All posts by Robi Ganguly

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Treat Customers as People, Not Users

In the early days of Apptentive, the founding team talked a lot about what the company is, what it stands for, and what it’s about. We focused on building the kind of company we wanted to work for and could really take pride in.

We noticed our focus was on the people behind the software: Each and every customer who uses the software is a person with feelings and a full life outside of the software experience. We believed early on that those responsible for making software should be more deeply connected with the end consumer, and still work every day to deliver that vision. It was obvious to us that companies need to think about their customers as human beings, not just as dollar signs behind their screens.

We know that people use the term “user” by default. The technology industry has been using the term “user” for decades. To argue for changing the terminology would be like swimming upstream.

But, we put a stake in the ground and said this is not about USERS, it’s about PEOPLE.

We believe that software is for everyone—every single human being on the planet. Day in, day out, software is a ubiquitous part of each of our lives. Yet it’s you and I that define the software, not vice versa. We create great technology to satisfy our needs and desires; we don’t create arbitrary needs for the sake of adopting great technology. At the end of the day, the software revolution is about people, not product.

The Impact of “People, Not Users”

In August 2012, Apptentive began the TechStars Seattle accelerator program, and for the first time, we were surrounded by other startups on a regular basis. As we worked in tandem with other young companies, it became obvious that our penchant for sayings like “People, Not Users” and “It’s all about Customer Love” were a bit out of the ordinary.

A funny thing started to happen: Over time, other people we worked around started to use those phrases, too. During a discussion of technology and product development, the term “user” was mentioned. Someone who wasn’t on our team interjected to say, “Hey, that’s a person, not a user!” Mentors referred to our company as the “Customer Love team.” It was hard to ignore our philosophy, and our language choices became infectious.

We believe in the concept of “People, Not Users” so much that we eventually printed shirts with the statement and started wearing them to events. We’ve always used t-shirts as marketing tools, but the reaction to these shirts is incredible. People around us started discussing how frustrating it is to be treated like a “user,” and we knew we’d hit a vein.

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Showing off our philosophy at our Nordstrom Appy Hour.

“People, Not Users” Changes How You Work

Today, our philosophy of “People, Not Users” is a part of our DNA. Growing a company in the environment of customer love we deliberately created has contributed to our success and is continuing to help us thrive. For our customers and in our community, we evangelize for the end consumer and help the brand we work with put their customers at the center of their product and purchasing process.

To guide how we can all live by these philosophies, we created L.O.V.E—an acronym that stands for Listen, Observe, Validate, and Engage. Spelling out processes and values is an important step in empowering your team to treat customers well.

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(Learn more about the L.O.V.E. approach here.)

Listening is crucial to building relationships and earning customers’ trust, but only covers a small portion of the customer experience. This is where Observing, Validating, and Engaging all come into the mix. It’s important to take as many opportunities to observe how your customers interact with your offering—sometimes through data, other times in the real world. Validating that your customer’s experience is important and meaningful, and makes them feel truly heard and understood. In order to maximize the amount of customer interaction you’re having, however, you have to engage with your customers. You need to message proactively, call customers on the phone, see them in their workspace, and invite them into the process of building a better product and experience. When you truly love your customers and, more importantly, want to earn their love, you have to show up with authenticity and interest.

The thing we didn’t expect when we started emphasizing the importance of “People, Not Users” is how tripped up people get with their own language. One of the common challenges for new team members when they join Apptentive, especially on the technical side, is thinking about the term “user” every time it’s used and trying to replace it with “people” or “the customer.” It often takes a month or two at Apptentive before you stop feeling like the term people is a foreign word, even after you’ve fully embraced the concept.

What We’ve Learned

Living by our philosophies has proven to be fruitful for all involved: customers, team members, and our business as a whole. We’ve seen a 99% enterprise retention rate over the last year, and we’re confident that our “Customer Love” and “People, Not Users” style of doing business is driving force behind the success we’ve seen.

Build loyalty and spread the love. Request a demo to join the world’s biggest brands in Being Apptentive!

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Check out this blog post for more information on how implementing “People, Not Users” can help positively impact your business.

Customer Love

People, Not Users

They say that when you’re starting a company, discovering and deciding what you’re not about is almost as important as delineating what you’re really chasing.

In the early days of Apptentive, it became obvious to us that there was something we were striving to create: a more personal connection with customers. We believed:

  • That before the Internet and before the phone, there were just people doing business with one another, on equal terms, as people.
  • That connections between human beings are enduring and necessary.
  • That the mobile devices we are all carrying can help us re-connect companies with customers.

So, we knew what we were for: PEOPLE.

And, with that, we realized what we were not about: USERS.

The problem with most modern software and most company adoption of software is that it’s distancing: The technology seeks to automate and extract the human elements out of interactions. Even the terminology we apply further distances us, mentally. We quickly shift from thinking about “John, our customer with the adorable dog” and start thinking about “User 12167553, with an estimated Lifetime Value of… not enough money.” In doing so, we lose sight of the thing that really matters: our relationship with that customer.

At Apptentive, we strive to not think about our customers as users. We work to think about them as people. We do this to remind ourselves of our real jobs: To help the people who are our customers. Our job is to understand what motivates them, what they are looking for in successful relationships and how to make their lives better. In turn, we help them to do the same: To work with their customers and get to know them better, to communicate with them more personally, to really treat them as people.

The results of such an approach are extraordinary—our customers have gone from “Like” to “Love.” They cheer us on, they help us make the product better, and they understand when we make mistakes, because they know we’re working at always improving and are real people, not some anonymous company.

Building the kind of software company that treats its customers as people rather than users is an exercise in breaking old habits. Customers aren’t accustomed to this much care, concern, and investment. At first they might be skeptical, but within weeks, they are often huge fans of ours because they see how much we care about being connected and in contact.

We even created a Slack channel dedicated to customer feedback. It’s constantly full of praise from our customers telling us how much they love Apptentive, and letting us know they’re evangelizing our product in their communities. These pieces of feedback reinforce what we’ve known to be true all along: treating people like people, and not users creates a better product, and a better experience for all involved.

More importantly, though, our customers have been able to increase their connections, at scale, with their customers. From the large Internet retailer who always cared about customer success and interaction but didn’t know how to turn digital relationships to personal ones, to the century-old retailer known for service who wanted their values and beliefs to be reflected in their mobile experiences, we’ve found that treating customers as people, not users has led companies to a new way of taking digital business personally.

Treating your customers like people helps in myriad ways, with meaningful business results:

1. It shortens the cycle times for product development, because more of the company is in touch with the customer’s habits and needs. When you put the customer in the center of the product development process, as opposed to being at “the end” your development and iteration cycles shrink.

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2. It increases the loyalty and retention rates for companies, because customers feel loved, appreciated and listened to. Customers who you communicate with are two to four more times likely to be around 3 months from now.

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3. It drives higher monetization and more profit, because trust is crucial to commerce and in a digital space, Trust is crucial to conversion.

4. It drives higher awareness and more effective customer acquisition, because the best marketing plan is one that starts with a great experience, the kind that consumers want to share and brag about.

When companies LOVE their customers, when they treat them as people, not users, everyone wins: the company, the employees, and the customers.

Check out this blog post for more information on what it means to treat customers as “People, Not Users.”

Mobile app marketing competitive intelligence

2015 App Marketing Channels

2015 has already been a big year for the app economy. Over the past nine months, we’ve seen:

But before we get to what this means for app marketers, let’s take a step back and look at what app marketing is all about, and the channels—both new and old—that we should all pay attention to in 2015 and beyond.

This post will introduce the new channels and trends introduced throughout the past nine months that can launch your app ahead of the game and to the top of the app stores’ charts. We’ll also cover some of the more established app marketing channels and our advice on making the leap from online marketing to mobile app marketing.

