Creating Delightful Customer Experiences

Andrew and Kris Eul discuss focusing on outcomes, meeting customers at the lowest point of friction, and creating delightful experiences for customers.

Presented by
Andrew Verboncouer
Partner & CEO
Kris Eul
Director, Customer Partnerships, Kipsu

Andrew Verboncouer: You're listening to the Seaworthy Podcast, Episode 11, Creating Delightful Customer Experiences. Seaworthy is a podcast about building successful software. Today we're talking about meeting your customer at the lowest point of friction and focusing on outcomes with Kris Eul of Kipsu.  

I'm excited to have one of my closest friends and partners in many previous ventures on the show with me today. Kris is currently director of customer partnerships at Kipsu, a company help build deep personal customer relationships for hotels, hospitals and shopping centers alike. Welcome to Seaworthy Kris thanks for coming on the show. How are you doing?

Kris Eul:   I'm doing well. Doing well yeah, it's been a busy couple of months. You know, married, getting married, going on our honeymoon, going through the holidays. And now finishing out the year strong. So last six or eight weeks have been a blur. But it's good to get back in a rhythm here.

Andrew Verboncouer: Yeah, I bet. I mean, going from, you know, married right off the coast of San Francisco to LaCascenera, and then to Bali. 

Kris Eul:   Yeah. Yep. So full disclosure - Andrew was my best man. And knocked his speech out of the park.

Andrew Verboncouer: Naturally, I'm actually wearing the hashtag socks that you got us.

Kris Eul:   Nice. Awesome. I think my favorite line I think my favorite line of your of your best man speech might have been when you said it was something along the lines of you know, for those of you that have ever grabbed drinks with Kris or have had a drink with Kris or have been around him while you're while you're having dranked. So that was that was perfect. Well played.

Andrew Verboncouer: Yeah. Seemed to resonate pretty well. So yeah. So can you give listeners a brief background on who you are and what you do and what you're up to now?

Kris Eul:   Yeah, absolutely. So born and raised in Green Bay. So Andrew, and I go back, and we were just talking about this, like 12, 13 years old - middle school - became friends, he used to be pulling me around. And somehow we still made it as friends. But yeah, I grew up on small business. So my parents had a custard shop and got a couple of custard shops for a time there. And then also owned a bar and restaurant and as we call them in the Midwest supper club. So I think being raised within that that small business environment really gave me the exposure to want to be in the space of being a part of growing and building a business. And so today, I worked for a company called Kipsu, that is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. And what we do is we focus on strengthening the relationships between primarily those in the hospitality within healthcare, and within shopping centers to build those relationships with their guests through real time digital engagement. So primarily through SMS text messaging, but then we also have different channels as well. So that is an extension of that one to one customer service,

Andrew Verboncouer: Right. Yeah, that's great. Like Kris said, we, you know, we go back a ways and I've had a few ventures together, some that have sold some that we've killed off and some that kind of still live on in some form. Yeah, so it's exciting.

Kris Eul:   Yeah, so the first, the first one was a T shirt company, and we had this grand idea, and I'll take blame for it as, as probably, you know the marketer of the two at the time, but we decided to put a bunch of - was it like printed collateral on random cars on the other side of town from where the party was being held. And this was like pre Facebook and Twitter and there was no social media, you know, 12 years ago, or 10 years ago. So, so yeah, we decide to have this grand idea of go to the, the busiest mall on the other side of town and put these little little cutouts and windshields and hope that there would be a big turnout. So as you can guess there was not a big turnout for our launch,

Andrew Verboncouer: Right. Yeah, we learned along the way.

Kris Eul:   Absolutely. Yeah.

Andrew Verboncouer: Learn what to do, what not to do. That's right. So what do you do outside of work Kris?

Kris Eul:   Yeah, I like to, like stay active. So I'm big into endurance, done a couple Iron Man competitions. So that's fun.  I'd like to do one more. But I'm learning in the early married life that you have to certainly have to consider the the other half, the partnership and make sure that it fits both your schedules. But um, yeah, let's do one more. Maybe try to qualify for for the World Championship and, you know, have a little bout in in Hawaii. Oh, yeah, anything outdoors, staying active You know, my wife and I like to go biking, go running, go for hikes. I mean, anything just to just to be outside and enjoy the weather.

Andrew Verboncouer: Yeah. Well, you're in sunny San Francisco. How's the weather this this time of year? You're in Minnesota right now. But, how's the weather now? I know it starts to get a little colder but not quite Midwest cold.

