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New social media ranking service shows banks surge as energy firms power down

Tuesday, 4 December 2012 | By Michelle Hammond

Energy companies are performing badly and banks surprisingly well when it comes to their social media reputations, according to an Australian-founded start-up based in Brussels that ranks companies based on online customer comments.

 

ServiceRage, founded by Matt Travers, uses a combination of computer algorithms and human editors to classify comments as positive, negative or neutral.

 

It then ranks companies according to their mix of positive and negative. It also publishes details of its classification process and guidelines to ensure the classification is consistent and objective.

 

The website contains more than 12,000 Twitter comments about 51 companies in banking, health insurance, energy and general insurance. However, there are plans to extend to other industries.

 

Travers told StartupSmart he set up ServiceRage to complement the growing number of price comparison websites.

 

“Certainly for me personally, and other people I’ve talked to, we don’t want the cheapest deal at all cost,” he says.

 

“If it means you’re going to get a bunch of headaches while you’re dealing with that provider, it’s not worth saving a few dollars.

 

“I wanted to branch out from the price comparison services out there to produce a complementary service, which is about the quality of service.”

 

Travers says he wanted the classification process to be as simple as possible, which is why comments are classified as nothing more than positive, negative or neutral.

 

“The most important page on the site is that second one when you get to the ladder [of companies],” he says.

 

“People needed to be able to look at that and understand what the page meant and how the ranking works… Given the volume of comments on the site, I think it balances out.”

 

Based on what he has seen on ServiceRage so far, Travers identifies the energy sector as one of the worst performers with regard to service, and the banking sector as one of the best.

 

“Quite a few of the major energy providers are down around the 10% positive mark, which is significantly worse than any of the other sectors,” he says.

 

“There’s quite a lot of issues in that sector with just some of the basic mechanics of the customer care process… It’s obviously an industry that’s undergoing a fair amount of change.”

 

The real standout, Travers says, is ING Direct, whose comments are 74% positive.

 

“That’s a big margin on the other banks… The mid-sized banks are at the top and then you have the big four come after that. Below them there’s a bunch of some of the smaller banks,” he says.

 

“The thing you really notice with positive comments is they’re usually [based on] just a really good personal service… Quite often they’re calling out an individual.

 

“Probably the other one is the way technology is working for them. In terms of the negatives, often it’s the breakdown of a process.

 

“Being stuck on hold for a problem, getting shunted from one department to another, and not getting an answer often has people pretty unhappy.”

 

While Travers is based in Brussels, his sole focus is the Australian market, which he regards as an ideal testing ground for the ServiceRage concept.

 

Travers and his family relocated to Brussels after his wife accepted a job there, although they intend to return to Australia in July next year.

 

“[Being based outside of Australia] changes your perspective and allows you to focus in a lot of ways because you’re not immersed in it,” he says.

 

“But it’s probably a challenge now that I’ve launched and I’m now working a lot harder on marketing… It’s harder to do things face-to-face.”