We all talk about customer service and how critical it is for the overall health of a business. After all, that’s where the money comes in from. But, how many businesses do something about it? While more than 75 per cent of all businesses now recognise customer experience (CX) as their number one priority; these businesses typically only monitor data from 4 per cent of their customers. This isn’t because they don’t want to, it’s because they are unable to!
This is where Nick Marshall’s Twistar proves to be a tool for disruption. Twistar is a new type of Android-based Internet of Things (IoT) mobile device, which is designed for businesses to engage customers in a new and exciting way, from designing beautiful customer surveys to collecting voice and artificial intelligence (AI). By helping businesses understand who their customers are and how they feel, Twistar is enabling companies to make a deeper and more meaningful connection with customers, to better serve their needs.
Having founded the company in February 2016, the striving entrepreneur has already managed to accomplish so much in so little time. “Six to twelve months is a long time in the start-up world!” laughs Marshall. “In the past three months, we have seen: multiple patents pending, our public launch, first clients, first pilots confirmed, third generation circuit board production, hardware prototyping and first funding.”
The first prototype
As we take a closer look at the device, we discover that it’s sleek and stylish and can fit into any surrounding without creating too much of a distraction. So, this already puts the product leaps and bounds ahead of any other customer feedback system available today.
Beauty and functionality aside, what Marshall believes truly sets his service apart is accurate data. “The key driver has been accurate data; being able to collect data quickly and easily from respondents, better than any other solution globally, gives us a competitive edge. We are the first company to put voice/AI ‘in-the-moment’ in this manner,” he quips.
With a solid proposition in his hands, it’s only natural to wonder how far Marshall is from monetising his offer? After almost 18 months of prototyping, Twistar lodged its US & EU patents in mid-May. Since then, Marshall and his team have started engaging with clients and partners, and the response has been incredible. “We have signed up more than 40 global licence partners and are currently outlining the first Twistar pilot programmes in retail, hospitality and travel industries in the US, EU and GCC. The UAE is a great launch-pad for Twistar, and we are receiving great feedback in Europe and the US,” beams Marshall.
Funding to fuel growth
For the growth of his product, Marshall has his eyes set on large markets and a diverse range of industries. There’s no doubt that his grand ambitions require some sort of financial backing. The good news that he’s managed to acquire it. “We are now in the final stage of closing a pre-seed convertible funding round,” he shares. Marshall believes this funding will allow him to fast track hardware and platform development work over the next three to six months and to get the best possible performance metrics from pilot programmes.
It’s clear that Twistar has the potential to be used widely across the business landscape, but how did Marshall convince investors to support his nascent start-up? “I think there were three factors that played a critical role. Firstly, our team; we are a strong team of proven ‘founders’, who have successfully established, grown and exited businesses previously. Our skill-sets match the project requirements and all our interests are aligned. Secondly, our product; we have developed a great new product with different parts; most significantly our software and AI components offer an increasing value proposition as the business grows. Finally, the market we operate in. Our market is enormous and the ‘customer experience management’ sector is growing at more than 25 per cent per annum globally,” he explains.
Not so smooth sailing
Despite an encouraging start, Marshall is careful not to ignore the challenges. He opens up about the day-to-day difficulties he faces: “We have a lot of moving parts within Twistar, which makes managing client expectations challenging. They have high expectations of product, service, support and delivery, which is understandable. As a start-up, you are exactly that ‘starting up’ and it’s difficult to satisfy all these needs simultaneously, but it is definitely achievable.”
To move past these initial challenges, Marshall has a straightforward modus operandi. “We are transparent with clients; where we were, where we are, where we’re going! You must be honest and straight with them because they won’t hesitate to be direct with you! We are always looking to improve our product and understanding of the market, as they continually evolve. Stop ‘selling’, start ‘listening’ – if you don’t really understand your clients, you are never going to be able to provide a worthwhile product or service,” he explains.
He adds: “From an operational perspective, we are dynamic, as we are selecting the newest and most innovative solutions. From a product perspective, research, development and testing are integral considerations as IoT, digital connectivity and AI are constantly evolving. We need to balance future technology opportunities with commercial viability.”
Striding forward confidently
Beyond the hype, what potential does AI realistically have to make a difference? “Within the industry, it is apparent that voice/AI has the potential to revolutionise customer research to a staggering extent. The technological advances we are making now, will be considered mainstream in the next four years,” responds Marshall. And, he hopes that the growing interest in the AI technology field will draw attention to his compelling service. “‘Feedback’ is at the heart of what we are offering our clients, and this is at the core of how we want to take Twistar forwards,” he concludes.