Kris Eul:   Yeah. Yeah. Right now as I'm sitting here in Minneapolis at at Kipsu headquarters. I think it's all of six degrees. But. But back in San Francisco. We live right in Menlo Park. So just outside of just outside the city like 40 miles, 40 miles south or so. It's you know, probably mid 40s. Low 50s. So still still chilly but not quite as chilly but you know nonetheless nonetheless it's always good to be home it's always good to be even in the Midwest it feels more like home people seem to be a little bit friendlier a little bit more open to having conversation and just being just being a little bit more open to acknowledging one another here it seems. 

Andrew Verboncouer: Right yeah, Minnesota nice for sure. It's like a Midwestern nice I think. 

Kris Eul:   For sure. Yeah, yeah. Midwest nice for sure. Minnesota nice - it's just it can be a lot of the you know, they won't necessarily say it to your face, but they will say behind your back. So got to be mindful of that.

Andrew Verboncouer: So yeah, you're also going to - you got accepted to the Stanford ignite entrepreneurship program. Is that going on right now, I know you've been mentioning some ideas to me, you know, that's something that started recently. Can you tell us a little bit more about that, and, and what you're working on for that? 

Kris Eul:   For sure. Yeah, I, you know, recently got accepted into the program at Stanford for their their entrepreneurship entrepreneurship classes. And I'm really excited for the opportunity. It doesn't start until mid January. But leading up to the class, you know, we have a bit of coursework, readings, things like that to do leading up to the first day of class. But then we're also working on venture ideas. And so we're we all were encouraged to submit an idea to have, you know, what can we potentially work on in our classmates within the cohort will vote on those will develop a video and present on the first day of class. And then for those that those ideas that make it will, you know, we'll focus on those throughout the the 10 week throughout the 10 week program. So I actually came up with idea for reusable boxes, reasonable shipping boxes, and how we can make a little bit more effective and set of you know, from the research we've done is it takes about 500 million trees to produce these books every year. And that that demands only going up because of sites like instacart, and Amazon Prime, and everyone, everyone wanting it as soon as they order it, that that consumption level is only increasing. So the demand for these - Core-get papers is what it's technically called, but cardboard boxes is only going up with that. So how can we offset that by by having a box you could simply ship back and that can be reused by the retailer or whoever the carrier may be? 

Andrew Verboncouer: Yeah, that's interesting, for sure. So you, you are in the, I guess, preparation stage of getting the video ready. And you're going to be pitching that? Did you guys already formed teams around it? Or is it more like each person who has an idea, creates it themselves, and then pitches that idea do already start forming teams.

Kris Eul:   Yeah, so you start everyone pitches, their their own ideas, and then they narrow down the ideas based on what's voted on the most are the most popular, the most popular ideas. And then on the first day class, once those once everyone presents that is still in the running that has been voted on to move forward, they'll narrow it down to like, seven or eight ideas. And then you get to basically join the idea that, you know, each idea and the idea creator then has their own team that they'll that the format that point. So once class starts, then we'll actually have those teams formed around the ideas that have made it through the process. But as of right now, again, we're just building out the ideas and, you know, ask a lot of questions, testing, you know, testing the thought behind it, and, you know, the, the, the feasibility and is it, you know, are these ideas actually likely, but I will say, I haven't met most of the class or any of the classmates have a chance had a chance to talk with a couple of them. And there's, there's some really exciting things that are going on that are, you know, dealing with different diseases, and how do we get better about studying those or, or developing tests that identify characteristics of diseases so that we can analyze them and, you know, catch it earlier than later. And so, it's, it's gonna be really exciting to be involved in that community and, and see what we come up with.

Andrew Verboncouer: Yeah, for sure. Yeah, it sounds super interesting. like they've got it pretty well structured. Obviously, Stanford is known for their business acumen. And, you know, bringing up entrepreneurs and, and kind of, you know, a community of alumni around it, what type of stuff - you mentioned, they're giving you like, coursework and some stuff prior to the course - what type of stuff are you reading? What kind of books? 