The Old and the New: App Marketing 101

App Marketing Channels of 2015

To many, the field of mobile app marketing is still shrouded in ambiguity. Even the best marketers, trained in the nascency of social and web technologies, struggle to break through the clutter of the app stores. Many stick to the seemingly safe, tried-and-true methods of online marketing and promote apps just as they would a website, sticking largely to inbound marketing, social media, and public relations. Others ditch the old altogether and treat app marketing as a wholly separate field. Too often, however, they find something lacking in their marketing efforts. They know rankings, ratings, and retention are vital to an app’s success, but have little luck influencing these factors.

The truth is, mobile app marketing requires both the old and the new. It’s only with a blend of old school tactics and an adaptation to new, app-specific channels that marketers can thrive in the evolving business of app marketing.

App marketing doesn’t need to be big and scary. It comes down to the channels and strategies you already know and love, with just a few tweaks to incorporate new technologies exclusive to mobile apps.

We’ve done our best to combine the old and the new with this quick introduction to our 14 favorite app marketing channels, broken down in terms innate to any digitally-trained marketer. Enjoy!

App Marketing Channels

App Store Optimization

App Store Optimization (ASO) is the process of optimizing mobile apps to rank higher in an app stores’ top charts search results. The goal of ASO is to drive more traffic to your app’s landing page in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store, so that searchers can take a specific action: downloading your app.

SEOs and other online marketers will be relieved to know that they are already well versed in many of the factors that influence an app’s rank, including keywords, titles, imagery, and views (downloads, in this case). However, ASO goes a little beyond the content of your app’s landing page and incorporates a host of factors measuring your customers’ usage and evaluation of your app, including ratings, reviews, and loyalty.

Ratings & Reviews

A cornerstone of mobile app marketing, app store ratings and reviews provide potential customers with the ever valuable assurance of quality. Just as Yelp reviews can make or break a local business, the slightest change in your app’s rating translates into dramatic changes in your app store rank, downloads, and revenue. As we found in our 2015 Consumer Survey on App Store Ratings, increasing your app’s average rating by just one star, from a 3.0 to a 4.0, can almost double your expected downloads. Reviews play an equally important role, with one-third of browsers reporting reading at least seven reviews before making the decision to download a paid app.

As app marketing continues to evolve, so does the power of app store ratings and reviews. Ratings now extend beyond app store optimization and into the realm of online marketing. Both Facebook’s App Install Ads and Twitter’s App Cards, for example, pull an app’s average rating from the App Store or Google Play, displaying it alongside only the app’s name and icon in an environment where first impressions mean everything.

App Store Ratings and Reviews as top app marketing channels of 2015

Ratings displayed in Google Play.
App Store Ratings and Social Media as top app marketing channels of 2015

Ratings displayed prominently in a promoted Tweet.

Affiliate Marketing

One of the least used but most effective app marketing channels, affiliate marketing is almost identical to online referral marketing. Through this channel, app marketers (the ‘merchants’) can join an ad network, such as Apple’s Affiliate Program or the Google Display Network, to create featured widgets and code snippets that other app or web publishers (the ‘affiliates’) can embed on their platforms. For each download such an app generates, the app publishers receiving the download pays the affiliate a small reward—typically in the form of revenue sharing.

Paid Advertising

Equivalent to search engine marketing’s Pay-Per-Click advertising in Google’s Adwords or Bing Ads networks, mobile app’s version of paid advertising is a way to quickly grow downloads and reach a targeted audience.

Paid app marketing can be done via many different channels, from the app stores, to social media, to other apps. While most of these channels will come naturally to the experienced digital marketer, incentivized Cost Per Install (CPI) and app marketing’s version of retargeting are unique to the app world. Incentivized CPI is a form of affiliate marketing that relies less on the app stores as an intermediary and more on a strategic partnership between two app publishers. In this revenue sharing model, one app ‘incentivizes’ customers to download the other publisher’s app (e.g., a mobile game might offer in-app currency in exchange for a download). The publisher receiving the download, then, would pay a small commission to the referring party. App retargeting is a retention-boosting strategy of targeting your ads to only those who have already downloaded these options. These ads provide a non-intrusive way of alerting customers that there is a new version of your app available, promoting new features, or simply keeping your app top-of-mind with a fleeting customer.

Paid advertising in the Google Play Store remains a top app marketing channel

Jump to the top of a competitive keyword search with paid advertising.

Fresh Content

If ratings and reviewers are a cornerstone of app marketing, content is the meat and potatoes. For now, we’ll skip over online content marketing channels (elaborated on in multiple channels later in this article) and focus on in-app content. This channel is one of the few in this list that affects every tier in the growth funnel.

Particularly benefiting acquisition and retention, content is the key to app sustainability. We found that 60% of mobile customers get bored with an app after their first month of using it and promptly abandon it. If you want to hold their attention, it’s imperative that you offer them something new and original every time they open your app. On the other side of the spectrum, fresh content in the form of frequent app updates plays a fundamental role in acquisition. Recent updates provide customers with a signal of quality and continued developer support of the app, while trends over time (such as ratings increasing after a recent content update) is one of the leading levers for boosting app store ranks.

Loyalty Programs

App loyalty programs seek to convert casual customers (‘users’) into highly active and highly profitable evangelists. In the app world, this often comes down to rewards systems (e.g., offering a discount on a customer’s next purchase after a recent transaction), gamified achievements (e.g., offering an in-app badge or unlocking a new feature after a customer refers 5 friends), or blurring the lines between app marketing and traditional marketing by allowing customers to earn and track loyalty rewards, obtained through either in-app, in-store, or online purchases, on their mobile app.

My Starbucks Rewards Loyalty Program app

An example of a in-app loyalty rewards program, courtesy of Starbucks.

As Starbucks CEO and mobile loyalty pioneer Howard Schultz put it, the growth of reward programs “continues to be our most important business driver as new members contribute not only short-term increases in revenue and profit, but also to long-term loyalty for years to come.”

Usability & Visual Design

Requiring continuous collaboration between app marketers, developers, and user interface designers, this channel refers to the interaction between your customer and your app. When it comes to usability, simplicity is the most sophisticated. A natural-feeling navigation flow probably may be overlooked by your average customer, but a poor design will be impossible to ignore.

This channel, first and foremost, is concerned with the retention angle of marketing. A uSamp survey revealed that 71% of customers report deleting apps in the event of a crash. An Appiterate survey additionally found that 42% of people would uninstall an app because of a bad user interface, and 68% because of a poorly designed registration process – the very first impression a potential customer has of an app.

Mobile app growth hacking

Simply put, a siloed team may be your greatest liability. To mitigate these retention risks, you need an understanding of both design principles and customer insights. This requires stepping into the customer’s shoes and making your app truly “people-first.”

Push Notifications

Push is a double-edged sword for app marketers. Akin to drip marketing, drip notifications are messages or alerts that appear on a customer’s device even when they are not actively using your app. They can be used to introduce new features, inform customers of timely and relevant events, or to announce a new sale.

Done right, push notifications are a great tool for retention. They ensure that your app is always top-of-mind and lure customers back into your app. Done wrong, however, they’re the #1 reason for app uninstalls. If a customer finds a push notification annoying, it is apt to have the opposite of the intended effect, and may end up hurting customer retention. The difference between ‘right’ and ‘wrong,’ in this case, comes down to personalization (See: Personalized Messaging) and context: Whom, When, and How Often you message.

Personalized Messaging

You may have noticed how I’ve very rarely used the term ‘user’ in this post. That’s because your mobile app customers aren’t a series of anonymous data points; they’re people. And like you and I, each customer is unique. Customers each have their own use cases for your app, and each has their own preferences for how they like to be engaged.

Personalized messaging, like one-to-one marketing, is the manifestation of how we incorporate everything we know about our customers’ loves, likes, and dislikes into their mobile app experience. Using customer insights, mobile analytics, and customer journey mapping, we can design a marketing strategy that puts our customers first.

