A diner in a restaurant is miffed with the service. He’s asked to give his feedback, not on a sheet of paper but on a tablet where he rates the service two out of 10. At the back-end, the GM’s smartphone pings as he gets the feedback instantaneously. He rushes out to assuage hurt feelings: the bill is waived, a bottle of wine proffered, and the diner goes away delighted.

This is a real-life scenario that S Sriram outlines. The founder-director of CloudCherry, an online customer sentiment mapping tool, points out that traditionally the feedback written on paper would be reviewed by the restaurant management by end of day, by which time the diner may have complained to his friends, on social and other media, and the damage is done.

“Suppose somebody stepped in and did a superb job of fixing it, there is a chance that you are going to be a much more delighted customer and you are going to talk about it,” he explains. The CloudCherry app is freely downloadable on to a tablet or a smartphone and the data, which are uploaded to the cloud, are managed by the digital company.

Instant alerts “Unlike a conventional feedback mechanism, this system gives instant alerts. This is at the front-end. But its real value-addition is the back-end. The entire data fly to the cloud, which is controlled and managed by us. So having done a free download and captured the information from the customer, the analytics, slicing of data is all done by us,” explains Sriram. The licensing depends on the number of tablets/smartphones a client uses, across stores. It isn’t just the novelty of punching in feedback on a tablet, store staff can also record short videos that can be uploaded for management to see.

For Sriram, who stepped aside from his role as executive director of the Chennai-based B-school, Great Lakes Institute of Management, it’s all about putting years of theory and academics to use in a start-up. Incubated by Bala Balachandran, founder of GLIM, and Sriram along with the founding CEO Vinod Muthukrishnan and friends, the project has seen investment of around ₹2 crore.

The CloudCherry app had its beginnings as a facility for industrial use when it was conceived by the former CFO of Great Lakes, B Hariharan, originally as a product designed for the shop-floor, to help in distribution and stocking of parts.

However, when he spotted an opportunity to leverage this in an FMCG distribution context, he approached Balachandran and Sriram and the app was re-oriented for consumer-facing businesses.

CloudCherry has as advisors Seenu Srinivasan, till recently Chairman of Marketing at Stanford Business School, and Jagdish Sheth, Professor at Emory University and pioneer of learning in consumer behaviour.

More focussed CloudCherry, which is close to sealing a deal for venture capital funds for its next stage of growth, has signed on around 10 clients, including one in South Africa. Titan Company has signed up with CloudCherry to track 110 showrooms of its Fastrack and World of Titan brands, where it has distributed tablets.

Vipin Nair, Manager, Retail, Titan, says that it wanted to move beyond merely being transactional with a customer, which the company had become over a period of time. “We wanted to get more focussed, see the pain points of a customer and make it a pleasure to shop with us. Today, customers have a huge choice of brands and shopping channels,” he explains.

Nair cites the example of what happened to a customer in a Bengaluru store, who came with his daughter to buy a watch. There was an event happening at this multi-level store, and the watch they wanted to buy was in the first floor. Most of the staff was downstairs working on the event, and one staffer was attending to 5-6 customers. The shopper complained that staff should have been attending to customers first. This feedback was relayed to the corporate office and Nair had someone call and speak to him the very next day and soothe ruffled feathers.

“He was an old Titan customer and he was very happy that somebody had bothered to call him from the corporate office,” adds Nair, who points out that this feedback is not a call centre-driven activity but handled directly by the company. Nor did Titan want to entrust feedback to an external agency where biases could creep in. “We are still working out what kind of service recovery we can do or how to incentivise a dissatisfied customer,” says Nair.

Delight meter CEO Muthukrishnan says the company has, through re-sellers, tied up clients in Colombo (the Cinnamon Grand hotel), and West Asia and is on the verge of signing on a large retailer in South Africa, where it is running a pilot. “The analytics are there in real-time for clients on their dashboard, the data sliced and diced in whatever way they want. We can also offer more focussed, bespoke analytics for clients if they need,” he says. The app also has a ‘delight meter’ on the dashboard, where clients can reassign weights to the metrics, resulting in a value by which they can judge instantly if a business is doing well or not. “In a few clicks one can check what people are appreciating in a store, what has helped push up sales, and that can be replicated in their other outlets,” adds Muthukrishnan.

While Sriram is looking to boost the fledgling company’s monthly recurring revenue, and pilot trials are on with leading Indian companies and a few abroad, the company needs seed funding to scale up the business. “We are looking at up to a million dollars in funding.

This money will be used for two purposes: to expand business in existing markets, and second, to come up with a product for e-commerce businesses, because the existing model is for brick and mortar retail, and e-commerce works very differently.”