An employee was rude that one time, the cleanliness of the restaurant’s bathroom was sub par and the menu was difficult to read.
Once those reviews are posted online, anyone on the Internet can make the same snap judgment — leaving businesses with no time to remedy even the simplest of issues.
BarkBack is a new online platform aimed at bridging the gap between that one-sided feedback and actual conversation.
Yelp! may supply space to vent, but the Santa Barbara-based BarkBack tech startup allows customers to communicate directly, privately and anonymously to business owners who value their opinions and suggestions.
The possibility of earning coupons and special offers for writing reviews or completing surveys merely sweetens the deal.
“Everyone is a consumer,” said Teddy Ho, director of marketing for the still-small startup with offices downtown on Garden Street. “We go out in the community and we have experiences. Sometimes they’re great; sometimes they’re not so great. We’re trying to take away any (communication) barriers.”
A fresh pair of eyes could do wonders for restaurants or retailers, but BarkBack isn't stopping there.
Accounting firms, doctor offices, gyms and more are also among the 1,500 businesses registered on the website, some opting for the free version and others that pony up a few extra bucks for a premium package.
Customers are encouraged to sign up for free accounts to communicate directly and, sometimes, continuously with business owners, who can customize surveys and let customers know when concerns have been fixed.
“It’s not just consumers barking back,” Ho said.
The tech company is gearing up to reach out to more businesses in 2014, and to raise overall awareness for the company, which was founded in 2011 by Raja Jindal while he was studying for his Ph.D. in materials engineering at UC Santa Barbara.
With initial development completed, BarkBack is poised to fine-tune some of its tools and hopefully roll out in major markets next year as well.
“Business owners really want to hear from their customers,” said Jindal, who also founded startup BioIQ. “Basically you get to comment and communicate for free.
“A lot of medium and small businesses are being left behind. BarkBack has done all the work.”
BarkBack can empower customers with bright ideas or reassure businesses, Jindal said, which builds loyalty on both sides.
The company has even created its own BarkBack account, fully embracing its mantra and slogan: “What can we do better?”