pick up customer feedback and complaints by text message or our mobile site while the customer is still on the premises.  It’s only if the customer has managed to get home and get online that they might find our website when searching for a business name. Our hope is that at that point they choose to send direct feedback to the owner rather than post a public review.

The side effect is that our website isn’t a consumer destination, but rather one of many channels in to Niggle.

The British are a reticent bunch and not very good at giving feedback.  Is Niggle going to change that?

As a nation we would rather tell our friends about our experiences than those involved.  It’s all tied up in our famous reserve and embarrassment of uncomfortable social situations, meaning that we have some unique barriers to feedback that are not found elsewhere.  It’s the reason why public review websites have been so readily taken to heart in this country, and the reason we hope Niggle will too!

What are your plans for the future (new functionality etc).

We’re experimenting with lots of interesting new ways to collect feedback. A trial is due to start soon with a national retailer where customers complete a short text message survey in exchange for a discount code sent to their phone. Instant customer rewards break down one of the biggest barriers to feedback – apathy – and can be a great means for businesses to foster customer loyalty.

We are also reviewing the idea of allowing businesses to publish items of feedback, alongside their responses, on our website. This could help businesses avoid repeat questions and also showcase their customer service skills, however we will tread carefully to ensure that we are not perceived as just another review website by customers. Watch this space 🙂

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