GUDfood founder Alexander Gudkov launches a feedback service Expirenza and gets 200 clients in Ukraine and the U.S. in just 4 months

Alexander Gudkov is known for GUDfood vending fridges in offices of IT companies. However, it is not his only project. Currently, Gudkov is toiling on Expirenza, a feedback service for offline businesses. The platform has been launched six months ago, and today its turnover is about one million hryvnias per month. Expirenza has about 200 clients, including large retail chains, popular restaurants, commercial clinics, and hotels. In an interview with AIN.UA, Gudkov spoke about his new project, why Expirenza initially failed to gain ground in the U.S., and how to sell digital services to Ukrainian offline businesses.

How did the idea of creating Expirenza come about? What is it?

Expirenza is a platform for customer retention and return, and feedback service for offline businesses. We help businesses collect emotions of their customers at the time of their contact with a product, service or brand. We collect feedback about good or bad service, whether a guest will return, and if not, then why. Today we are working with HoReCa, Retail, delivery, medical sector, and personal services market.

In the beginning, I tested the service on GUDfood, which I still do. There was a problem. We have 100+ client companies, and we provide food services to their employees. Collecting their feedback has always been a headache for me. Feedback was only with companies, but not with the employees. At some point, when a large number of negative reviews accumulated, the company said: “We have a lot of disappointed employees, we need to do something.” It was a shock for us – why didn’t they say before that something was wrong?

It is easier in the digital world. You can use a myriad of services to get the Customer experience: Zendesk, Zopim, Jivosite, SurveyMonkey, etc. It is the opposite of the offline world. I began looking for tools and services that would help me collect feedback I needed in real time. SurveyMonkey is a straightforward and easy tool for small business – you can use it to collect any feedback, but that is pretty everything you can do with it. Whereas I needed to be able to continue to communicate with a person to try to retain them somehow.

This is how the project Expirenza was born. It makes it possible to let a business known why it is losing its customers, and give them a tool to return and retain their customers.

How does it work?

Take one of our clients in Ukraine – Auchan Ukraine. We work with them on “My Auchan” mini-market chain. We identified points of contact with the traffic (store entrance, fish, meat, veggies/fruits, scales, and cash registers), then we installed POS-materials (stickers and posters) with different questions. For example, “Did you enjoy our service today? Tell us!”

Guests just need to point the camera of their smartphone to the QR code on the poster. Then, a web page will automatically open on their smartphone with a prompt to leave a review, attach a photo with an issue or leave an audio message. New review notification is sent in real time to the central office, head of the company and departments concerned.

Guest’s interface looks the following way:

A client writes what they did not like. For example, “There is a big line at the checkout.” Then they send it. After that, we ask to leave a phone number and confirm it. Thus, we give the business two types of verification: either an anonymous review or a review with a phone number, which the business can use to contact the client. At the same time, the business sees at what point of contact the problem appeared. For example, a “fish” department.

We notify the business that a new review has been received and it can respond by entering the admin area. That is, the collection of information is not the final point – we give businesses the opportunity to personally communicate with the client, to apologize and to offer a reward. That is, to calm down, apologize and return the client without bringing the problem to the public through Facebook and other social networks.

What is the reaction of customers, whose feedback you collect? How do you encourage them to leave feedback?

The advantage of Expirenza is that we don’t catch people by the hand. We do not persuade them to tell about how their visit to the doctor went. We do not cold call them. We collect feedback from people who want to do it. And it is convenient for the client – no need to download any applications or write on Facebook. All you need to complain about is your smartphone’s camera and a web browser.

“We ran some tests: if the client’s response takes more than 30 seconds, the conversion drops by 70%. Consumers are very lazy. Therefore, we give the opportunity to suggest feedback if a customer is not willing to write anything.”

The average restaurant can get 8-15 reviews per day. A network with high-traffic locations, such as our client, Alex Cooper, Municipal food market in Odessa, can receive 30-40 reviews every day across different locations. In the span of three months of using Expirenza they collected about 2,500 leads, that is, customer reviews with phone numbers that were provided voluntarily.

When did you start and what are the fruits so far? How many clients and what are they?

The first MVP was done fairly quickly. We tested the hypothesis and started 6 months ago. First clients joined us in December last year. Today, there are about 200 clients – mostly clinics, restaurants, and retail chains. Fewer nightclubs, strip clubs – our model didn’t work out there because it’s dark, you can’t see anything and nobody scans anything. We were about to print out phosphoric stickers, but then we changed our minds as it was too tricky.

Restaurants were a success – in four months we managed to persuade the following chains to join: Mimosa Brooklyn Pizza, Fish & Pussycat (Igor Sukhomlin), GRANO, pizzeria Napulé, Adelle, O’café (Restaurants of Gusovskys), “Chernomorka”, “Aunt Klara” eatery as well as other locations. Expirenza to them is the perfect tool that enables them to interact with guests. Thanks to our service, now a business can solve a client’s problem even before the client leaves the place and begins complaining on Facebook.

We also work with retail: Intertop retail chain, and several brands, for example, Timberland. Another client of ours is IQOS (Philip Morris Ukraine) at each point of sale – and that is over 30 certified locations – with the help of Expirenza it monitors the quality of its employees’ work, monitors long lines and stock availability.

Any particularly interesting cases of working with Expirenza?

