Kayak’s Programmers Feel Customer Pain, A Great Lesson In Customer Service

Kayak,Travelocity,Business Insider,Terry Jones, Nicholas Carlson, startup tipsKayak, the ultimate travel aggregator, was at one time a startup. Of course it was founded by Terry Jones the founder of Travelocity and the idea was the brain trust of Jones, and the founders of Orbitz and Expedia. Jones tells a great story about the formation of the company to Business Insider’s Nicholas Carlson in this interview.

One of the coolest things revealed in the interview though, was Kayak’s customer service model. Now if you’re a frequent traveler, like myself, you’ve inevitably been on the phone with the customer service department of one of the big three (Travelocity, Orbitz or Expedia). Many of you may not realize, but Hotwire and Hotels.com are both brands of Expedia.

Because of my customer loyalty with Hotels.com (over 500 rooms booked since 2008) I get to talk to their top tier customer service, but even then that can be a bit painful.

Kayak has taken an entirely different approach to customer service. Jones reveals in the video interview that they decided not to have a call center and that most of the customer service would be handled via email.  In that regard though, Kayak doesn’t even have a department to receive those emails. According to Jones they go directly to the programmers and  engineers which make up 80% of their 200 person staff.

“It keeps staffing low” Jones told Carlson. He also mentioned that it makes the engineering team directly accountable to the end user and gets things done faster. Evidently engineers don’t like to be pestered more than once.

This actually speaks to the big email debate that’s been going on, on the pages of big tech this past weekend. If everyone approached email with the same veracity as engineers the results for any company, be it a big huge enterprise or a startup could prove very beneficial.

I’ve come to find over the past two months or so that even a quick “hey I got this message and I’m working on it” goes a long way with a customer, vendor, or reader.

Like many of my big tech colleagues, I receive hundreds of PR emails a day pitching new startups. Even sending them an email back that’s short, sweet and to the point, seems to make them happy.


Dear PR Person,

I’m sorry but the story you’ve pitched doesn’t fit into our current editorial strategy. Feel free to ping me back if there is an angle I’m not seeing and definitely keep me in mind for your other clients.

With that brief email I got a great story from a guest columnist and a different PR person sent another startup that was more in line with our strategy.

You can see Carlson’s full interview with Jones here at Business Insider.

Now read:

Vindicated: Business Insider’s Nicholas Carlson deleted Mailbox too.

Henry Blodget On Which Screen Is Best: All Of Them [video][SAI]

HenryBlodget,Business Insider, startup,mobile first, Ignition MobileHenry Blodget, the CEO and Editor In Chief, at Business Insider, kicked off the Ignition Mobile conference in San Francisco this past Thursday. Blodget’s long and storied career in investment, media and technology makes him an expert in all things mobile.

While everyone, startups specifically, are inundated with the words “Mobile First”, that doesn’t necessarily jive with the way things in the world really are.

During his quick keynote Thursday morning, where he showed 105 slides in less than 15 minutes, Blodget showed one photo of the newsroom at Business Insider, where his reporters are still using monitors, big monitors, small monitors, horizontal monitors and vertical monitors.

So is Blodget saying “mobile first” is wrong?

No, towards the end of the presentation he said that companies need to be everywhere. On the big screen, the phone, and the tablet.

Consumers are consuming content anywhere and everywhere. People are reading websites, downloading apps and watching videos everywhere from the bathroom to the boardroom.

In this video Blodget actually talks about how the TV is just about a thing of the past and more people are using their tablets in the bedroom.

The Business Insider empire is one of the quickest growing media sites in the world, and they continue to grow every week. If you’re running a startup this is definitely food for thought:

Check out our other coverage from Ignition Mobile.

Stripe CEO Patrick Collison On The Paypal Mafia [video][Ignition Mobile]


This morning at Business Insider’s Ignition Mobile, Deputy Editor Nicholas Carlson interviewed 24 year old Irish rock star entrepreneur, Patrick Collison the CEO of payment startup Stripe.

While there was much debate as to whether Collison became a millionaire at ate 19, one thing that’s been turning heads about this mobile payment startup is that their investors include Peter Thiel, Max Levchin and Elon Musk, the original founders of Paypal who are widely known as the “Paypal Mafia”.

One might find it odd that these three men who helped shape the web payment and now mobile payment space, may not want to invest in a company that competes with the one they founded.

