Alex Turnbull is the founder and CEO of Groove, a Newport-based startup that has built a simple customer service and ticketing platform for e-commerce businesses. Last month, Groove brought in more than $28,000 in monthly revenue and signed on nearly 2,000 users. On the company’s blog, Turnbull has begun documenting Groove’s progress toward its goal of $100,000 in monthly revenue.
Before founding Groove, Turnbull co-founded another customer service software startup – BantamLive, a social customer relationship management app that he sold to Constant Contact in 2011.
Turnbull talked with PBN about the changing challenges of customer service for e-commerce businesses and how he is turning his experience into a lesson for other startups.
PBN: How do customer service challenges differ for e-commerce businesses and brick-and-mortar businesses?
TURNBULL: At their core, the challenge is the same. Whether you’re a neighborhood shoe store or an online software company, customers want to know that you’re their No. 1 champion, there to help them through their challenges.
On a more micro level, the biggest difference is that e-commerce businesses have the challenge of remaining personal, likeable and human from behind a keyboard that’s likely hundreds or thousands of miles away from where their customer is sitting. It’s no easy task, but the companies that execute well on this are the ones who customers will always keep coming back to.
PBN: What data and tools does a platform like Groove provide that businesses can’t provide themselves?
TURNBULL: For one-person businesses who have no issues handling a small number of support queries via email, helpdesk software won’t have a whole lot of value. But as businesses grow, they face the challenge of having to manage rapidly-increasing numbers of support tickets and collaborate with other members of their team. That’s where a helpdesk like Groove can have massive impact on the ease of managing support, and on the number of hours your team has to spend on it.
PBN: How does Groove accommodate for the expanding role of social media as a customer service tool?
TURNBULL: There’s no question that social media is no longer optional for most businesses; you simply have to go where your customers are. From the start, Groove has offered Twitter and Facebook integrations that allow users to get alerts and see new posts and mentions, and then reply directly from their Groove dashboard. That way, businesses don’t have to constantly be monitoring multiple channels at the same time.
PBN: This is not your first experience building a startup, and with Groove you've started chronicling the company’s “journey to $100,000 a month.” Why did you decide to focus on your startup’s successes and failures as a content marketing strategy?
TURNBULL: I started Groove because I didn’t think that there was a solution that adequately met the needs of startups and small businesses. The blog series was born from the same approach; I haven’t seen an open, authentic and real-time look at the true ups and downs of startup life, so I decided to write it myself. It’s the blog that I wish I could have read the first time I started a business, and I’m hoping that other entrepreneurs will be able to learn from both our successes and our failures.
It also helps that Groove is built specifically to serve startups and small businesses. In many ways, the blog is simply an extension of the value that we’re trying to offer to them.
PBN: What’s next for Groove?
TURNBULL: A whole lot. We’ve got some upgrades to our dashboard that we’ll be introducing soon, integrations that are going to help our customers use Groove seamlessly with more of the apps that they love, and – of course – lots of new content about our wins and fails as a startup.