Michael Klanac

Mike Klanac

CEO & Co-founder of GripeO: The Feedback App

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON October 28, 2015


Hey everybody - I'm honored to be here and hope you have some good questions for me! My journey is one that's been heavily influenced by being a Father, the CEO of GripeO Social ReSolve, starting up, and living in two very amazing, but different areas (Buffalo, NY and Houston, TX). I know that GripeO Social ReSolve tends to evoke emotion and opinions in Users and Businesses, and I won't shy away from sharing some of the core concepts we've come to believe passionately in over the last few years. I believe in the golden rule, hard work, balance, running and good scotch as a cure all, and always prioritizing happiness as true north. Thanks in advance for taking interest in my opinion, and I look forward to learning more about yours. Coffee is hot, Willie Nelson on in the background, fire away!
Samantha Campanile
Samantha Campanile@samanthaaspen22
Hi Michael- My husband is involved in the start-up community as well, as his wife I can sometimes feel very frustrated in the amount of work that goes into building something, with little reward thus far. In your personal life, how do you deal with the work/life balance, stress, and furthermore what motivates you to keep pushing when things get tough?
@samanthaaspen22 I don't believe that people work without reward. Sometimes that reward isn't immediate (take going to school for example), and sometimes it isn't tangible (I've known several start up founders who seemed motivated by ego / title / press / power). The point is, there is a reward, and one should acknowledge and identify what it is, and keep it aligned with what keeps them happy. I'm able to manage work/life balance because I have a great support network around me in my in my family and friends. I take interest in their lives and aspirations, and they often return the favor in a wide array of different ways. Lastly, I love what I do. I have fun working, and it makes me happy. If I didn't, I couldn't work this hard.
Harry Stebbings
Harry Stebbings@harrystebbings · Podcast Host @ The Twenty Minute VC
@mjklanac thanks so much for joining us today. I am fascinated as the founder of a customer service platform, do you agree with the theory of @petershankman that because with regards to customer service people always expect such poor quality, all you have to do is offer one better than that, even if that is not such a significant improvement! What do you think?
@harrystebbings I do not. Certainly that approach, if applied, can show some results. As a leader and someone who's as concerned about core values and culture, striving for "just good enough" rubs me the wrong way. Additionally, I think "customer service" is a Business function that controls your brand as much or more than marketing. Massive Telecommunication conglomerates strive for "just good enough", and it only works because they're monopolies. If you don't have a monopoly, just good enough CAN'T be good enough for you if you want to get to the next level.
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
Can you talk more about how being a father has changed you?
@eriktorenberg It so profoundly affects everything I do that it's really hard to put into words. For the purposes of today's AMA, and the Product Hunt audience, Fatherhood reminds me to be consistent. Every single day you're a Dad. You can't be a great Father most of the time, and have some bad days, and expect it not to affect your children. The same goes in the start up world, but with your highly respected peers and co-workers. Every single day they look for tone, someone to set the pace, the direction, and to instill confidence. The absence of any of those qualities for any significant period of time will create problems, and doubt. It also reminds that we're all people with emotions, and human connection is a fundamental component to all business relationships, be it customers, partners, or co-workers.
Andrew Ettinger
Andrew Ettinger@ettinger · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
Which social sphere have you guys gained the most customers through? I have to imagine Twitter is like shooting fish in a barrel.
@andrewmettinger To date, it has indeed been Twitter. Tons of content, simplicity, customer targets, free communication - it has it all. I realize it's not truly social, but Search has also been very friendly to us. Online Reviews are social in the sense that a person is sharing an experience. You often find out about those experience through Google searches, so playing nice in SEO has also been key.
Russ Frushtick
Russ Frushtick@russfrushtick
@mjklanac How do you think the customer service industry will change over the next 10 years?
@russfrushtick If I had to wager a guess, I would expect that you'll continue to see Technology have a strong affect on how customer service is done. More specifically, I think you'll see continued customer frustration, technically referred to as "rage", as businesses stay focused on "selfish systems" intended to maximize efficiency and optimize resource planning in constantly evolving markets. Not only is the fundamental focus wrong, multiple studies have shown that the cognitive dissonance between what consumers want and businesses provide is increasing, likely because pure customer service doesn't keep pace with the technical innovation we naturally adapt to. This leads me to a core concept of GripeO Social ReSolve. We are not just a tool set. We are a different "system" altogether, with a goal of consolidating a very fragmented model. To do this, we need to serve the needs of Consumers and Businesses. When they BOTH win, we do as well. One other note - In 10 years optimization will likely be a blended, balanced model of computer intelligence and human interaction working closely together. Neither totally automated, nor totally human.
Lejla Bajgoric
Lejla Bajgoric@lejlahunts · Intern, Product Hunt
Michael, hi! Is the customer always right?! Whether yes or no, what implications does your answer have?
@lejlahunts Yes, the customer is always right. The customer is entitled to an opinion, to share that opinion, and even be frustrated. The business should create a culture where employees realize that they're the ones taking the customer on the date, and an additional level of respect is always required. That being said, disproportionate hostility should not be tolerated. The candor of feedback should be commensurate with the issue at hand, and if not, a business has the choice to politely "fire" that customer, and accept the consequences of that decision, which may not always be pretty.
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
Hi Mike, thanks for joining us today! What have been the biggest challenges to building GripeO? What advice would you give to other Founders just starting out?