Kris Eul:   Yeah, it's, you know, it's to be honest, I haven't even had a chance to dive into many of the readings as of yet, I just finished, you know, what I was finishing, actually was the book that you recommended, the leaders eat last by Simon Sinek. And that was, that was fantastic. That was one of those where I just I couldn't put down which was, of course, followed followed by girl on a train, which was, which is another page turner non non business related whatsoever. But really, you know, the whole idea of the program is to start basically, from take something in an idea, if you will, and how do you test it, and validate it? And how do you take it from this concept to commercialize it, and scaling it, and so we'll go through the entire process. And, and what's exciting is that, you know, we're going to break down each component of it. So how do you validate it, how do you build a research group around it, and actually get the feedback that you're looking for, without being bias when you, you know, send out those surveys or send out that that, you know, those polls or whatever it may be, and then also to when to take in funding, should you take in funding, you know, the very Silicon Valley way of thinking is, hey, let's, you know, let's, let's capture as much money as we can and have the highest valuation and then, you know, let's go spending and hiring a bunch of people and seeing what we can do. Whereas here in the Midwest, I think that, and especially one of the, one of the things I really like about Kipsu, what we do today is we have the exact opposite approach. And, you know, we'll, we'll ask for what we need, but we really, we want to keep as much of that ownership in house. So that, again, we're always in full control of our own destiny, and where we want to take this company, and so that we're not responding to necessarily a group of investors that, you know, aren't on the day to day that aren't on the front lines of building a company.  But it's really, you know, following the lead of our CEO, Chris Smith, which I can't say enough good things about us really, as a company having control of where we go and where we take this. So that's maybe something that I'm excited to bring to the table is, is to kind of challenge that notion with a lot of my classmates, which I assume, again, being based there in in Silicon Valley is that, hey, you know, as soon as we have an idea, we have a prototype, let's get the money. And then let's go sell and try to get those pilots. Whereas I'd like to test the theory and challenge them to think a little bit differently and say, you know, let's, let's build the prototype, and let's go sell it, and let's go get that traction firsthand. And then let's build the value and the validation. And then let's go, you know, if we need to collect the money and figure out exactly how much do we need? And where's it makes sense?

Andrew Verboncouer: Yeah, I mean, that's - yeah, I can definitely relate to that, you know, we, we work with a lot of clients out in San Francisco area, and Austin in New York, and all over, you know, but also we work with clients here. One of my previous previous guests on Seaworthy was Drew Wilson, and he actually built, you know, his own business plan. So you know, $20,000 a month recurring revenue, just him, right, he got to the point where he developed features fast enough, he couldn't, you know, do support fast enough, when he finally went out to San Francisco and moved there for six months and just raised closed to like 1.2 million a few months ago, and, like, now finally built a team. But, you know, he's giving up far less portion of his business, he's been able to, to earn, you know, more of that on his own by, by putting in more sweat by being more stringent around what gets spent where, and really treating it as his own money as it was, you know, what I mean, when you have someone else's money, there's a little bit of bias towards that, you know, and there's encouragement to spend it before you need it. So you can raise another round, which is pretty backwards I think. 

Kris Eul:   For sure. And I think there's this notion to that, you know, once you receive funding, and you've, you've reached some some level of success, right? I mean, it's certainly a milestone, don't get me wrong, but it's, it doesn't guarantee success by any means. You still have to, you know, you still you still have to put in the work, right? You still have to execute and you still have to show up day after day, and, you know, make this make this vision come to life and make it a reality. So, you know, I think, I think there's a lot misconception for the average person that, hey, as soon as they get funding, everything's blue skies, and everything is going to be, you know, all the problems are going to be taken care of. And that's, that's not the case at all right?

Andrew Verboncouer: Yeah. More money. more problems.

Kris Eul:   Yeah.

Andrew Verboncouer: Yeah, let's jump back into Kipsu - you kind of... tell us a little bit of background and what you guys do, can you...from your understanding can you tell us where the idea came from, and where things started?

