We talked to Richard Brenkley of Compare by Review on how comparison sites rank providers exclusively on customer experience and product quality and this is what he had to say.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Richard Brenkley: I’m a father of 3 beautiful children, 3, 6, and 11. They have been impressively resilient and flexible, from adapting to home learning to understand why they cannot see grandparents and broader families. They are native to many technologies and have kept in touch via Zoom, etc. I worry about the future and any longer-term impact, but on the whole, they’ve been most beautiful, albeit that it does help to have had outdoor space at home. Like so many are, we’re looking forward to getting back to a sense of normal but appreciate that we must be patient and put safety first.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Compare by Review.
Richard Brenkley: I left education at 16, with a place at college secured. I had a last-minute change of heart and decided to pursue a web design career, so I never entirely made it. That was back in 2000. It’s proven to be the right decision, with digital-only growing in popularity these past two decades. I have worked in digital marketing, specifically agency-side, ever since, so I have an excellent understanding of this discipline and the ecosystem around it.
Over the years, I’ve met some interesting businesses and seen behind the curtain of many industries. In my work within the insurance industry, I appreciate how the nuts and bolts worked and the relationships with Price Comparisons Websites and their power, and the influence of negative/positive reviews on such products. The mechanics of how finance and insurance products were sold online, via aggregators mainly, jarred with me and the concept of Compare by Review materialized as a result.
How does Compare by Review innovate?
Richard Brenkley: Compare by Review disrupts both the Price Comparison Website and Review platform industries by giving consumers insight they do not get on any other platform. We do not present products based on price nor promote clicking out on the cheapest. We rank providers based on their ability to deliver against the promise they make to a consumer when they sell them the product – our Review Score. Our Review Score is an algorithm that takes reviews from our platform and all others they feature on and builds an aggregated view on that insurer.
Our Review platform is different too. Rather than taking critical reviews and playing them back to the consumer, we aim to collect more meaningful data by capturing more than just an overall rating, as the competitor does.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Richard Brenkley: First off, with a website being the product, it was easy for the team to work from home, and we’d already been collaborating using Slack, MS Teams, and Google Drive previously, so we picked up our monitors and setup in our kitchens, dining rooms, and bedrooms! Other than the odd poor internet connection at home, I think we’ve worked with greater focus and agility throughout lockdown.
The coronavirus’s impact as a start-up manifested in a slightly unexpected way, which we feel has put us several months behind. For example, we deal with travel insurance. Given the impact there, we’ve had several positive and progressive conversations slow right down as they have had to focus on other areas of their business. We’d launched in BETA earlier in the year and had fantastic feedback on the concept, but understandably, we became a lower priority, which was hugely frustrating.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Richard Brenkley: The choices weren’t difficult per se, but we took the opportunity to develop some of our ideas further so that we were an even better proposition when the market became more active again.
The biggest lesson might be to be less reliant on a small number of product verticals! We’ve since researched and begun to build the algorithm around other products that are less impacted by Covid-19.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Richard Brenkley: In an early lockdown, like so many, I took to the streets and started running. I gave myself the goal of doing 500 miles in the year. I found that being fitter was a real benefit to work and my energy and mood were life-changing. I now believe that personal fitness and success in the workplace can be quite profoundly linked.
I kept a pen and paper by the bed for any middle-of-the-night thoughts, which has helped me settle at 3 am! The Headspace App is also an excellent tool for getting back to sleep!
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Richard Brenkley: We do not feel we have any direct competition, as we cross several boundaries, but we do see that the Price Comparison Websites such as Money and MoneySuperMarket are who we’d like to replace in the consumers purchasing journey, along with being more useful and insightful sources of review than Feefo and TrustPilot.
Your final thoughts?
Richard Brenkley: The coronavirus will change the way we exist and hopefully the way we think. We feel that consumers especially need to enter into agreements with businesses with their eyes wide open because anything CAN happen! Many people were at a loss through being underinsured for holidays they’d booked for 2020, having bought on price rather than considering what product they need.
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