Healthcare turned out to be a very interesting experience. As a rule, unsatisfied clients of healthcare institutions do not talk about the troubles they encountered because it not customary to share information related to health. And the clinic will never know what is wrong and why the client left.

Our client “Medicom” has 5 clinics in Kyiv. They have our sticker on each doctor’s office. And unlike restaurants, where reviews are usually limited to a couple of words – tasty/nasty, waited too long, a waiter is bad, etc. – clinics get more elaborate feedbacks from their clients. For example, “I have been using your services for over 10 years. I visited when my back was hurting. I was prescribed to have an MRI. I paid a lot, but it turned out it was nothing serious and I wasted my money. Neither I nor my family will ever return to this clinic.”

That is, in the span of the last 10 years the client, say, spends 100,000 UAH. So, if the clinic fails to retain him, they will lose about the same amount. Expirenza helps avoid this situation.

How did you attract your clients?

First 50 companies were convinced personally by me – I talked to friends and pitched. Because here people are scared of anything new, no one is keen to pay anything at the beginning. Therefore, we offer every business to do a free run for a week – we prepare layouts, place codes and advise. And when, by the end of the week, the business receives feedback and sees that it really solves the problem, and they opt-in.

A month later, when we gained some motion in Ukraine, a friend visited me, who now lives in Los Angeles, and offered to try out Expirenza there. Since things were great with restaurants in Ukraine, he, too, pitched the service to overseas locations. And we were in for an unpleasant surprise: it turned out that no one needed it there. LA dining scene is so sophisticated that any dissatisfied client will be immediately replaced by 10 new clients, so there is no need to invest in client retention.

“In the U.S., due to the fact that people have enough money and there is high traffic, the cost of attracting a client is not so high. In contrast, in Ukraine, there are few people with money, but the number of restaurants is only increasing. And if a person has already come to you, your task is to keep them and make sure that they return. Therefore, in Ukraine, people are spoiled by good service.”

Currently, in the U.S., we are working with three hostels and a hotel. We decided to offer them out services after we launched cooperation with BURSA Hotel in Ukraine. It turned out that we help solve a serious issue for hotels.

On Booking, a single negative review with a rating of “1” is enough for your hotel to drop dramatically in search results. And to return the previous ranking, you need 10-12 reviews with a rating of “5”. We help businesses learn about a problem before it goes online as “score 1” on Booking. To do this, in every hotel, the reception area, elevators, cafes, restaurants, and every check have our QR codes that say: “Dissatisfied with our service? Tell us!” And while the client is still inside the hotel at various points of contact, the business can hear and retain them.

What are your rates and how much do you earn?

We have two subscription options – 1,500 UAH and 2,000 UAH per month. Their functionality is different, for example, we added an option to record audio messages, as in Telegram.

We have about 200 clients, which is 400-500 locations. Our turnover is about 1 million US dollars per month and I think that half of it can be considered a profit.

How much did you invest and has it paid off?

I cannot share this information. I am pleased with the pace. Now we are investing in new cool features, marketing, and expansion into new markets.

Are you planning to scale up to other countries? What countries and why?

Today our markets are Ukraine and the U.S. The service is also being used by a restaurant in Spain – in Valencia, but we have no gained the ground there.

“In Spain, people want to communicate with the owner directly. Many people do not know what a QR code is – Ukrainians are much savvier in this regard”.

We are planning to add 1,000 locations in Ukraine by the end of the year, gain a foothold in the United States, and then move on to Dubai. The Emirates is an interesting market with a plethora of restaurants, and there’s an offer for cooperation from a potential local partner.

Do you have competitors? If so, what is your edge?

We did something akin to SurveyMonkey and Facebook. SurveyMonkey gives you the opportunity to collect feedback, whereas we still give the opportunity to communicate further.

At the same time, Expirenza is not the kind of feedback that people leave on Facebook when the business is either harshly criticized or praised for giveaways. We get real insightful reviews that help businesses become better.

In Ukraine, we have a big competitor InMoment, a U.S. billion-dollar customer feedback company. They work with large enterprise clients in Ukraine, such as McDonald’s. You’ve probably seen the following in McDonald’s: every stand, bag, and leaflet contains a call for feedback. But their budget per company starts from US$ 100,000. For this amount, they give a very sophisticated program with AI and all sorts of expensive features.

We are not yet targeting large enterprises, because it entails very hard sales. Each sale requires a lot of time, plus costly integrations into their IT systems. We do not have this, we are more flexible. We give our client login and password to access the admin area and everything works right away, without any integrations.

This is our edge because any integration delays any deal for a very long time.

Tell us about Expirenza team and how do you manage to combine your work on the service with GUDFood?

Expirenza has a dedicated seven-strong team: three developers, two sales managers, and two marketing experts. There are no freelancers, all in-house with an office on Livoberezhna. The GUDfood office is located on Obolon, and these are two completely different offices.

Combining is hard. In both companies, I handle primarily B2B sales. Now my focus has shifted more towards Expirenza. I spend three days here and two days there.

Have you thought of hiring anyone in your stead to help you focus on one project?

I think that Ukraine is not a market where one can delegate corporate sales. The reason is that everything relies on personal contacts and one-to-one relationships. Therefore it is impossible. Or maybe I haven’t yet mastered this feat.

As far as Expirenza is concerned, we have already tested the hypothesis and made sure that it works. The second step is to confirm that there is an opportunity to make a lot of money on it. We are still in the process of confirmation. We haven’t yet earned a lot.