Kris Eul:   Yeah, it actually came from one of our founders at at the nearby ballpark here in Minneapolis. And, you know, I think, I think he just happened to be at a game and said, hey, why in -  at that time, you know, 2010, 2011 - why do I need to actually get up and, and, you know, go to the concession stand to to get a hot dog or to get a beverage or whatever it is, I want, why can't I just text someone and they can let me know once it's ready, and I can go and pick it up so don't have to wait, miss the game, especially when you think about paying for, you know, to actually enter any sporting event right, it can get pretty expensive and so it's like I want to enjoy it - so it really started off there and how do we more effectively communicate and when we want to have that channel available to us so that's where it started.  You know after after taking a look at the scope of where this could be applied. This idea could be applied in a few years of testing we our very first customer partner still a customer partner of ours today, Mall of America, so if you go to the mall America check out one of their kiosks in the middle of the of those main aisles within the shopping center. And you'll actually see where they have like the where they have the layout of the mall and, you know, the the URL here and they can show you where to get to all the different stores. You'll actually see right below that if you have any questions, feel free to text us, and the number. So it's nice. And you know, one of the things too that was I'm sure a difficult sell in the very early days and before before I got here in two years ago was you know that it's not necessarily new technology, right? Texting has been around for for a while now, of course, but it's it's a way in which people feel comfortable with communicating in and they can do it on their time and on their terms. And they don't have to chase someone down. They don't have to make a special trip over to the Guest Services Department to you know, talk through their their question or their inquiry, they can just use their phone which they already have on them, they can use a program that's already installed on their device and they know how to send and receive messages through that through that channel. So without having to take another step and downloading the app learning the the the layout of that platform and you know how they can actually just ask a simple question that should take seconds they can do so in an environment that they're comfortable and know that you know with certainty that it's it's going to be received and it's going to get responded to.  So yeah, so Mall of America was the first one and then after, shortly after that one of our very first pilots within hospitality - and when I say hospitality, more so focused along the lines of different styles of hotels being you know, whether it's tshe Select service realm and select service courtyards, residents inn, Hampton Inn, Staybridge Suites, Candle Woods, your full service properties like you know, the big box brands like the Hilton's the Mariots. So you'll typically see like a pool and a restaurant on site there, and they'll probably have room service, things of that nature. And then some of the higher end the luxury boutique properties that before starting here, I didn't know it existed, but I mean, some of those some of the upscale brands like, you know, Ritz Carlton and gosh, Kimpton and the Peninsula. So you know, it's just a really good way that especially communicates to a guest right, or that for the guests communicate to the team and a channel in an environment that they feel comfortable in. And so a lot of my time is focused on working with the customer partnership team, and how we can tell that story at the different levels and really understanding their needs, their pain points, and how, hey, by connecting with the guest offering an extension of your one to one service through this real time interaction channel. Like how do we how do we make it a more exciting and more exceptional experience overall?

Andrew Verboncouer: Yeah, yeah, that's interesting to hear. I mean, obviously, Mall of America is a, you know, huge company. But like you said, it's not, you know, we drill this a lot to when we talk to our customers. It's not about the technology. It's not about like, the features like everyone wants an app, but - do you need one? You don't, you know what I mean? Like, here, you're meeting people at the lowest point of friction, which is something they already have on their device they've already done at any age, right? My dad's texting, he's 60 years old, or anyone knows how to text, you know what I mean? If you have a smartphone, right? You can text and so, you know, serving customers where they are. I think that, you know, that's a big sweet spot for a lot of people, and they have trouble balancing it. So that's, that's good to hear that I mean, you guys are there. And obviously, there's a back end panel for that, that, you know, other people use. But, you know, as far as the end consumer, you know, they just interface via text, which is super familiar.

Kris Eul:   Yeah. And what's nice too, is that regardless, if you're staying at one of those select service properties, right, like a courtyard or, you know, a Hampton Inn or stay bridge or you're staying at the Ritz or you're staying at a Kimpton property, it's really nice to feel like someone's paying attention and feeling like a VIP and feeling like you're, you know - it's just nice to get that acknowledgement that they care that you're having a really good stay, that you're having a really, really good experience. And so, you know, often we first thought, you know, this is great, just in a luxury space or the full service space, you know, if I, if I want to connect with someone from the concierge to make dinner recommendations, or, or want somebody brought up to my room, you know, or, you know, I want to order room service from the comfort of my room, or I'm on my way from a meeting that ran late, and I want to have it waiting for me. And I'll just order it now via text because I know what I want. But in in this like-service realm where you don't have those added amenities or those those offerings. What's really nice is that we're finding that the customer partners that we're teaming up with are pleasantly surprising their guests by offering that attention to detail. And even if it's something in which they say, Oh, thank you didn't know that, you know, this was something available.  And just to know that they have something, they have someone on their side and select service in general sees a lot of business travel or a lot of business travelers. So it's one less thing that that business traveler has to worry about when they have an impromptu work trip. They know where they're, they know that if they've stayed with a property before they can leverage our technology, they can, you know, simply send it a text message, they have that relationship with the team there at that hotel. And it's just one less thing that they have to even consider. They know that they're gonna get a great rate, they know they're going to be really well taken care of. And they know they have that relationship with the team there. So it feels like home away from home. So as much as those hotels want someone to come back and be a repeat guests, those business travelers also want a go to property so they don't have to worry about, you know, where they're staying. And if they're, you know, if it's going to be a good experience they have that guaranteed assurance. And again, it's something that they don't think twice about,

Andrew Verboncouer: Right. Yeah, you had, those are good points you made. Yeah, definitely makes sense. I, you know, find myself in that same scenario. A lot of times where, you know, I'm familiar with Kipsu, what you guys do, and I've been able to use it a few times, you know, while I've been traveling, and it's always been a, you know, a good plus where, you know, you have software, but then you want to know that there's people behind it at the end of the day, you know, we build software and to serve people, not technologies, right? So, yeah, that's right is awesome. Yeah. Seaworthy is brought to you by Headway. A product focus team for higher, Headway helps companies validate ideas, build out products, and grow through experimentation and technical execution. If you have an idea that you're looking to gain traction on, or a current product you're building that needs expertise with product design or development, check us out@headway.io, and let's make waves. 