Do you know a customer has a birthday today? Send them a personalized message and discount code via push. Know customers respond negatively or exit the app after being shown a ratings prompt at first log-in? Look for more appropriate times to ask for a rating or a review, such as after the customer has completed what they opened the app to do.

One of the top mobile app marketing channels of 2015, context marketing allows you to deliver a personalized experience in app

Incorporate context to message customers only at relevant, opportune ‘mobile moments.’

Word of Mouth

This leading driver of app discovery is also the hardest to measure—and the hardest to control. We touched on two methods of word of mouth (WOM) marketing in previous channels (reward programs incentivizing referrals and app store ratings & review), and we’ll add to this list: Making your app easy to share. Even if a customer wants to refer your app, the chances that they will forget, between then and the next time they see someone who might be interested in the referral, are high. Try as you might, you can’t control for these situations, but you can make it easier to share your app on the spot. By building in social sharing capabilities (e.g., ‘Share to Facebook’) and social integration (e.g., the ability to search through your address book or social networks within the app and send an automated deep linked email to the referred party).

Ultimately, however, referrals come down to creating an app customers not only love, but love to talk about. Similarly, don’t give customers a reason to talk negatively about your app and do your best to listen for and respond to any negative feedback before it makes its way to other ears. In a consumer survey earlier this year, we found that mobile app customers are 33% more likely to comment on negative experiences than positive ones All press may be good press, but the same can’t be said of WOM.

Social Media

Social media is well entwined in today’s marketing toolbox. Fortunately for us, we don’t have to adapt our favorite social strategies. You can promote your app on Twitter, Facebook, and the likes just as you would promote any website or business. The only thing we’d add is a consideration of paid promotion. Twitter’s App Cards, Facebook’s App Install Ads, and Pinterest’s App Pins are all geared specifically to mobile and, if your budget allows, are a great way to reach a very targeted audience.

Twitter's Pinned Apps make social media one of 2015's top mobile app marketing channels

Twitter’s Pinned Apps feature, currently in testing on select iOS devices.

Blogs & Multimedia

Again, your favorite inbound strategies are perfectly suited for app marketing over blogs and other online mediums. Adding a content and blogging strategy to your mix will allow you to reach new audiences and boost organic traffic by appealing to ASO’s more established uncle, search engine optimization.

Another highly recommended content medium for app marketing is video. Well produced app demos or promotional videos provide your best chance of getting your content viewed and shared by large audiences, and can be displayed both online and in your app’s landing page in the App Store or Google Play.

Internet Forums, Q&A Sites, and Social Bookmarking Services

We commented earlier on our love of social media advertising’s ability to get your content in front of a very targeted audience, and love forums and other virtual communities for the same reason. This channel is a no-cost alternative to paid advertising and allows you to communicate directly with your target demographic. Whether you’re creating a casino app or the next Yo, there’s bound to be a community out there full of potential customers. Just be careful to abide by the community’s code of conduct or established norms to avoid having your content appear spammy or overly promotional, both of which may do more harm than good for your app.

Press, Influencer Outreach, & Public Relations

Let’s face it. We all dream of going viral.

When it comes to apps, perhaps the best example of viral marketing comes courtesy of the ride-sharing app Uber. For the last two years, Uber has rolled out an enormously popular PR stunt, #UberIceCream, in which the company uses its fleet of cars to offer a one-day-only, on-demand ice cream delivery service in major metropolitan areas in 57 countries. The campaign resulted in an explosion of social media activity and TV, radio, print, and web coverage by major media outlets throughout the world.

Uber's ice cream stunt campaign goes viral

PR par excellence, courtesy of Uber.

Sadly, we don’t all have Uber’s resources. But that doesn’t mean we can’t generate buzz. As a grassroots approach to viral, you can reach out to your connections and key influencers, social media personalities, and bloggers in your app’s category in the hopes of leveraging their personal brands to promote your app. The holy grail of app press is getting featured by Apple or Google in their respective app stores. Both companies regularly review apps and prominently display their top recommendations in their app store—a feat which will immediately and dramatically drive downloads for your app. While getting featured largely comes down to luck, you can improve your chances by focusing on your app’s usability, design, and performance. Both companies are looking to show off what entrepreneurial app developers can do with their operating systems, so it’s in your best interest to always be one step ahead of the curve as you design around newly introduced OS features, such as Android 5.0’s recent transition to Material Design.

And there you have it—our 14 favorite app marketing channels guaranteed to not only acquire but retain customers for your mobile app.

At the end of the day, app marketing need not be something big and scary, nor does it need to be relegated to ‘just another marketing buzzword.’ With the right metrics and analytics to map every step in the customer’s journey, mobile app marketing should be seen, instead, as something all marketers can get behind: A measurable, results-driven extension to the same age-old tricks we already know and love.

With a few tweaks, the online marketer is predestined for success in the transition to app marketer. Likewise, the independent app developer can fall back on the tried-and-tested channels of online marketing—in combination with the in-app channels they know best—to marry old strategies and new technologies.

We hope this quick introduction helps demystify the emerging field of mobile app marketing. As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on mobile app strategy. If you have a question or tip for any of these channels, please leave a comment below or shoot us an email.

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5 Ways to Turn Your Mobile App’s Haters Into Evangelists

Editor’s note: The following content is an updated version of a post originally published in 2012. Changes include new links, updated examples to reflect changes in the mobile environment, new supporting images, and more.

Some days are better than others.

Ever sit down to your morning cup of coffee, open up the app store, surf to your app, and come across a fresh one-star rating with a three-line rant that wasn’t even about the app?

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Some app reviews are real downers.

Your stomach sinks, you shake your head, and you wonder if you’re doing it all wrong and why people have so much fun hating on your company. Rest assured, fellow app publisher: You are not alone.

The negative comments are going to come.

If you’ve never had a negative comment or someone critique what you’re making, it probably means no one has seen what you’re working on. Given the choice, most of us would rather have some audience for the things that we build rather than none at all.

If you’re in the app business, though, it’s particularly important to have a large group of customers providing feedback from their experiences. With over 1 million apps in the each of the major app stores, you’re either building an audience or dying on the vine. When you get past a few hundred thousand downloads, it’s certain you’re going to get a steady stream of feedback. But once you make it to that level, will you be ready to handle the heat?

Negative sentiment is temporary, if you recognize it as such.

Today’s consumer shares their opinions publicly and often. Sometimes those shared opinions include the experiences they have with companies. Unfortunately, happy customers are less likely to proactively share their opinion in public than unhappy customers. Frustrated customers look quite a bit different: In 2015, your frustrated customer knows that if they tweet at a company and have a few hundred followers, they’re going to get a better response than trying to politely wait on hold.

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Don’t let your customers end up here.

People who have a complaint want to be heard and to vent to the company their frustration stems from. Sounds pretty scary, but it turns out this isn’t all bad if you handle the situation correctly. You see, unhappy customers are driven, in much the same way you are:

They actually care about what you’re working on.

Every complaint you get represents a person who cares about your app enough to raise their hand and talk with you. By raising their hand, they’ve presented you with an opportunity to impress them. They’re giving you the chance to improve their experience. If you’re like our customers and have the ability to respond, your job has become increasingly easier.

The companies we work with are finding myriad ways to turn customers who were initially complaining about their app into evangelists with a few key tactics. We think they’re so fundamental to a great mobile experience that we’d love for you to know them, as well.

There are five incredibly important approaches that will help you drive evangelism at scale:

  1. Avoid getting defensive

    Is your goal to make the best app possible? If so, take negative feedback constructively. Most people are afraid negative feedback can ruin their company’s image so they rail against it, fighting it as if they could convince a frustrated consumer to see the error in their feelings. What this really says to your customer is, “I don’t care about your problems or making my product better, I just want to hear good things.”

