Emerging Entrepreneurs

Taking the boredom out of online surveys

N Ramakrishnan | Updated on August 06, 2019 Published on August 06, 2019

Shihab Muhammed, Founder & CEO, SurveySparrow   -  N. Ramakrishnan

SurveySparrow provides SaaS-based platform that makes it more engaging for customers to give feedback

By his own admission, Shihab Muhammed was bad at completing feedback surveys. He recalls that when he was working in Freshworks and based in the US, in 2016, he used to get multiple customer feedback surveys. “I never used to reply to even one. Though I had a good relationship with the relationship manager at my bank, I never used to give any feedback. Even if it was an employer feedback survey,” he says. At the same time, he adds, he was prompt in replying to messages on WhatsApp and Google Hangout. “I am not lazy, but this particular thing (responding to feedback surveys) is not working for me.”

This got him thinking. He was heading a team of 250 and as a manger he was expected to give feedback to his team members. He realised that the questionnaires for the surveys did not excite and engage him. That is when he thought of creating a platform to conduct surveys, one that will be more engaging to ensure that the survey completion rate improved dramatically.

He also noticed that use of messaging and conversational apps was increasing – Slack was taking off, WhatsApp users were increasing in number every day, Facebook Messenger was becoming popular. A clear pattern was emerging. “Everything is moving to a chat, conversational way. I was thinking why can’t it be like this for surveys too,” says Shihab. After all, surveys too were a form of communication. “Everything can be a conversational thing rather than a boring form,” he adds.

Focus on SaaS product

So, when he decided to turn an entrepreneur, given his experience and strength in building products, he decided to focus on customer feedback and build a SaaS product that would help companies manage customer experience, gauge the pulse of employees and get market feedback. SurveySparrow was the name he hit upon for his venture, quit his job in January 2017, assembled a team and started working on building the product in April. “In seven months, we had our first product,” he says.

 

The problem that he was attacking with his product was, he says, the extremely low completion rates in surveys. On an average, the survey completion rate was 10-15 per cent. The reasons for this were that there was no incentive to complete the surveys, the surveys asked too many questions. Whereas, says Shihab, if you make it interesting, the engagement rate will go up. With SurveySparrow’s platform, the completion rate has gone beyond 40 per cent.

The experience factor

According to Shihab, in the next few years, customer experience will become a big thing in marketing. The experience factor will overtake price and quality in buying decisions. For this, customer feedback is just a starting point. “I have a single question. Nobody wanted to answer 20 questions. Everything is instant. So, when you ask one question in every quarter, you will know whether that person is going to stay with you or not. That is where we wanted to be playing,” he says.

He estimates that by 2025, the market opportunity globally is going to be $16 billion for customer experience. Survey, a sub-set of this, will be $6 billion. “The bigger opportunity is on customer experience, because when everything is moving into a service-based model or subscription economy, the underlying issue is experience,” says Shihab.

SurveySparrow created the feedback collection from customers, which can be automated. This can be integrated into a company’s CRM (customer relationship management) software that will automatically sync with SurveySparrow and do a pulse check of the customer every quarter via email.

SurveySparrow is a cloud-based SaaS product that it sells to companies on a subscription model. Its conversational user interface allows them to create and share engaging, mobile-first surveys. The platform is equipped to perform extensive analysis of the feedback to help companies drive their business decisions.

According to him, the first customer came from a municipal office in Toronto, Canada, which used the product to get feedback from participants after the weekly meetings. Today, SurveySparrow has more than 10,000 customers in 108 countries. It mainly targets small and medium businesses and mid-market customers for selling its product. These companies will typically have a turnover of $50-100 million, and 200-1,000 employees. Nearly 60 per cent of the company’s business comes from North America, Europe accounts for 20 per cent and India 10-15 per cent.

Shihab expects the global market to contribute to a bulk of the company’s business in the foreseeable future, although with IT spend in India expected to go up substantially, there is a possibility the India business will grow substantially over the next few years.

Tapping the talent

According to him, the biggest challenge for the company will be in getting the right kind of talent. SurveySparrow will focus on the SMB and mid-market segments for the next two years as going after enterprise clients will require more feet on the street.

The company will have to be in a position to pay much higher salaries, especially to employees in the US if it wants to enter the enterprise segment, he adds.

Published on August 06, 2019
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