Kris Eul:   I think too, you know, one of the, the underlying notions here, I just with everything that we do, and we build within within our within our solution, you know, how do we make people better at their jobs, right, we don't want to take, we don't want to take people's jobs away, we want to make them better. And we want to empower them to to want to provide really good a really good level of service, you know, specifically here in hospitality. So you know that right, there is just so everything that we do, everything that we implement is is all focused around strengthening that relationship between the staff and the guest. And so it's not we're very much aligned with brand satisfaction scores and how we can improve TripAdvisor and Yelp and, you know, their their online reviews. So there's not that that confrontation or there's not that that barrier of all of this technology is going to take my job, or it's going to replace me in two years, it's no one's going to help me it's going to help us get better. And we're going to see the improvement within those scores that you know, are going to help encourage other people that may wouldn't have given your property an opportunity to now consider it and actually make that reservation. 

Andrew Verboncouer: Right. Yeah, I mean, you know, we get that too, sometimes when we talk to people about using reviews and introduce new technology, that they're worried that it's going to replace them. But what it's going to allow them to do is focus on higher value things, right, you know, in focus on more customers, but then also you don't have customers coming up to you so you can dispatch people out. I you know, one thing that I noticed, I think it was last year, was it Mel Gibson, one of the examples, or someone was using Kipsu, you know...

Kris Eul:   Oh, yeah. Nicolas Cage. 

Andrew Verboncouer: Nicolas Cage, that's what it was. 

Kris Eul:   One in the same. 

Andrew Verboncouer: So you want to tell us a little bit about that. I mean, that...I thought that was, you know, pretty cool. And something that they use your platform.

Kris Eul:   Yeah, that that was really fun. That was an exciting day at the office for sure. I mean, every every day is exciting, that one that was exceptional. And say the least when, you know, you, show up to work and you're notified that like BuzzFeed and Reddit and I think it was, you know, Yahoo like mentioned a story that included included Kipsu, that's always a fun day.  So what happened was a guest who is traveling so on number of flight delays in route to the property they're staying at it is actually the hotel indigo and San Antonio on the Riverwalk, so they experience number of flight delays by the time they arrive to the hotel to check in. They just like wanting to get to their room. And just like, you know, forget about the day so sure enough, the guest checks in-  Ramon actually I, you know, had a chance to connect to them afterwards.That was fun. But so Ramon is checking checking in the guest. He's going through the you know standard procedure. And then he's introducing Kipsu, the guest ops in, they send the guest a welcome message that's directly to their, their, their mobile phone from from our platform and decided to have some fun with it. Because they're, you know, they're feeling a little cheeky just because the day that was. And so they actually requested a framed picture of Nicolas Cage from Con Air on their bed by 6pm. So a pretty a pretty unusual request. But you know, after a tough day, nothing like seeing the cage and a framed picture to brighten your spirits. So sure enough, you know, by 6pm, they had saw that the guest went out to grab a bite they printed out the picture framed it put on their bed and they even look like little post it note on that picture that said sweet dreams Nick and so when the guest arrived back there was the you know, Nick Cage in all his glory with his his locks blowing in the wind, waiting for, waiting for the guest on their bed with the post it note and just like absolutely made their day. So they forgot about, you know, all the hiccups and all those all the you know all the setbacks from from earlier from their travels. And it's one in which, you know, they uploaded that that picture on to their individual blog. And, you know, within 72 hors, got picked up by by some of the major news sites out there. So it just goes to show, right, you know, it's not as if we have a plethora of a request for a, b and c list actors and actresses to show up in rooms. But it goes to show like when we when we're able to, to, to have a pulse rate on the guest, right, and offer that environment in which the guest feels comfortable and welcome to share with us what's on their mind, we can take it from a good stay to a memorable stay, or a great state that is, you know, unparalleled to any other experience I've had before.  And oftentimes it's those little, those little opportunities that that are missed, because the average guest tends to have that self governor in which Hey, it would be nice to have an extra pillow or, you know, an extra towel, but I don't want to bring it - I don't want to bother anyone, or I don't want to bring it to their attention. And it seems silly, right? When we have a phone in every room, and we have someone at the front desk around the clock, you know, even the night audit at two, three in the morning, you could still ask for those. And that's what they're there for. But we oftentimes don't always let our voice be heard for for whatever reason. And so it's little opportunities like that, which we can, we can go to the next level and we can take it up a notch. And we can again provide that the memorable experience that hey, regardless of what you need, we want to make sure that you have a really comfortable stay and that you remember, hey, anytime you're back here in the city, you stay with us. Because now you know, the team, you know that, you know, the level of service that we provide. And it's again, it's one of those home away from home type of feelings. 

