Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

The Anti-Social Reviews Site: Skweal Keeps Negative Customer Feedback Private

Tyler Crowley, who has long been tech rabble rouser Jason Calacanis’ right-hand man, is branching out and starting his own company. Called Skweal, it is a way for customers to give retailers feedback privately, rather than posting a negative review on a site like Yelp.

What’s funny is that Crowley, who was executive producer of Calacanis’ Launch Conference this week, did actually launch a product there, but it was not Skweal. Crowley demoed LinkPops, which overlays a user’s friends’ tweets about articles onto news sites. But he said afterwards that LinkPops was an idea he and a buddy put together on a whim in the week before the show.

Skweal, on the other hand, is something Crowley has been working on since last year. He said he will soon leave his full-time role as director of corporate development and strategy at Calacanis’ Mahalo to pursue Skweal.

Explaining his odd reluctance to show off Skweal to the home crowd, Crowley said he thought the Launch audience was more interested in consumer products, while Skweal is targeted at retailers.

What Crowley wants to do with Skweal is help retailers “keep negative feedback offline.” The site differs from the many user-generated feedback forums that give users the platform to publicly cast judgment and read each others’ posts–for instance the recently launched Tello, which invites users to review service providers, or Glassdoor, which has employees grade their workplace environments.

Skweal is much more like submitting a paper slip to a locked comment box. And I can see the appeal for us non-confrontational types who would feel more comfortable keeping gripes out of a public forum. But the problem for Skweal is how to attract and connect users and retailers.

Crowley’s solution is this: participating retailers tell customers via a sign or sticker to go to the Skweal Web site to leave feedback. Users offer a rating and comment along with their email address. Skweal disguises that email address and alerts the retailer to log onto a CRM dashboard to review the feedback and respond.

Skweal retailers can choose to get SMS alerts for instant feedback, and they can also see reviews laid out in charts that highlight problem locations and time slots.

If a retailer isn’t registered with Skweal (and of course, the majority currently aren’t), customers can still leave feedback. The company then uses “dark arts,” as Crowley described them, to track down contact information for the retailer, whether email, SMS or Twitter. Crowley deadpanned, “If they don’t respond, then we forward it to a competitor.”

Skweal is free for businesses and users, but retailers with more than one location will have to pay $1 per day per location.

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