    Differentiate yourself in the market by responding with an open-minded and collaborative approach. Having a discussion with an upset customer lets them know even if something goes wrong or if there is something that they don’t like about your app, you’re not going to fight with them about their opinion.

  2. Be objective and fair when you evaluate complaints

    When customers have a gripe, they are sharing their experience. It’s important to set your ego aside and understand that the complaint is about how they experienced your app. Can you be objective and hear them describe what’s going awry? Can you stop yourself from telling them they’re doing something wrong? Being objective and fair often requires you to swallow your preconceived notions about how your app is supposed to work and how people are supposed to use it. If you can step outside of yourself well enough in order to actually admit your app isn’t working the way they’d like it to, you show customers you can see their points of view and want to treat them in a fair and respectful manner.

  3. Be generous

    Admitting you made a mistake goes a long way, but sometimes it just isn’t enough. There are times you have to make things right by offering more than apologies and your time. Yes, that’s right—you might have to give something away.

    Think back to the last time you dealt with a business who did something wrong and then offered up an item of value. How did that make you feel? Was it about the value of the item? Or was it about the fact that the business took a step it didn’t have to take to make your life better? Being generous isn’t about a blanket set of actions to give customers free things; it’s about doing something special and taking steps most businesses refuse to take because of perceived costs or constraints of process. Being generous often has a huge reciprocal effect: Customers want to be generous in return, often with effusive thanks. Often, your generosity becomes a story in and of itself (like this United Airlines example), and that’s something worth sharing.

  4. Communicate through the entire process

    Most people hate automated emails, ticket systems, and voice prompts to help them solve their problems. They want to communicate directly with another person and either work toward a resolution or know that they’ve been heard. Communicating with these customers starts with acknowledging that you’ve heard their feedback, and if you’re going to follow-up with them, informing them of the next step.

    It’s important to keep customers updated about what is going on with their input. Have you decided to include their input in your roadmap? Are you making product changes or have you taken it in and decided not to do anything? Close the loop. Make sure your customers know real people are involved in dealing with their feedback and their effort was appreciated, even if they won’t be getting the resolution they were hoping for. When you exhibit this kind of care, customers better understand the nuance and thought process your company goes through. It’s much harder to demonize a company who has shared how it struggles with important decisions.

  5. Involve them in your success

    Imagine receiving an email that reads:

    Last month you brought to our attention the fact that our app does not allow you to share your videos on Facebook and that you thought this was really important.
    We are now working to add this to our latest update. Within the next few weeks, you will be able to share videos on Facebook from our app. We’re ecstatic you took the time to make this suggestion and we really appreciate you helping us to make our app the best it can be.

    How would you feel if you got this email? Validated. Heard. Involved. If you get that message, the feature isn’t just a feature of the app—it’s YOUR feature, too. When you show off the app in public, you can point out you’re the reason that video sharing to Facebook exists. Do you think that you’d be more likely to use and share that app?


    When you let people know they’re part of your journey to success and that you’re listening to them, they go from critic to team member. The more team members you can convert from your critics, the better. Not only will the tone of the conversation be different, but their likelihood to evangelize your app, your company, and your service goes way up.

There’s no silver bullet, but you have lots of tools.

Each of the above tactics is valuable and when combined, they’re incredibly effective at converting your critics to evangelists. The real key to success here is to instill a pattern of behavior in your team which understands your vocal critics actually care about what you’re building, and many of them will want to help you become better if given the opportunity.

There are few feelings more satisfying that converting a former critic to an evangelist. It’s a reward in its own right.

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Top 10 Tips To Giving Awesome Customer Service

Editor’s note: The following content is an updated version of a post originally published in 2012. Changes include new links, updated examples to reflect changes in the mobile environment, new supporting images, and more.

Ask any consumer what their number one reason for shying away from buying through a mobile app is, and they will tell you something along the lines of, “If the purchase doesn’t go right, I’m not going to have any help!” Asking a person to part with their hard-earned money is a struggle all businesses face, and customers want to feel confident that if something goes wrong in their transaction, your company will be there to make it right.

Back in 2012, PWC predicted how customer experiences could be transformed through mobile. In January 2015, Gartner released a study concluding weak customer service on mobile is harming customer engagement. Now that we’ve moved customers into a zone where they’re comfortable using a mobile app (and in many cases, where they prefer using an app over a desktop experience), expectations around the quality of service they’ll receive have changed. Now more than ever, offering top-notch customer service through your mobile app is imperative to your brand’s success.

Unfortunately, too many businesses still see mobile as a huge land grab and aren’t worried about irritating a handful of people with poor customer service. The problem, however, is that customer engagement and loyalty are the keys to long-term brand success, and a poor experience is more damaging now than ever before.

Do you see mobile as an opportunity to deepen customer relationships and accelerate your company’s growth? Do you want to make sure you offer your customers a solid reason to do business with you? Do you want your loyal customers, those who have developed a relationship with your company through years of visiting your stores, ordering over the phone, and registering with your website, to feel loved and appreciated in your mobile experience?

If you answered yes, we have some important advice to share on how to give world-class customer service in your mobile apps (and everywhere else, too, really).

10 Tips for Awesome Mobile App Customer Service

1. Listen

Listening tops the list because it is the most important thing your brand can do. Let your customers talk and tell you what happened, or how you can make it right. Your brand shouldn’t assume anything. Are you making it easy to listen to your customers? Are you giving them obvious channels to communicate with you, inside your apps? If you’re not actively investing in listening capabilities, you’re missing a lot of easy wins with your best customers.

Listening to customers opens the door for changes that must be made across all parts of your marketing, product, and business strategies. Check out these posts for further reading on what listening to your customers can do.

2. Get feedback

Collecting feedback doesn’t just mean you should send out surveys about your service. What getting feedback really involves is encouraging suggestions from your customers. You have to be proactive about feedback, you must get feedback from customers by starting more conversations.

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3. Anticipate needs

Anticipating customer behavior is a skill for all customer success teams to master. Spend time learning what your customers want and need before they tell you in order to offer the best experience possible. Mobile is ripe for opportunity in allowing brands to learn so much about what a customer has done and what they’re currently doing, but it’s up to the brand to use this data to build richer profiles and understanding of its customers. Any opportunity to demonstrate your brand actually knows its customers is an opportunity to impress them and delight them.

4. Be fair when saying no

There are times when a customer wants you to do the impossible, and in those moments, it’s easy to lose your cool and approach them in an unfair manner. However, if you have been fair in your response, the customer will be more receptive to the things you can do for them to make their experience better.

Brands lean on different ways to say no: no with more detail, an explanation around why the request isn’t possible at the time, or even an apology is much better than a flat out “no.” When you involve the customer in the process or the challenges you’re facing as a brand, you invite them to see you as someone with a complex job working at a brand that cares, rather than as someone who rejects them.

5. Know your customers

If your customer base is not technologically savvy, you can’t talk to them like they are Steve Wozniak. Alternatively, if you have a highly skilled customer base, don’t talk to them like the just bought their first smartphone. It’s crucial to work to understand your customers by asking them more about their experience, what their names are, and what they’re trying to do with your app and your company to offer them the best customer service experience possible.

When you deeply understand where people are coming from, you can help them figure out how to get where they need to go. The first step to understanding your customers is through implementing app analytics to understand what they are doing, in addition to communicating with individual customers to learn about why.

6. Trust your customers

It’s an unfortunate fact that there are people out there trying to get something for nothing, but if you assume this behavior of of everyone—especially your customers—then you are sure to anger a fair share of your customer base. If you’re focused on the long-term, you know that customer trust is hugely important to loyalty.

Trust your customers and they will learn to trust you, as well.