Collison said that he believes that Thiel, Musk and Levchin, are still determined to solve the problems that they set out to solve with Paypal and the new problems that have cropped up in the mobile age.

All three founders are now removed from Paypal after selling the company for $1.5 billion back in 2002 to eBay,Paypal’s largest user.

While Paypal has been busy pushing an offline product to retail and working towards a more prominent position in the mobile space, Collison said he felt that innovation at Paypal stopped when Levchin, Musk and Thiel exited.

Check out the video below:

Business Insider’s Ignition Mobile: Henry Blodget On How We Use Mobile


Business Insider’s Ignition Mobile conference kicked off this morning in San Francisco. To kick off the general session, Business Insider’s CEO and Editor In Chief, Henry Blodget ran through 105 slides in just under 15 minutes, basically providing an overview of what’s going on in the mobile industry’s to date.

Is this relevant to startups, and startups everywhere else?

Of course it is. Mobile is the fastest growing technology space in history. Mobile is now outpacing traditional PC sales, and most people have not one, not two but three or more screens.

Mobile usage is increasing ten fold. Gaming, music, social, video and of course search are dominating mobile.

Mobile, specifically tablets have increased in the bedroom. Consumers are consuming content on their iPads laying in bed more so than watching tv.

Mobile is giving advertisers a much more holistic approach, but Blodget warns that mobile is extremely intimate and advertisers with intrusive ads are going to lose. Blodget sees value across a variety of opportunities for new mobile apps and mobile startups.

Check out the video below:

Vindicated: Business Insider’s Nicholas Carlson Deleted Mailbox Too

Mailbox app,Mailbox,startup,app review, business insider, nicholas carlsonSome say I went on a tirade yesterday morning when I published this story, “Am I The Only One On Earth Who Thinks Mailbox Sucks”. Despite putting up some pretty good arguments I received some hate mail and hate tweets, after all I was downing the latest app phenomena that all the hipsters absolutely love… Hipsters that don’t receive any real volume of email.

In that piece I couldn’t figure out how some of my more established journalistic brethren who must get more email than me, could actually stand the Mailbox app. I receive anywhere from 300-500 emails per day. I usually receive 500 emails each day Monday-Wednesday and then it tapers off to the much more manageable 300 per day.

My biggest problem with the Mailbox app was batch deleting and folders. Carlson, a writer for Business Insider, found the exact same thing to be problematic.

“There’s one reason why it didn’t work for me: Mailbox makes you deal with one email at a time. You have to open or swipe (to the left, further to the left, to the right, or further to the right) each individual email. I get several hundred emails a day. ” Carlson wrote. 

He goes into the same detail that I do about batch deleting:

When I go through my email – which I do about 3 times per day – I go into the iPhone’s default mail app, tap “Edit” on the top right, and then quickly tap every email I don’t need to ever read (most of them) and then tap the bright red “archive” button.

It feels like one decision, an answer to a single question: “Are there any emails I need to see?”

Then I go back over the emails that remain and respond to the ones that need immediate attention. I flag the rest – emails I need to respond to, but not right away. I always get to them eventually.

When I’m doing email from my desktop, it’s the same process, but even better, because in Gmail I can shift-click to select multiple emails to archive or delete at once.

So I’m still not sure how much email you need to receive to get enjoyment out of the Mailbox app but if you figure it out please let me know in comments or on Twitter.

Read all of Carlson’s Business Insider Post here.

See my post from yesterday here


Dan Porter: You Earned That Bump Like A Mother Fucker

One of OMGPOP's "The Wire" Inspired Meeting Rooms (photo: Business Insider)

Dan Porter the CEO of OMGPOP became a very wealthy man yesterday. After six years of producing games and the blockbuster hit Draw Something, OMGPOP hit the big time being acquired yesterday by Zynga.

During the press conference call yesterday Porter highlighted how Zynga got exactly what OMGPOP was doing with Draw Something. He also spoke about how Zynga would back their mission with future games. Porter will become the VP and General Manager of Zynga’s New York office.

Porter shot up in my book ten fold today when I read this walk through of OMGPOP’s offices in Business Insider. With Jason Kincaid gone from TechCrunch it’s hard to find segments like TechCrunch Cribs anymore.

Of course the news of the OMGPOP Zynga merger made the office tour piece a goto piece today. But what I found out when I viewed the story is that Porter has had all of their meeting spaces named after the hit HBO drama “The Wire”

More after the break
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