Have a Customer Service Complaint? Plant it on the Gripevine

Ever wonder what happened to musician Dave Carroll after he posted a video on YouTube entitled “United Breaks Guitars” on July 6, 2009?

If you don’t know the story, he wrote a song about his gripes with United Airlines for failing to acknowledge that they had broken his guitar. Within five days, the video reached one million views and became a viral sensation.

“The song and video became a conversation starter for bad customer service stories,” says Carroll. “I received more than ten thousand e-mails after I posted the video—many from people who had their own complaints to share about businesses, or who were passionate about changing customer service.”

A year and a half later, Carroll met Toronto entrepreneur Richard Hue who was thinking about developing a social media platform for customer-complaint resolutions. Together, they co-founded Gripevine.com, which launched earlier this year to connect customers and companies on a fair and level playing field and to empower businesses to create win-win resolutions to common consumer complaints.

“Customer service is a holistic and connected experience,” says Carroll. “We want to bring businesses and customers together in a way that takes consumers’ various complaints and sends them directly to the company in question via an interactive resolution management tool (or dashboard), allowing companies to respond to issues quickly, privately and securely.”

According to Carroll, Gripevine has already helped many Canadian businesses to resolve customer service issues online. The company recently alerted the Toronto restaurant Fresh about a complaint that a user had posted, on Gripevine and on Facebook, about a store refusing to accept responsibility for a phone order mix-up. “The company took action and resolved the issue with the customer offline,” says Carroll. “The satisfied customer then declared the issue resolved on Gripevine for everyone to see.”

The Gripevine dashboard can be automated by an administrator to automatically re-route complaints to the proper department. Users can view how long a complaint has been in process, how long it’s taken to resolve, and monitor social media and Gripevine for incoming complaints so that a ticket can be created and re-routed to be dealt with instantly.

Many big brands have already started using the Gripevine service (like Coke and Orbitz), which now boasts roughly 7,000 users per month.

Long term, the company plans to build out its paid service, which is free for just one user to access the automated customer complaint dashboard. Prices then range from $99 per month for a silver package (for three users), all the way up to an enterprise model (you have to call for a quote) which can be used for large customer service organisations seeking an unlimited number of users.

In the short term, Gripevine is looking to become the first place where consumers go to voice complaints online. “We want to help customers pass the front line of customer service agents. The future of customer service on the web will be through social media. This will put new demands on businesses. If one company is responding to customer service complaints online 24/7, everyone will expect it.”