@ems_hodge The biggest challenge has been tying Product Market fit together across all Business functions and activities. It's been, how do we build a pipeline of intelligence from our Customers, to our Architects, to our Developers, and then Market that solution. Its the consistency in Billing, in Social Media, in PR, in WHO we hire that understands that fit, and even fundraising in a way that aligns with and builds upon our initial successes. I've said this before, and it's scary, but it's true. Our whole system is held together by duct tape and hard work. We don't have the luxury of relying on money to fix problems, so I just try to keep the ship pointed in the right direction, with a finger in each leak until we can fix it for real.
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
What has been the most surprising thing about building your own business?
@ems_hodge Managing heavy stress. I genuinely and passionately care and have respect for GripeO Social ReSolve, the people that I work with, our Users, Customers, and those that support us. I process stress as a Father / CEO - meaning, I always, no matter what, keep my head and put one foot in the front of the other; but stress gets you one way or another (It Follows - great movie too!). It could be bad sleep, over-eating, being moody, or even short. I try to handle that by just being aware that it exists, continuing to work hard, and realizing that sometimes a slow walk around the block or in nature IS the best thing I could for all those people and things I care so genuinely about.
Paul Kemp
Paul Kemp@paul_s_kemp · The App Guy Podcast
Hey @mjklanac - what's your favourite podcast?
@paul_s_kemp Given the season, I've been enjoying LORE: http://www.lorepodcast.com/ on walks around the block. For tech, I always appreciate talking and listening with you Paul on The App Guy Podcast: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podc... Something about how you always make it feel like a conversation over coffee instead of a Q and A sits really well with me. Kind of like an English, tech, Howard Stern!
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
Hey what would the you of 2 years ago think of the you today?
@bentossell That's a really Chuck Klosterman-like tough question! I think I'd be pretty happy with how I'm doing. Maybe I'd question if I lost my edge a little? I use to believe that filtering opinions was the enemy and I'm still a big believer in being brutally honest, but as I've had the beautiful opportunity of being on the receiving end of a lot of feedback, I think I've started to realize that timing and tone matter to me, and I should extend courtesy and respect to everyone in all walks of life.
Hi Mike! Michael Janowski here w/ Corporate Dynamics (@CorpDyn). In your opinion, what's the single most important step a business can take upon receiving negative customer feedback over social media?
@corpdyn Hey Michael! The single most important step is to have a system to be aware of the fact that it even exists out there, and where. If you don't know, you can't analyze and determine what the appropriate response should be. Different feedback should be handled differently, within some basic etiquette consistent with today's social norms.
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
Who have been some of your mentors?
@ems_hodge My father (a recently retired career Marketing executive for ConAgra Foods), the teams at Z80 Labs and Seed Sumo, Zen literature.
ana Slabic
ana Slabic@shhimhiding2
What has been your biggest obstacle along the way and how did you overcome it?
@shhimhiding2 My son has some health obstacles which simply put, always come first for me. I've overcome that by again, relying on my family and friends for support, but also taking a very positive and proactive approach to managing his health. My wife and I schedule consistently (dare I say, aggressively), and as far in advance as we can to optimize our calendars and work/life balance. I've also realized that when one door closes a different window opens, and managing a difficult health situation has opened up this very special relationship I have with my son, and the perspective I have on people who suffer from disabilities. I try to turn that obstacle into an experience that makes me a better person.
Andrew Ettinger
Andrew Ettinger@ettinger · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
I one time spent 6 hours on the phone with Motorola after they canceled my order for a new cell phone because they CALLED me to confirm my order, but kept getting my voicemail. This is a real story. I lost my phone and they called me to confirm my order for a new phone, but because I didn't answer they canceled. So yah, I see the use for a service like GripeO! Motorola gave me $100 gift card and some speakers, but even that was not worth the hassle and they've lost me as a customer for good. Anyway, why don't so many of these big corporations see the value of customer service?
@andrewmettinger To be honest, an overwhelming amount of companies with bad customer service are that way for 1 of 2 reasons. They either 1. don't realize they're providing bad service because no one is telling them or they're not smart enough to find out, or 2. they simply don't know HOW to have good customer service. Take for example ATT's initial partnership with Apple for the iPhone. I'm certain that they wanted that initial roll out to be butter smooth from a customer service standpoint, but with multiple systems having to interact together, turbulence is almost inevitable. Very, very rarely, you just meet an individual who's having a bad day, or bad week.
How long do you see yourself in the startup world?
@rpanek This mentality will never me. If I ever go Corporate again, it'll be because it's a company that's solving a really big, tough problem that keeps me awake at night. It won't matter the title I get hired as, because my brain is now forever wired to always think like a start up ninja. 3 months of Seed Sumo Acceleration will do that to you, as well as this lifestyle I've been living for the last few years. So, to answer you question, forever. I'm donating my body to startup research (just kidding Karmen).
Jeffrey Corcoran
Jeffrey Corcoran@jeffcorcoran · Lead Programmer
@mjklanac What tools do you find keep you most productive from an IT standpoint?
@jeffcorcoran Here's a list of Tools that I love from my Product Hunt Collection: https://www.producthunt.com/@mjk... A few highlights include Rapportive to understand and connect with who I'm emailing with, Facebook for my friends, Twitter for content, YouTube for laughs, CrowdFireApp for Social Marketing, and a lot of what Alphabet / Google does. At the risk of sounding cliche, they have built tons of brand confidence with me by just doing basic things extremely well (Search, Email, Ads, Web, Apps). I'm also relatively new to it, but I'm loving Asana right now for Sprint / Development Management. Special thanks to Mark Taylor for finding that one!
Thanks again to everyone for participating today. Feel free to reach me at @gripeo / @mjklanac on Twitter, and follow us along on our Social Customer Service journey at http://www.gripeo.com for Consumers and https://www.gripeo.com/businesses for the GripeO Social ReSolve Business Tool set. Cheers!