Andrew Verboncouer: Yeah, it's good. I mean, just adding, you know, little delight and, you know, some variability to someone's day that they probably had no expectation that that was going to be there, like you said, and just came back. And I think there was a, you know, a few times where it went back and forth and the staff there like, provided, you know, multiple photos - we'll have to link that in the show notes, but yeah, definitely memorable for the guest. And, you know, good, good publicity for, you know, your customer, who's the hotel.

Kris Eul:   Yeah, yeah, absolutely. No, that was, that was a ton of fun. And yeah, again, it's just it just being able to provide just to acknowledge the guest, I think, is really important. And just to keep that, that human component to it is something that we really, really strive to strengthen and to improve with, you know, every enhancement that we make, we never want the guests to feel like it's a it's an automated prompt, or it's a robot that they're interacting with. But it's actually someone there on site that can help you that they're, that they're communicating what so even though they're not face to face, it's still very much has this high touch, highly interactive experience to, the one on one communicaiton.

Andrew Verboncouer: I'm stepping back a little bit just to like the early days of Kipsu. You know you guys had a client Mall of America I don't know if that's where it started but was there any specific like validation process or key indicators that you guys had that said hey, we should keep pursuing this from you know going from like a stadium on-demand type waiting you know, situation to something that is more like Mall of America on support? Was there anything that kind of led you, and the team I guess at that point to continue pursuing this like - were they able to sell it early before they built it out or get buy in from Mall of America or another company? 

Kris Eul:   Yeah, you know I can talk about the hospitality side of it and working with you know, big box retailers and one of their their luxury lines that we now have a National Partnership with today. And to give you an idea, so when I first started with the company two years ago I think we're at like, gosh, I want to say maybe just over 100 like 80, 80 to 100 different properties that we were active within across you know, select service, full service luxury, you know - when you consider everything - and today we just had our team team meeting yesterday, every Monday, we just we just launched our number 577. So we're pushing 600 different hotels globally, that we work with which is which is insane. It's the, last two years have been by far the fastest the fastest two years that have gone by for me personally, but it's been such a fun ride. I will say though, in the early days when we started with that first customer partner we basically said, you know the net result right we had to speak the language that resonated and mattered most to to that specific that specific prospect or that specific potential customer and say, hey you know we truly believe that by implementing this as an extension of the one to one service or the face to face service that you're leveraging today or that you're striving to provide today it's going to result in improve TripAdvisor our brand satisfaction scores so when you take a look at the brands the big box brands especially whether it's Marriott or Hilton or IHG, they all have brand satisfaction scores in which they're calculated on different metrics based on the level of satisfaction for the guests and there's everything I mean you know IHG heartbeat scores are a 10 point scale eight, eight nines and 10s are factored in. And hey, that's, that's great, whether it's a 1, 7, 3 that doesn't count. So only those eight nines and 10s will actually be factored in weighted into their, their overall average. So things like, you know, where you recognized for being a loyalty member - Did you receive the follow up upon checking in, you know, sleep quality, there's a number of properties and brands that are even, you know, making sure that the brand standard of the bed is, you know, so it has only been used for so many months, or, you know, less than a year or something like that, changing the pillows every single every few months. So, you know, with the heightened awareness of online industry, sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, it's actually making us...It makes us here in hospitality, that every point of contact that the guest has, with their experience with that hotel is is top notch and exceptional. So what resonates most with with hotels? Is it are those online reviews and that brand satisfaction score. So we're basically positioning it as you know, if by offering this extension, yes, you know, to you, you may only think that it's text messaging. But to us, what we see this big opportunity that it's going to make the guests feel it's going to feel more personalized and more unique to that guess specifically, then just checking in, you know, not being able to have that touch point with the guest checking out and finding about something that happened after the fact that they didn't bring it to our attention in which it causes us to receive a four instead of a five or even, you know, even worse. So,, that was basically what position we said that, you know, we can can improve and we want to, you know, work towards making this so that it impacts your, your brand satisfaction scores, and your online reviews. And sure enough, within that, within that pilot period, we were able to see that happen.  So, you know, it was those small victories along the way and, you know, one property started, then two and one of the things within you know, like many industries, hoteliers are very well connected and they you know, they you don't just start - you know start within the hospitality industry by being a general manager obviously you work your way up the ranks like you know like anywhere else. So you know a lot of the hoteliers in the industry today have a lot of connections with with other properties and you know, they may have been a front desk manager at the property on the street now their assistant manager the property you're talking about today. So with with that, with those connections and with those ties, you know, we were able to take that one property pilot and see you know, 2, 3,4 and then work out to a greater strategy within that given market and then how do we tell you know at what point of getting so many properties within the brand how do we leverage that to tell a greater brand story and be able to you know get more of a formalized partnership within the within the greater brand, so yeah you know - it's...fortunately we were onto something and a lot of times to for hoteliers, their compensation is based off of those online reviews and those brand satisfaction scores. So when you're talking to dollars and cents, when it affects paychecks, it really seems real. It really seems to resonate. 

