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?
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.