Like all great products or services, they solve a fundamental problem that meets a customer need, making lives simpler and easier in the process and in doing so creating better customer experiences. The Brevado team has done just that.
Brevado is a relatively new and small tech start-up company born in the New York area in the Eastern United States. It was the brain child of three long-time friends, Nick Zafiropoulos, Steve Garofalo and Mike Perna. Prior to joining forces in business, Nick loved ‘fixing computers’ with his own IT services company, and Steve and Mike worked for a web design company. By their own admission, none were really aware of customer experience practice and design until they had an epiphany moment.
Steve and Mike’s employer was all about the numbers and volume, an approach that didn’t really sit comfortably with either of them. The focus was on looking for and converting qualified leads into customers, ‘shovelling’ new clients in at the front end. Churning out websites with little focus on the customer experience and communication which resulted in a lot of customer confusion.
Conversely, Nick didn’t have the budget to go out looking for new business in volume. He focused heavily on delivering a great customer service to his existing clients; Nick provided on time delivery and sharing project milestones regularly. He would come to find later that sharing progress was a key component to his clients’ satisfaction. In this way, Nick successfully got his existing clients to refer him to others. New clients started actively seeking him out from the positive word of mouth he was getting. His clients loved his approach and more than anything, being kept in the loop on projects was a refreshing way to do business for them.
The 3 friends shared a life-business conversation, as they did from time to time, realizing that the web design company model created problems. Customers weren’t being kept updated and as a result of the poor experience, customers weren’t referring or even returning for repeat business. This compounded the conveyor belt approach where more and more customers were needed at the front end to compensate for losing customers after just one sale.
The guys quickly identified that this was a problem that needed a solution and one that would work for creative professionals (like web designers), small businesses and freelancers. It needed to be simple for people who didn’t have huge time to invest, and work in a way that would complement existing work flows so as to not overly disrupt how people currently operated.
The first idea was to create a customer portal for businesses to collaborate and share progress, but this didn’t completely solve the problem yet. It was with the addition of the timeline that they knew they were on to something. This ‘thing’ was the future way for creative professionals to share progress with their customers and create a better customer experience. They were so convinced that they quit their jobs to work on development full time.
Their lean approach had them reaching out to all creative professionals they had ever met, even those they had not known before. Early feedback was positive along with a stream of new ideas and functions that people felt they would like to see. From this, a prototype was born. The prototype enabled the team to get accepted into a growth accelerator program in North Carolina for both funding and business mentoring. Within 3 short weeks, the guys packed their belongings and headed south.
During this time, they released their public beta version for testing where anyone in the world could sign up. A well timed simultaneous press release was picked up by a series of blogs and over the course of a weekend, 700 people came on board. This further confirmed that they were onto something good and that this was addressing a significant problem that people had.
Moreover, people had stopped requesting new features and were now requesting refinements to existing elements which pointed to the fact that the beta feature set was on track. In fact users were already starting to switch from a competitor product which they used for collaboration on their own projects. Brevado’s competitors are good for internal team use, but overly complex and opaque when using with external clients; this was the problem the guys had originally identified and set out to solve. Customers wanted transparency and shared progress on projects, whether they would last one month or a year and this is what Mike, Steve and Nick had built. Brevado was born.
For anyone who’s ever managed a project, whether for internal or external customers, you know how important it is to keep customers updated and engaged to ensure the project actually gets completed. You also know there are always tasks for the clients which often don’t get completed on time despite the best intentions.
As part of the project management functionality, Brevado allows you to assign tasks directly to clients and automatically suggests updated timescales if they miss a deadline. You can also assign team members in order to collaborate on multiple timelines. Customers can see what you’re currently working on, when it’s due to be complete and what’s coming up afterwards. With a future Google integration, you will also be able to sync deadline dates with Google Calendar with a link to Google Drive documents.
Brevado customers range from artists and video producers to legal and consultant service providers who all have a need to share their iterative work and progress with clients. Curiously, Brevado has had more impact from outside the U.S with interest in the UK, Spain, Jordan, Italy, South and Central America, Columbia, Brazil, Australia and Canada. One Brevado client based in Denmark has customers in the U.S and so use of the tool gets around awkward scheduling conflicts with different time zones. This adds value for both the client and the end customer.
Brevado seeks continuous feedback from clients on their experience and usage and the theme they continue to hear is not only do clients really like it but their clients like it as well, so everyone wins. In addition to progress and updates, it also creates an inclusive client experience that adds to higher levels of engagement and advocacy through usage. Simply logging in and checking progress has solved the panic of ‘oh my god, where’s my project up to?’
When Mike, Steve and Nick set out on their journey, they didn’t realize the importance of the customer experience in business. It was mostly about the bottom line. Once they discovered the problem and did some research they discovered that customer experience is the most important aspect of business and this is what Brevado is focussed on.
This article was originally written for The Customer Experience Magazine, July 2014.