Andrew Verboncouer: Yeah. I mean, so that sounds good. So that there was kind of a process you guys had a, you know, some hypotheses or assumptions that this would help, you know, increase the scores for you by making sure that we don't miss things that we could have easily captured, you know, through, you know, a low friction means like this, and then you were able to prove that out and then, you know, I assume, build a case study around that, and, you know, start going after more in the industry.

Kris Eul:   Exactly, yeah, yeah, exactly. And what we found too along the way is some of the efficiencies as well that we didn't initially consider. So, say, for instance, yeah, I mean, the net result is improved brand satisfaction score, as well as improved online reviews. But what we also found too is that instead of making that trip and dedicating time to go into the front desk, or picking up the phone in your room, which oftentimes weren't happening anyways, by texting in, not only were we reaching more guests, and we as the hotel staff, or we reaching more guests, but that that call volume, that foot traffic goes down simultaneously. And so you see the indirect shift of Hey, less, you know, less visits to the front desk, and less phone calls for those for those questions that can be answered within seconds. Now, we're, we're enabling the the front desk teams, especially as the primary responders to handle facilitate those conversations and, you know, through a number of features and capabilities, they can actually respond to those questions within seconds versus putting someone on hold or making someone wait in line.

Andrew Verboncouer: Yeah, that's huge. Yeah. So it's great to kind of learn more about how you get started and what that process was, as far as hospitality. What are some of the biggest lessons you've learned too, kind of a while helping build and grow Kipsu? You've only been a part of it for like, the last two years, I think, coming up maybe two years? Like almost dead on?

Kris Eul:   Yeah, the eighth, yeah, December. So yeah, I'm a bit a bit more grey than I was two years ago, that's for sure. So, so some of the lessons, you know, there's, there's no sacrificing just, just hard work, right. And just just putting in the time putting into the putting in the energy, it's something that's, you know, it's day in and day out. So, in the, in the, in the earlier days, you know, it was yeah, you know, I'm still as just as excited now, as I as I was back then, when I, when I first started with the company, regardless of what the task is that we're working on, because it all plays into the bigger picture of, of moving the needle for, for what we're trying to do and what we're trying to accomplish. And so I, you know, it's, it's getting to a point and a lot like, where you're talking about drew and then and how he built his company, and then went off to raise, you know, raise some money as, you know, get it to a point where you, you almost like, outgrow your position, right, or that you can't you can't do anymore now because you're only one person or you're only a couple people, you know, you need additional support and resources to help take care, take care, take care of clientele. Because just as important as it is to bring in new, you know, new clients and new customer partners and new business, you've got to make sure that you take your turn as, as minimal as low as possible. So it's, you know, it's one of those things where I think one of the biggest challenges for me is, you know, I like to have my hands and everything. And so in two years ago, we literally did everything. I mean, I remember splitting my time between doing on site trainings to, you know, running support tickets through Zendesk and, you know, making sure that that our customer partners are taken care of plus, you know, jumping on demos, and doing, doing the selling and making sure the contracts are going through, and that we can, you know, stay active on those negotiation discussions. But, but as you grow, right, you have to, you have to hone in and you have to specialize in that area in you, you know, I chose the route of business development sales, just because, you know, just something that I really like, I think it's, it's, you know, my niche and it's really allowed me to, and so, you know, I don't focus nearly or any of my time really under support or, you know, the onsite trainings anymore.  But, you know, by being able to have that focus on on sales, not only can I work on better, better tuning, fine tuning to our story that we're telling, and how we go about, you know, hearing those, those pain points from those prospects and how we can alleviate those, but now been able to take a team that started with the CEO and I, as doing a lot of the outbound lead gen efforts and the demoing to now a team of six going on seven, and being able to pass that down and help be a, you know, more of a mentor than, than anything to the rest of the, you know, the rest of team that the, you know, the new hires, and the market development reps and the other sales reps and, and, you know, helping see that see us get to the next level. So, although, you know, I don't have a lot of touch points on as many different of the inner workings, it's important to note that that's good. You know, that's, that's a good thing, it means you're growing, and you get to focus more time on, you know, just just crafting, you're just crafting your specialty, and really getting to to build your team, which I think has been one of my favorite parts of this whole experience.

