What Intouch Insight's quarter says about the post-pandemic recovery

"We’ve seen customers coming back; we’ve actually started to get new business"
intouch insights
"Our client base is made up of grocery stores, retailers, convenience stores, restaurants, hotels – basically everybody who’s been most harshly impacted by the global pandemic."

Intouch Insight has been on an 18-month rollercoaster ride during the pandemic.

The Ottawa software firm’s revenues fell 34 per cent in fiscal 2020 as many of its customers, which include restaurant chains such as A&W and Joey, were forced to scale back their operations or shut their doors entirely for extended periods of time. But now the company, which makes a platform that helps retailers track customer satisfaction and crunch data on issues such as employee health and safety, appears to be recovering along with the economy. 

Intouch’s revenues for the quarter ending June 30 were up 135 per cent year-over-year to $3.4 million, a result that had CEO Cameron Watt ready to reflect on how the business community is bouncing back from a pandemic-induced slowdown. 

COVID-19 clearly wreaked havoc with your business. How did you adapt?
Our client base is made up of grocery stores, retailers, convenience stores, restaurants, hotels – basically everybody who’s been most harshly impacted by the global pandemic. We were trying to find out whether people had sanitizer available, whether they were adhering to social distancing rules and (other) things that we’d never measured before. We did all those changes very, very quickly, and we did them all free of charge. We worked with our clients to meet their needs. At the same time, we tapped into every government program we could to keep our people employed.

What’s been happening recently?
We’ve seen customers coming back; we’ve actually started to get new business. Are we fully recovered? No. But we’re on the path there. We’ve had to ride the ebbs and flows of our customers. We’re still recovering with them as they recover. We had $19-million (in revenues) in 2019, and we were on a trajectory in 2020 to far exceed that. We expect to be back on those trajectories as we head into 2022. I kind of look at the pandemic as a two-year pause.

What is driving that resurgence?
I think there are two things. One is just overall economic recovery. If you’re not sure your business is going to be open for the next three months, why would you spend any money? We’ve had a few industries that have been slow to come back – obviously, restaurants and hospitality, personal fitness have been a little slower to come back, but even they’re coming back in the U.S. now, whereas Canada has been a lot slower. Because businesses are now feeling like, ‘OK, I think we’re going to actually stay open,’ that’s giving them the confidence to start doing that customer satisfaction stuff that they know they need. 

I think the second thing that’s helping us is … wow, do you ever need to know about your customers and your customer experience right now – maybe more than ever. Pre-pandemic, maybe you had a pretty good idea of what (customers) expected, what they wanted, what they thought of you. Everything’s changed. In a matter of days, their needs went from self-actualization to physiological safety. A year and a half later, people’s needs are moving again towards self-actualization, but we’re clinging to some things like safety. (Retailers) need to know, have our customers’ expectations of us changed? And if they have, what are those new expectations and are we meeting them? Companies need people like us right now to help them navigate the waters.

About two-thirds of your sales come from U.S. customers, with almost all of the rest coming from Canada. Do you plan to move into new markets?
From a market standpoint, we’re intentionally focused on North America, where our strengths are and our knowledge base is. That’s not going to change. The reality is America is 10 times the (population) size that we are, so I don’t expect the mix to change, except to get even more American over time. In terms of verticals, brick-and-mortar (retailers) are where we’re focused. Right now, the biggest upside we still have is to see restaurants return. It was by far the hardest-hit industry. It was a lot easier for a retailer to move to online sales than it was for restaurants. I think that's a big area of growth for us.

Intouch has recently added programs to measure things such as satisfaction with curbside pickup and web-based delivery. How do you decide when to introduce new offerings?
It’s really just working with each of our clients. As our clients start to have more points of interaction with their customers, we measure more points of interaction. Every time there’s a new touch point, a new interaction point, you need to start measuring that because it can affect your brand.

What are your biggest challenges right now? 
I worry about governments doing stupid things because they’re trying to get votes as opposed to actually trying to lead a country or a province. As a business owner, that’s something I can’t control. If somebody decides that they’re going to shut down the economy again, that would be crippling. Hopefully we stay the course now, and we don’t have to worry about it. We’ve got some real growth plans for sure. Does it create things to worry about? Sure. Does it keep me up at night? Not really. Declining revenues keep you up at night. Growth situations don’t keep you up at night – they just give you cool things to have to deal with. They give you the next problem to solve.