Bernard Briggs was munching down a meal with his family at a Long John Silver’s 12 years ago when he heard someone ring a customer satisfaction bell hanging by the door as they walked out. And it rang a bell in his mind that would lead to a company that provides surveys for hundreds of restaurants and, most recently, many big name big name healthcare systems and a partnership with Austin Regional Clinic.
But let’s back up to that Long John Silver’s moment.
When Briggs heard that bell ring, he thought about how it helped the fast food joint know when they were doing well. Perhaps a manager would notice that on one day they got a ton of rings and the next day only a couple times — that’s raw and useful business intelligence that would help them look for problems.
“I’m the stereotypical geek,” he said. “I couldn’t help but recognize this need. I thought if these businesses could capture these bell rings it would be a big deal.”
But Briggs pocketed that idea. He didn’t have the capital to build it out in the pre-smartphone world. He went on to work with IBM and Dell before launching several startups. But when smartphones became ubiquitous, the idea reemerged and he started a company called Humm.
The company built a platform to give businesses insight from real-time surveys consumers respond to in-store on tablets. It lets restaurant managers track satisfaction and gives customers a place to vent right away, cutting down their likelihood of ranting in a review or ripping the food or service on Yelp.
Briggs, how 44 years old, said the idea, for his clients, was a big upgrade from clunky email surveys that consumers don’t use.
“The execution is horrible, not because they don’t have the wherewithal, they don’t have the tools,” he said.
Today, Humm has about 400 clients. But there’s another big moment that got Humm to a new level.
The Bell Rang for the Dean of the Yale School of Medicine
Briggs said that the dean of the Yale School of Medicine was in Vermont on vacation with his family. The dean went to Whetstone Station Restaurant and Brewery, had a meal and used Humm to fill out a customer feedback form.
The idea clicked, perhaps a bit like the bell at Long John Silver’s.
Briggs said that the following Monday, the dean’s secretary called and peppered him with questions, saying that the dean loved the idea for feedback in hospitals and clinics.
That got Humm into Yale-New Haven Hospital, and it launched the next phase of Humm’s business. The idea has newfound appeal because of changes to federal healthcare laws that let patient survey data impact a hospital’s grade and its income from the Medicare and Medicaid systems.
The number one thing you can do when someone is pissed off is allowing them to vent.
When patients are ready to be discharged and fill out piles of paperwork, they also get a Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 handed to them to fill out a feedback form that asks them how confident they are about following post-release procedures and how to take prescription drugs. If they patient answers anything short of a 10-out-of-10, a nurse or caregiver will try to intervene.
Briggs said it’s human nature for people to answer more honestly through an electronic medium than face-to-face. And that feedback helps clinics provide better information that can cut down on re-admittances that damage the company’s reputation and payback rate from the government.
Humm, a founder-funded company, is now in about 70 hospital and clinic settings, including Austin Regional Clinic and MedSpring, the walk-in urgent care clinics. The company also has new projects at Indiana University Health and at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Briggs said.
Briggs is now hoping to expand from Humm’s 400 customers to 5,000. Currently, about 75% of Humm’s customers are restaurants, such as Truluck’s, Moonshine and HopDoddy’s, and roughly 25% are healthcare providers.
He said the real-time feedback can cut down on negative comments on review sites by about 40%.
“The number one thing you can do when someone is pissed off is allowing them to vent,” he said.