Crisis? Opportunity!

Last Wednesday I woke up to a flood of email. Not that my inbox is usually empty, but this was unusual. Clearly something big has happened when customers, employees, investors, partners and friends take time out of their morning to email you. Most common subject line: “Have you seen this?” (Is everyone taking writing cues from Upworthy and Buzzfeed?).

There it was: Square launching a feedback product

And the emails and Facebook messages kept coming:

What do you think? Is this bad for you? How do you plan to react to this? Didn’t you talk to them once? Did they just copy you? Now what? Can we help?
*Answers below

It seemed some people thought I should freak out about this, but I didn’t feel that way at all. I loved it! Instead of feeling frustrated that a large company with infinitely more resources entered my space, I feel validated.

Square employs 900 people including some of the best talent in the tech industry; Veterans from Google, Facebook and Twitter grace its rosters. Its CEO is the product visionary behind Twitter. These smart, experienced people agree with me(!) that communicating directly with customers is an essential component of every business’ strategy. We agree businesses should tackle feedback head on or risk reading it on Yelp or Facebook. We agree that the end of each transaction has the potential to be the start of a loyal relationship. I don’t feel threatened, I feel flattered.

Don’t they have a lot of money and resources to compete with you?

Yes they do. However, they also have a large, diverse product portfolio to worry about, 900 people to manage, continuous press scrutiny and plenty of other distractions to worry about. Feedback for Square is an add-on product, an up-sell opportunity to increase average revenue per merchant. It’s a smart move as this is a sorely missing gap in their product offering, but it’s certainly not their core.

On the other hand, OwnerListens has been focused on customer feedback for almost three years. We’ve tested hundreds of approaches to customer feedback and tweaked our product accordingly. We’ve developed expertise on how best to solicit feedback, how to respond to it, how to use it to improve operations. We know our product is better and a large competitor drawing attention to that can only be good for us.

I hope Square markets this product like crazy. I hope all Square merchants use it, increasing market acceptance and market adoption by both businesses and consumers. The more Square merchants who use it, the more non-Square merchants will look for a solution and find OwnerListens. This is a good thing.

Here’s another good thing. You know who else noticed Square Feedback’s launch? Every single one of their competitors. In between all the concerned emails from last week, there were also emails from various Square competitors (POS companies, payment processors). “Hey, we’d like to learn more about feedback? Can we set up a call? Do you have an API?”

This is when Square Feedback’s launch really irked me. If only they waited or coordinated timing with us, the API we’ve been working on would’ve been ready to go with their launch. No matter. Every crisis is an opportunity, so one sleepless week later we’re happy to announce the OwnerListens API. Need to add a feedback solution to your product? SMS, app, web and mobile web options available here.


What do you think? Fantastic. Is this bad for you? On the contrary. How do you plan to react to this? Maybe I’ll write a blog post. Didn’t you talk to them once? We did. Every startup takes a risk when talking to a big company. We knew that going in. Did they just copy you? Not really. It’s a similar concept, but there is no monopoly on ideas. By the way, had they really copied us, their product would be a lot better. Now what? Now this. Can we help? Tell business owners you know about OwnerListens, tell your friends about our app, and of course share this post.

Comments (4)

  1. Dwight

    I agree this helps validate your market. Congrats on the API. Keep up the hard work!

  2. Lela

    That’s the way to do it. Just because someone is bigger doesn’t mean they’ll win. On the contrary! Keep going!

  3. Dave

    Apps like Uber have made giving feedback more mainstream. This is where the world is going. Everything and everyone will have a rating. Maybe we’ll all finally face up to our shortcomings if we get honest feedback.
    Will look into adding this to my app.

  4. Emmerson

    That’s the best reaction you could’ve had. Relentless focus on the problem is a huge advantage. I wouldn’t bet against you.

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