Leading market research solutions company, Customer Perceptions, applied to Co-Innovate with the aim of securing funding to hire a developer to improve and enhance their existing customer feedback software application.
The Dundalk based SME developed their TellUsFirst software, which allows clients to instantly gather feedback from their customers. The software application allows the digital capture of customer feedback when the customer scans QR codes on in-store displays or on their receipt. The information captured can be used to measure the service the customer receives at each stage of their interaction with a client’s business, allowing the business to improve their customer experience, increase customer satisfaction and ultimately, increase sales.
Although performing positively, the original platform needed further development to bring it to the stage that met the needs of a broader base of customers. Emma Harte, CEO of Customer Perceptions, admits that the initial appeal of the Co-Innovate programme was the availability of funding that would allow the company to recruit a developer to enhance the technology. Before long however, she found that in addition to recruiting, one of the main benefits of the programme was the support the company received in developing a plan or road map for the development of the new software service.
“The main attraction of the Co-Innovate programme was initially the funding to allow recruitment but ultimately, one of the biggest positives was actually developing a concrete plan for TellUsFirst,” said Emma.
“I think that as a business, when we have a plan, we stick to it and that was very much the case with this. The plan we developed through Co-Innovate and the quarterly board meetings we attended to review progress really kept us on the right track. Even from the very outset, we had a very clear plan of what we wanted to do and we achieved it all and more,” she said.
Emma agreed that the Co-Innovate programme mentors were “hugely helpful” in terms of supporting them through the programme to ensure paperwork was in order and all requirements met to secure funding.
Partnering with the University of Ulster was also extremely useful for Customer Perceptions because the university advisor was able to assist with the recruitment process, mentor the recently graduated software developer and help maintain the bridge between the academic and business worlds.
“The university mentor also suggested that we run a consumer user test of the application while it was in development and he mentored the developer through that process. We’ve since gone on to make user testing part of our practice here. I think the university mentor has even used it as an example in his teaching about the importance of user testing, because it’s very tangible and useful,” said Emma.
The recruitment of the software developer through Co-Innovate meant Customer Perceptions were able to “ramp up the development of the platform and its user friendliness” in order to make it much more saleable, particularly to the export markets. It's now much more user friendly, enhanced and professional looking.
“We’ve really got the product right through Co-Innovate,” said Emma. “Our TellUsFirst software is now in the majority of Spar stores, Euro Spars and Vivos in Northern Ireland. The results from TellUsFirst have become really instrumental as part of Spar’s KPIs and we recently hit 100,000 feedbacks for them in Northern Ireland.
“Since Co-Innovate, we’ve expanded our sales, moving into Scotland, which was a big leap for us because we’d never had business outside of the island of Ireland before. That led to us acquiring the Titanic Visitor Centre as a client in Belfast where we’re having really good success rates and really good customer interaction. In addition to that, we're now looking at a partnership with one of the biggest mystery shopping companies in the UK. So the programme really helped us expand the business, we’ve invested to retain our software developer skillset and we’re looking at new international sales partnerships. Overall we’re much more confident now about the capability of the platform and how it looks and we’re very proud of it because we know the benefits of what Tell Us First will give our clients.”
For anyone thinking about expanding their business or taking it to the next level, Emma has some advice:
"Trust the process of the programme or process you have signed up to; the discipline pays off. Having milestones to hit every quarter definitely benefited the overall outcome for us."
This cross-border project was made possible through the Co-Innovate programme, which is supported by the European Union’s INTERREG VA Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).