Two screen images from OwnerListens: on an Android phone (left) and an iPhone (right). (Photo: OwnerListens)

Vent here: App connects businesses and customers

No more comment cards or annoying phone calls to air complaints.

If you’re a new business owner, customer feedback is crucial. But how do you get that feedback when consumers don’t want to provide their information in an email or spend time on hold, wasting their phone batteries?

Sure, there’s always venting on social media. But that still lacks a direct line of communication for complaints, praise or suggestions.

Enter OwnerListens. The brainchild of entrepreneurs Adi Bittan and Oren Dobronsky, it's a mobile app that allows customers to send you their reviews of your business – directly, privately and instantly.

Bittan, a native Israeli now living in the San Francisco Bay Area, said the idea for the app came in 2011, while she and Dobronsky were opening his new restaurant. 

They solicited customer feedback in the shop using traditional methods, but the process lagged, and both Bittan and Dobronsky grew impatient.

Knowing how important a restaurant’s reputation is to its sustainability and success, they wanted to know right away what their customers thought. So they founded OwnerListens in September of that year.  

Bittan, the company's CEO, said it’s vital for customer communication to be smartphone-friendly, private, fast, personal and responsive.

"If customers are not heard and acknowledged, they will not leave feedback again," she told From the Grapevine. "They will tell their friends how terrible their experience was instead. It’s impolite, and it’s bad for business."

OrenHSlarge Oren Dobronsky, co-founder of OwnerListens, at his Palo Alto, Calif., shop. (Photo: OwnerListens)

OwnerListens allows users to anonymously text message a business. “If the business is already signed up, the message is delivered instantaneously to the owner or a manager. They can reply immediately to solve the problem,” said Bittan. “If the business is not signed up, we find the business’ contact info and deliver the message. We look for emails, Facebook profiles, fax numbers and even use snail mail if we have to. We often find ourselves having to fill out a contact form to deliver the message since most businesses are still using those. We hope that with our platform we can make them go away.”

Currently, the platform is used by 5,000 businesses, primarily in the United States and Canada, ranging from hotels, restaurants and spas to auto mechanics and retail stores.

"Technology has evolved such that businesses can easily provide real-time responses to customers. When businesses step up and do this, customers are delighted, excited and pay them back with loyalty," Bittan said.

Along with other customer feedback apps on the market, such as Gopinion and Goodsnitch, OwnerListens seeks to transform the business-customer relationship by making real-time feedback easy and actionable. And it stands out from the pack with its location-based access, eliminating the need to look up a business, and its multi-channel capability – users can communicate through text messaging and mobile web as well as through the app. Those dusty old comment cards may soon be a thing of the past.

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