Andrew Verboncouer: Yeah, yeah, that's awesome. Thanks for that rundown. 

Kris Eul:   No problem. 

Andrew Verboncouer: So where do you see tech hospitality in the next 5, 10 years? I mean, there's, artificial intelligence or machine learning, there's obviously the human component to it. Where do you guys see it going at Kipsu? 

Kris Eul:   Yeah, you know, this is a great question, this is something that we constantly think about is, what does the the state of the future look like?  And I think it's a couple things. And, you know, when we talk about what our grand vision is, it's not to necessarily just beat out our direct competitors, it's, it's to ensure that at, at the heart of great service, that there's a human component that's always involved to that, that there's an authentic one to one interaction between two people, between whoever the business that are company may be, and the guests and the patients and who, the customers that they're serving. So, you know, you bring up a good, great point with AI and back where I'm living now that that's all the rage, and you see millions and millions of dollars being dumped into AI research, and testing and piloting. And, you know, we just, we feel at this time that that AI can't, isn't intelligent enough yet to, to be able to take into consideration, you know, words or phrases out of context or empathy to be to be able to empathize with the, with the guest or the customer, which is a huge component to customer service, right, is to, you know, customers having an issue, you know, to be able to say, Oh, you know, so, sorry to hear about that, here's, here's how we can, here's how we can overcome that, or here's how we can get get around that and being able to, to listen and talk through that. So, so, yeah, you know, we, we look at it as a, as a bigger, you know, as an bigger goal, it's a bigger mindset of how do we always have that, that one to one interaction versus, you know, how do we just instead of just focusing on other players in the space, because, you know, there, you know, a common thing too, with  some of the other platforms out there is to offer, you know, an automated response based on a keyword or phrase. So, say, for instance, a guest texts in, your Wi Fi passcode offends me - and all of a sudden that that program or that platform picks up on Wi Fi pass code and it resets the Wi Fi pass code. And so now instead of showing that empathy and addressing the situation appropriately, you've now just reoffended the guest and you turned you know, you turned it into an experience that they're not going to forget in a negative manner and something that they'll likely share online so so yeah, you know, we we really are sticking sticking strong to the human component in the human aspect of building those relationships and having those intact for exceptional guest service in the long run.

Andrew Verboncouer: Gotcha. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I know you know, there's some new tech out there but you know, I think it's unproven so stick with what works, and what resonates. 

Kris Eul:   Absolutely.

Andrew Verboncouer: So kind of as we wind down, where can people follow you and learn more about what you do? 

Kris Eul:   Yeah you know kipsu.com  k-i-p-s-u. com. You can check it out, you know we have Twitter, we're on Instagram. For me personally you can follow me on twitter @eulent. You know it's funny when you know I often get asked, what does that even mean? Yeah, I don't know where that was going to be honest with you, but @eulent for the social channels. But yeah, you know, one of the things I'm going to do for sure as I start blogging about the experience within the within the Stanford entrepreneurship program, and give regular updates on what's going on. So if you want to follow along and see how what ideas there are and how those are progressing, I'll make sure as a follow up that we have the appropriate links and people can stay tuned to that. 

Andrew Verboncouer: Awesome. Well, thanks again, Kris. Appreciate the the time and the insight and glad to hear everything's going well.  Yeah, my pleasure. My pleasure. Happy holidays. Likewise, take care. Thanks for listening to Seaworthy. Connect with us and ask questions on Twitter @seaworthyfm. Make sure you subscribe, and if you enjoyed it, leave a review on iTunes. Sail forth and make waves! 

show notes
  • Startup Story
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Customer Experiences