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7. Say “yes”

From a customer’s perspective, “yes” is the ultimate favor a brand can do for them. Whenever a customer has a reasonable request, try as hard as possible to accommodate them. Saying yes a couple of times will go a long way with most people as it induces positive feelings and a sense that the company is invested in helping them out. Whenever you’re about to give a quick “no,” take another look and consider a simple “yes” an easy win.

8. Validate customer concerns

Never argue with your customer or put them on the defensive. When a disagreement arises, do anything you can to understand their frustration before you figure out a way to help them. Validating their frustration and showing that you see how they feel is the first start in fixing the problem. How each person feels is their own emotion, and as a customer service provider, you can’t tell them that it’s wrong without likely exacerbating the situation.

9. Give more than expected

Take Nordstrom as an example. Nordstrom is a brand who always gives more to its customers than expected when a person returns a purchase or complains about a product, and they have lifelong customers as a result. The ethos of the company gives every employee the freedom to do what is right for the customer rather than providing just the bare minimum. Oftentimes, this model completely surprises and delights the customer in a frustrated time, opening the door to build loyalty and trust.

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10. Make your customer feel appreciated

Last but not least, making your customer feel appreciated is a point that’s implicit in much of this advice. When you treat and every customer as a person, and when you appreciate their feedback, their time, and their business, you’ll make different decisions. If you truly focus on making your customers feel appreciated, you’ll be well on your way to delivering an experience that is exceptional and, in mobile, we know that the experience matters more than anything. Treat your customers with respect and appreciation at every opportunity.


Ratings Prompts Don’t Have To Suck

This is a new and improved version of a popular post published on May 30, 2014.

Over the past year or so, many people in the development community have sounded off about “rating nags” and the “please rate me” dialogs that some apps show, with perhaps the most pointed critique coming from John Gruber, of Daring Fireball. He shared his frustration with the usage of ratings prompts and said:

I’ve long considered a public campaign against this particular practice, wherein I’d encourage Daring Fireball readers, whenever they encounter these “Please rate this app” prompts, to go ahead and take the time to do it — but to rate the app with just one star and to leave a review along the lines of, “One star for annoying me with a prompt to review the app.”

Several other people have chimed in on the topic, having a somewhat public, flowing, long-winding debate about the practice of reaching out to customers for better ratings. Sadly, a deeper discussion about the app store, consumer decision-making and why ratings matter was touched on, but largely left alone as most focused on the execution of the prompts.

The debate has two basic sides, where those who think the practice is offensive/lazy, siding with Gruber, Marco Arment and others dismiss all points to the contrary. On the other side, we heard from Cabel Sasser , Chris Gonzales, Dan Counsell, and Wil Shipley who had arguments in favor of reaching out to customers. A key point that they made: Penalizing hard working developers and publishers hardly seems fair when the app store represents such an important piece of the distribution and customer connection puzzle.

Somewhere in the middle, Daniel Jalkut offered a nuanced view of the situation that asked more questions than it answered, challenging us all to explore what is truly best for the consumer. Taken in sum, this discussion is about so much more than rating nags and the annoyance we feel when we’re bothered in an app.

This is about much more than ratings. It’s about more than improving an app’s rankings.

This is about how companies communicate with their customers in the mobile world.

For many companies, mobile is the primary medium of communication with their customers and the number of companies who are mobile first will only grow. Each of us carries a little communications device that buzzes and blinks all day long, alerting us to news, updates, and information. These messages build up – messages from our friends, our family and yes, the companies we’ve allowed into our inboxes, given our phone numbers, and whose apps we’ve installed.

We do not have to guess how this plays out – we already know. There are reasons why developers employ prompts, why websites have numerous pop-ups, and we can only expect to see more of these on mobile. These messages increase revenue, retention, ratings, and customer interaction. Overuse of these tactics is well documented, and while inappropriate interruptions can make a difference to a companies’ metrics, we know that appropriate, non-intrusive, implementation can make a larger one.

You don’t boycott a store because a clerk asked if they could help you or become annoyed when a cashier asks if you were able to find everything all right.

What is needed is a better answer to the question: “How can I communicate with my app customers without driving them crazy?” The answer has to come from the app developers and publishers, not the app customers. Nor can we rely on the app stores to make meaningful changes.

Starting a campaign to rate apps 1 star if they prompt for a review or calling developers greedy and desperate are not constructive and don’t take us to a healthier communications environment. You don’t boycott a store because a clerk asked if they could help you or become annoyed when a cashier asks if you were able to find everything all right.

Let’s Start Talking With Our Customers, Together

This is really about companies wanting to talk to their customers in an elegant, helpful, and relevant way without being annoying. So, what is the right way to communicate with customers inside a mobile app?

By working with thousands of companies on these problems we’ve discovered that there are a few clear guidelines that can form the basis of better behavior by apps:

  • Don’t interrupt customers in the middle of tasks or at app launch
  • Identify and enable communication at key moments in the customer’s journey – when they’re happy, frustrated, or lost. Identifying these moments should be a natural part of any app’s design process
  • Instrument your communications activity so that you know what the impacts and outcomes of your messaging strategy are – working with hard coded solutions that don’t make you any smarter about your customers’ preferences is a recipe for disaster
  • Iterate, experiment, and be able to make changes on the fly

Some Myths and A Better Way to Communicate

In the debate about ratings prompts a lot of strong feelings based upon personal anecdote formed the foundation of much of the analysis. Significant assumptions about consumer behavior at scale made its way into commonly held beliefs. What has been sorely lacking, however, has been actual concrete data.

“If you don’t know what happens when you send a message, you might as well not send the message at all.”

Here at Apptentive, we think a lot about customer communication and the experience for the end consumer. For years we’ve instrumented every message and communication we power for our customers, measuring what the outcomes are.

We’ve held ourselves to a standard that says, “If you don’t know what happens when you send a message, you might as well not send the message at all.” This perspective has served our customers and our team well. It helps us to deliver best practices, improve tools, and shed light on an area that is severely lacking in data. For example, we know that:

  • Just asking people to rate the app is ~5 to 10x less effective than starting a conversation about whether or not the consumer is happy
  • The actual words used in the message to the customer can dramatically change the % of ecstatic customers who talk about your app in the app store and impact the % of ratings that also result in reviews
  • Showing a ratings prompt on launch is 50% more likely to result in the app being closed than if it’s shown at any other point in the app
  • Customers who are asked about their opinion with an app who are unhappy are >400% more likely to return to the app than the average app customer. It turns out that being informed that the company actually cares about your opinion can change the dynamic
  • When you give people choices about what action to take, only about 20 to 30% of customers will actually exit the app to do something else.

This topic isn’t just something we believe in and write about, however. We’re building the solution to these problems. Over the past 4 years, we have a sophisticated communications system focused on enabling you to listen and talk with your mobile customers. Our company is betting on the fact that you, and app publishers everywhere, want to treat their customers well and with respect.

We believe that while in-app communications are inevitable, they don’t have to be annoying, unsophisticated, and a necessary evil. We know that it’s possible to connect with your app customers at the right time and we know many of you truly deeply care about the mobile customer experience. Your passion for the consumer experience is why the ratings debate prompted such strong opinions and discussion in the first place.

It’s Time We All Got Better At Talking With Our Customers

Poorly implemented ratings prompts raised awareness around how easily a mobile experience can be ruined. It’s time to re-examine all of our customer interactions and ask ourselves if we can do better. Are there better places in the app to ask for feedback? Are there places where customers might need help and appreciate a company reaching out?

As we said earlier, this conversation is just the beginning. We know there are strong opinions about this and encourage you to add your thoughts below. Many of you are our customers, colleagues, and fellow app enthusiasts and we value your words. We plan on taking the thoughtfulness and execution behind customer communication to a level beyond where it exists today on mobile and even online. We encourage you all to communicate with your customers the right way as we all work towards creating products that people love.


