A startup in China founded by three French guys — now that’s a situation that isn’t commonly seen. Skimbl is a service that consolidates all sources of online customer feedback for restaurants and provides interpretations of the feedback via customized reports, therefore helping restaurants audit the service quality in their outlets.

It hasn’t been an easy path for CEO and founder Louis Chaffard though. At the very start, Skimbl was a local search engine that consolidated information about places in China. Chaffard tells TNW that his team was doing “crazy lines of code” and thought they would gain a huge number of users upon launch, but that didn’t happen. There was also no revenue model behind the business, and they had to give up the idea.

Through his experience though, Chaffard learnt that listening to clients was the key to a business. After the failed search engine idea, he started meeting 50 to 60 companies to find out what kind of problems they were facing and subsequently find a solution. Following the meetings, he came upon interest from food and beverage chains.

Talking about his experience, Chaffard says:

We built something without listening to our clients, and we found out that it’s very important to listen to your clients. We kind of understand that every company is existing not for their product but to serve their clients. Without them, there would be no company. We try to apply this approach of lean methodology and customer discovery into our product.

In the past five months, Skimbl zoomed in on foreign-owned restaurant groups in China, providing service reports to them from all their customer feedback. The startup managed to convert eight companies managing 53 restaurants into paying customers, and generated a total revenue of $50,000 from them through a monthly subscription of $100 per outlet per month. It says clients now use its reports as a service quality index.

Screen shot 2013 12 11 at PM 10.25.48 730x325 Founded by 3 French men, Skimbl helps restaurants in China improve their customer service

Listening to its customers paid off for Skimbl, as its customers have just given it a helping hand.

Recently, Skimbl secured a firm commitment of $60,000 towards its seed funding round it hopes to raise following a demo day held by Singapore-based accelerator JFDI Asia. The investment pledge was made by Pascal Ballot, a Shanghai-based business angel, who is also head of marketing at one of Skimbl’s first customers, Three on the Bund.

Despite the fact that Chaffard and his founding partners are three French guys trying to figure their way out in a country where the culture is immensely different from the West, he notes that businesses tend to face roughly the same universal problems — and service-related issues are pertinent to China.

China is in a transition moving from a manufacturing kind of stage to one more focused on service. The training and getting consistency in the service you provide is something that our clients really care about.

(There are) different ways to get this going and check the quality of the service, (but) we discovered that we can do it in a better and cheaper way — to analyze the information and send to our clients.

In the next two to three months, Skimbl already has another 20 companies in the pipeline waiting to be signed on to its service. Chaffard says he hopes to triple Skimbl’s revenue then.

For a foreign company making its way through the relatively complicated business environment in China, Skimbl has many hurdles to overcome — but the fact that Chaffard is clear about the pain points his business addresses, as well as the insistence on listening to customers, may just see it conquer a niche in the market.

Headline image via Shutterstock