10 Inbound Marketing Tips for Mobile Apps

This is a new and improved version of a popular post published on March 21, 2012.

Inbound Marketing

With over a million apps available today in both of the major app stores, it’s natural for companies with mobile apps to look around for easy ways to stand out in the sea of apps. While there are numerous paid channels for boosting downloads, it’s not always affordable or desirable to be spending money in order to generate momentum for your app. In fact, spending money to promote your app before you’ve determined that you’ve got a real success on your hands is an almost certain route to failure.

We’ve seen far too many early stage app projects die because they spent more money on User Acquisition (UA) than on product iteration and finding product/market fit. This is true for the small startup, but particularly painful when it comes to apps from the world’s largest companies and most popular brands. The all too common “orphaned” app from a big brand communicates that the company hasn’t really figured out mobile and isn’t trying in an ongoing manner – not the perception that companies want on the part of their consumers.

A better approach to launching your brand’s mobile app and generating momentum is to utilize a healthy mix of inbound marketing as a means of getting your first coverage and downloads. With companies like Moz and Hubspot raising awareness of the benefits of inbound marketing over the past several years, more people than ever before understand that providing useful and relevant information for your target audience is one of the best ways to generate interest and awareness for your product.

Every mobile team can take these 10 simple steps to increase their inbound marketing efforts for their apps. This will help you find more organic customers, the ones who will truly help you find product/market fit and iterate to sustained success.

If you’ve got questions, let us know in the comments or ping us for a demo

1) Set yourself up on Social Media

We’re always shocked when a company doesn’t have a Twitter or Facebook page for their app(s) (we’re on Twitter and Facebook btw). Regularly timed tweets, discussing progress on the product, making points about features and capabilities and highlighting interesting uses of your app are all easy to share on social media. For large brands with existing social presences, this might not require a separate app-focused handle, but we’ve seen companies be successful building a specific app-focused Twitter handle.

2) Talk with your friends

Inbound marketing isn’t just about online activities – at its core, inbound is the process of making sure that the right audience finds you and your app. At the beginning of your app’s development, be sure to actually talk with your friends (and colleagues) about the app. Involve them in the testing and let them play with the app, on their own. If you can involve them in the process early on, they’ll be much more likely to help promote your launch and assist in the discovery of early adopters, because they’ll understand who should be using the app and why.

This can extend beyond just your friend network to folks who have a reason to be an advocate for you, by the way. One of the reasons that we’re big fans of appbackr is that the process of winning backrs to your apps creates a team of people who share in your success, giving them a reason to help spread the word. This is why the largest consumer brands are starting to see success with advertising their apps through their other channels. Companies are utilizing the space on their grocery bags, websites and products in order to spread the word to their existing customer base to drive downloads.

3) Create a core destination to house your content and marketing efforts

Publishing an app in one of the major app stores is simply not enough. You need to take ownership of your app’s presence on the web and this means choosing a core destination and investing in it. For example, our friends at Chewsy have a fantastic site for their food rating and dish discovery app.

Do you have an existing website for your business? Create a section on it for your mobile app. If you want the app to become a standalone brand, go get the domain and start building it out. Remember, you can often take your app’s name and add “get” as a prefix or “app” as a suffix.

4) Start creating content

Now that you’ve got a central destination that you’re going to be investing in, you should start filling it with content. Select content that is relevant to your app and zone in on exactly what unique value you can offer to your audience. Are you all about restaurant quality in a certain locale? Have a game that’s great for kids? Write about restaurants or kids games.

Importantly, content isn’t just about writing blog posts and creating new materials. These days, curation of relevant information is as important (if not more) as creating content. Share great resources and information that are relevant to your selected topics. Create a reason for people to come find you and stay for a little while. The good folks over at Buffer do an awesome job with this, check out their post on adding cool symbols to your tweets.

5) Words are good, videos are great

If you’re making a mobile app, the experience with your app is the most important thing right? Get used to creating short videos about how to use your app, what the benefits are and what a typical use case might be.

People love videos, especially short videos and if you can manage to make the video informative and entertaining, you might be really on to something. We’re not saying that all of your videos are going to get shared and “go viral”, but if you make something worth sharing, you can guarantee that good things will happen.

6) Share your data and experiences

With so many apps out there, other app developers are hungry for lessons learned and data. If you want to be part of the conversation, monitor your own data and performance and then share it out. Your unique experience can be helpful for others in the space and there’s no better way to attract the attention and links from other developers than to be open about what you’ve done well, what you messed up and what you’d completely avoid in the future. It might be scary to share too much, but realize that the uniqueness of your app isn’t in the numbers, it’s in how you connect with your consumers. We’ve seen a lot of great examples of this, here is a good example:

Importantly, large companies that are more open with their development process do a better job recruiting mobile developers. Share your story, you might find people who want to join you because you do.

7) Listen to your early customers for feedback

This is a topic near and dear to our hearts here at Apptentive, of course. Companies using our in-app feedback and communications tools service regularly tell us about the victories that come out of their customer interactions. When you launch an app, you’ve got, at best, a guess about who is going to use it and why. Once it’s in the wild, your job is to figure out what you were right about, what you missed on and how you can improve.

The best way to do so is by listening to your customers and engaging with them as you make updates. When it comes to creating evangelists who will share your app with others, nothing is better than being responsive and engaging. Anonymous customers become trusted advisors and advocates when you make it easy for them to give you feedback, without the hassle. Every brand is in the business of building evangelists and promoters – doing so at scale is difficult, but possible, within your mobile apps. When you use Apptentive, of course :-).

8) Ask the right people for ratings

When it comes to earning an install, there is nothing more important to your app’s success than the overall ratings and most recent reviews. The vast majority of app downloads occur after someone has viewed your app’s page in the app store and most of their attention is focused on the ratings and reviews section. As a result, when it comes to inbound marketing in the app stores, you need to always be on top of what people are saying about your app.

Many app developers take the approach that it’s just enough to prompt people to rate their app, but this is really insufficient. Too often, these prompts, by being about the developer rather than the consumer. This can turn people off and lead to bad reviews and app exits. Instead of prompting everyone, instead focus on understanding what people think of your app and only when you’ve understood that they’re happy with your app, should they be prompted to rate you. Our “Ratings Done Right” approach to this is one take that really helps companies find customers at the right moment in time and understand how they’re feeling. Listening to the typically “silent majority” helps drive company goals forward much faster than just focusing on the vocal minority of unhappy critics in the app store.

9) Get involved in the relevant communities

If you’re adding value to the app ecosystem and have learned along the way, be sure to share your knowledge. Whether it’s sharing technical lessons or talking about the subject matter of your app, there are sure to be devoted communities to the topics that are relevant to you. Spend 30 minutes a day researching and finding places on the web where others are sharing and join the conversation. Add value with advice, humility and respect and the benefits will accrue over time to your app, as an audience of people who trust you come into contact with what you’re working on.

10) Make sure you’re making it easy!

We can’t tell you how many times we’ve come across a site for an app and found the links to download the app to be non-existent. Make sure that you’re using the right links for downloading your app wherever you establish a presence and get good at tracking those links as well. Using tools like, you can track the links for social sharing and get the added bonus of knowing exactly what’s working.

Apptentive Team - Customer Love

Effort Over Time – How Apptentive is Building a Diverse Workforce

Diversity in the workplace is important. Companies build better products, and better teams when they have diverse thinking.

At Apptentive, we talk about diversity a lot. We don’t have it all figured out. We are transparent about wanting to build a diverse company – diverse in all senses of the word – and transparent about the fact that we have work to do. We’ve made big strides – for example 50% of our leadership are women – and are committed to building a great team.

We don’t want to be in a situation where we look back on the company we’ve built two, three, four years from now, and what we’ve done is institutionalized a homogenous culture.

In the last few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to share our story with Fast Company, The Puget Sound Business Journal and now KUOW.

Growing up in Redmond, I often listened to KUOW. I never thought I’d actually get to hear myself on it, but I got to chat about proactive culture building with Marcie Sillman on The Record.

Robi at KUOW Interview

Here are some of the key points we discussed (this is the clip if you prefer to listen:

Don’t beat yourself up over where you are:

Initially we pretty much stank at diversity. For the first year and a half we were bootstrapped. When we raised some money and began hiring people we hoped we’d see people of all backgrounds applying – but that wasn’t the case.

Marcie asked me: What did we do to turn it around?

Our initial approach was reactive and we had to be proactive. The best thing we did is we talked about it on a regular basis instead of sweeping it under the rug. We asked ourselves, why do the candidates applying look like us? Talking about it kept diversity on the top of our minds. We are fortunate that Seattle is a very progressive city. We went to lots of events – events for women in tech, STEM for youth, etc. We talked to people to learn how to reach people from different backgrounds. We asked who they knew and who we should be talking to. We asked who could help us get better at this.

Be Intentional; Invest For the Long Run

I’ve learned through entrepreneurship that things don’t happen unless you make them happen. You don’t get a company built by hoping, you can’t build product or sell your product by hoping. The same is true with hiring and building your company culture; you have to make it happen.

Marcie asked me: What kind of tradeoffs have we had to make for this goal?

We don’t think of ourselves as making tradeoffs. Tradeoffs imply there are costs there. I think of this as an investment. Today we are a 30-person company. We are very ambitious about our goals. We’re looking to find people who can help us achieve our goals. Does it take longer to find the right people? Yes. If the best person in the pool of applicants is still not the right person, we don’t have to hire them; instead we increase the size of the pool. We always try to pick the best candidate for us. We’re taking our time to build the team that’s perfect.

Open and Regular Dialog Are Part of the Effort Required

Marcie asked me: Is there one question that bubbles up the most?

I hear the question, “Does diversity mean that we hire less qualified candidates?” That’s the latent question in a lot of people’s minds. Thankfully people at our company are comfortable asking the question. The good news is it doesn’t mean we are lowering our standards.

Why is this so important? Why does it matter beyond Apptentive? What does it mean to greater community?

To the extent that we can be successful, we can serve as a role model. We can show that some expectations are wrong. A lot of companies think it’s so hard, that they give themselves a pass. We see this differently – it’s not going to change right away but we have to work on it constantly. I see it as a continuum where effort over time will lead to results. It’s not effort over a month, it’s effort over time.

So, for those of you reading this, is your company building a diverse team? What has worked and what hasn’t worked? What are you learning along the way?

[If this philosophy resonates with you, we’re hiring:]

Apptentive Team - Customer Love

Show Phone Business

Is 2015 the Year of the Customer?

This article was originally published February 5, 2015 on CX Journey.

Mobile customer experienceWe’re one quarter into 2015, and it couldn’t be more apparent that Customer Experience is on everyone’s agenda – or at least on those of the 95% of retailers surveyed by Boston Retail Partners, who identified customer experience as a top-three priority in the new year.

As both an outsider and an insider in the Customer Experience movement, I wanted to share (and weigh in on) three CX predictions made manifest through firsthand conversations with hundreds of companies leading the way in customer experience and engagement.

#1 Customer Experience will become the major differentiator

In the news: According to Deloitte, 82% of brands perceive customer experience as a competitive differentiator. And this number is only rising.

By 2016, 89% of companies surveyed by Gartner plan to compete primarily on the basis of customer experience. And by 2020, customer experience is expected to overtake both price and product when it comes to differentiating a brand.

My take: Customer experience is absolutely a powerful differentiator. However, I’d caution that in order to create sustainable value, your CX strategy must be intertwined into your entire business and not simply a function of marketing.

For the long term win, Customer Experience Management needs to be a continuous process of collecting – and acting on – customer insights. It needs to be a comprehensive strategy with engineering, analytics, sales, marketing, and all job functions sharing the same appreciation for the customer and aligned with the same objectives.

#2 Customer Experience Management will become a designated job function

In the news: The number of openings in CX Design has skyrocketed, and CX as a priority is permeating every part of an organization – from marketing to engineering to the C-Suite. According to AT&T’s Office of the Customer, “CX knowledge will be required at higher levels in every position in the organization. This will come in the form of education, skills training, support, enhanced data, expanded partnerships, and a new focus on innovative design skills and talent.”

At the highest level, we’ve seen the rise of the Chief Customer Officer (CCO), an executive with the authority and visibility to create a culture of customer-centricity. While there were fewer than 20 CCOs in 2003, the Chief Customer Officer Council today recognizes over 500 CCOs across the world – including 22% of the Fortune 100.

My take: The numbers here are hard to deny. Even in companies that don’t take the CCO route, I expect to see a breakdown of silos between CMOs and CIOs. I anticipate marketers and information analysts honing in on the same metrics and digging for the same customer insights in the pursuit of an exceptional customer experience.

#3 Customer experience will be realized as a major revenue driver

In the news: Customer experience has traditionally been a touchy subject for many executives. Yes, it’s important. But how important?

Creating a customer-centric culture can be a big investment and, if not done right, can take a lot of guesswork about what your customers actually want. Customer experience is all too often seen as a discretionary cost and not a revenue driver. In 2015, that’s all subject to change – and rightfully so.

In addition to building a brand, creating customer loyalty, and providing opportunities for differentiation, we’re seeing customer engagement fueling sales. Consumers are not only influenced by engagement, they desire engagement. A Moxie study revealed that 72% of consumers want to be engaged by their favorite brands – and are happy to spend more if engaged.

My take: We’re expecting to see investments in customer experience offer up a tangible and measurable impact on the bottom line. Advances in marketing analytics will shed much-needed light on the increased spending, lifetime value, and the power of referrals from happy customers.

Investments in customer experience will be seen not as another cost to incur but as a way to cut costs. Given continued increases in acquisition costs, particularly in a space as crowded as the app stores, I’m expecting brands to place a renewed emphasis on retention marketing. I’m anticipating a shift in priorities and a focus on reducing churn by doing more to delight current customers through loyalty and CX programs.

Furthermore, the smarter brands get about collecting actionable insights, the better prepared they are to design actionable objectives – aligned with measurable goals – around their customer experience strategy.

It won’t be easy meeting these three predictions in the next 3 quarters, but we’re excited to see what’s in store for the customer experience and are already witnessing CX pioneers pave the way for customer success.

Customer Love

What Customer Love Means To Me

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.


In Business, this word isn’t used often enough. It’s an emotional word, full of pressure, expectation and questions that most companies aren’t yet focused on answering:

  • Will customers really love us?
  • Can we really expect that they’ll care about us when we’re not around?
  • If we aren’t loved, how could we possibly hope to change that?

However, at Apptentive, we talk about Customer Love so much we even have a hashtag for it: #customerlove

Customer Love is the key to our approach to our customers, our business and our team. It’s something we strive for every day, because we view love as an act. We know that we have to invest our energy and time in truly demonstrating our love for our customers, to make sure that they feel our care and attention on an ongoing basis.

We’ve written about our thought process and framework for the customer experience before, so the concepts here aren’t all brand new, but this is how I think about delivering on our promise to our customers. It’s really all about the L.O.V.E when it comes to the key actions that are necessary to really deliver Customer Love:


Every great relationship is a two-way street. Unfortunately, too many companies really shy away from this approach to their customer relationships – they talk at, but don’t listen to customers, leading to huge communications gaps. When companies truly invest in listening, across the entire organization, they are able to glean insights and learn more about where they should be going next with their product, service and business.

In addition, true listening means that you’re letting your customers feel heard. It’s natural in business that not every customer is going to agree with you 100%, but that’s understood by customers. At the very least, when they complain or make suggestions, what they’re hoping for is to be heard and understood. Listening is a tool in making customers feel loved because it gives them the knowledge that their opinions matter.


Observation is a crucial trait in understanding the people around you, the teammates you’re working with and your customers. When you observe their behavior in your app, with analytics and log files, you’re able to make conclusions about what is interesting to customers and whether or not your assumptions are correct.

Observation is also about identifying what is truly important to your customers. When you watch how they spend their time, really understanding their lives and their needs, you can build better solutions to their problems and challenges. When you and your organization move to a mode of behavior that’s deeply invested in understanding your customers, your observation skills are often key to those insights that lead to massive improvements in your product.


Validation has a lot to do with how you underscore and invest in the customer’s true needs. When a customer takes the time to tell you what they think, they’re raising their hands and investing in you and your company. It’s absolutely crucial, regardless of their message and thoughts about your company, that you validate them – letting them know that their feelings are valid and that you care. Validation is not about telling them that you’ll do everything they ask for but rather ensuring that your connecting on a level that indicates that you understand they have feelings too. Saying things like, “thanks for that suggestion, we really appreciate it” can go a long way in making your customers feel validated.

Validation also comes in the form of working with your team to take your hypotheses and to share them with customers. Over the past several years, the Lean Startup concept has really taken hold and taught us that when ideas meet customers in an open and accepting manner, products get better faster. The more your team really understands that their work and concepts are for customers first, the more they’ll invest their time in validating their concepts with actual customers to ensure that they’re delivering the best experience possible.


The final action necessary for any team that’s focused on Customer Love is that you must truly engage with your customers. This means reaching out and talking with them proactively. Today, too many companies make it hard to reach them and send messages to customers only to drive sales activities.

However, truly loving companies make a point of reaching out to customers to invite conversations, feedback and venting. When you really embrace customer love, your team wants to talk with more of your customer base and creates opportunities for customers to talk with you. Finding the right time and the right place to really reach your customers makes your customer base feel loved and makes it so easy to talk to you that they can’t help it.

Customer Love

Customer Love is A Requirement, Not An Option

The future of the customer experience requires that every company adapts to the changing times and finds new ways to truly earn customer loyalty. Love is the real requirement – if your customers don’t love you, you need to truly invest in the actions that will get them there. Because customer love is an act, not a static place, every company can work to get there and you’ll have Apptentive there, along the journey, continuing to invest in the actions that have gotten us here so far.


Shifts In The Mobile Conversation: Takeaways From ModevCon

Apptentive CEO Robi Ganguly speaking at ModevCon 2014

Apptentive CEO Robi Ganguly speaking at ModevCon 2014.

I recently traveled to DC and presented at ModevCon on growing mobile app retention and revenue by investing in customer engagement. Over the course of the two-day conference, I had the opportunity to speak with leaders in the mobile app industry and attended a number of breakout sessions on app design and the mobile experience.

Throughout these sessions and conversations, three themes kept coming up as an indicator of where mobile (and the way we talk about mobile) is headed: the rise of enterprise apps, the importance of mobile customer relationships, and a heightened focus on the customer’s experience with your app.

1. Mobile enterprise apps are on the rise.

Mobile-first isn’t just for startups. Across the globe, enterprises are using mobile to redefine themselves and innovate.

Skip Potter, Capital One’s Vice President of Engineering, cemented this point in his opening keynote address. Capital One has been an early adopter of mobile payments and other new technologies that make banking easier. In his presentation, Skip went over his experience with rolling out an array of native apps across multiple platforms to better serve the needs of Capital One’s 62 million customers. Building not only a “mobile-first” but an “API-first” mentality into the company’s culture, he was able to design a scalable mobile infrastructure and leverage the growth of the mobile market to expand Capital One’s business and increase its customer value.

Skip best summed up the trend of large enterprises embracing technology and mobile solutions when he defined Capital One not as a bank, but as a tech company that just happens to work in the financial services industry.

2. The conversation is shifting to emotional dynamics.

We’re not the only ones talking about Customer Love. Throughout ModevCon, I noticed conversations shifting from usability to desirability when it comes to valuing an app. With over 1.3 million apps in both the iTunes App Store and the Google Play Store, it’s no longer enough just to create an app that’s useful. You need to build an app that people want to use – even as they’re presented with an array of equally useful apps that seem to address the same need.

In a ModevCon session titled, “Win Hearts, Win Users with Emotional Design,” Erin Daniels of Design for People showed the power of empathy in e-commerce. By tapping into their customers’ emotions, Erin revealed, mobile publishers are able to truly delight their customers.

Delighted customers, in turn, will be more engaged, more apt to promote your app, and more willing to make a purchase through your app as a result of the trust you’ve built.

3. The mobile experience is becoming less about the app and more about the people.

No matter the topic, there was one concept that each of the sessions ultimately circled back to – the customer experience.

But in contrast to previous discussions around user interface and accessibility, speed, and usability, this year’s conversations took a broader approach when it came to defining the mobile experience. The customer experience today has less to do with the design of your app than it does with the meaningful interactions you have with your mobile customers. It’s the customer who is becoming increasingly mobile, and it is the job of the app to reflect and integrate with the consumers’ changing lifestyle and expectations.

Dan Katz, ‎the Vice President of Technology Solutions at INADEV Corporation, took a particularly interesting approach to this conversation as he discussed his project of introducing mobile and augmented reality experiences to the hallowed grounds of the National Mall. INADEV was given the opportunity to “reinvent the customer experience” at the National World War II and National Korean War Veterans Memorials in Washington D.C. by designing an ecosystem of experiences, systems, and apps to enhance and enrich an already powerful experience, showing that the impact of a strong customer experience reaches far beyond the app. (Read more about INADEV’s work with the National Mall here.)

Apptentive CEO Robi Ganguly speaking at ModevCon 2014

How have you experienced these three shifts with mobile and the way we talk about it? Or perhaps you have a different perspective on where mobile is headed?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!


Product Release: Global Text Localization and Translation

This week we are pleased to announce one of the most exciting new features for current and future Enterprise-tier customers that we’ve ever worked on: Localization and full Multi-Language Translations for every Apptentive powered interaction.

For mobile app publishers and managers operating on a global scale, addressing every potential app customer in their preferred language is now an expectation and a requirement. We heard your feedback and we focused on building a rock solid tool for our clients, and a seamless experience for their customers.

We already offer a useful library of translations for our default Ratings Prompt text in 16 different languages today. That basic level of translation is available to *all* of our Apptentive customers today. We have just added additional tools specifically tailored to our Enterprise class customers with a globe-spanning customer base. This new feature is designed to work with the existing workflow you have with your localization team, and will now allow you to translate every line of text coming from Apptentive that is shown to your customers – including Survey questions, Ratings Prompts and Upgrade Messages. We believe that this feature – which is available to our Enterprise plan customers or as an add-on to a lower-tier plan – is unique in the marketplace for its breadth and flexibility.

Our CTO Mike Saffitz had this to say about the new feature release:

“I heard from several of our global customers that if we could give them the ability to easily translate any messaging prompt they loaded into our system into any other applicable language across all of their localized apps, it would set us apart from many of the other mobile marketing and engagement software companies out there. I’m happy to say that we’re now ready to turn this feature on for our upper-tier customers.”

If you are an eligible customer, our Director of Customer Success Christy Culp will send you an email notifying you of where to find the new Translations capability and apply it to your in-app customer messaging communication. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to send Christy a note and request a walk-through (

Thanks for continuing to inspire us to innovate and prioritize the features that can push your global business to be more engaging, useful, and valuable to your customers. As always, we appreciate your feedback and welcome it for future Product Roadmap planning and prioritization via our usual channels: in the Comments below, via our GitHub account, or simply by sending a message to us. Happy translating – and keep earning your app customers’ love, wherever they may be around the world.